Torture and other ill-treatment remained widespread, and impunity for such acts continued. Failings in the criminal justice system led to lengthy periods of pre-trial detention, and a lack of safeguards for detainees. Refugees and asylum-seekers risked detention and forcible return to countries where they faced human rights violations. The rights of LGBTI individuals were at risk.
There were continuing reports of torture and other ill-treatment in police detention. In a report on a visit to Ukraine in 2011, published in November, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture stated that it had been “inundated with allegations from detained persons” who had been subjected to physical or psychological ill-treatment by police officers. Shevchenkivskiy police station in Kyiv was singled out as being particularly “problematic”.
On 18 September, Parliament passed legislation allowing the Parliamentary Commissioner for Human Rights’ Office to carry out the functions of a National Preventive Mechanism, in fulfilment of Ukraine’s obligations under the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.
In October, members of the UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Ukraine’s human rights situation recommended that Ukraine should create an independent body to investigate cases of torture and guarantee compensation to victims. Ukraine had not replied to this and the other 145 recommendations made to it by the Review before the end of the year. Victims of torture and other ill-treatment continued to experience difficulty in getting their complaints investigated. Punishments handed down by the courts often did not reflect the gravity of the crime.
Ukraine continued to breach its international human rights obligations under the UN Refugee Convention by complying with extradition requests even in cases where the individuals concerned were recognized refugees or asylum-seekers.
In June, UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, noted that, despite the new 2011 Refugee Law, procedures and legislation still fell short of international standards. In particular, asylum-seekers, who are frequently undocumented, risked detention for up to 12 months for illegally staying in Ukrainian territory.
A new Criminal Procedural Code, with significant improvements on the previous one, was given Presidential assent on 14 May. It clarified that detention starts from the moment of apprehension by the police; that detainees have the right to a lawyer and to an independent medical expert from that moment; and clearly stated that pre-trial detention should only be applied in exceptional circumstances, in line with Council of Europe recommendations. It also provided for automatic review of the continuing justification for pre-trial detention at two-monthly intervals. Concerns remained that a lawyer was only mandatory in cases of especially grave crimes that entail a penalty of more than 10 years in prison, and that free legal aid was also only available in cases where a lawyer was mandatory.
In October, Parliament passed the second reading of a draft law “On amendments to some legislative acts (to protect the right of children to a safe information environment)”. The Law proposed to ban the production, importation or distribution of publications, film or video materials promoting homosexuality. If enacted, the law would severely restrict the right to freedom of expression of LGBTI individuals.
On 24 October, the government stated that Ukraine remained committed to the idea of the establishment of an International Criminal Court. However, no steps were taken to make the necessary legislative changes to implement the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the Agreement on Privileges and Immunities to which Ukraine acceded on 20 January 2000 and 29 January 2007 respectively.Top of page