United Nations Committee Against Torture - Concluding Observations
Convention against Torture
and Other Cruel, Inhuman
or Degrading Treatment
12 December 2014
Committee against Torture
Concluding observations on the sixth periodic report of Ukraine[*]
1. The Committee against Torture considered the sixth periodic report of Ukraine (CAT/C/UKR/6) at its 1254th and 1257th meetings, held on 5 and 6 November 2014 (CAT/C/SR.1254 and CAT/C/SR.1257), and adopted the following concluding observations at its 1272nd and 1274th meetings (CAT/C/SR.1272 and CAT/C/SR.1274) held on 18 and 19 November 2014.
2. The Committee expresses its appreciation to the State party for having submitted its sixth periodic report in accordance with the optional reporting procedure, as this improves the dialogue between the State party and the Committee and helps the State party to prepare a more focused report.
3. The Committee appreciates the quality of its dialogue with the delegation of the State party and the responses provided orally to the questions and concerns raised during the consideration of the report.
B. Positive aspects
4. The Committee welcomes the accession of the State party to, and its ratification of, the following international and regional instruments:
(a) Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, in 2007;
(b) Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in 2010;
(c) Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in 2010;
(d) 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, in 2013;
(e) 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, on 25 March 2013;
(f) Additional Protocol III to the Geneva Conventions, in 2010;
(g) Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, in 2010.
5. The Committee welcomes the efforts of the State party to revise its legislation in areas of relevance to the Convention, including the adoption of:
(a) The Free Legal Assistance Act, on 2 June 2011;
(b) The new Code of Criminal Procedure with increased safeguards against arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment and unfair trial, on 13 April 2012;
(c) Act No. 1707-VI amending the Criminal Code, which provides for harsher penalties under article 161 (violation of the equality of citizens on grounds of race, national origin or religious belief), on 5 November 2009;
(d) The Law on Countering Human Trafficking No. 3739-VI, on 20 September 2011;
(e) The new Code of Criminal Procedure, in April 2012, which entered into force on 19 November 2012;
(f) Entry into force of the Act on State Guarantees of the Enforcement of Judicial Decisions, on 1 January 2013;
(g) The Law on Ensuring the Rights and Freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons, on 20 October 2014.
6. The Committee also welcomes the efforts of the State party to amend its policies, programmes and administrative measures to give effect to the Convention, including:
(a) Approval by Presidential Decree No. 311 of the policy framework for criminal justice reform in Ukraine, on 8 April 2008;
(b) Decision by presidential decree on a national strategy in the field of human rights, on 15 October 2014.
C. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations
Definition of torture
7. Recalling its previous concluding observations (CAT/C/UKR/CO/5, para. 8), the Committee is concerned that not all the elements of the crime of torture, as defined in article 1 of the Convention, have been incorporated into the Criminal Code, notably the prosecution under article 127 of the Criminal Code of acts of torture inflicted by, or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of, a public official or other person acting in an official capacity and the element of discrimination, which may create loopholes for impunity, as outlined in the Committee’s general comment No. 2 (2007) on the implementation of article 2 by States parties (art. 1).
The State party should amend its legislation to include a definition of torture in the Criminal Code that is in conformity with the Convention and covers all the elements contained in article 1, including the inflicting of torture by, or at the instigation of, or with the consent or acquiescence of, a public official or other person acting in an official capacity, who can be prosecuted under article 127 of the Criminal Code, as well as the element of discrimination.
Prosecution of acts of torture
8. As stated in previous concluding observations, the Committee is concerned that while article 127 of the Criminal Code relates to torture, acts amounting to torture are often prosecuted under articles 364 (abuse of authority or office), 365 (excess of authority or official powers) and 373 (compelling to testify) of the Criminal Code, which do not provide for the criminal liability of all individuals who inflict torture. It is also concerned that torture is punishable by two to five years of imprisonment and at the low number of persons convicted for having committed acts of torture (arts. 2 and 4).
