Tortured prisoners on both sides of the conflict in the Donbas
12 human rights organizations from different regions of Ukraine were united in a coalition “Against Torture” to help people who have been victims of torture.
Aleksandr Pavlichenko, chairman of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU), talks about why a coalition of human rights organizations “Against Torture” was created.
Michael Kukin: What is the need to create such a coalition? Why these 12 human rights organizations could not independently deal with torture, if such a problem exists?
Alexander Pavlichenko: Most likely this is a process of development, when these same organizations have worked together to overcome impunity and the fight against torture and ill-treatment for many years. At present, in order to come to some kind of standards and work out a common platform, it was suggested that our joint work in the coalition.
For example, the Kharkiv Human Rights Group (CPH), where I work, this issue is dealt with. Already in 1996 the Kharkiv human rights organization has been implemented the first major project of the fight against torture in law enforcement.
Olena Tereshchenko: How large-scale and serious is this problem for Ukraine? Judging by the fact that you are united in a coalition, do you think this problem seriously. What kind of scale are we talking about?
Aleksandr Pavlichenko: The biggest danger – it is public authorities and especially law enforcement officers, which used this torture, beating out testimonies from detainees. This is a problem that existed in Ukraine in the 90s and continued in the 2000s. One such prominent example was the case Igorya Indilo, and such cases are actually a lot.
Unfortunately, this practice was not punished properly, and the point has not been set. Amendments to the Criminal Procedural Code of Ukraine, adopted in 2011, have significantly reduced the number of such practices. Because the information received, the recognition of previously used as evidence of guilt, already existing new code can not be recognized as such. That is, it was knocked out in a certain basis of investigators, but, nevertheless, in many ways it continues to be carried out on a smaller scale, but the problem is systemic and disturbing. Events related to the war in the East, raised the level of violence, and we now have the facts, and when the party beyond the control of the Ukrainian government, torturers, and, unfortunately, these facts are on the side controlled by Ukraine.
Michael Kukin: Can you give specific examples?
Alexander Pavlichenko: Events relate primarily to 2014-2015, when there was an acute phase of military operations and any similar events could result in the exact same situation. We can say that it is a mirror image of what happened and was initiated by the separatist side.
The prisoner captured representatives, who were considered or Simpatico or vice versa active participants in the conflict, for example, they seized at checkpoints, maybe even with weapons. The prisoner seized and members of the same volunteer battalions. We have documented evidence that these individuals were tortured, and when they were killed or disappeared.
Michael Kukin: But it is very difficult to document the like. How did you do that?
Alexander Pavlichenko: I can bring an example that occurred in the summer of 2014 in Lisichansk. Mom disappeared told that her son, who went to the uncontrolled territory, passed checkpoints, which were controlled by Ukrainian armed forces, after which it had lost contact, and he was gone. She believes he is still alive and hiding somewhere, but unfortunately, the representatives of the battalion “Aidar” I even know who exactly took part in it, were directly involved in the abduction of a person and for what he He paid with his life for the car in which he traveled.
Example with a battalion of “Tornado”, which is on everyone’s lips – is the visible part of the problem, which indicates that the Ukrainian side is still struggling with this, and tries to restore order and punish those who used such abusive practices.
The problem is that, unfortunately, some of the names of heroes, according to our information, and from the words of the victims and witnesses, is also linked to the commission of these crimes, such as torture.
Michael Kukin: Last year was quite a scandal with the monitoring mission of the United Nations and the so-called secret detention SBU . I understand that this too is subject to the opposition to torture. Is there some kind of development?
Aleksandr Pavlichenko: Yes, of course. There is a development in a positive way, because we met with a group of monitors that we were asked what issues should be explored, where to go, whom to meet and what to see. After this meeting, they began their official visit program, which was interrupted due to the fact that they were not allowed to the detention insulator SBU, which should not be at all, they are illegal.
