Kyiv Regional Police boast of “successes” in breach of the Constitution
Upbeat reports about police search operations demonstrate contempt for Ukraine’s Constitution and human rights. The “No Borders” Project reiterates that Ukraine’s authorities are obliged to protect the rights of asylum seekers, and not violate the principle of the presumption of innocence.
On 5 July a report from the Public Relations Department of the Kyiv Regional Police Department appeared on the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] website. It bore the titleThe report talks of part of the nationwide operation “Wanted” carried out in the Kyiv region and aimed at finding people who are in hiding from the court or from the investigators, as well as those who have gone missing without trace. The theme raised in the title is elaborated on in the last paragraph which is worth quoting in full:
“The men in uniform also succeeded in tracking down law offenders from Uzbekistan, Russia and Belarus who have been hiding in Ukraine. These people committed crimes in their own country and hoped to escape punishment by crossing the border. They found shelter in forests, abandoned buildings and the homes of relatives. Now the criminals will return to their Homeland and answer for their crimes”.
The “No Borders” Project would remind the authorities that according to Article 62 of the Constitution “A person is presumed innocent of committing a crime and shall not be subjected to criminal punishment until his or her guilt is proved through legal procedure and established by a court verdict of guilty.
No one is obliged to prove his or her innocence of committing a crime”. The Kyiv Region MIA Public Relations Department are thus either claiming that all those who have been detained have been convicted of a crime, or they are ignoring Ukraine’s Constitution.
Human rights organizations have reported that during June and the beginning of July this year a number of Russian Federation and Uzbekistan nationals were detained who had been placed on the international wanted list by the Uzbekistan authorities and who had applied for refugee status in Ukraine. The articles of the Uzbekistan Criminal Code under which the people are sought are those most often used by the Uzbekistan authorities to persecute the political opposition and members of Muslim communities not controlled by the authorities. These people, in seeking asylum because of politically motivated or religious persecution, informed the Ukrainian authorities that they had been persecuted by the Uzbek authorities and never concealed their whereabouts in Ukraine – they were not “in hiding”.
Repression by the enforcement bodies in Uzbekistan means that these people need careful consideration of their application for refugee status, not to be declared criminals by the Ukrainian authorities before they have passed through all stages of the application procedure. Declaring them “criminals” clearly violates their right to an impartial review of their application, and therefore Ukraine’s obligations under international conventions. The widespread use of torture in Uzbekistan, especially against people accused of anti-government or prohibited religious activity has been confirmed by many international human rights organizations. In view of this, judgments from the European Court of Human Rights have found that sending a person to country where he could face torture would be a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Therefore, despite the statement that those detained “will return to their Homeland”, extradition to Uzbekistan would be a violation of norms of international law.
The rights of those detained and Ukraine’s international commitments regarding refugees and asylum seekers must be observed by the Ukrainian authorities – regardless of national police operations. Public statements from the authorities which infringe the presumption of innocence and the rights of the detained are entirely unacceptable.