Police put pressure on witnesses regarding the death of a student in police custody

Human rights organizations are demanding an open investigation into the death of student Ihor Indylo in a Kyiv police station. The Prosecutor General has initiated a criminal investigation into the death, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] has organized a commission with representatives of civic organizations and the press.

How effective will the commission be?

Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Volodymyr Yavorsky told the BBC that the creation of such a commission was no precedent and that this had been fairly usual practice. The difference, however, was that previously members of the Public Council on Human Rights attached to the MIA had taken part.


He said that they have pretty reliable information that the police are meeting with all students in the hostel [where Ihor was living] and are beginning to put pressure on witnesses to change their testimony, to say that Ihor was drunk, etc.


“At the present time there are no human rights defenders in this commission since those people are not considered members of the human rights community. One is a member of the board of the MIA and virtually an MIA employee, while others are from a channel which constantly presents positive activities of the MIA. It is therefore hard to say, with the organization of such a commission, whether it will be effective.


And what, in your view, can this commission do? Are we talking more of public pressure on the police and the authorities?

“It is a matter of public pressure. That there won’t, for example, be pressure on witnesses, perhaps not all necessary witnesses will be question, that there don’t appear some kind of strange witnesses who were never there. So that everything is carried out in accordance with the law since at the present time, for example, we have pretty reliable information that the police are meeting with all students in the hostel


There have been constant reports of ill-treatment of people in police custody or in SIZO [remand units] to wrench out a confession or some kind of evidence whoever was in power. Did anything change over the last years under Yushchenko, or now, under Yanukovych?


Firstly, under President Yushchenko there was a Department for Monitoring Observance of Human Rights in the Work of the Police which, for example, only during last year initiated 154 official checks over cases of torture and ill-treatment. They received 209 reports, appeals over torture or ill-treatment.


This was, accordingly, an evidence base for future criminal cases in order that justice be restored.

Now the MIA has returned to a situation where it independently investigates such crimes and in our view this will be totally ineffective. That’s because earlier there were only isolated cases of effectiveness. For example, there were about 3-4 people punished for torture and ill-treatment. Mr Yavorsky goes on to explain that such cases usually get nowhere since the allegations are against those carrying out the actual investigation.  And because the Prosecutor is presently running an investigation, however everything is done by constantly working with the same police officers, the necessary witnesses are not questioned, or not at the right time. Mr Yavorsky expressed strong doubts as to whether the investigation would be independent.

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