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UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concludes visit to Ukraine

GENEVA – At the invitation of the Government of Ukraine, the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention undertook a mission to the country commencing on 22 October which concluded on 5 November. The Members, Mr. Malick Sow (of Senegal), Vice-President and Ms. Shaheen Sardar Ali (of Pakistan), Member, welcomed the full cooperation of the Government of Ukraine in the conduct of its mission.
The mission involved meetings and visits to places of detention in Kyiv, Donetsk, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Lviv, Chop, Mukhachevo and Uzhhorod. The Working Group recognized the challenges faced in addressing matters related to detention and noted the progress the Government is making in this regard.
Ms. Shaheen Ali stated “The Cooperation with the Government of Ukraine was excellent with the Working Group having unfettered access to all places where people are deprived of their liberty – prisons, pre-trial, immigration, police, military, juvenile, and in relation to psychiatric patients. We were particularly pleased that we could meet with all types of detainees in personal interviews – some 138 - including those already convicted of offences. This is an example that other countries should follow. Only people who have courage and confidence will lay themselves open to public scrutiny.”
In addition 100 collective interviews were undertaken by the Working Group. The detention facilities visited were under the authority, respectively, of the Ministry of Interior - including the police; State Security Service; State Department for the Execution of Sentences; State Border Guard Service; Ministry of Defence; and Ministry of Health.
The Working Group encouraged authorities to be equally open to other monitoring elements including those of civil society. The Working Group also met with the First Lady of Ukraine, the Ombudsperson, Justices of the Supreme Court, Appellate Courts and the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor General’s Office, lawyers, relatives of detainees, representatives of civil society, and international organizations.
The Working Group welcomes the monitoring committees and the Public Councils established under the Ministry of Interior as well as the posts in each oblast of human rights advisors to the Minister of Interior as good practices. With regard to monitoring, the Working Group encourages the State to determine the National Preventive Mechanism(s) as called for under the Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention against Torture, taking into consideration the existing proto-types already utilized at the national level.
“A new opening on the part of the State to different methods of dealing with alleged crimes including potential alternatives to detention is applauded by the Working Group” said Malick Sow, welcoming new legislative efforts to enhance the protection of the rights of persons in relation to detention and which will assist in addressing some of the concerns of the Working Group. “Each little step forward will help protect the rights of detainees despite continued challenges faced for persons deprived of their liberty. Arbitrary detention has no place in a democratic structure and must be addressed effectively.”
Notwithstanding the positive steps taken the Working Group has a number of concerns including:
+ access to justice by detainees;
+ the right to a fair trial;
+ a lack of independence, and therefore confidence, in lawyers and the judiciary;
+ the perceived subjective approach to decisions of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the fact that it has both prosecution and oversight powers; and
+ repeated reports of abuse and torture in particular at the crucial stage of initial arrest and detention.

The Working Group recognizes the economic challenges which the State may face but call on it to respect its international human rights obligations.

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