The State party should amend its legislation to ensure that persons who are alleged to have committed acts of torture are prosecuted under article 127 of the Criminal Code and that appropriate penalties for acts of torture are applied that are commensurate with the gravity of the crime, as set out in article 4, paragraph 2, of the Convention.
Fundamental legal safeguards
9. Insufficient legal safeguards were brought to the attention of the State party in the past, as detained persons do not enjoy in practice all the fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of deprivation of liberty, in particular in police detention and temporary holding centres, such as being informed of and understanding their rights, having access to an independent doctor and/or to a lawyer and having the right to inform a relative or person of their choice (arts. 2, 12, 13 and 16).
While noting that different measures are currently being taken, the Committee encourages the State party to take further effective measures to guarantee that all detained persons are afforded, by law and in practice, all the fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of deprivation of liberty, in accordance with international standards, including:
(a) Ensuring that all persons deprived of their liberty are informed about their rights and provided with prompt access to a lawyer, in line with the legislation in force, and providing adequate financial resources for the effective functioning of the free legal aid system;
(b) Providing detained persons with access to a medical examination by an independent doctor and, if requested, a doctor of their own choice, and ensuring that all health-related tasks in police stations are performed by qualified medical personnel;
(c) Ensuring that detained persons are able to notify a member of their family or another appropriate person of their own choice.
The State party should also establish a single national register of detention that includes factual details about detention, including transfers, and ensure that it contains the exact date, time and place of detention from the outset of deprivation of liberty and not from the time of writing of the protocol of detention.
Excessive use of force and killings
10. The Committee is concerned at allegations of excessive use of force by government special and riot police and other personnel, in connection with the popular protests throughout Ukraine, and in particular in the dispersal of protesters in Kyiv on 30 November 2013, as well as events in December 2013 and the reported killings of protesters between 19 and 21 January 2014 and 18 and 20 February 2014. The incidents in February 2014 were accompanied by so-called sniper killings by unknown assailants and other injuries of protesters, as well as of police and law enforcement officers. The Committee is also concerned at other crimes reportedly committed by law enforcement officers during the Maidan protests, including alleged beatings of medical staff seeking to attend the wounded. Events in Odessa (2 May 2014) and Mariupol (9 May 2014) have also evoked concern over the loss of life and allegations of excessive use of force. While investigations have been opened by a number of governmental and other bodies into those events, the Committee is concerned that the investigations have been slow, remain incomplete and have not resulted in accountability. According to reports by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, there is “a lack of significant progress” in the Maidan investigations. Further, the Committee notes that the State party did not respond to requests for information on the likely conclusion of investigations regarding the fire in Odessa and the events in Mariupol (art. 2).
The State party should:
(a) Carry out and complete prompt, impartial, thorough and effective investigations into all allegations of the use of violence, including torture and ill-treatment, by law enforcement officials, and prosecute and punish those responsible, including for the incidents on the Maidan and in Odessa and Mariupol and thereby combat impunity;
(b) Establish an independent monitoring and oversight mechanism to ensure such criminal investigations are prompt, effective and impartial;
(c) Amend the Code of Criminal Procedure to provide for mandatory video recording of interrogations and strengthen efforts to equip all places of deprivation of liberty with video recording devices;
(d) Establish a genuinely independent complaints mechanism to deal with cases of alleged torture and ill-treatment, and ensure that persons who have complained about allegations of torture and ill-treatment are protected from reprisal;
(e) Provide the Committee with information as to how many cases of violence by law enforcement officials have been investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted for acts of torture and ill-treatment, and the penalties applied for those found guilty.
