What hinders the proper investigation of torture cases in places of incarceration in Ukraine?

Almost five thousand places of incarceration, existing in Ukraine, can simultaneously hold about a million people*. According to international and national organisations, torture remains a common practice in places of incarceration in our country. Experts point on the the lack of the efficient mechanism of registering and pre-trial investigation of torture sequels as one of the reasons for it. The Expert Centre for Human Rights, in cooperation with the Secretariat of the Ukrainian Parliament’s Commissioner for Human Rights, investigated the process of identifying, documenting and further responding to possible cases of torture and other forms of ill-treatment of persons in places of deprivation of liberty.

The introduction of an appropriate mechanism for recording and pre-trial investigation of torture cases, together with the international standards, will help to overcome the impunity of perpetrators, and will also contribute to gradual elimination of torture practice in Ukraine. The existing problem of identifying the signs of torture makes it impossible to investigate them effectively before trial and to bring the perpetrators to justice.

Our comprehensive study will help to identify the causes and impact positively on the improvement of the system of countering torture in Ukraine.

The main objective of the study was to evaluate the conformance to practices of identifying, documenting and further address cases of possible torture or another mistreatment in prison to the modern international standards in this area and the Istanbul Protocol in particular (The Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment – an official United Nations document).

The object of research: places of incarceration of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine (penal institutions, pre-trial detention centres), the Ministry of Health of Ukraine (institutions for psychiatric care), the National Police of Ukraine (police departments and divisions, temporary detention centres), the Ministry of Social policy of Ukraine (psycho-neurological boarding schools).

The study had 2 stages: desk (study of legislation) and field (visiting the places of incarceration to investigate the real situation).



Direct data collection was carried out in 35 institutions related to places of incarceration:


2 correctional colonies

5 police departments

6 institutions providing psychiatric care

11 temporary detention centres

7 psycho-neurological boarding schools

4 pre-trial detention facilities


An anonymous survey took place in each institution on staff and persons, forcibly held in a place of incarceration (apart from the institution’s administration). The survey studied the respondents’ opinion on existing practices of medical examination, they were questioned about the cases of violence towards them and regarding their complaints, etc. A total of 146 “residents” of places of incarceration were interviewed.

To assess the medical practice of registering the injuries, objective signs of possible torture, the medical documentation (medical records, journals, certificates containing relevant information) was collected and analysed. The investigation was carried out on the basis of confidentiality and solely for the purposes of the study.

The latest practices of recording the information about how the detainees were treated in places of incarceration of the National Police of Ukraine,  the Custody Records system in particular, were studied separately.

Based on the results of the research, an analytical report and a special report of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine are being prepared.  They both will contain the relevant conclusions and recommendations.


#stoptorture #custodyrecords #placesofincarceration


Translation by Oksana Vashenko

Victor Chuprov, Head of the Human Rights in the Custodial Settings Program