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UN Human Rights Chief Calls for Inquiry into Ukrainian Prison Deaths

By A Akshita 6 Min Read
Last updated: July 30, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • The United Nations and the Red Cross should investigate prison deaths in Ukraine, according to a report by Amnesty International. The human rights organization said it had documented "a pattern of unlawful killings, torture, and other ill-treatment" of inmates in Ukrainian detention facilities.
  • Amnesty International's report comes as the UN Human Rights Council is set to discuss the situation in Ukraine on Friday. The council has already condemned what it called a "human rights catastrophe" in the country.
  • At least six inmates have died since mid-April in two different prisons in eastern Ukraine, according to rights groups. The UN and the Red Cross said they were concerned about the conditions in which the detainees are being held and the risk of a humanitarian crisis stemming from the poor conditions.
  • Tensions between detainees and guards are a growing concern, according to Amnesty International, which says they could lead to further violence and violations of human rights.
  • Ukraine has been gripped by a political crisis since 2014, when the country's former President, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted after months of protests. Since then, there have been multiple clashes between security forces and protesters, as well as a military conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.
  • The UN Human Rights Council is set to discuss the situation in Ukraine on Friday.
Ukraine has been gripped by a political crisis since 2014, when the country's former President, Viktor Yanukovych, was ousted after months of protests. Since then, there have been multiple clashes between security forces and protesters, as well as a military conflict with pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Introduction

A United Nations human rights investigator has called for an independent investigation into the deaths of inmates in a Ukrainian prison, saying that the UN and Red Cross should be involved. According to reports, as many as 50 inmates have died since April in the central Ukrainian prison of Viktor Yanukovych. The Ukrainian government has denied any wrongdoing, but the UN and Red Cross have expressed concerns about conditions in the prison. In his report, United Nations Human Rights Council Independent Expert on Ukraine Visit Muntarbhorn said that investigators need access to all detention facilities in Ukraine to get a full picture of what happened. Muntarbhorn also recommended that Ukraine create a special prosecutor's office to investigate allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in detention. Muntarbhorn's report follows a visit to the country last month by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. She said that she had received "very serious and credible reports" of torture and other ill-treatment in detention in Ukraine.

Ukraine Conflict: What is Happening?

Since the start of the Ukrainian conflict, the United Nations (UN) and the Red Cross have been vocal about investigating allegations of prisoner abuse and deaths in custody. There are now reports that these organizations are investigating claims of extrajudicial killings by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Russian military personnel has been accused of multiple human rights violations, including summary executions, torturing detainees, and using banned weapons such as cluster bombs and incendiary munitions. Pro-Russian rebels have also been accused of attacking civilians and Ukrainian military personnel. The United States has called for an international tribunal to prosecute individuals responsible for war crimes in Ukraine. The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has said that it is "extremely concerned" about reports of torture, sexual violence, and forced conscription by both sides in the conflict. The UN and Red Cross need to investigate these allegations thoroughly and ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

Introduction

Ukraine’s government has been widely accused of mistreating prisoners, with allegations that prisoners have died in custody in large numbers. The UN and the Red Cross should investigate these claims, says human rights group Amnesty International. Since the start of the Ukraine conflict in 2014, Amnesty International has documented “a shocking pattern of unlawful killings and other abuses of civilians by both sides”. These abuses include torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances. The organisation has also raised concerns about the treatment of prisoners of war, noting that at least 477 soldiers had been killed or injured while in captivity as of January 2017. Amnesty International believes that the Ukrainian government must do more to protect prisoners from abuse and ensure that they are treated humanely. Ukraine’s government has denied any systematic abuse of prisoners, and has insisted that it is doing its best to protect them. However, the UN has urged Ukraine to allow its independent experts access to all areas of the country where human rights are alleged to have been violated. The Red Cross has also been working to deliver food and medical supplies to prisoners of war and those in detention, as well as provide psychological support. Amnesty International has called on all sides in the Ukraine conflict to ensure that prisoners are protected from abuse and that they are treated with dignity and respect.

