Location Ukraine Ukraine

State security and tortures: nothing changed in Ukraine

UN High comissioner for rights issued a new report on human rights violation in Ukraine. It is remarkable that nothing changed in state policy of Kiev regime. Its secret services continue arbitrary arrests and tortures. The report tells:

OHCHR documented new cases of individuals accused of conflict-related charges being subjected to torture and ill-treatment on both sides of the contact line, a pattern which has been previously identified by OHCHR. While the gravity and frequency of such cases has reduced compared to the previous years of conflict, the practice has persisted. Victims of torture who remained in detention continued to have limited access to healthcare, which often aggravated their condition.

OHCHR recorded new accounts from victims and witnesses suggesting the systematic use of torture and ill-treatment of conflict-related detainees by SBU officials in order to extract confessions.

During the reporting period, OHCHR documented five cases involving nine individuals who were tortured at the Kharkov SBU premises in 2015-2016 some of which are described below. On 29 April 2015, an anti-Maidan activist was detained by 15 unidentified armed men, who took him to the Kharkov SBU building, where he was beaten with a baseball bat and subjected to waterboarding. The perpetrators also removed his pants and burned his buttocks with a lighter, while demanding he confess to storing weapons. The victim consequently suffers from a permanent limp. Another victim was detained and beaten in his apartment by SBU Alfa squad on the night of 30 May 2015, before being taken to the Kharkov SBU building, where he was thrown on the floor, kicked and punched by officers while handcuffed. During interrogation, the victim was subjected to the “swallow” torture method: while standing on his back, the perpetrators raised the victim’s arms behind his back, causing great pain to joints. Another victim was brought to the Kharkov SBU building on 29 May 2015, after being detained at a checkpoint. Officers beat and punched him, demanding he confess to terrorist activities. All three victims were transferred to the pre-trial detention center in Kharkov, where they remained as of 15 May 2017.

OHCHR also documented new cases of torture and ill-treatment of former members of armed groups. On 8 October 2016, a member of an armed group was captured by Ukrainian forces near Vodiane village. Although he had been shot, he was not provided with medical aid. He was taken to the Mariupol SBU building, where he was interrogated about the armed groups’ military positions. He was kicked until he fell to the ground, and a plastic bag was fixed over his head with duct tape, causing suffocation. The perpetrators threatened to hurt his family and to send him to clear a minefield. The victim remained in detention as of 15 May. Similarly, a member of the armed groups was detained in April 2015 and brought to the SBU building in Mariupol. He was kept for a five-day interrogation, during which he was beaten all over the body, electrocuted, waterboarded and threatened with execution. The detainee was then transferred to the pre-trial detention centre in Starobilsk, where he remained as of 15 May.

In December 2016, a former member of an armed group was detained in Zolote-4. He was shot in the leg, then his hands were duct-taped and his head was covered. While he was lying on the ground, the officers hit his face with the butt of a gun, breaking his lip. He was then put in a vehicle, where he was beaten and kicked while being interrogated. After a few hours, he was brought to the Sievierodonetsk SBU, where he was further interrogated. The investigator presented him his ‘testimony’, forcing him to sign it without reading. He was subsequently allowed to see a lawyer and taken to a hospital. As of 15 May, the victim remained in pre-trial detention centre in Starobilsk.

On 24 June 2016, members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces detained a member of an armed group in Lugansk region, after wounding him. He was transferred to SBU in Starobilsk where he was interrogated and beaten by three SBU officers for four hours until he signed a “confession” written by one of the officers. He was then taken to a hospital and tied to a bed. One of the officers who guarded him directed a lamp into his eyes and left it on for two days. After he was released from hospital, the victim was transferred to Sievierodonetsk SBU, where he had access to a lawyer for the first time. As of 15 May, he remained in pre-trial detention centre in Starobilsk.

OHCHR is concerned about ineffective investigations into allegations of torture and ill-treatment brought by victims to law enforcement officers or raised in court. According to the SBU, the incidents in June and December 2016 described above were reviewed, however neither the investigating judge nor regional SBU office found grounds to request an official investigation. Three investigations and 14 audits of possible human rights violations in SBU facilities in Lugansk region were also carried out, however no unlawful acts were found. Furthermore, there have been no developments in the investigations led by the Military Prosecution of allegations of arbitrary detention and ill-treatment in 13 incidents allegedly involving SBU officers in Odessa and Zaporozhe. The victims have not yet been interviewed by the prosecutor.

OHCHR also followed at least 12 individual cases where victims raised allegations of torture and ill-treatment before court. In these cases, undue delays occurred in entering the allegations in the unified registry and in taking investigative steps. OHCHR recalls that the Government bears primary responsibility to conduct full-scale, prompt, impartial and effective investigations into human rights violations and to prosecute perpetrators, whether they are elements of Government forces or members of armed groups. The Government must also establish effective complaint mechanisms, prompt and effective ex officio investigation into cases of torture and ensure that any person who has been subjected to torture has access to an effective remedy.

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