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Amnesty Urges Kyiv To Eradicate Torture

Ukrainian riot police (file photo)
Rights group Amnesty International is urging Ukraine to eliminate torture and other ill-treatment of detainees as the European Union is mulling offering Kyiv closer ties with the bloc.

In a statement issued ahead of a summit in Vilnius next week which could see Ukraine sign an association agreement with the EU, the London-based watchdog said, "With or without EU agreement, Ukraine must eradicate torture."

Bohdan Ovcharuk from Amnesty International in Ukraine, who presented the report in Kyiv, said Ukraine must abide by its international obligations.

"Ukraine is an important member of the European and international community. The country’s authorities have voluntarily signed up to all major international human rights agreements -- the absolute ban on torture among them."

The Amnesty statement said thousands of Ukrainians are subjected to police brutality every year in order to confess to crimes that "they may not have committed, only to be sent to prison after unfair trails."

Amnesty noted that Kyiv had taken "important steps" to reduce the practice but said torture must be more "promptly, effectively, and independently investigated."

The statement pointed out the EU has made the eradication of "selective justice" a prerequisite for signing the Vilnius agreement on November 28-29.

The European Union says that along those lines it expects Ukraine to permit jailed former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for treatment for back pain.

Tymoshenko's conviction for abuse of office is seen by the West as political revenge by President Viktor Yanukovych, who defeated the former prime minister in a closely fought election in 2010.

Amnesty International's Ovcharuk said efforts toward solving Tymoshenko's case should not deflect the EU's attention away from the systemic faults of Ukraine's justice system:

"The case of [former Ukrainian Prime Minister] Yulia Tymoshenko highlights the lack of fair trials and poor prison conditions in Ukraine, but the political significance of her case should not be allowed to overshadow the ... problems that deprive thousands of Ukrainians of their rights every day."

Ukraine's parliament on November 21 is due to debate legislation that would allow Tymoshenko to travel to Germany for treatment.
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