Ukrainians Demand Human Rights for Prisoners

Epoch Times1. Oktober 2009 Aktualisiert: 1. Oktober 2009 22:06

This activity in front of the ombudsman’s office was organized by the human rights organization “Svoboda”. Protesters are calling on the defender of Human Rights Ombudsman, Nina Karpachyova to do her job.

[Viktor Scherbina, “Svoboda” Representative]:
“She doesn’t act according to her oath, which she gave to the people of Ukraine and she doesn’t keep up the Constitution of Ukraine. If she doesn’t protect human rights, why should she receive her salary?”

The Ombudsman is a very old institution. It was first created 200 years ago with the purpose of investigating human rights violations and reporting them to the Parliament. In Ukraine the institution is only 11 years old, but the pressure to perform its duties well is mounting.

One of the organizers of today’s protest is the head of „Freedom“ Center for Human Rights, Bogdan Khmelnitsky. He has experienced the hardships of the Ukrainian justice system himself. And when he first turned to the Ombudsman for help, there was no response.

[Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Head of „Freedom“ Center]:
“I wrote that I will sue them for not responding to me. Then they did not respond to that either.“

Five years ago Bogdan’s apartment was raided by police and he was taken to police for interrogation in Kyiv.

[Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Head of „Freedom“ Center]:
“They claimed that I had stolen a car. So I was kept in preliminary confinement for five years, without being proven guilty.“

Bogdan says he was tortured in police custody to make him confess to a crime he had not committed. Psychological pressure and torture brought him to the verge of suicide.

[Tamara Khmelnitsky, Bogdan’s Mother]:
“He called me and said, mommy, I don’t know what to do, they are killing me.“

[Bogdan Khmelnitsky, Head of „Freedom“ Center]:
“They would come and just tell me directly that there are no strong people. It’s just a matter of time.“

Bogdan’s case is not unique. And many other appeals don’t receive responses, but only formal answers from the Ombudsman. Human rights advocate Vladimir Chemeriz says the office of the Ombudsman is not very effective yet. It’s because it has not been working long and many of the staff members have come from a Soviet background with a vague idea of human rights conventions.

[Vladimir Chemeriz, Human Rights Advocate]:
“There are people there who were raised in the old system, and so they don’t know well the European Convention of Human Rights and other international documents. These are the things that can be corrected.”

The Ombudsman’s office staff say they know about the problems of detained people. Although Nina Karpachyova did not come out to talk to the protesters, she has promised to resolve the issues they have raised.

[Vladimir Yatsenko, Ombudsman’s Representative]:
“We will work on the proposals and send them to the authorities to ensure that people come out of detention in good health.”

While the Ombudsman’s office is working on the proposals, victims of torture and abuse are defending their rights on the streets of Kyiv. This is not their first protest, and as they say, it may not be the last one.

NTD, Kyiv, Ukraine

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