Deaths in Remand Cells must be investigated


The alarming trend towards an increase in deaths in police custody or penal institutions seen over the last two years is not letting up, with two young men dying in unclear circumstances just in the last week.

As reported, on 25 January the State Penitentiary Service issued a statement after journalist Konstyantin Usov reported the death of a 21-year-old in the Kyiv SIZO [Remand Unit]. 

The journalist wrote that the young man died after 40 minutes in convulsions with the calls for help from his cellmates going ignored. He also said that sources in the SIZO suggested that the authorities were planning to say that the man had died of an electric shock.

This is indeed what was announced in a statement which suggested that the man had received medical attention immediately.

The Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service says that the young man was supposedly trying to fix an electric power point not working in the cell.

A few days earlier another young man of 20 who had been detained on suspicion of robbery apparently hanged himself.

Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group points out that in the last six months the number of deaths in SIZO rose by 45%, and this figure could rise. He links the number of deaths with the lack of openness and possibility for public monitoring over what goes on. There need to be spot checks carried out by human rights workers together with officials. A commission on prevention of torture which should monitor SIZO was only created at the end of 2011 and then only because “Ukraine needs to report on something to the UN”. As yet the commission is not properly working.

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