The history of the Committee, which came with a monitoring visit, over the fact that they managed to convince to continue the interrupted visit. They agreed to come and inspect the place of bondage, having received a guarantee that they will get access to all the places they want to visit.
There was another case in which the Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada Valery Lutkovska came with an unannounced visit to Kharkiv SBU and tried to find people there who were there illegally, having been deprived of their freedom, but they are quickly transferred to other places of detention, and she did not see anything.
Olena Tereshchenko: Do you have free admission to places of non-freedom?
Alexander Pavlichenko: We can visit the detention centers and colonies which contained people who already have a judgment having legal force. Unfortunately, our mandate does not extend to those arriving at the court and investigation. Now we are trying to change the law in order to still be able to control this category of persons who are most exposed to the possible risk of physical violence against them.
In addition, there is an independent national preventive mechanism, which works in the institute of the Ombudsman. They may carry out such visits to all places of unfreedom.
Olena Tereshchenko: And you can communicate with prisoners alone?
Aleksandr Pavlichenko: Yes, article 24 of the Criminal Executive Code of Ukraine requires a conversation with the prisoners in the absence of administration. But there are certain limitations.
We have seen and interacted with dozens, if not hundreds of those who were sentenced to life imprisonment – there are different people. But talk together face to face, we did not, we communicated through the bars, and the administrator retreated a certain distance, so as not to hear. How to Plant, serious problems with such a category of convicts in respect of violations of their rights – not.
Michael Kukin: I understand that if we are talking about people already serving time, they rarely include the history of torture.
Aleksandr Pavlichenko: I do not agree with you. We are faced with the fact that individuals who have already received the verdict, are transported to the place of serving the sentence, and some penal institutions, colonies, on arrival they begin to beat, showing where he was.
We had a very violent event, when the 77th colony came to 13 convicts, and all of them were beaten. And, unfortunately, achieve a proper investigation of this situation is very difficult when clear evidence of beatings.
Michael Kukin: As far as I know, there is very often done by the hands of other prisoners and the guards do not actually.
Alexander Pavlichenko: This so-called volunteers – the second problem. Even the existence of the same hierarchy and the existence of “the excluded” – is also one and the ill-treatment and torture.
Olena Tereshchenko: What is the situation in children’s and women’s prisons?
Alexander Pavlichenko: In the children’s colonies, the situation has changed for the better. Firstly, due to changes in legislation, significantly reduced the number of troops, the number is no longer measured in thousands and hundreds, and the work there was much more comfortable and convenient. Moments of torture and violence, there have already been passed, and such evidence is not there and close.
I was in the three women’s prisons. The situation there is significantly different from those of men, and there are much more humane conditions. However, there are conditions of higher quality level. The same Kachanovskaya colony, where Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a sentence. The conditions there, and the physical, and the relationship between management and staff, it is different from other conditions in other colonies, not to mention what they were in the men’s colonies. Katchanovski colony I could offer as a sample with respect to the other colonies.
Michael Kukin: What human rights organizations mined the creation of the coalition?
Александр Павличенко: Прежде всего, это определенное объединение ресурсов, это и мониторинговые организации, которые занимаются и социальными исследованиями, и мониторингом по отдельным аспектам, это и те, кто собирает информацию, например, связанную с конфликтами, где проявляются факты насилия, в частности насилие на востоке. Наши обе организации, и ХПГ и УХСПЧ, занимаются конфликтом на востоке, УХСПЧ также занимается конфликтом в Крыму. Эти факты насилия и есть объектом для работы коалиции. И самое главное — вопрос общения с людьми, которые стали жертвами насилия, и возможности оказание им посильной помощи. Прежде всего, мы оказываем правовую помощь, но также подключаем социальную, психологическую или медицинскую помощь, реабилитационную программу — то, чего практически нет.
Soon we will present a report on prisoners of war who have been abused, being in a conflict zone. I can say that only a few have gone through psychological and medical rehabilitation that is required. Our society was not ready for such challenges.