Investigate claims of Ukrainian torture & repression, Duma lawmakers tell international groups

© Andrey Voloshin
Russian lower house MPs, together with human rights officials, have called on international organizations to investigate alleged political repression, torture and summary punishment used by the current authorities in Ukraine.

A letter on the issue was sent to the secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) , the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, and the head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Russian daily Izvestia reported on Monday, quoting sources in the Russian parliament.

Russian lawmakers, diplomats and members of the Presidential Council for Human Rights say the step was prompted by recent statements from the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT).

The reports about the situation with human rights in Ukraine between November 16, 2015 and today by the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights have officially confirmed the numerous facts of politically motivated prosecution of Ukrainian and foreign citizens on this country’s territory,” reads the letter.

Moreover, just days ago the delegation of the UN Subcommittee for Prevention of Torture had to suspend its working visit to Ukraine in which it was investigating the reports about cruel and inhumane treatment of political prisoners.”

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The authors of the message were referring to an incident in late May in which an SPT delegation had to suspend its visit to Ukraine after law enforcers and authorities had denied them access to places of detention used by the Ukrainian security services.

This denial of access is in breach of Ukraine's obligations as a State party to the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It has meant that we have not been able to visit some places where we have heard numerous and serious allegations that people have been detained and where torture or ill-treatment may have occurred,” the head of the SPT delegation, Malcolm Evans, told reporters as the visit was wrapped up.

Russian lawmakers and activists have called for the OSCE and PACE to create a new, dedicated monitoring group for independent, thorough and transparent investigation of the alleged incidents of torture, summary arrests and political repression in Ukraine.
The Russian Foreign Ministry has also commented on the UN report, saying that every new message on the subject had revealed more facts to prove that the authorities in Kiev were using illegal methods to suppress popular protest.

In mid-March this year, the Russian State drafted a bill offering amnesty to all residents of Crimea who were subjected to criminal prosecution by pro-Kiev authorities over their support of the republic’s independence from Ukraine.

In press comments, the sponsors of the bill noted at least two people who could potentially benefit from the adoption of the bill – namely Valery Podyachy and Semyon Klyuyev, who were sentenced to three years behind bars in Ukraine in 2011 for demanding that the Crimean Republic be returned to Russian jurisdiction. Podyachy cannot resume his work as a professor at a Crimean university because of his criminal record.

However, the Russian government refused to support the bill, saying it contradicted the concept of the existing law on rehabilitation, which offers amnesty only to people who suffered from repression during the Soviet period.

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In mid-2015, the legislature of the Crimean Republic attempted to draft amendments to the law on rehabilitation of repression victims, which would have offered further protection to people who suffered from the actions of Ukrainian law enforcers and courts. However, the bill was rejected for technical reasons.