war crimes in Ukraine

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There is no coronavirus in prisons. But there is

Yevgeniy Zakharov
Information on confirmed cases of the COVID-19 in prisons was provided. Also we give the recommendations of what to do - as quickly as possible. 

It was claimed that there is no coronavirus in prison facilities. It’s interesting how one can say that there is, if no prisoners are tested? No one prisoner said he or she underwent at least an express test. We are not even talking about PCR tests, which can only be performed in one penal institution in the country — the Lviv Penal Institution (No. 19). However, — it just cannot happen that the disease is spreading, but prisoners are not affected!

Yesterday happened what I was so afraid of: there were many reports confirming the disease. Here they are.

1. The Chernivtsi Pre-Trial Detention Center was forced to accept a man who had come from Poland and was arrested for grievous bodily harm. He was placed in a Temporary Detention Facility, and the Head of the Pre-Trial Detention Center had been refusing to accept him for two days, but the Ministry of Justice forced to accept. This is what the Observer informs.

2. According to the notification of the office of Lyudmila Denisova, the Ombudsman, coronavirus was confirmed on April 21 in two staff members of an institution in the Western region. For one person confirmation has been by an express test, for the other there has been a PCR test. Both persons are on the sick leave since April 6, now on self-isolation at home.

3. Censor.NET writes that in two men who had been held until April 21 in the Odessa Pre-Trial Detention Center and who were extradited to Moldova, coronavirus was found there. According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs, all institutions whose staff was involved in extradition have been informed.

4. A doctor from Chortkiv Criminal Enforcement Facility No. 26 is on self-isolation at home. The test result should be received tomorrow. This information was confirmed by my friend and colleague, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union board member Oleksandr Stepanenko, who lives in Chortkiv.

5. Coronavirus was confirmed in an employee of Correctional Camp No. 6 in Kropyvnytskyi. His wife, also an employee of the institution, continues to work. Kropyvnytskyi Pre-Trial Detention Center (PTDC) and CC No. 6 are located next to each other, and there are several couples where one person works in the pre-trial detention center, and his wife / her husband - in CC No. 6. That is, staff members of the institutions are in contact, and contact convicts in the CC No. 6 and detainees in the PTDC. The Head of the PTDC says that all staff members who are in contact should undergo the tests at their own expense in a private firm. It costs 800 UAH. There is information that prisoners are not treated, and they are told “Your relatives should send you medication”.

In recent days, a lot of information has come from prisoners about coronavirus patients, and those who died because of coronavirus, from several institutions: Sumy CC No. 116, Sumy PTDC, Dykanivska CC No. 12, Kharkiv PTDC, and Bucha СС No. 85. However, we cannot verify this information.

As we have written many times, in particular, two weeks ago, the priority of countering the spread of COVID-19 in penitentiary facilities is the justified release of prisoners from serving a sentence and the change of the measure of restraint by courts for persons taken into custody. Only then there will be a chance for effective prevention of the spread of the disease. The Ministry of Justice has drafted two draft laws — the one on amnesty and the other one on parole — but they have not even reached the Verkhovna Rada yet. Everything is going very slowly.

As for pre-trial detention centers, the use of pre-trial detention should indeed be the exception now. Pre-trial detention centers should also be unloaded by replacing pre-trial detention as a measure of restraint by one that does not involve the deprivation of liberty for those people who do not have a significant level of public danger, do not pose a threat to society, and about whom the doubts are minimal about their possible evasion from the investigation and the trial and possible impact on the victims and witnesses. We believe that such persons can include all those who committed negligent criminal offenses, persons who have committed minor and moderate crimes, as well as those whose term is to expire within one month and who do not exhibit conduct indicating that there is significant public danger of such persons. In our opinion, it is the prosecutor’s office that has petition for changing the measure of restraint.

It is necessary to act quickly as the consequences of the spread of the disease will be extremely bad. It will inevitably spread from penitentiary institutions to the settlements where these institutions are located.

And will the state be able to test prisoners who have symptoms of possible COVID-19?

P.S. Additional information was received regarding the above p. 4. As it turned out, the doctor in question is employed by Chortkiv Criminal Enforcement Facility No. 26 on a part-time contract, is not a full-time employee of the institution and has recently been on vacation. He is currently on self-isolation and is feeling well.

The publication was prepared with in theimplementation of UNDP project “Civil Society for Enhanced Democracy and Human Rights in Ukraine” with the financial support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark.

The material provided in this publication is subject to copyright. However, the United Nations Development Programme welcomes the dissemination of such informatioт for non-commercial purposes.

EC Project “Making Ukraine resistant to torture, ill-treatment and impunity”

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