UN anti-torture body halts Ukraine visit over 'obstruction'

25th May 2016, Comments 0 comments

A UN torture prevention group said Wednesday it had suspended a visit to Ukraine after being denied access to a number of places where it suspected people were being detained and mistreated.

The official visit by the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) had been scheduled to run from May 19 to 26.

But on Wednesday, the group's four-member delegation in Ukraine said the visit could not continue due to "obstruction".

The group said in a statement that it was "being denied access to places in several parts of the country where it suspects people are being deprived of their liberty by the Security Service of Ukraine, the SBU."

Delegation chief Malcolm Evans warned that this "has meant that 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."

He said blocking the group's access was a breach of Ukraine's obligations under an international torture prevention treaty.

Under the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, the group has the right to visit all states party to the agreement and to make unannounced visits to any places of detention.

Wednesday's announcement marked just the second time the SPT has suspended a mission, after doing so in Azerbaijan on similar grounds in September 2014.

"The SPT expects Ukraine to abide by its international obligations under the Optional Protocol, which it ratified in 2006," Evans said.

"We also hope that the government of Ukraine will enter into a constructive dialogue with us to enable the SPT to resume its visit in the near future."

The visit had been aimed at evaluating how Ukraine had implemented recommendations the SPT made after a first visit five years ago.

The situation in Ukraine has shifted dramatically since 2014, when a pro-Western revolt ousted Moscow-backed president Viktor Yanukovych, and Russia stepped in, seizing the Crimean peninsula and fuelling a separatist uprising in the country's east.

The conflict has claimed more than 9,300 lives since April 2014, and both sides have been accused of committing serious abuses.

© 2016 AFP

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