Visit of UN SPT to Ukraine’s Security Service premises: Service’s report, thoughts of human rights defenders
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) assures that the delegation of the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) inspected all the SBU premises during its visit in September.
This is reported by the SBU press center.
“The delegation received unfettered and immediate access to all the SBU premises in different regions of the country and familiarize with the documents on work with persons, involved in the proceedings,” the report reads.
According to the press service, head of the SPT delegation Malcolm Evans noted significant progress in cooperation with the Security Service of Ukraine compared with the previous visit in May.
In addition, during the meeting, the SBU officers gave Evans the updated lists of Ukrainian citizens who are illegally held in the occupied territories of the so-called “Donetsk People’s Republic” and “Luhansk People’s Republic” and are considered missing.
The delegation was also given the testimony of released people, who had been tortured and forcibly held in the temporarily uncontrolled territory of Ukraine.
Evans noted that access to the areas, not controlled by the Ukrainian government, remained to be a challenge.
“The UN delegation had difficulties with the inspection of conditions of persons deprived of liberty in these areas,” the report notes.
However, the SBU does not mention in its report the secret places of detention, mentioned in the report by the international human rights organizations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Ukrainian human rights activists do not doubt the existence of the so-called “secret SBU prisons” and believe that the SBU prepared well for the UN mission visit.
Human rights activist, Chairman of the Board of the Expert Human Rights Centre, Yuri Belousov said this in a commentary to the Human Rights Information Centre.
According to him, the whole situation that occurs around the secret prisons shows a total failure of the Ukrainian authorities to realize the problems.
“The problem will exist as long as the government does not understand that the war cannot justify such violations of human rights. The investigations cannot be carried out with the help of torture, people cannot be kept in basements without a trial. And in no case we can look up to the so called ‘DPR’ and ‘LPR’, saying: ‘Look at them, they are worse’,” Belousov said.
In his opinion, the rule-of-law state, aspiring to join the EU, should realize that even the enemy has the rights. However, the recent events show that the official Ukraine not only fails to comply with the requirements of the Convention on Prevention of Torture, but does not understand their essence.
“I would understand if the cases of illegal detention took place at the beginning of the military conflict in the east, when we were not ready for it, but almost 2.5 years have passed,” Belousov said.
He noted that Ukraine had still to do much in the field of observance of human rights in the places of detention. The only positive thing so far is that the SBU allowed the UN mission to inspect its premises, as the situation with non-admission in May was blatant, taking into account the existing international practice.
A similar opinion was expressed by Head of the Human Rights Information Centre Tetiana Pechonchyk.
“It is good that the authorities acknowledged their mistake of non-admission of the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture in May and the UN delegation returned and resumed their work in Ukraine, having got access to all SBU premises, which they wanted to visit. However, it is still unclear what the international experts managed to see and what conclusions they drew. After all, it is known, in particular, from the materials of the human rights organizations, which documented the testimony of victims, that there were cases when the illegally detained people were transferred to other premises during the visits of monitoring missions. In addition, it is outrageously that SBU still has not publicly acknowledged the problem with illegal places of detention, in spite of dozens of cases documented by the UN Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch,” the human rights activist said.
As reported, the SPT delegation suspended its visit to Ukraine after being denied access to places in several parts of the country where it suspects people are being deprived of their liberty by the Security Service of Ukraine.
The UN also stated that the organization had often received messages from victims and their relatives who claimed the SBU officers often deprived the detainees of any contact with their families and access to a lawyer.
May 26, SBU Chief Vasyl Hrytsak said that the SBU had reasonably denied access of the UN delegation to the premises of SBU’s district departments in Mariupol and Kramatorsk as no detainees or prisoners were held there.
August 29, the report by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch was released, saying that 13 persons had been freed from the “secret prisons” of the Security Service of Ukraine. The report also provides evidence of some of these people.