People frightened of complaining of police torture


The Kharkiv Institute for Social Research estimates as many as 900 cases of ill-treatment in police custody a year. Human rights workers believe that the majority of victims are afraid to report what happened to them.

Ten percent of the approaches to the Kharkiv Human Rights Group Public Advice Centre are over ill-treatment by the law enforcement agencies. There are up to 250 complaints a year.

Ludmila Klochko, Head of the KHPG Public Advice Centre:

“Those who turn to us are just the tip of the iceberg. We don’t have the grounds to assert that all victims talk about cases of torture. There are some who get in touch very late. They write to us from a prison colony and say that they confessed to a crime because they were subjected to torture. From there, however, it’s too late to write complaints”.

Ms Klochko says that this year there have been less approaches to them alleging torture however she explains that as being that people are disillusioned since they see how inefficiently such complaints are investigated.

The Press Service of the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office refused to give Radio Svoboda information about the number of criminal investigations initiated over torture by police officers. The Kharkiv Regional Department of the Interior Ministry asserted that a special department had been established and that complaints from the public were “given special attention”. A spokesperson, Oksana Kamykova speaks of 263 reports from the public and of disciplinary procedure against more than 600 police officers, with 49 officers dismissed. 

The staff of the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research cast doubt over these figures  they have been monitoring cases of unlawful police violence since 2004.  According to this monitoring, in 2004 a million people experienced ill-treatment at the hands of the police, in 2006-2009 the figure began falling to 800 cases. From 2010 the number of victims has again been rising. It is estimated that in 2011 there were 980 thousand cases of torture or ill-treatment.   The Institute stresses that they study the real situation with ill-treatment in police custody with the help of questions.

Experts believe that the police beat out confessions since the management demands “good” results for crimes solved. Despite the fact that several Interior Ministers in a row have made public statements claiming that there are no such plans for crimes solved, the situation is not improving.

According to Andriy Chornousov from the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research says that the whole system is based on such reporting.  Without them, it’s not just the Interior Ministry that will crumble, but the system of justice since the police “feed other law enforcement bodies, the Prosecutor’s Office, the courts, penal bodies.  If that goes, what will they look at?”

Ludmila Klochko says that people themselves prop up the system because they’re afraid. People who’ve experience psychological or physical trauma at the hands of the police are as a rule frightened to lodge complaints. And they’re frightened since there are very few sentences in favour of torture victims. The system thus perpetuates the system.

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