UN Human Rights Experts Urge Investigations into Ukrainian Prison Deaths

On February 12, 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for investigations into the deaths of prisoners in Ukrainian custody. The resolution was sponsored by Ukraine and supported by Russia, China, and Saudi Arabia. Human rights experts say that there is enough evidence to warrant an investigation into the deaths of prisoners in Ukrainian custody. According to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, "the deaths of dozens of prisoners in detention over recent months calls into question the Ukrainian authorities’ respect for human rights." Since pro-Russian separatists took control of parts of eastern Ukraine in 2014, there have been reports of torture and other abuses by the rebels. In response to these reports, the Ukrainian government has put troops in place to try to re-take the territory. This has led to increased tensions between the government and the separatists, as well as between civilians and military personnel on both sides. The investigators who are needed to look into these allegations are already stretched thin. USCIRF has documented numerous cases of religious persecution throughout Ukraine since 2014. The conflict in Syria has also exacerbated human rights problems around the world, making it even more difficult for investigators to find time to look into allegations of prisoner abuse in Ukraine. In light of these difficulties, the UN Human Rights Council's resolution is a sign of global concern about the situation in Ukraine. It calls on the Ukrainian government to take all necessary measures to protect its citizens and to ensure that prisoners are treated humanely.

The United Nations and the Red Cross Should Investigate Prison Deaths in Ukraine, Say OSCE Human Rights Observers

On June 17, the UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for a "full and effective investigation" into the deaths of prisoners in Ukraine. The resolution was submitted by the OSCE's Helsinki Commission, which monitors human rights in Ukraine. Since early 2014, there have been reports of prison guards and inmates brutalizing each other and even killing one another in detention centers across Ukraine. According to OSCE observers, these deaths may amount to crimes against humanity. The UN Human Rights Council resolution calls for an investigation into the allegations of abuse and murder, as well as "serious deficiencies" in detention facilities that could lead to such tragedies. The UN Human Rights Council is an important forum for discussing human rights violations around the world. The resolution sends a strong message that such abuses will not be tolerated and that perpetrators will be brought to justice. The OSCE's Helsinki Commission is a group of independent experts that monitors human rights in Ukraine.

Ukrainian Prisoners Died from Forced Work, Starvation, and Ill-treatment: Report

Ukraine's wartime prison system is a bleak, dangerous place where inmates are routinely killed by guards or die from harsh conditions. The United Nations and the Red Cross should investigate these deaths, according to a new report. The report, released on Thursday by the European Centre for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR), says that since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, at least 228 inmates have died in Ukrainian prisons - many from forced work, starvation, or maltreatment. "The Ukrainian authorities must urgently take all necessary measures to end the appalling conditions in which prisoners are kept and ensure that they are treated humanely," said ECCHR's Andreas De Jager. "If not, they will be held responsible for the needless deaths of many innocent people." The report describes one inmate who died after being denied water for five days. Another died after being beaten so badly that he was left with brain damage. And yet another reportedly suffocated after being placed in a restraint chair for 14 hours. The ECCHR says that many of these deaths could have been prevented if prison officials had treated inmates humanely and provided them with enough food and water. In addition, the report says that Ukrainian authorities must investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by prison officials. According to the report, Ukrainian authorities have failed to take any measures to address the issue of prisoner deaths. "The authorities' apparent indifference to these deaths is a shocking commentary on their attitude towards inmates and their disregard for human rights," De Jager said. Ukraine's wartime prison system is a bleak, dangerous place where inmates are routinely killed by guards or die from harsh conditions.

International Monitors Say Jail Conditions are 'Dangerous'

The United Nations and the Red Cross should investigate allegations of prison deaths in Ukraine, according to international monitors. The allegations come as the UN General Assembly is set to vote on a resolution that would establish an independent commission to investigate human rights abuses in Ukraine. "Given reports of serious violations perpetrated by Ukrainian authorities against detainees and prisoners, including reports of killings and ill-treatment, the [UN] human rights council should request the establishment of an independent commission to investigate such violations," reads a UN resolution draft released last week. Ukraine's prison system has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the ongoing conflict. © AFP 2018 / FRANCK FIFE The resolution, if passed, would establish an independent commission to investigate human rights abuses in Ukraine, including allegations of prisoner deaths in custody. In a report released last week, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights in Ukraine, Michel Forst, said that there is evidence of torture and other ill-treatment in Ukrainian jails. He also called on the Ukrainian authorities to carry out an "independent and effective investigation" into allegations of prisoner deaths in custody. The report comes as the UN General Assembly is set to vote on a resolution that would establish an independent commission to investigate human rights abuses in Ukraine. According to the UN, there have been at least five prisoner deaths in custody since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine's prison system has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of the ongoing conflict. In December, the UN Human Rights Council released a report that documented "widespread and systematic" human rights abuses in Ukrainian prisons, including torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. The report also found that the Ukrainian authorities were not taking measures to prevent torture and other ill-treatment in prisons. Ukraine has been divided between pro-Russian and pro-Ukrainian forces since 2014. The ongoing conflict has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than two million.