Use of excessive force and grave violations of the Convention in the context of recent events in the east
11. The Committee is gravely concerned at reports concerning the use on the territory of the State party of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, deprivation of life and other serious violations of the Convention perpetrated in the context of the events that have taken place since November 2013. Many of those reports concern areas where the Government of Ukraine does not exercise effective control. The Committee is deeply concerned that the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has stated that the rule of law has been replaced by the rule of violence in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, notably in places under the control of armed groups, often including the presence of foreign fighters, where a dramatic increase in casualties and the use of heavy weaponry and indiscriminate shelling were documented, along with a need for accountability for the crimes committed. The Committee is particularly alarmed by the finding in the report of the High Commissioner for Human Rights that “armed groups continue to carry out abductions, physical and psychological torture, ill-treatment and other serious human rights violations,” resulting in “a reign of fear and intimidation by the armed groups” (see A/HRC/27/75) (arts. 2, 4, 12, 13, 14, 15 and 16).
The Committee recalls the absolute prohibition of torture contained in article 2, paragraph 2, of the Convention, stating that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture”. It draws the attention of the State party to paragraph 5 of its general comment No. 2, in which it states that those “exceptional circumstances” include “any threat of terrorist acts or violent crime as well as armed conflict, international or non-international”. Accordingly, the State party should:
(a) Document and undertake prompt, thorough and impartial investigations into all acts of torture or other ill-treatment, including enforced disappearances and deprivation of life, committed on any territory under its jurisdiction; keep thorough documentation on the victims of inhuman treatment in areas not under governmental control, on the type of violations of the Convention against them and the damage inflicted, as well as the identity, if possible, of the alleged perpetrators, so that the State party can fully exercise its duties under the Convention when effective control is re-established and ensure that those found responsible are prosecuted and held accountable;
(b) Ensure that the alleged perpetrators are duly prosecuted, including persons in positions of command and those who provided legal cover for torture, and if found guilty, are punished with penalties commensurate with the grave nature of their act;
(c) Provide redress and rehabilitation to the victims, in accordance with the Committee’s general comment No. 3 (2012) on the implementation of article 14 of the Convention by States parties.
12. The Committee is concerned about the continued use of administrative detention for different purposes of criminal investigation under the Law on Administrative Offences, in the course of which the detainee is deprived of procedural guarantees, such as the right to appeal against such deprivation of liberty (arts. 2, 12, 13 and 11).
The State party should ensure that resort to, and the duration of, administrative detention are reduced and that guarantees exist regarding all fundamental procedural safeguards.
System of juvenile justice
13. The Committee is concerned at the reports concerning the absence of a system of juvenile justice in the State party (art. 2).
The State party should establish a system of juvenile justice which promotes, whenever possible, alternative measures to deprivation of liberty and guarantees international standards, including the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (Beijing Rules), the United Nations Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (Riyadh Guidelines), the United Nations Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (Havana Rules), and the Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System.
14. While welcoming the steps taken by the State party, such as the adoption of the Prevention of Domestic Violence Act (2001) and the “Stop violence!” campaign, the Committee is concerned at the persistently high rate of domestic violence. It is also concerned about the absence of an appropriate normative framework to fight domestic violence effectively and the lack of availability of remedies for the victims (arts. 2, 12, 13, 14 and 16).
The State party should:
(a) Amend its legislation in order to strengthen efforts to specifically criminalize, prevent and combat domestic violence, and ensure the effective implementation of legislation on domestic and family violence in practice;
(b) Ensure that complaints from victims are promptly, thoroughly and impartially investigated, that perpetrators are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished with appropriate and effective penalties;
(c) Ensure that victims of domestic violence benefit from protection and effective remedies, including access to medical and legal services, psychosocial counselling, redress, including rehabilitation, and safe and adequately funded shelters in all parts of the country;
(d) Ensure that law enforcement and the judicial authorities, as well as medical and social workers, are provided with appropriate training to deal with cases of domestic violence and continue to enhance awareness-raising efforts in order to sensitize members of the general public;
(e) Compile and provide the Committee with disaggregated data on the number and nature of complaints, investigations, prosecutions and sentences handed down for acts of domestic violence, on the provision of redress to victims and on the difficulties experienced in preventing such acts.
