Parliamentary elections on 26 March were found to meet international standards for democratic elections by the election observation mission of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.
In October the UN Human Rights Committee expressed concern about torture and ill-treatment in police custody, the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers, domestic violence and antisemitic and racist attacks.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
Ukraine violated international standards for the protection of refugees by forcibly sending asylum-seekers and registered refugees back to their countries of origin without right of appeal.
• The UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, and non-governmental groups criticized the authorities for forcibly returning 10 asylum-seekers from Uzbekistan during the night of 14-15 February. Uzbekistan had issued extradition warrants for 11 asylum-seekers in Ukraine for alleged involvement in events in Andizhan, Uzbekistan, in May 2005 when the security forces fired on mainly peaceful demonstrators, killing hundreds
of people. Ten of the men were forcibly returned, but one was reportedly allowed to stay as he had relatives in Ukraine. The fate of the deported asylum-seekers in Uzbekistan remained unknown. They were at risk of serious human rights violations, including incommunicado detention, torture or other ill-treatment and a flagrantly unfair trial. On 28 February the Ukrainian security services defended their action on the grounds that the asylum-seekers "were associated with an organization that has been recognized as a terrorist one by the UN."
Torture and ill-treatment
Steps towards the eradication of torture and ill-treatment included a Ministry of Internal Affairs order in April that all detainees must be informed of their rights. However, the police did not subsequently receive instructions on how to carry out the order. In September, Ukraine ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture, which requires independent national preventive mechanisms to monitor all places of detention.
Of six cases of alleged torture or ill-treatment raised by AI with the authorities in Ukraine in September 2005, prosecutions were brought against police officers in only two cases.
Harsh detention conditions
Detainees in pre-trial detention were subjected to high rates of overcrowding and poor conditions, leading to greater exposure to tuberculosis. Ukraine has an estimated tuberculosis case rate of 95 per year per 100,000 people, the eighth highest in Europe and Eurasia, according to the World Health Organization.
• In January there were between 30 and 40 detainees with tuberculosis in the Sevastopol temporary holding facility in the Crimea, according to the Sevastopol Human Rights Group, a non-governmental organization (NGO). They were held in the facility for the full period of their pre-trial detention, in violation of the Criminal Procedural Code, because a pre-trial detention centre in Simferopol, closer to their homes, had a long-standing practice of not accepting detainees with tuberculosis. In January, 20 infected detainees were reportedly held in a cell designed for six people and were not given the special food or the vitamins needed to counteract the effects of their medication.
In November the UN Human Rights Committee called on Ukraine to "guarantee the right of detainees to be treated humanely and with respect for their dignity, particularly by relieving overcrowding."
Update: the murder of Georgiy Gongadze
In January the trial opened of three police officers charged with murdering the investigative journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, in 2000. In July a Rapporteur for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe expressed disappointment at the lack of progress in investigating the instigators and organizers of the killing, as opposed to the perpetrators. In August the journalist's mother announced that she would no longer attend court hearings because of her lack of confidence in the trial's outcome. The trial was ongoing at the end of the year.
In August the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racism and Discrimination (CERD) reviewed Ukraine's latest periodic reports. In its submission, the Ukrainian government had stated that "racial discrimination in all its forms [had] been eliminated in Ukraine and the equality of every person before the law [had] been secured." However, NGOs continued to report incidents of racist attacks and discrimination. The Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union reported that between January and November there were seven antisemitic and racist attacks on individuals and 18 other incidents including vandalism of synagogues and Jewish schools. According to the European Roma Rights Centre, Roma were denied access to education, health care and housing because they did not have identification documents. The CERD recommended, among other things, that Ukraine should "take preventative measures against acts directed against persons or religious sites belonging to minorities and that it investigate such acts and bring perpetrators to justice." The CERD also called for all Roma to be issued with identification documents.
• In March a group of youths attacked a Jewish Yeshiva student on the Kyiv metro, who defended himself with a legally registered air gun. He was a friend of Mordechai Molozhenov, a Yeshiva student stabbed and wounded in August 2005 in Kyiv. The attackers were charged with "hooliganism".
• In October, Kunuon Mievi Godi, a Nigerian man who had been living in Ukraine for many years, was stabbed and killed by a group shouting racist slogans near Poznyaki metro station on the outskirts of Kyiv. The attackers did not steal the US$400 that the victim was carrying. The investigation was ongoing.
Violence against women
Provisions in the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family allowed victims of domestic violence to be given a warning for "victim behaviour", perpetuating the myth that women are to blame for the violence inflicted on them, providing impunity for perpetrators and deterring the reporting of crimes of violence. Women who attempted to take perpetrators to court were hampered by widespread corruption in the criminal justice system or by the derisory punishments imposed by the courts.
The Ministry for Family, Youth and Sport's network of centres provided legal and psychological counselling and shelter for people up to the age of 35 and for families. However, the shelters did not target women specifically and could not provide the level of support and protection required for victims of domestic violence.
In November the UN Human Rights Committee called on Ukraine to "intensify efforts to combat domestic violence, and ensure that social and medical centres for rehabilitation are available to all victims."
AI country reports/visits
• Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)
• Commonwealth of Independent States: Positive trend on the abolition of the death penalty but more needs to be done (AI Index: EUR 04/003/2006)
• Ukraine: Briefing to the UN Human Rights Committee - June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 50/003/2006)
AI delegates visited Ukraine in September.