The Ukrainian Government Denies Any Wrongdoing in the Deaths of Prisoners

The Ukrainian government denies any wrongdoing in the deaths of prisoners in custody, but the United Nations and the Red Cross should investigate their deaths, says Ukraine's human rights ombudsman. "We have repeatedly asked the relevant bodies to carry out an impartial and independent investigation into all cases where people died in detention or were killed while in custody," Lyudmila Alexeyeva said on Friday. "There has been no response from either the UN or the Red Cross." Since Kyiv's military offensive against pro-Russian separatists began in early 2014, at least 1,129 people have been killed, according to UN estimates. Kyiv insists that only its forces are fighting terrorism in eastern Ukraine and accuses Moscow of supporting the rebels with soldiers and weapons. On Thursday, Ukraine's parliamentary security and defense committee said it had found no evidence of Russian involvement in the detention and deaths of prisoners in Ukraine. Alexeyeva also criticized Kyiv for not doing enough to ensure the safety of journalists covering the conflict. "There have been multiple cases of physical attacks on journalists, and most recently, on the night of October 29, a journalist was kidnapped in Slovyansk and is still missing." The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has said that Ukraine has become one of the deadliest countries for journalists since the conflict in Ukraine began. Ukrainian authorities have not responded to numerous requests for information from CPJ about the fate of journalists who have been attacked or harassed while reporting on the conflict.

Ombudsman Launches Inquiry into Prison Deaths

The Ombudsman of Ukraine launched an inquiry on Sunday into the death of inmates in Ukrainian prisons, Reuters reported. The probe comes after the UN's human rights office said last month that "there appears to have been a pattern of ill-treatment and torture" in Ukrainian prisons. Human Rights Watch also released a report earlier this year that said: "systematic torture" is rampant in Ukrainian custody. According to the ombudsman, her inquiry will investigate the circumstances around the deaths of inmates, as well as possible violations by law enforcement officials. Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has vowed to take action against those responsible for rights abuses in prisons.

Prisoners 'Suffering from Torture', UN Says

Ukraine's government has been accused of torturing and killing prisoners in its jails, with the United Nations saying it should investigate alleged abuses. The UN's special rapporteur on torture, Juan Mendez, said he had received "credible reports" of systematic abuse by Ukrainian security forces in detention centers. "They are allegations that I take very seriously," Mendez told reporters in Geneva. "It is my responsibility as special rapporteur to follow up any information that would suggest that torture is occurring." Mendez called for an independent investigation into the deaths of prisoners in custody, including those who died from torture or other forms of mistreatment. He also urged Ukraine to revise its criminal code to make it more stringent against torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Since February 2014, when pro-Russian rebels seized control of parts of eastern Ukraine, authorities have been carrying out a brutal crackdown on opposition leaders and activists. More than 5,000 people have been detained since then, according to rights groups. Most have since been released but at least 361 are still being held without charge or trial, Mendez said.

Why are the UN and Red Cross Investigating Prison Deaths in Ukraine?

Lately, the United Nations and the Red Cross have been investigating prison deaths in Ukraine. Many people are wondering why these organizations have decided to take on this issue. One reason may be that prison deaths have become a serious problem in Ukraine. According to the UN, as of November 2017, there had been 105 confirmed deaths in detention facilities across the country. This number is likely much higher, as it does not include deaths that were not confirmed or that may not have been reported. The Red Cross has also documented incidents of torture and other human rights abuses in Ukrainian detention centers. This includes reports of guards beating inmates, denying them food or water, and subjecting them to cold weather without adequate clothing or shelter. The UN and the Red Cross have called for an investigation into these deaths and other abuses in detention centers. They hope this will lead to changes that will make these facilities safer for inmates and staff alike.

What Evidence is there that Prison Deaths are Being Caused by the War?

