(Washington, D.C.) — Amnesty International today urges Ukraine authorities to begin implementing a law which paves the way for independent investigations into allegations of police violence ahead of the Euro 2012. The human rights organization says the law is a necessary step to curb widespread police criminality.
"While we welcome the introduction of new safeguards against police torture and ill-treatment, some aspects of the law will not come into force for another five years," said Max Tucker, Amnesty International's campaigner on Ukraine. "As things stand, fans visiting Euro 2012 are under threat from a criminal police force. Moving quickly to set up an independent body to investigate officers' crimes would be a wake-up call to a force accustomed to getting away with illegal behavior."
Ukrainian prosecutors currently work alongside police officers to solve ordinary crimes, and frequently refuse to initiate criminal proceedings against their colleagues.
The new Criminal Procedure Code allows for a new investigative body to look into crimes by officials. The code does not make clear exactly what this body will look like, but the provision allows for the creation of an investigative body that is genuinely independent.
On Monday, a Kiev court ordered a new investigation into the death of Ihor Indilo, a student killed by a blow to the head while in police custody two years ago. CCTV footage showed officer Sergei Prihodko dragging Indilo unconscious into a cell and abandoning him there until he was discovered dead seven hours later.
The following morning, Indilo's parents were told that he had choked to death, but when they saw his body they noticed numerous bruises. An autopsy revealed he had died of a head injury and found blood in his stomach, which may have been caused by a blow to the abdomen.
In January, the two police officers who arrested, interrogated and left Indilo unconscious, walked free after an investigation by the local prosecutor's office absolved them of responsibility for his death.
Indilo's case is just one of many documented by Amnesty International which highlight the inadequacy of a system that uses local prosecutors to investigate crimes by police.
"The fact that it has taken two years of intense media coverage and a court decision just to get this investigation opened shows how deeply flawed the current system is," said Tucker. "Without an institution that will hold officers accountable, Ukrainian police will continue to beat and torture as they please. And in all the cases the media doesn’t hear about, they will get away with it."
Amnesty International has reiterated an offer made in October 2011 to work with the government on the design of a new investigative body.
"We have considerable experience working with governments across the globe on designing effective police complaints mechanisms," added Tucker. "We would be more than happy to share that knowledge with the Ukrainian authorities."