Head of state: Viktor Yanukovich (replaced Viktor Yushchenko in February)
Head of government: Mykola Azarov (replaced Yuliya Timoshenko in March)
Death penalty: abolitionist in practice
Population: 45.4 million
Life expectancy: 68.6 years
Under-5 mortality (m/f): 18/13 per 1,000
Adult literacy: 99.7 per cent
There were reports of torture and other ill-treatment in prisons and police custody. Prisoners and criminal suspects received inadequate medical care. Human rights defenders were physically attacked and faced harassment from law enforcement officers. Refugees and asylum-seekers were threatened with forcible return and other human rights violations. Police discriminated against ethnic minorities and peaceful demonstrators were detained and subjected to violence.
Torture and other ill-treatment
Allegations continued of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody. In March, the Human Rights Department within the Ministry of Internal Affairs, which had monitored police detention, was closed. It was replaced with a smaller division without a monitoring remit.
On 1 July, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a group of prisoners had been subjected to torture and other ill-treatment when they were beaten in Zamkova Prison in Khmelnitskiy region in two separate incidents in 2001 and 2002. The beatings took place during a training programme for the Rapid Reaction Unit, a special group of prison guards called in to deal with unrest in prisons.
- On 1 July, prisoners in Vinnytsya Remand Prison No. 1 were reportedly ill-treated by the Rapid Reaction Unit as punishment for protesting against the ill-treatment of a group of prisoners the day before. Prisoners' relatives gave accounts of the events over the two days. On 30 June a group of 15 prisoners were due to be taken to court. The police officers escorting them ordered one of them to strip naked. When he refused to remove his underpants, he was beaten, handcuffed and tied to the wall. Other prisoners were also beaten. When the police convoy arrived to escort prisoners to court the next day, the prisoners refused to leave their cells in protest at the previous beatings. The prison authorities called in the Rapid Reaction Unit, which allegedly beat prisoners indiscriminately.
Deaths in custody
In January, the Deputy Head of the Department for the execution of sentences stated that health facilities in prisons were underfunded. Prisoners were not allowed out of prison for medical treatment outside the prison system.
- Tamaz Kardava died in hospital on 7 April having been denied vital medical care. A Georgian citizen and a refugee from the conflict in Abkhazia, Tamaz Kardava was already suffering from Hepatitis C when he was detained in Ukraine in August 2008. He was allegedly tortured in Shevchenkovskiy district police station in Kyiv to force him to confess to a burglary. Medical reports confirmed that he had been badly beaten and raped with a police baton. For the last two months of his pre-trial detention he had been denied any specialized medical treatment for his condition, and his health worsened dramatically. On 30 March he spent six hours lying on the floor in the courtroom on a stretcher in Shevchenkovskiy Court in Kyiv. The judge refused his lawyer's request to transfer him immediately to hospital.
Human rights defenders
The work of human rights defenders and human rights NGOs was made more difficult as they faced obstruction in the courts and physical attacks. At least three human rights defenders were targeted in relation to their legitimate human rights work.