UN Rapporteur on torture calls on Ukraine to improve situation with prisoners' rights, conditions of their detention
The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading behaviors, Nils Melzer, calls on the Ukrainian authorities to improve the situation with respect for the rights of detainees and conditions of their detention.
I strongly recommend that the Ukrainian authorities allocate the funds necessary for the consecutive reconstruction or replacement of obsolete facilities in custody, provide food, enough accommodation, ventilation and hygiene in accordance with international standards, he said at a briefing in Kyiv, summing up the preliminary results of his working visit to Ukraine from March 20 to June 8.
Melzer pointed to the numerous complaints he had received about too long periods of detention, and that alternative measures for detention were applied only in exceptional cases. He particularly recommends the use of alternative preventive measures for juveniles.
According to Melzer, there is a problem with small premises for keeping detainees and prisoners, poor nutrition, difficulties with access to proper medical care.
At the same time, the UN special rapporteur noted that, in general, conditions are quite acceptable in various places of detention, but still need to be improved. He mentioned as an example the guardhouse of the Southern Territorial Administration of the Military Service of Law and Order, where the conditions, in his words, fully correspond to international standards.
Melzer stressed that there are numerous reports on torture and ill-treatment during detention and interrogation by police, including juniors.
Police officers reportedly resorted to beatings with their hands, feet, various objects, as well as resorting to strangulation, including putting plastic bags on their heads, suspending them and torturing them for a long time in an "uncomfortable position." Many prisoners reported torture by electric shock and imitation of executions. There are also methods of torture that leave no traces, he said.
According to the UN special rapporteur, the torture of people who are held in the controlled territory of Ukraine in connection with the conflict in Donbas, were widely used in 2014-2016, but then their number decreased.
Torture often took place in the detention facilities of the SBU or with "unofficial" detention by individuals or volunteer battalions, Melzer said.
Speaking about the situation on the uncontrolled territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, the UN representative said that unlike the rest of the territory of Ukraine, he had problems with access to places of detention and communication with those who were there.
The de-facto authorities in these territories had previously selected the sites that my team and I visited and no other institutions could be accessed. Moreover, in the facilities he visited in the so-called "Luhansk People's Republic" he was not authorized to conduct any confidential interviews with detainees and even collective interviews of general nature were made impossible by an oppressively intimidating presence of prison staff, he said.
In the "DPR" ("Donetsk People's Republic") Melzer was able to speak to four detained members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces selected by the authorities, albeit under the supervision by prison staff.
We have information about the facts when people on the street were detained by armed persons, transferred to the so-called "Ministry of State Security," "DPR" and "LPR", where they were tortured for a long time, beaten, kicked, threatened with sexual violence, imitated execution and strangulation, he noted.
The official noted that while seeking access to similar institutions in Crimea, he was granted such permission by the Ukrainian authorities, and then he sought "concurrence" by the Russian authorities as well. Having responded positively to Melzer's request, Russian authorities at the same time demanded that the visit be processed as such to the national territory of the Russian Federation.
At the same time Melzer pointed out that he knew the facts of violation of prisoners' rights on the territory of the peninsula, in particular, that a large number of people were being transferred from Crimea to the territory of the Russian Federation.
Melzer noted poor conditions the Ukrainians are being held in.