Ukraine: UN experts call for progress on arbitrary detention issues

5 November 2008 – A group of independent United Nations human rights experts has urged Ukraine to address issues such as access to justice by detainees and the right to a fair trial, while noting the progress made by the country in dealing with arbitrary detention.

Members of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which wrapped up a two-week visit to the country today, welcomed new legislative efforts to better protect the rights of persons regarding detention, saying they will help meet some of their concerns.

“Each little step forward will help protect the rights of detainees despite continued challenges faced for persons deprived of their liberty,” expert Malick Sow of Senegal said in a news release. “Arbitrary detention has no place in a democratic structure and must be addressed effectively.”

The Group applauded what it called a “new opening on the part of the State to different methods of dealing with alleged crimes, including potential alternatives to detention.”

It also lauded the cooperation and access they received during their visit, including “unfettered access to all places where people are deprived of their liberty.” The mission held meetings and visits to places of detention in Kyiv, Donetsk, Simferopol, Sevastopol, Lviv, Chop, Mukhachevo and Uzhhorod.

Members 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 Group was particularly pleased that it could conduct interviews with nearly 140 detainees, including those 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,” expert Shaheen Ali stated.

The Ukrainian authorities were encouraged to be equally open to other monitoring elements, including those of civil society.

Despite the positive steps taken by authorities, the Working Group voiced concern about issues such as access to justice by detainees, the right to a fair trial, and repeated reports of abuse and torture, particularly during arrest and detention.

“The Working Group recognizes the economic challenges which the State may face but calls on it to respect its international human rights obligations,” the release added.


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