Ukrainian authorities respond to Amnesty International’s human rights challenge

The Ukrainian authorities have vowed to ensure accountability for human rights violations in response to Amnesty International’s recommendations to newly-elected President Viktor Yanukovych and his government. Following the publication of Amnesty International’s briefing, Put deeds before words: Deliver human rights for Ukraine, the deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, Anna German, said that “the promotion and unconditional protection of human rights were under the direct control of President Viktor Yanukovych”.  “The statement by the presidential administration gives a positive message for the promotion of human rights in Ukraine. This must translate into a climate of greater accountability of government structures and productive dialogue with civil society”, said Nicola Duckworth, Senior Director at Amnesty International.  The Amnesty International briefing contains recommendations on how to protect people in Ukraine from torture and other ill-treatment in police custody and from racial discrimination. It also advises on how to protect the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. It was presented at a press conference in Kyiv on 14 April.The briefing recommended the establishment of an independent body to investigate allegations of torture and ill-treatment by police officers in order to combat the problem of widespread impunity for such acts. Following the press conference, the presidential administration supported the idea of creating an independent mechanism to investigate complaints against police officers and expressed support for all initiatives aimed at bringing legislation in line with international standards. During its visit to Ukraine from 13 to 14 April, an Amnesty International delegation also met with representatives of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religion, which currently has responsibility for asylum procedures, the Ministry of Justice and the General Prosecutor’s Office. Amnesty International is also recommending concrete steps to ensure that all incidents of racially motivated crimes are recorded and monitored, and that a functioning and fair asylum system is established. “President Yanukovych has declared a strong commitment to human rights but this needs to be followed by decisive action. We look forward to continuing the dialogue with the Ukrainian authorities on the issues that concern us,” said Nicola Duckworth.