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Roundtable on follow-up to concluding observations of the UN Committee against Torture

On 26 December, the Office of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights held a roundtable to discuss the results of submitting shadow reports on Ukraine's implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment to the UN Committee against Torture.

The roundtable was attended by human rights activists of Kharkiv Human Rights Group, a representative of the Ombudsperson, chairperson of the Supreme Administrative Court, representatives of the Prosecutor General, the Presidential Administration, UNDP and civil society.

Based on the review of the National Report of Ukraine and interactive dialogue with human rights activists and the Ombudsperson of Ukraine, the Committee presented its concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Ukraine.

The Committee expressed concerns about slow investigations, lack of accountability regarding excessive use of force by police in connection with protests since November 2013; reports of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearances, killings in areas under control of armed groups, notably in Donetsk and Luhansk regions; high rate of mortality among prisoners, mainly from tuberculosis; increase in the number of deaths and suicides in custody; high rate of domestic violence.

During the discussion, human rights defenders from Kharkiv Human Rights Group described the most common types of human rights violations that they found while interacting with inmates. While advocates noted the improvement of conditions of prisoners in some prisons, they argue that the principle of proportionality should be implemented within the frames of current prison system in Ukraine. After all, persons with limited freedom – which in itself is a serious punishment – suffer from additional humiliation and inhuman treatment. In particular, under the provisions of applicable law and the initiative of prison staff, the rights of prisoners to correspondence (letters are often not sent or complaints on local prosecutors are transmitted in the same bodies), mobile phone access and use, proper working conditions and decent wages are limited. Human rights activists reported cases where cutlery were taken away from prisoners, forcing them to eat with their hands; food and cigarettes were taken away and spoiled; prisoners were placed in a chamber at a temperature of 16 degrees Celsius without clothing for 15 days, etc. Also, recently established practice of one-day relocation of prisoners to a jail in another region (e.g., Lutsk jail) raises concerns among human rights defenders.

The representative of the Prosecutor General's Office said that they are working to improve conditions of detention in jail and are generally willing to cooperate with human rights activists and welcomes the opportunity to participate in such events.