Prisoner forced to “donate” ECHR awarded compensation to prison?
The wife of a prisoner awarded compensation in a European Court of Human Rights judgement alleges that her husband is being coerced into making “an anonymous donation” of the money to the prison administration. Radio Svoboda reports that checks are presently being carried out of the allegations made by K. Khodakivsky’s wife. It says however that human rights workers have said that it’s standard in the present penitentiary system for prisoners’ relatives to face blackmail and corruption.
Kostyantin Khodakivsky is one of the 17 applications in the case of Karabet and others v. Ukraine on torture of prisoners of the Izyaslav Prison Colony in the Khmelnytsky oblast in 2007.
The European Court of Human Rights found violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture) and ordered Ukraine to pay each applicant 25 thousand EUR.
Khodakivsky’s wife, Victoria alleges that when the management of the Starobabanivsk Prison Colony in the Cherkasy oblast found out, her husband was suddenly put in a punishment cells and refused visits with this relatives.
“They say directly that if you want him to serve his sentence well, with no repetition of Izyaslav, then let him write that he renounces the money and wants it transferred to the prison’s account. I spoke with the head of the colony, and he said that to my face”.
After the incident at Izyaslav, she didn’t hear anything from her husband and for about a year and a half she didn’t know where he was. She says that the last time she saw her husband, he had fresh bruises.
Arkady Bushchenko, the lawyer who represented the applicants at the European Court of Human Rights and now Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is unequivocal in his response. If these allegations prove true, then this is flagrant contempt for ECHR judgments and he promises to inform all bodies monitoring Ukraine’s enforcement of court rulings. He says that in the context of the negotiations underway over the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, people having the nerve to put forward such demands may have big problems.
A representative of the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Secretariat says that they have sent an information request to the colony and may go there and carry out a check.
According to Andriy Didenko from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, blackmail and demands of bribes for release on parole or improved conditions are standard.
Oleksandr Bukalov from Donetsk Memorial says that it’s extremely difficult to prove such cases of blackmail since the penitentiary system is so lacking in openness. He does not believe the situation can be changed by making amendments to legislation, and says there needs to be the political will at local level as well as in the management of the State Penitentiary Service.
He adds that there are dozens of cases where people are prosecuted for bribe-taking or other violations. This is not very many, he adds, but not in fact so very few.
After the events at Izyaslav the relevant bodies carried out checks but no criminal proceedings followed. 26 employees faced disciplinary proceedings for not properly carrying out their duties. Two others received warnings.