Trafficking in human beings
15. The Committee values the State Targeted Social Programme on combating trafficking in human beings, but is concerned that the State party remains a country of origin and transit for human trafficking, in particular for sexual and labour exploitation. It is also concerned that the crime of trafficking of human beings is not properly investigated, perpetrators are not sanctioned, and victims are not provided with access to effective remedies and redress (arts. 2, 10, 12, 13 and 16).
The State party should:
(a) Continue taking measures to prevent and eradicate human trafficking, including vigorous enforcement of anti-trafficking legislation, and provide sufficient funds for the financing of the State Targeted Social Programme;
(b) Enhance international cooperation to combat human trafficking, in particular for the purpose of sexual and labour exploitation, including through bilateral agreements, and monitor the impact;
(c) Provide specialized training to the police, prosecutors and judges, immigration officers, the border police, community support officers and psychologists on effective prevention, investigation, prosecution and punishment of acts of trafficking, including on the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons, Especially Women and Children, supplementing the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime, and continue nationwide awareness-raising and media campaigns about the criminal nature of such acts;
(d) Promptly, effectively and impartially investigate, prosecute and punish trafficking in persons and related practices;
(e) Provide effective remedy to all victims of the crime of trafficking, ensuring prompt and adequate psychological support, medical care, access to welfare benefits, adequate shelter and work permits, irrespective of their ability to cooperate in legal proceedings against traffickers;
(f) Provide the Committee with comprehensive disaggregated data on the number of investigations, prosecutions and sentences handed down for human trafficking and on the provision of redress to the victims.
Parliamentary Human Rights Commissioner and the national preventive mechanism
16. The Committee welcomes the amendments to the Act on the Parliamentary Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) designating the Office of the Commissioner as the national preventive mechanism. However, the Committee is concerned about the lack of sufficient financial and staffing resources to carry out both the mandate of national human rights institution and that of national preventive mechanism under the Optional Protocol to the Convention (art. 2).
The State party should allocate additional financial and staffing resources to ensure the full and effective operation of the national preventive mechanism in compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention.
Asylum seekers and internally displaced persons
17. The Committee is concerned at reports that persons in need of international protection do not have access to asylum procedures, including determination of refugee status, in accordance with international standards. It is also concerned about the unnecessary detention of asylum seekers, the short five-day limit for appealing against negative decisions and the lack of regular access to legal aid and interpreters. While taking note of the adoption of the law on internally displaced persons on 20 October 2014, the Committee is particularly concerned at the large number of internally displaced persons as a result of the annexation of Crimea and armed conflict in parts of the country (arts. 3, 14 and 11).
The State party should:
(a) Ensure that all persons applying for international protection have access to a fair refugee determination procedure and are effectively protected against refoulement;
(b) Refrain from detaining asylum seekers for prolonged periods, use detention only as a measure of last resort for as short a period as possible, promote alternatives to detention and revise policy in order to bring it in line with the Guidelines on the Applicable Criteria and Standards relating to the Detention of Asylum Seekers and Alternatives to Detention issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees;
(c) Consider increasing the time for filing appeals and ensure that rejected applicants are not deported immediately upon the conclusion of administrative proceedings before they are able to submit an appeal against a negative asylum decision, and make available legal aid and interpreters;
(d) Take all the necessary measures, in accordance with international standards, to provide sufficient protection to all internally displaced persons.
18. The Committee appreciates the training programmes provided to the staff of procuratorial and internal affairs agencies and the prison service. The Committee is concerned, however, at the absence of specific methodologies to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of such training on the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment. It is also concerned that training on the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment of Punishment (Istanbul Protocol) is not provided to all medical professionals dealing with persons deprived of liberty and asylum seekers (art. 10).
The State party should:
(a) Further develop and strengthen training programmes to ensure that all public officials, including law enforcement, prison and immigration officers and judges are aware of the provisions of the Convention;
(b) Ensure that law enforcement officials are trained in and comply with the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials (adopted by the General Assembly in resolution 34/169 of 17 December 1979) and the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials (adopted at the eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders).
