Human rights are particularly easy to violate behind closed doors. InUkraine, the Foundation, joined by the Ukrainian Institute for HumanRights (UIHR), monitors areas where others look the other way: prisons.

No effective state control is in place for monitoring compliance with international human rights standards such as the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture in Ukrainian prisons. "The conditions in Ukrainian prisons warrant improvement many times over," explained Beate Apelt, head of the Foundation’s office in Kiev, in reference to the motivation to promote the work of UIHR. The non-governmental organization works hand in hand with the cross-party Human Rights Coalition in the parliament. Under the guidance of the former parliamentary ombudswoman for human rights, Valeriya Lutkovska, UIHR is using a law to grant members of parliament and their staff access to prisons.

As commissioned by the members of parliament of the Human Rights Coalition and formally as their assistants, the human rights activists of UIHR have been conducting unannounced control visits to prisons as of 2018, describing and documenting conditions in breach of human rights and issuing recommendations. The detailed reports of the visits impressively demonstrate where conditions can be improved and how important public monitoring is.

The second important part then comes into play: persuasion work. In an initial step, media and political pressure has to be exerted everywhere to actually bring about change. The UIHR thus presented the results of the monitoring to representatives from law enforcement authorities, the Ministry of Justice, the Attorney General, civil society organizations and the human rights ombudswoman. Delegates from the Human Rights Coalition approached the responsible authorities and the Cabinet of Ministers. They used the UIHR reports as proof of abuse – such as suspicion of torture or refusal to provide reasonable medical care.

Another success warrants mention: The chairman of the parliamentary committee for the reform of the prison system announced that the report will be included in the committee's work in the future. The results of the monitoring visits recently resulted in two court proceedings being initiated.

Although all state authorities that were approached responded and agreed to provide assistance in the reported cases, the UIHR is committed to monitoring. A number of prisons were visited a second time to determine whether the promised measures had been implemented. Results were mixed.

UIHR monitors in human treatment and living conditions in prisons

Ukraine has ratified the UN Anti-Torture Convention

Subscribe to our newsletter