Children in conflict with the law become victims of violence in Ukraine
13 June 2013, Kyiv – Today the results of new researches “Torture and Ill-Treatment of Children in the Context of Juvenile Justice in Ukraine” and “Rights of children in the institutions of social rehabilitation in Ukraine: Special report regarding realization of national preventive mechanism” were presented. The reports were prepared by Kharkiv the Human Rights Protection Group and the Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches with the support and within the framework of the joint UNICEF and European Commission initiative «Reaching Critical Mass: Consolidation of Juvenile Justice Reforms against Torture and other Forms of Ill-Treatment of Children in Former Soviet Countries».
Human rights advocates found that children in conflict with law are exposed to violence during pre-trial detention and police interrogation as well as in detention facilities. During questioning, violence is used to obtain evidence and force children to admit guilt. Physical violence usually takes the form of beating, but children also talked of torture through asphyxia (putting a gas mask or plastic package over a child’s head) or deliberate beating in ways that do not leave any visible signs on the body.
“UNICEF welcomes the progress achieved by Ukraine in addressing torture and ill-treatment, in particular with the development of the National Preventative Mechanism. Also ratification of the Concept of Development of Criminal Justice Regarding Juveniles and adopting a new Criminal Procedural Code will assist in ensuring children’s rights throughout the criminal justice system,” noted UNICEF Ukraine Representative Yukie Mokuo. “Still, as this research undoubtedly shows, children become victims of physical violence; they are illegally detained at police stations and are forced to confess crimes; they are left without legal support. UNICEF calls on Ukraineto put into place the necessary safeguards to ensure all children who come into contact with the law are treated in a manner that promotes their sense of dignity and worth and promotes children becoming active citizens in the future,” she stressed.
During the research, more than 100 people were interviewed, including children currently serving sentences in detention facilities, those released from such facilities, as well as children in schools of social rehabilitation. When asked if any adults had been present during police questioning, one of the children replied: “Only the police station staff. No parents or other adults were present. One of the officers- quite a strong man- beat us and put handcuffs on me. Neither a prosecutor nor legal counsel was present. They kept me in handcuffs for half an hour, and detained us at the district police station for the entire day. One of my friends was tortured by forcing a bag over his head. He was also beaten so hard that he flew against the wall. Finally he was released to go home…”
The research shows that the most common violation of rights during police apprehension and investigations are: not notifying parents/ guardians about apprehension and place of detention of a child; lack of access to legal support; and beating, threatening and inhuman conditions of detention.
Children are also being ill-treated in a vast number of places of deprivation of liberty (schools of social rehabilitation, reception/ distribution centres, pre-trial detention and detention facilities). Children have few opportunities to report about torture and/or improper treatment, as complaints mechanisms are not functioning effectively.
Eugene Zakharov, Cohead of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group notes: “Unfortunately, there are no special normative acts regulating complaints of torture and violence by children in conflict with the law; no rules regulating use of physical force and weapons against children in all law enforcement bodies; no rules on medical services and use of labour in detention facilities. These should be regulated according to international standards and implemented.”
In order to prevent the torture and ill-treatment of people, the National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) was established according to the “Ombudsman +” model within the Office of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights. It means that representatives of civil society organisations concerned about people’s fates and, children in particular, will be able to make visits to detention facilities jointly with representatives of the Human Rights Commissioner. Regular monitoring visits to these closed institutions will assist in diminishing and preventing abuse and violence against children.
“NPM monitoring visits have shown us that despite aspirations to perform useful social functions, the system of social rehabilitation in Ukraine is outdated and no longer corresponds to modern standards on the humane treatment of children. It is reflected in everything from procedures of placement of a child into schools of social rehabilitation to the absence of toilets in a building. These factors, as well as the total prohibition of contact with the outside world, put children, who have been placed there for months or even years, at risk of violence and cause infringements of children’s rights,” pointed director of Kharkiv Institute of Social Researches Denys Kobzin.
Valeriya Lutkovska, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, drew attention to the necessity of implementing an effective system of preventing children coming into conflict with the law and reforming the existing system of social rehabilitation to make it less punitive and more rehabilitative.. “Integration of Ukraine into the international society demands following international standards in the sphere of ensuring children’s rights. The monitoring conducted by the Ombudsman reveals that the rights of children in conflict with the law are not fully protected,” she stressed.
About UNICEF: The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is the world leader in protection of children’s rights and interests. The Fund works in more than 190 countries for protection and support of children from early childhood through adolescence. Programs of UNICEF are entirely financed by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. Office of the Fund was opened in Ukraine in 1997. For more information visit www.unicef.org.ua. Join us on Twitter, Facebook and ВКонтакте.
For further information, please contact:
Аlyona Vygonska, Spokesperson of Ombudsman of Verkhovna Rada tel. (044) 253-21-54; (067) 409-79-80
Ruslana Sirman, Child Protection Officer, UNICEF, Kyiv tel. (044) 230-25-14, firstname.lastname@example.org