Human rights groups: Use of Torture has increased
On 26 June, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, human rights activists spoke of the violence in police stations, the practice of beating out confessions and inhuman conditions in remand units [SIZO] which have become standard in Ukraine.
According to the Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Yevhen Zakharov, 51 people died in police custody in 2010. He stresses that these are just the cases which the public hears about and there could be many more.
“In the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Simferopol, Dnipropetrovsk SIZO the conditions constitute torture since people in some cells have to take turns sleeping in the beds once in two or three days because of the overcrowding”. Those who resort to torture remain unpunished, the courts virtually don’t agree to consider complaints alleging police violence, and the Prosecutor does not provide effective investigation of complaints, he adds.
Andriy Didenko from KHPG points out that even prominent torture cases rarely reach their logical conclusion in the courts, and the Prosecutor generally refuses to initiate criminal investigations. If a case does get to court, it is not usually on charges of torture or causing grievous bodily injury, but of exceeding official powers or professional negligence, hence the difference between statistics from human rights groups and from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, he explains.
Only a quarter of the victims dare to complain of unlawful violence from the police because they’re intimidated, or because they don’t believe that it will have a positive result, Ruslan Topolevsky from the SIM Legal and Political Research Centre points out. He believes that the introduction of trial by jury could have a positive effect on the problem with torture. However bar lawyer Oleh Mytsyk believes that the Ukrainian public are not ready for juries since they are fixed on the idea of convicting people. He adds that it would also be hard to find 12 jury members.
The last hope for victims remains the European Court of Human Rights. Strasbourg recently ordered Ukraine to pay the Matushevsky parents 12 thousand euros compensation for the death of their son in a SIZO in 20008. The Court found that torture had been used.