No place for torture in the Ukrainian police!

In the city centre, near the Khreshchatyk metro station, a magnetic puzzle was set up with the silhouette of a police officer waving a stick. People could sign a petition against torture, taking away a fragment of the puzzle and opening a part of the concealed picture. When the last part of the puzzle was removed, you could see a collage prepared by activists with texts which describe their image of ideal police officers – accountable, professional, unbiased, open, well-paid, not corrupt, able to help.

“Today’s action demonstrates Ukrainians’ wish to have a really effective law enforcement system where police officers protect them, their safety, and don’t infringe human rights, especially in such a brazen form as torture”, Tetyana Mazur, Executive Director of Amnesty International in Ukraine said.

“Cases of torture of people by police officers are crimes by representatives of the state for which those guilty all too often remain unpunished. The authorities should not delay in creating a State Investigation Bureau and give it the functions of an independent mechanism for investigating crimes committed by law enforcement officers”.

Provisions regarding a State Investigation Bureau are contained in the new Criminal Procedure Code which came into force in November 2012.  Also according to the new Code, a confession is not taken into account anymore when examining a case in court – that reduces one of the incentives for the police to use torture against suspects.

However Amnesty International is continuing to document cases where the police want to punish people without trial in response to complaints against officials or to extort money.

“Complaints about police torture continue reaching human rights organizations despite the new CPC. This shows that the law enforcement bodies aren’t capable of working in a different way and feel impunity for their actions.”

Members of other human rights organizations joined the action. According to Andriy Didenko from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, police torture is systemic.

“Research carried out each year by the Kharkiv Social Research Institute together with the Kharkiv Human Rights Group shows that almost every 40 seconds an act of unlawful violence takes place in police stations. “

The main reason for police impunity is the ineffectiveness of the Prosecutor’s Office in investigating cases of police lawlessness. Due to close contact between the police and prosecutors who work together on ordinary cases, the prosecutors are not able to properly investigate crimes committed by police officers.

Concern regarding the effectiveness of the Prosecutor General’s Office was also expressed by Štefan Fülem European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy at the end of the meeting of the Council for EU-Ukraine Cooperation on 24 June.  He said that Kyiv should take into account the recent conclusions from the Venice Committees regarding other reforms needed, including reform of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“In carrying out its obligations before the European Union on the eve of the Vilnius Summit, the Ukrainian authorities should first concentrate on ensuring the fundamental human rights enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights and on the European Convention for the Prevention of Torture”, Tetyana Mazur said.


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