war crimes in Ukraine

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On preventing torture in Ukraine

A.Pavlichenko, Kyiv
It is sad, but true, that the level of violation and cruelty, often purposeless, grows in our society. Analysts explain the situation, referring to the general decline of morals, corrupting influence of the Western mass culture, economic problems. This is partly true, but we are going to speak on the structures that must counteract violation and cruelty. Instead they widely use violation and cruelty in their daily work. I mean the law-enforcing agencies such as the Ministry of Interior, the Security Service of Ukraine, the National Guard.

After the collapse of the USSR in 1991 Ukraine inherited the law-enforcing agencies from the old Soviet system. These agencies retained customs and tasks of the old agencies. The Soviet law-enforcing agencies never paid attention to the problem of human rights. Nowadays new standards are introduced, which are based on the principle of superiority of the right. and oriented to human rights and democratic values. In order to work in the new regime the . birthmarks. of the past epoch must be erased. In particular, this is stimulated by international legal norms. The law of Ukraine . On coming to the effect of international treaties on the territory of Ukraine. adopted in 1992 and Article 9 of the Constitution of Ukraine define ratified international treaties as an inalienable part of the national legislation of Ukraine, which has to be executed by all means.

Among the international treaties Ukraine ratified (on 24 February 1987) the Convention against torture and other degrading and inhumane treatment and punishments and the European Convention against torture and other degrading and inhumane treatment and punishments, which was ratified on 5 May 1997 and came to the effect on 1 September 1997. Nonetheless, torture and degrading treatment are applied by law-enforcing agencies in cage-like cells of militia precincts, in detention blocks, in preliminary and common prisons. Another example of degrading treatment is the so-called dedovshchina, which became widely spread in the armed forces and is based on behavior patterns of the criminal world. In . Prava ludyny. , No. 1, 1996, an article was published with a very apt title: . Army or prison: where would you prefer to serve the term?.

In order to show how human rights are observed by our law-enforcers I shall describe several examples.

Example 1.. On 10 May in a super-secret way the administration of the Cherkassy preliminary prison moved the body of Sergey Ostapenko from the prison ward of the third town hospital to the mortuary. Sergey Ostapenko was tormented to death. Meeting with his relatives in the prison he told that he was brutally tormented. The torture applied to him, the so-called . monument. , consisted in hanging him by hands for hours without foot support. It resulted in stopping blood circulation in his arms and his arms became gangrenous.

Sergey. s mother told that she could not recognize her son. In particular, his hands were paralyzed and he had to be fed by other people. When her son was dying in the prison ward at the third town hospital, the convoy refused to take the needed medicine from his mother. Before the arrest Sergey Ostapenko was an athlete weighting 80 kg. After six weeks in the preliminary prison he lost half of his weight.

Ostapenko. s mother is convinced that her son was arrested with the purpose of concealing grave injuries which he got during the first interrogation. The idea was that in the preliminary prison his wounds would heal, and then he would be released. But the wounds did not heal. In order to save him his both arms had to be amputated. So it was decided that it would suit anyone if he died of some mysterious disease. (. Prava ludyny. , July).

This is one, but not a unique fact of the most brutal violation of the Constitutional right (see Article 28 of the Constitution: . Nobody may be subjected to torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment and punishments. ). This right is especially often violated by special units for struggle with organized crime.

Example 2.
About 4 p.m. a group of minors, age 13 . 15, was detained at the tram stop by druzhinniks(civilian assistants of militia). The assistants made a mistake: another group of young hooligans operated not far from this stop. The druzhinniksbrutally beat 14-year-old Mikhail, breaking him a rib and the head. Having seen that the boy fell unconscious they called a motor ambulance. The diagnosis was cerebral brain concussion. Later Mikhail was observed by psychiatrists (the book . Against torture. published by the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection, p. 161).

Example 3.
Yuri Kazimirenko, a guard of the bank . Dendy. , was detained without reasons, when he executed his service duty. He left the cell of the Starokievskiy precinct of Kyiv with the cerebral brain concussion and emptied pockets. It happened in January 1997 (ibidem, p. 167).

One of the main reasons of such treatment is the wish of law-enforcers to get a confession from the alleged criminal. The rules are such that after getting a confession the case is considered to be closed, regardless of how the case will be considered at court. The law-enforcers are interested in . closing. as many cases, as possible.

Brutality of law-enforcers causes revenge on the side of the tortured and maltreated. . Crime fights crime, and no wonder that the criminal world also started a fight with bruisers from the DFOC. In summer of 1995 a detective was killed, presumably for having tormented an innocent man. Cherkassy militia even did not try to find the killers. Recently another detective was stabbed. He remained alive quite accidentally. (. Prava Ludyny. , July, 1999).

After the ratification of the Convention against torture by Ukraine the Committee against torture of the Council of Europe sends its inspectors to Ukraine. There were two visits of such inspectors: the first from 8 to 25 February 1998 to Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Kyiv, where the inspectors attended 23 penitentiaries, including the alcoholic treatment colony and the psycho-neurological dispensary. The second visit was made in July 1999 to the Central Directorate of fight with organized crime and some penitentiaries in Kyiv and Kharkiv. The results of these inspections have not been published yet, because, according to the accepted routine, the state must agree with such publication.

The Committee against torture and degrading treatment has not yet directed its inspectors to the army, where dedovshchina reigns and degrading treatment is a routine.

Example 4.
. If deds(older soldiers) order a young soldier to take the pose of . standing moose. , it means that the young soldier must stand covering his forehead with palms. The dedsbeat on the palms with fists. A more cruel punishment was the . drinking moose. . Here the punished had to bend, and he was beaten with knees. After every blow the punished had to say . Thank you. .. (. Kievskiye vedomosti. , 31 July, 1999)

Untypically, the described case got into court, and the guilty went to the disciplinary battalion.

Unfortunately, as practice shows, the available mechanisms of the protection of citizens are insufficient. The post of the ombudsman, introduced since April 1998, has not become yet that body which can interfere into the conflict between an individual and the state. To protect citizens from violence on the side of other citizens or the state it is very urgent to create and activate new efficient mechanisms including the judicial. Information policy that includes public description and denunciation of torture and degrading treatment, as well as instruction about how to fight with torture by legal methods, is very important. We must form a healthy civil society built on humane values. Another important lever is international instruments for human rights protection. Among them the most important roles are played by the European Court of human rights and the Committee against torture of the Council of Europe.

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