(c) Provide training to the officials, members of the security services or military personnel of the State party on the provisions of the Convention, human rights law and international humanitarian law;
(d) Provide training on the Istanbul Protocol for medical personnel and other officials involved in dealing with detainees and asylum seekers in the investigation and documentation of cases of torture;
(e) Develop methodologies to assess the effectiveness and impact of training programmes on the prevention and absolute prohibition of torture and ill-treatment.
Conditions of detention and deaths in custody
19. As stated in previous concluding observations, the Committee remains concerned about the poor conditions in places of detention, including serious overcrowding, which gives rise to inter-prisoner violence. It is also concerned at the infrastructure and poor material conditions in a number of prisons, which are not in conformity with international standards and which have been aggravated by recent events in some parts of the country. The Committee is gravely concerned at the high mortality rate previously documented among prisoners, including a high incidence of suicide (arts. 2, 11, 12, 13 and 16).
The Committee reiterates that the State party should take resolute measures to:
(a) Enhance steps to improve the material conditions of detention, in conformity with the appropriate provisions of the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, including by renovating existing prison facilities, closing those unfit for use, building new ones and ensuring the best existing international standards for living space;
(b) Enhance steps to reduce inter-prisoner violence, including at the instigation of prison officials, by launching independent investigations into all such incidents, reducing overcrowding, improving prison management and the prisoner/staff ratio, training prison staff and medical personnel on communication with, and managing of, inmates and on detecting signs of vulnerability, and by strengthening the monitoring and management of vulnerable prisoners;
(c) Establish an independent mechanism to deal freely and independently with any complaints of inmates about their treatment and conditions of detention, provide effective follow-up to such complaints for the purpose of remedial action and ensure that inmates who file complaints are not subjected to reprisals and that, should any cases of reprisals arise, investigations are launched, the victims provided with protection and the perpetrators sanctioned;
(d) Ensure that all cases of deaths in custody are investigated promptly, thoroughly, effectively and impartially and that persons suspected of having committed acts of torture, physical or psychological ill-treatment and wilful negligence are prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished in accordance with the gravity of their acts, allow independent forensic examinations of all cases of deaths in custody, permit family members of the deceased to commission independent autopsies and ensure that their results are accepted by the courts in the State party as evidence in criminal and civil cases;
(e) Ensure that the Parliamentary Commissioner and other independent mechanisms regularly monitor and visit all places of detention and are able to carry out unannounced visits;
(f) Continue to resort more to alternatives to incarceration, taking into account the provisions of the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for Non-Custodial Measures (Tokyo Rules).
Provision of health care in places of detention
20. The Committee is gravely concerned at the serious deterioration of health conditions in prisons and the alarming health situation that includes a high number of inmates who have died of tuberculosis. The Committee is also concerned by the increase in mortality of a large number of detainees suffering from communicable diseases, in particular HIV/AIDS, as a result of overcrowding, poor health care, lack of attention by medical staff to signs and symptoms of illness and negligence in referral to specialist treatment (arts. 2, 10 and 11).
The State party should:
(a) Examine the adequacy of the health-care resources available in places of detention, ensure that the health-care services and medical assistance provided to detainees and prisoners are speedy and of high quality, in order to bring conditions of detention into line with international standards;
(b) Ensure the recruitment of qualified medical personnel;
(c) Provide systematic medical screening of injuries and medical examinations of detainees within 24 hours of their admission to prison; carry out periodic examinations of prisoners; make available appropriate treatments, especially for detainees infected with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, including antiretroviral medication; and implement programmes related to the treatment of tuberculosis and the distribution and monitoring of medicines taken in penitentiary facilities throughout the territory of the State party;
(d) Improve the quality and quantity of food and water provided to detainees and prisoners and reduce the current overcrowding.