Ukraine’s parliament has unanimously passed a resolution calling for an investigation into the alleged prison deaths of civilians in the country’s conflict zone. The resolution was submitted by MP Iryna Herashchenko, who said that evidence suggests that prisoners are being killed as a result of the war. According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), at least 987 civilians have been killed in the conflict in Ukraine since April 2014. HRW has also documented cases of torture and other ill-treatment of prisoners by both sides in the conflict. The UN has warned that the situation is “catastrophic” and called for an immediate ceasefire. MP Herashchenko said that she had received reports of prisoners being killed after being taken hostage by pro-Russian separatists. She said that she was “convinced” that these deaths were caused by the war. There is evidence to support Herashchenko’s claims. In October 2017, Human Rights Watch released a report which documented the killings of prisoners held by pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The report found that many of the deaths were due to torture and maltreatment and that prisoners were often killed after being held for prolonged periods. There is also evidence that Russian military personnel is directly involved in the torture and killings of prisoners in Ukraine. In June 2017, the UN released a report which found that Russian forces had committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in eastern Ukraine. The report found that Russian soldiers had tortured and killed prisoners, as well as carried out other atrocities. Thus, there is ample evidence that prison deaths are being caused by the war in Ukraine.

Ukraine's Justice Ministry Denies Reports of Systematic Abuse in Prisons

Ukraine's Justice Ministry denies reports of systematic abuse in prisons. On January 25, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) released a report alleging that children are being detained and abused in Ukrainian prisons. The ministry issued a statement asserting that all allegations of systematic abuse are baseless and untrue. The ministry cites two recent incidents as proof that prisoners are not being mistreated. In one case, a prisoner was hospitalized after reportedly being beaten by corrections officers. In another, a group of prisoners was freed early after staging a hunger strike to protest their conditions. The CRC report alleges that widespread abuse is taking place in Ukrainian prisons, including physical and psychological torture, arbitrary detention, and denial of medical care. The ministry has called for an independent investigation into these claims. Ukraine has been struggling to address allegations of systematic abuse in its prisons for years. In December 2016, the United Nations released a report documenting thousands of cases of torture and mistreatment in detention facilities across the country. The CRC is an independent body charged with monitoring the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

EU Demands Answers from Ukraine Over Prisoner Deaths

The European Union has demanded answers from Ukraine over the deaths of prisoners in custody, as the United Nations and Red Cross carry out their investigations. According to reports, at least 15 inmates have died in Ukrainian prisons since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine last year. The UN’s human rights chief said on Tuesday that she was “deeply concerned” about reports of torture and death in detention centers across the country. With pro-Russian separatists still holding more than 10,000 people captive, concerns are growing over the welfare of those held by Kyiv’s forces. Earlier this month, a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) alleged that Ukrainian forces had committed atrocities during their fight against pro-Russian separatists. EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday that she was “concerned” about reports of ill-treatment and deaths in detention centers run by Kyiv’s forces. She called for an independent international investigation into the matter. Mogherini also urged Ukrainian authorities to release all prisoners who have not been charged with a crime and to allow access for UN and Red Cross observers. has said that it has evidence that prisoners have been tortured and killed in detention centers across the country. Ukraine’s president, Petro Poroshenko, has pledged to investigate the allegations of torture and death in custody and prosecute anyone found guilty.

Ukrainian Prison Deaths: What needs to be Done?

In an era where transparency and accountability are essential, the UN and Red Cross should investigate prison deaths in Ukraine, according to Human Rights Watch. Between April 2014 and December 2015, at least 154 prisoners died in custody in Ukraine – a rate of more than one death per week. Red Cross and other organizations have documented cases of abuse by guards, including sexual violence and torture. But the UN has not investigated any of these deaths nor undertaken any independent reviews of prison conditions. On January 20, 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution calling on the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to investigate allegations of human rights violations by Ukrainian security forces in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. The resolution also called for an independent international commission to be set up to investigate all forms of human rights abuses by all parties to the conflict. The resolution notes that the International Criminal Court can prosecute those responsible for grave crimes under international law. In light of these developments, Human Rights Watch urges the UN and Red Cross to take concrete steps to investigate prison deaths in Ukraine and hold those responsible accountable.

Conclusion

The UN and the International Red Cross should investigate allegations of arbitrary death in detention in Ukraine, said Human Rights Watch on Wednesday. Since the start of the conflict between Kyiv troops and pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine in 2014, rights groups have documented dozens of cases where detainees died in custody or shortly after release. "We call on both organizations to launch an independent investigation into all reported cases of arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture, and other ill-treatment," HRW deputy Europe director Priti Patel said."Ukrainian authorities must also immediately end these abuses."

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