Damning report on Ukraine from European body against torture


In its latest report, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) calls on the Ukrainian authorities to take all measures to ensure that prisoners receive medical examinations and treatment outside the SIZO [remand prison]. 

The CPT delegation was inundated with reports of torture and ill-treatment by police officers, and specifically mentions the Shevchenkivsky Police Station which was where Ihor Indylo died of injuries received after he entered the station.

The following are just excerpts of the report which can be downloaded here

CPT/Inf (2012) 30

Report to the Ukrainian Government on the visit to Ukraine carried out by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT)

from 29 November to 6 December 2011

8.         The most serious problem of co-operation was encountered during the visit to the Secure Ward of the Kyiv Municipality Emergency Hospital. The delegation’s access to the ward was delayed for some ten minutes. Police officers present in the ward subsequently told the delegation that patients were never handcuffed to their bed; however, when the delegation then checked the CCTV recordings of the ward, it became apparent that, during the ten minutes it had had to wait outside, police officers had hastily removed the handcuffs of all the patients held in the ward. From the fact that patients themselves initially categorically denied the use of handcuffs, the CPT cannot but conclude that police officers had exerted pressure on them not to reveal the truth to delegation members.

            The Committee is very concerned by the fact that the practice of handcuffing patients to hospital beds has continued since the 2009 visit, despite the assurances given to the contrary by the Ukrainian authorities in their response to the report on that visit[3].

9.         During the end-of-visit talks with the Ukrainian authorities, the delegation made an immediate observation under Article 8, paragraph 5, of the Convention and called upon the Ukrainian authorities to put an immediate end to the practice of handcuffing patients to hospital beds in the Secure Ward of the Kyiv Municipality Emergency Hospital. The Ukrainian authorities were requested to confirm within one month that this had been done.

            In this regard, reference is made to the remarks made in paragraph 53.

10.       The CPT has repeatedly stressed that the principle of co-operation as set out in Article 3 of the Convention is not limited to facilitating the work of visiting delegations, but also requires that recommendations made by the Committee are effectively implemented in practice.

            The delegation observed significant improvements in certain areas (in particular, as regards material conditions in police establishments). However, hardly any progress has been made in combating the phenomenon of police ill-treatment and in implementing many key recommendations repeatedly made by the Committee after previous visits to Ukraine (in particular,  as regards the fundamental safeguards against police ill-treatment, the conditions of detention and contacts with the outside world of remand prisoners, and the situation of detained persons held in the Secure Ward  of the Kyiv Municipality Emergency Hospital).

            Having regard to Articles 3 and 10, paragraph 2, of the Convention[4], the CPT calls upon the Ukrainian authorities to take resolute action to improve the situation in the light of the Committee’s recommendations.

2.         Torture and other forms of ill-treatment

14.       In the course of the visit, the delegation was inundated with allegations from detained persons (including women and juveniles) that they had been subjected to physical or psychological ill-treatment and/or excessive use of force by police officers. The alleged physical ill-treatment consisted in the main of punches, kicks, or inappropriate use of batons, at the time of apprehension or during subsequent questioning by operational officers and/or investigators.

            In several cases, the ill-treatment alleged was of such a severity that it can easily be considered to amount to torture (e.g. infliction of electric shocks; asphyxiation with a plastic bag or gas mask; suspension in a hyperextended position; death threats with a gun put to the head, etc.).

            The above-mentioned allegations concerned various police establishments in the Kyiv and Kharkiv regions. However, without wishing to detract from the seriousness of the allegations received in respect of other establishments, the Shevchenkivskyi District Police Division in Kyiv appeared to be particularly problematic, in terms of the severity of the ill-treatment alleged and also its frequency.

15.       Allegations of ill-treatment were received from persons interviewed individually who had had no possibility of contacting each other; the accounts were often highly detailed and frequently displayed consistent features (e.g. placing a gas mask on the head, followed by filling with smoke). A number of the persons interviewed by the delegation members were clearly reluctant to speak about their experiences in police custody and only did so after much hesitation. In addition, the delegation met a few persons still held in a police establishment who displayed visible injuries, but who, when asked about the causes of those injuries, refused to give any explanation.

            In a number of cases,  the medical examination of the persons concerned and/or the consultation of medical files by the delegation revealed injuries which, in the view of the delegation’s doctors, were consistent with the allegations of ill-treatment made.