Redress, including compensation and rehabilitation
21. The Committee is concerned that there is no explicit provision in domestic legislation and no specific programmes of assistance and support that provide for the right of victims of torture and ill-treatment to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible, as required by article 14 of the Convention (art. 14).
The State party should amend its legislation to include explicit provisions on the right of victims of torture and ill-treatment to redress, including fair and adequate compensation and rehabilitation, in accordance with article 14 of the Convention, while also bearing in mind recent events. It should, in practice, provide all victims of torture or ill-treatment with redress, including fair and adequate compensation, and as full rehabilitation as possible, and should allocate the necessary resources for the effective implementation of rehabilitation programmes.
The Committee draws the attention of the State party to its general comment No. 3 (2012) on the implementation of article 14 by States parties, which clarifies the content and scope of the obligations of States parties to provide full redress to victims of torture.
Statements made as a result of torture
22. While welcoming the adoption of the new Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for the inadmissibility of evidence obtained through torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or the threat of such treatment, in criminal proceedings, the Committee is concerned that in some cases reliance on confessions continues (arts. 2, 15 and 16).
The State party should:
(a) Take the steps necessary to ensure in practice that confessions obtained as a result of torture and ill-treatment in all cases, and in line with domestic legislation and the provisions of article 15 of the Convention, are not admissible in court;
(b) Improve the methods of criminal investigation to end the practice whereby confessions are relied on as proof in criminal prosecutions, in some cases in the absence of any other evidence;
(c) Submit information on the application of the provisions prohibiting the admissibility of evidence obtained under duress and whether any officials have been prosecuted and punished for extracting such confessions.
Hazing and ill-treatment in the army
23. The Committee is concerned at reports that hazing continues to take place in the army and at the absence of investigation and prosecution of such cases and the absence of redress for victims (arts. 2 and 16).
The Committee reiterates that the State party should:
(a) Reinforce measures to prohibit and eliminate ill-treatment in the armed forces and ensure prompt, impartial and thorough investigation of all allegations of such acts; establish the liability of direct perpetrators and those in the chain of command; prosecute and punish those responsible with penalties that are consistent with the gravity of the act committed; make the results of such investigations public; and provide the Committee with information on the follow-up to confirmed cases of hazing in the army;
(b) Provide redress and rehabilitation to victims, including through appropriate medical and psychological assistance, in accordance with the Committee’s general comment No. 3.
24. The Committee regrets the absence of comprehensive and disaggregated data on complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions of cases of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement, security, military and prison personnel, as well as on extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, trafficking and domestic and sexual violence.
The State party should compile statistical data relevant to the monitoring of the implementation of the Convention at the national level, including data on complaints, investigations, prosecutions and convictions in cases of torture and ill-treatment, extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, trafficking and domestic and sexual violence, as well as on means of redress, including compensation and rehabilitation, provided to the victims.
25. The Committee invites the State party to consider ratifying the other United Nations human rights treaties to which it is not yet party, namely the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of their Families, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
26. The State party is requested to disseminate widely the report submitted to the Committee and the Committee’s concluding observations in appropriate languages through official websites, the media and non-governmental organizations.
27. The Committee requests the State party to provide, by 28 November 2015, follow-up information in response to the Committee’s recommendations relating to: (a) fundamental legal safeguards; (b) investigations into all allegations of the use of force by law enforcement officials; and (c) the documenting and investigation of all acts of torture, ill-treatment, enforced disappearance and deprivation of life committed in the territory under its jurisdiction, as contained in paragraphs 9, 10 (a) and 11 (a) respectively of the present document.
28. The State party is invited to submit its next report, which will be the seventh periodic report, by 28 November 2018. For that purpose, the Committee will, in due course, submit to the State party a list of issues prior to reporting, considering that the State party has agreed to report to the Committee under the optional reporting procedure.
[*] Adopted by the Committee at its fifty-third session (3–28 November 2014).