Situation with police violence gradually worsening
The number of cases of unlawful force within Internal Affairs [MIA] bodies has virtually not changed over the last 5 years, according to research carried out by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research.
Its Director, Denis Kobzin says that there has been a small reduction in the number of such cases at detention level, however this is effectively cancelled out by an increase in cases during criminal investigation.
Overall in Ukraine around 500-600 people experience unlawful violence while being detained. From 100 to 120 thousand are subjected to torture within MIA bodies.
Kobzin believes that thanks to efforts by human rights groups and the media, the problem of torture and unlawful violence receives considerably more attention than it did earlier. “This has made it possible to stir public opinion. In 2004 a pretty large number of people justified this or that form of torture (in different regions we identified from 30 to 40% of people saying that they saw the use of torture and violence by law enforcement agencies as admissible). In 2010, on the other hand, around 80% of those surveyed consider torture and violence within the MIA as absolutely unacceptable”.
He adds that this trend can be seen in the attitude of police officers themselves. Around 40% call torture and unlawful violence absolutely unacceptable, which he says is a significant shift in thinking, by as much as 20%.
Among the causes of torture, he names the failure to ensure the most fundamental rights at detention level when a person cannot receive legal aid, cannot inform people that s/he has been detained and where s/he is, as well as the lack of access to medical assistance.
Another is the crisis at present in the MIA. “Staff of the Prosecutor’s Office and Internal Affairs bodies complain of poor financing, and, linked with this, poor selection of personnel, as well as about the failings in the legislative base”.
However one of the key causes, in his view, is the lack of effective investigation into cases of unlawful violence and torture. He says that victims cannot count of their cases being properly investigated.
He notes also that victims can find it difficult to obtain a medical examination with this serving as the basis for initiating a criminal investigation and as proof in court. “If you want to confirm that you have been beaten by MIA officers, to receive medical documents, you need to get a referral to the police. This system seriously obstructs subsequent effective investigation.”
Denis Kobzin says that the situation is gradually worsening. “We are not seeing a radical deterioration, although those 39 deaths in police stations which even the Ministry of Internal Affairs has acknowledged must be of concern. If no measures are taken in the near future, the sense of impunity with which many officers apply illegal force will become a part of their work”.