Number of deaths in police custody triples

The Kharkiv Human Rights Group has given a press conference on the use of torture by police and the worrying increase in deaths of detainees.

According to Yevhen Zakharov, KHPG Co-Chair, just in the first three months of 2011 there have been 15 deaths in police custody, although this is far from a full list, but merely the information reaching the public.  The use of unlawful violence are almost impossible to prove, largely because there is no institution for effective investigation into such cases. The police investigate the material only as part of a departmental check and as a result in the majority of cases the Prosecutor refuses to initiate a criminal investigation.

One of the appalling examples  cited was that of Ruslan Sazhko who was fond hanged in the enclosure of the Svyatoshynsky Police Station in Kyiv on 7 January 2011.  There were numerous marks of injury on his body. The police claim that the death was outside the police station yet the video footage inside the building shows that Ruslan was brought into the station without injuries. He did not leave alive.

Andriy Didenko, Coordinator of the KHPG Programme against Torture, explains that the use of torture is most likely during the detective and criminal investigation stage.

Yevhen Zakharov explains that violent methods are used to increase the number of officially solved cases. There are statistical indicators which need to be fulfilled, with failure to do so affecting the officer’s income. The Minister, Anatoly Mohylyov has on many occasions stated that one such indicator is the number of solved cases.  How they’re solved is not of concern. Studies have found that up to 60% of the cases involving illegal possession of weapons are falsified.

Channel 5 reports that on Wednesday an extended meeting was held within the Prosecutor General’s Office regarding observance of the law during investigations into cases of torture. The Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka stated that the problem was real of ill-treatment of those detained or remanded in custody within the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He expressed concern over the increase in the number of deaths in police custody, and demanded that Prosecutors show a principled position and efficiently use all their powers to eradicate such behaviour.  He said that each such case must be brought to court and punished as it deserves.


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