Public assessment of police violence


No to torture!

If earlier it was criminals who were most likely to be subjected to unlawful violence by the police, now the list of victims has broadened to include suspects, witnesses, relatives, Denis Kobzin, Director of the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and co-author of a recent public survey, comments.

Denis Kobzin says that despite statements from high-ranking police officers about reforms in the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA], the police continue to work using old methods, and there are no systematic reforms.

Last week President Yanukovych confirmed the make up of a Committee on Prevention of Torture. The Committee is supposed to promote Ukraine’s implementation of its obligations under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. Let’s hope, since the situation is indeed serious.

According to the survey, more than 50% of Ukrainians see themselves as defenceless in the face of police violence. The research into the scale of police violence was carried out in five regions of Ukraine and found that over the last three years there has been an increase of around 200 thousand people who report being victims of police violence.

Police impunity leads to an increase in unlawful methods of investigation. The group who suffer most are those detained and under investigation. This year those groups were also joined by people who have taken part in protests. Mr Kobzin says that over the year almost 600 thousand people report having suffered from police brutality.

There are fairly often beatings, psychological pressure on a suspect, refusal to give them food, or even drink before a protocol is officially drawn up in a police station. A person may be ill-treated for a day, two, even a week, and/or be held in unhygienic, uncivilized conditions, in cellars, in a forest or car. The number of allegations of torture during investigation rose from 75 thousand last year to over 100 thousand this year. Almost 60% of those surveyed (300

If earlier it was criminals who were most likely to be subjected to unlawful violence by the police, now the list of victims has broadened to include suspects, witnesses, relatives.  Basically, Denis Kobzin concludes, each one of us can fall victim, including even police officers themselves.   This, he stresses, does not only make it impossible to safeguard oneself from beatings and torture, but also generates constant distrust and fear of the police. He points out that some police officers are happy with this, seeing fear as an indicator of respect.

Some of the results of the research in which 3000 thousand people were surveyed

Only 1.5% of the respondents do not believe that there is no danger of becoming the victim of unlawful police violence. This figure is falling: in 2009 the percentage was 2.5%; in 2010 – 1.8%.

66.7% on the other hand believe that nobody can feel absolutely not at risk of such violence.  While this is 5.4% lower than in 2010, there is a more significant increase in all categories of potential victims.

7.7% more respondents believe that any person committing a crime should fear such violence’

6.9% more who point to the danger for the homeless and down-and-outs.

7% more say that anyone insulting a police officer or simply poor people is a potential victim;

6.4% more – any suspect. 

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