Ukraine is violating its commitments on National Preventive Mechanisms against Torture
Letter from Ukrainian civic society with regard to Ukraine’s violation of the terms and conditions for creating National Preventive Mechanisms against Torture [NPM]
Dear Members of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
of the Committee against Torture
We are respectfully turning to you with a letter from Ukrainian civic society regarding the Ukrainian government’s infringement of the terms and principles for creating National Preventive Mechanisms against Torture.
We know that the Subcommittee has on a number of occasions expressed its concern over the lack of progress in many countries in carrying out consultations on the creation of National Preventive Mechanisms, as well as legislative and practical provisions for their work.
We must, unfortunately, state that Ukraine, having ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment on 21 July 2006 without any deferments (up to three years) in accordance with Article 24 of the Protocol, in over four years has still not created a National Preventive Mechanism.
This is despite the fact that, in accordance with Article 17 of the Protocol, Ukraine had within a year to maintain, designate or establish one or several independent national preventive mechanisms for the prevention of torture at the domestic level.
Although criticism at that time was aroused by the provisions of the ratification law and explanatory note to it, stating that “Ukraine’s signing of the Protocol does not entail any financial obligations”. This is when torture is widespread in the country. Evidence of this are seen in daunting findings from sociological research, allegations from thousands of victims, the conclusions of international organizations, the work of human rights organizations and the experience of the mobile groups monitoring human rights in places of confinement under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA].
Ukrainian human rights organizations and specialists have prepared and put forward their draft legislative acts aimed at organizing the work of NPM in Ukraine. In this we have closely followed your recommendations that preventive mechanisms be created publicly, with the participation of all those in civic society involved in prevention of torture and with transparency.
We must inform that the Ministry of Justice, together with civic organizations between 2008-2009 prepared a draft law on National Preventive Mechanisms. It envisages real involvement of the public in visiting places of confinement via the creation of monitoring groups in all regions of Ukraine which would be coordinated by a small, 6-8 member-strong, Committee against Torture made up of specialists.
However this draft law suddenly disappeared and in its place, in August 2010, another one appeared, quite unlike that which had been agreed with the public. In this new draft, NPM functions are vested with the Human Rights Ombudsperson who as far back as 2006 publicly rejected this role.
In addition, having drawn up a draft law vesting NPM functions on the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the Ministry of Justice, disregarding the recommendations of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture
of the Committee against Torture, stated in it that it did not require consultation with the public. This aroused a wave of civic campaigns in Ukraine (September 2010).
The new draft law does not take into account all places of confinement as per the Protocol, thus leaving them without monitoring. It also contains disingenuous references to a lack of need for supplementary elements in the State Budget for carrying out monitoring of these places. It does not take into consideration the principles of work of NPM as formulated in the Optional Protocol.
We also understand that when we are seeing a total onslaught on human rights in Ukraine from the leaders of the country and the ruling party, where the protests of the public are ignored and the international community mislead by assurances that there are no human rights violations, such a draft law could easily become law and we have virtually no possibility of influencing this.
However we would inform the members of the UN Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture, as well as representatives of other international human rights institutions and organizations that the UN approach and principles have been ignored in forming National Preventive Mechanisms against torture which from the outset give grounds for speaking of a low level of efficiency and effectiveness.
The Ukrainian authorities are thus only ready to create an NPM only for the sake of reporting to the Subcommittee and not for the real protection of the country’s citizens.
Ukrainian human rights organizations
Kharkiv Human Rights Group
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
The International Women’s Human Rights Centre La –Strada – Ukraine
The Kharkiv Institute for Social Research