A political crisis escalated in May as a result of a power struggle between the President, Viktor Yushchenko, and the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych. On 2 April, Viktor Yushchenko issued a decree dissolving parliament and calling for early parliamentary elections. Parliament contested the legality of the decree and it was referred to the Constitutional Court. After a power struggle during which both sides fought over control of key government offices, a decision was reached to hold parliamentary elections in May, which were subsequently postponed to 30 September.
The elections strengthened the position of the coalition of parties led by Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko, the original leaders of the so-called “orange revolution”, when mass public protests in 2004 and 2005 against electoral fraud in the presidential elections led to a re-vote and victory for Viktor Yushchenko.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Torture and other ill-treatment in police detention continued to be widely reported. In May, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) considered Ukraine’s fifth periodic report on the implementation of the Convention against Torture. The CAT expressed concern about the impunity enjoyed by law enforcement officers for acts of torture; the failure of the Prosecutor General’s Office to conduct prompt, impartial and effective investigations into complaints of torture; and the use of confessions as principal evidence for prosecutions.
In June, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published the report of its visit to Ukraine in October 2005. The CPT found that there had been a “slight reduction as regards the scale of the phenomenon of ill-treatment”, but that persons detained by the police still ran a “significant risk” of being subjected to ill-treatment, and even torture, particularly during interrogation. The CPT drew attention to the misuse of the Administrative Code to bring people into police custody for questioning about criminal offences, the fact that judges often failed to react to allegations of ill-treatment, and that forensic reports in cases of allegations of ill-treatment could only be provided with authorization from the police.
- Edvard Furman was reportedly tortured at the offices of the Ukrainian State Security Services (SBU) in Dnipropetrovsk. He was arrested on 11 April and police investigators allegedly beat him, pressed their fingers into his eye sockets and applied electric shocks to his testicles to try and force him to confess to having shot and killed three people in a jeep in Dnipropetrovsk in March. Several other people were also detained in connection with the same crime. Edvard Furman’s family was allegedly not informed of his arrest, and did not discover his whereabouts until 24 April. Police investigators reportedly forced him to renounce his lawyer and to accept a lawyer appointed by them. However, in October Edvard Furman was granted the right to see the lawyer he initially appointed. Reportedly, no medical examinations were carried out despite the fact that Edvard Furman complained to a judge that he had been subjected to torture and ill-treatment. The Prosecutor General’s Office refused to open an investigation into the allegations.
Refugees and asylum-seekers
In a position paper published in October, the UNHCR, the refugee agency, advised states against returning third country asylum-seekers to Ukraine because of the risk that such people would be refused readmission; may not have access to a fair and efficient refugee status determination procedure or be treated in accordance with international refugee standards; or may face the risk of being returned to countries where they could face serious human rights violations. In its consideration of Ukraine’s fifth periodic report, the CAT expressed concern that people were being returned by Ukraine to states where they would be in danger of being subjected to torture. Refugees and asylum-seekers were exposed to xenophobia.
- Lema Susarov, a Chechen refugee, was arrested on 16 June by officers of the SBU following an extradition request from Russia. On 27 July the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered his extradition. Lema Susarov’s lawyer unsuccessfully appealed against the decision to detain him. An appeal against the extradition order was pending at the Kyiv Administrative Court. Lema Susarov registered as an asylum-seeker with the Kyiv City Migration Service on 8 August, because he feared being subjected to torture and other severe human rights violations if he returned to Russia.
In November, the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights considered Ukraine’s fifth periodic report on its implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The Committee expressed concern about “reports of police abuse and denial of effective protection against acts of discrimination and violence against ethnic and religious minorities especially Roma, Crimean Tatars, Asian and African asylum-seekers as well as Muslims and Jews”.
Asylum-seekers and foreigners living in Ukraine often suffered racist attacks by members of the public and were subjected to racist treatment at the hands of the police, including disproportionately frequent document checks. Two Bangladeshis, a Georgian, a Korean and an Iraqi asylum-seeker died in the course of the year as a result of violent attacks. There were no statistics for the number of racist crimes, and most racist attacks were classified by the police as hooliganism. In meetings with Amnesty International in September, representatives of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SBU denied the existence of racism in Ukraine.
- One refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo told Amnesty International that she had frequently been subjected to racist abuse from members of the public and racist treatment by the police. In June, she was approached by a policeman in a drunken state outside her apartment block. He asked to see her documents, queried her registration, and invited her to a café. When she refused, he asked for sex, and tried to force her to go with him. She was bruised and scratched in the ensuing struggle. When she tried to report the incident to the local police station no one would take her statement and the same policeman who had assaulted her offered to accompany her home. She reported the incident at a different police station, and a criminal investigation was started. At the trial, the policeman denied the allegations and was acquitted. In a previous incident when police officers had detained her to check her documents they reportedly forced her to undress, calling other officers “to come and see what a monkey’s body looks like”.
- The trial against three people accused of the murder of a Nigerian, Kunuon Mievi Godi, in Kyiv in October 2006 was ongoing at the end of the year. One is charged with murder and the other two with “violation of citizens’ equality based on their race”.
Violence against women
In February, the Ukrainian parliament held the first discussion of a new draft law “On amendments to some legislative acts of Ukraine (concerning improving the legislation of Ukraine to counteract violence in the family)”, and recommended further changes. The proposed amendments to the Law on the Prevention of Violence in the Family and other relevant articles of the Administrative Code were broadly in line with the recommendations made by Amnesty International in 2006, but did not ensure adequate short-term and long-term alternative housing for victims of domestic violence. By the end of the year the amended legislation had not been approved.
In March, the Cabinet of Ministers adopted the National Anti-Trafficking in Persons Programme covering the period up to 2010. According to an anti-trafficking NGO, the Programme did not include sufficient indicators to measure its effectiveness and was not given enough funding. The US State Department’s Trafficking in Persons Report, published in June, highlighted the “failure of Ukraine to provide evidence of increasing efforts to combat trafficking in persons over the last year, particularly in the area of punishing convicted traffickers”. The report stated that many traffickers received probation rather than prison sentences; government officials were involved in trafficking; and victims were not given sufficient protection and rehabilitation services, including witness protection.
The trial against three police officers charged with murdering the investigative journalist, Georgiy Gongadze, in September 2000 continued. On 16 February, President Yushchenko awarded former Prosecutor General, Mykhailo Potebenko, the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise for his contribution to the building of a law-abiding state. Mykhailo Potebenko was Prosecutor General at the time of Georgiy Gongadze’s murder. In its 2005 decision, the European Court of Human Rights found that the Prosecutor General’s Office had ignored repeated requests for assistance from Georgiy Gongadze in the weeks before his death, when he reported being followed by state law enforcement officials, and termed its response “blatantly negligent”. Following the recovery of Georgiy Gongadze’s decapitated body, the European Court stated, “The State authorities were more preoccupied with proving the lack of involvement of high-level State officials in the case than discovering the truth about the circumstances of [his] disappearance and death.”
Amnesty International visit/reports
- An Amnesty International delegate visited Ukraine in September.
- Briefing for the Committee against Torture on Ukraine (EUR 50/001/2007)
- Europe and Central Asia: Summary of concerns in the region, January–June 2007 (EUR 01/010/2007)