25 May. — The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) suspended its visit to Ukraine because of its inability to continue its monitoring mission in a whole and complete fashion. As noted in the official report, this is only the second time that that the organisation has had to halt a visit to a country.
The international group comprised of four human rights experts was supposed to have spent a little over a week in Ukraine, from 19 to 26 May. Its mission was to assess the degree to which the country implements the recommendations on the treatment of detainees as well as check into accusations made against at the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) that it is illegally detaining citizens and using torture and inhumane treatment. Similar accusations, as stated in the US State Department rеport for 2015, were put forward by observers from human rights organisations and UN structures.
In accordance with the laws, the experts may conduct unannounced visits to detention facilities. According to the First Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine Natalia Sevostyanova, the mission wanted to visit the SBU commands in Mariupol and Kramatorsk, but they were denied entrance because “a member of the monitoring mission was a Russian citizen”.
Head of the SBU Vasily Hrytsak gave another explanation. “I personally signed documents that permitted the foreign observers to visit detainment centres. But that does not mean the foreign observers must enter regional SBU subdivisions in the ATO zone,” he is quoted by Zik news agency.
Thus, the group decided to cut the trip short. Moreover, according to an SPT official statement, there are no Russians in its composition. There are only citizens of the UK, Estonia, Finland and Moldova.
“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,” said Mission Head Malcom Evans in comments about the situation. He called upon the government of Ukraine to observe its international obligations and expressed the hope that the visit could be resumed in the near future.
The Ukrainian parliament has already reacted to the situation. The Chairman of the Human Rights Committee Hryhoriy Nemyria and Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovskaya called the SBU’s actions “unlawful” and appealed to the Ministry of Justice to ensure the visit takes place.
The last time the UN Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture ended its mission early occurred in September 2014. That time the experts had to leave Azerbaijan.