            Moreover, at both SIZOs visited, the delegation was told by senior members of staff that it was not uncommon for remand prisoners, who had been temporarily taken to a police establishment for investigative purposes, to subsequently return to the SIZO with visible fresh injuries.

16.       The information gathered during the visit leaves little doubt that the phenomenon of police ill-treatment remains widespread and that, more specifically, persons run a significant risk of being subjected to ill-treatment when they do not rapidly confess to the criminal offence(s) of which they are suspected

48.       On the occasion of this visit and in the light of reports recently received by the CPT, the delegation also examined in detail the health care being provided to certain persons who were being held at the Kyiv SIZO and, in particular,  Mr Valeriy IVASHENKO, Mr Yuriy LUTSENKO and Ms Yulia TYMOSHENKO.

In this connection, the CPT would like to stress that the role of medical members of a visiting delegation is not that of a treating doctor; their task is to assess the quality of health care and, more specifically, the access to medical treatment of detained persons. The Committee also wishes to recall that the prison authorities are responsible for the health care of all prisoners; all efforts possible must be made to ensure that a precise diagnosis is promptly established and that adequate treatment required by the state of health of the person concerned is provided to all prisoners.

            The CPT must express its concern that in respect of each of the three above-mentioned persons, considerable delays occurred – for various reasons – in arranging specialised medical examinations outside the SIZO. Problems of this kind have repeatedly been observed by the CPT during all previous visits to the Kyiv SIZO as well as to other penitentiary establishments in Ukraine. The Committee urges the Ukrainian authorities to take all the necessary measures to ensure that in future, all prisoners who are in need of specialist treatment/examinations are transferred to an outside hospital without undue delay.

49.       As regards Mr Ivashenko and Ms Tymoshenko, the delegation noted that symptomatic treatment was being provided to the two prisoners concerned. During the end-of-visit talks with the Ukrainian authorities, the delegation stressed that, if their situation did not improve in the very near future, it would be desirable for additional interventions (such as physiotherapy, infiltration therapy, provision of a corset) to be explored, if necessary, in a specialised hospital setting.

By letter of 1 February 2012, the President of the CPT requested the Ukrainian authorities to provide updated information on all the medical interventions which had been performed in respect of Mr Ivashenko, Mr Lutsenko and Ms Tymoshenko since the CPT’s visit.

On 23 February 2012, the Ukrainian authorities transmitted to the CPT a chronological account of various diagnostic and therapeutic interventions, which had been carried out in respect of all three persons until mid-February 2012. Further, the authorities indicated that, on 30 December 2011, Ms Tymoshenko had been transferred from the Kyiv SIZO to Kachaniv Penal Colony No. 54, and that, on 14 and 15 February 2012, she had been examined by an international medical commission. They also stated that Ms Tymoshenko benefited from regular massages by a physiotherapist, but continued to refuse to undergo a blood test.

In order to be in a position to follow developments more closely,  the CPT requests the Ukrainian authorities to provide a further update on all the medical interventions which have been performed in respect of Mr Ivashenko, Mr Lutsenko and Ms Tymoshenko since 15 February 2012. As regards Ms Tymoshenko, the Committee would also like to receive a copy of the report(s) drawn up by the members of the international medical commission who examined her on 14 and 15 February 2012.

50.       Finally, despite the specific recommendations made by the Committee after all previous visits to Ukraine, severe restrictions were still frequently being imposed regarding remand prisoners’ contacts with the outside world. Many remand prisoners were not allowed to receive any visits from persons other than their lawyer (or legal representative) nor make telephone calls, for prolonged periods; in a number of cases, this situation had been ongoing for more than a year. Such a state of affairs is not acceptable.

            The CPT once again calls upon the Ukrainian authorities to take measures in order to ensure that remand prisoners are, as a matter of principle, entitled to receive visits and send/receive letters. Any refusal to permit visits or send/receive letters should be specifically substantiated by the needs of the investigation, require the approval of a body unconnected with the case in hand and be applied for a specified period of time, with reasons stated. If necessary, the relevant legislation and regulations should be amended.

Further,  the Committee reiterates its recommendation that steps be taken to ensure that remand prisoners are, as a rule, granted regular access to a telephone[20]. If there is a perceived risk of collusion in an individual case, a particular phone call could always be monitored. Any decision to prohibit or impose restrictions on a given prisoner’s access to a telephone should be based on a substantiated risk of collusion,  intimidation or another illegal activity and be for a specified period.

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