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The Fifth East-European NPM Conference in Lviv, UA on November 13-14, 2014

20.11.14 | KhISR

Traditionally the Conference was organized by Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches in cooperation with Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and with financial support of OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine. This time the conference gathered about 50 delegates from Great Britain, Poland, Germany, Switzerland, Georgia, Kazakhstan and of course from Ukraine. The representatives of Prosecutor Generals Office of Ukraine, Ministry of Defense of Ukraine, Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, Ministry of Healthcare of Ukraine, Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine, State Migration Service of Ukraine, State Court Administration of Ukraine as well as civil activists, which actively take a part in custodial settings visiting, responded to the invitation to participate in the conference.

At the opening of the conference Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Valeria Lutkovska said, that from the very start of her cadence as a Commissioner establishment and implementation of national preventive mechanism against tortures and ill-treatment is one of the main priority in her work. Ukrainian NPM was established and has been working effectively for two years. Of course there are a lot of actual problems and challenges such as conduct of anti-terrorist operation on the East of Ukraine and condition of humans which stay in custodial settings on the temporary occupied territory.

In the welcoming speech OSCE Ambassador in Ukraine Vaidotas Verba emphasized the strategic importance of work in prevention torture and ill-treatment. In his speech the Ambassador also noted that since 2006 OSCE has been supporting KhISR initiatives on elaboration and implementation the national preventive mechanism against tortures and is ready to continue this work in view of European integration movement of our country.

In the welcoming remarks KhISR director Denys Kobzin thanked once again the whole monitors community for the hard work during two years of NPM implementation in Ukraine. He also mentioned that current activity conditions of the national preventive mechanism require the greatest impact and devotion from both government officials and whole civic society, and that only together we can affect a shameful phenomenon of torture and ill-treatment in custodial settings in Ukraine.

Regional Officer for implementation of NPM in Europe and Asia of the Association for the Prevention of Torture (Geneva, Switzerland), Eva Csergo gave interesting statistics on the establishment and activities of NPMs worldwide. The first NPM was established in Switzerland in 2006, the latest in Finland recently (October 8, 2014). Eva Csergo mentioned that activity and practice of NPMs implementation is varying in the world. Somewhere monitoring visits are frequent and have quite simple checklists, somewhere there are detailed and rare visits for a week. Some NPMs publish whole visit reports, but some of them present only short summaries. There are unique groundwork and experience for each country. However in general the main achievement of the NPMs implementation is that the custodial settings, which have been closed and not interesting even for supervisory authorities, became open finally. In addition, general public awareness on the situation of human rights in these institutions has increased. We can also observe a gradual change of the detention conditions and bringing of international standards to the regime of staying for people who are there. Domestic legislation is changing respectively in countries where NPM works. Currently, the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture and all professionals who work in this area face the challenge of dialogue between NPMs of different countries to exchange experiences and competencies of custodial settings monitoring.

The representative of the Federal Commission for the Prevention of Torture, which is NPM of Germany, Jan Schneider, in his presentation said that the Commission as NPM works since 2009 and monitors federal custodial settings, which include: military units holding facilities, immigration removal centres and police unit on railway. The peculiarity of GermanNPM is federal structure of the country and to effectively monitor all custodial settings Commission inintials si,ilar Commissions in every Lander (state), and there are 16 of them. So now there is a process of estanblishing of these Commissions, and expansion of the Federal Commission.

Yuriy Byelousov, Representative of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, focused during his speech on the achievements and problems of the development of NPM in Ukraine. In particular, from the beginning of its introduction the NPM in conjunction with independent civic monitors undertook 550 visits to custodial settings of Ukraine, developed checklists for monitoring custodial settings, recruited and trained 150 civic monitors, etc. According to the results of Commissioners acts of reaction, which had been prepared after the NPM visits, following issues were raised: using of strait-jackets to clients of psychiatric hospitals and neuropsychiatric homes, cancellation of unreasonable restrictions in relation to persons in detention, transporting people to the judicial institutions, and others.

The representative of Care Quality Commission of UK Mathew Kinton said in details in his speech about the activity of Care Quality Commission which is a part of the British NPM and responsible for the monitoring of providing medical and social services in all custodial settings in the Great Britain. The peculiarity of the Commission is that it simultaneously performs the functions of supervision, control and monitoring as well as normative regulation, i.e. it creates standards for health and social care providing and licenses activity of psychiatric and social care institutions.

The representative of Polish NPM Marcin Kusy has told during his speech particularly that the Polish NPM team amounts 12 members, among them there are political scientists, lawyers, sociologists, and others. Non-staff experts are also engaged in the monitoring. In general there are 1 826 custodial settings in Poland. 125 of them were visited during 2013. Also 2 special reports have been published. Visits were longer and more detailed before. Today NPM concentrates on shorter, but at the same time more frequent visits to custodial settings. Documents, photos and video are stored at the NPM office as long as necessary, but not more than 10 years.

Head of NPM Department of Ombudsman Office of Georgia, Nika Kvaratskhelia focused on the fact that Georgian NPM constantly involves non-staff experts, including lawyers, doctors, psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers. Today there are about 40 people. With regard to community participation a significant addition to preventive mechanism of Georgia, in the rapporteurs opinion, is a work of local supervisory boards that have existed before the creation of NPM. The monitoring team usually consists of 10 people, which are divided into 5 squads for more efficient distribution of work. Following series of visits a work on improving the monitoring checklists is going on and today manuals for each type of custodial settings are being developed to simplify and bring to a single type the mechanism of visiting and reports writing.

The representative of Kazakhstan NPM Zulfia Baysakova has mentioned that the selection and visiting of various custodial settings has a very strong territorial dependence because the population of Kazakhstan (about 18 million) is scattered over a wide area of the country (9th place in the world 2,724,900 km²). As a result, planning of visits is very careful considering budget and number of available monitors. NPM has about 10 monitors in each of the 16 administrative units (14 regions and 2 cities of republican subordination). For this reason specialization of monitors on different types of custodial settings remains still difficult. Each visitor has a mandate and carries visits only on weekdays. Photo and video recording are used at the time of monitoring. 2 weeks is given for report writing. During NPM functioning 7 visits were not made through obstruction of the administration of institutions, which did not let monitors come to custodial settings.

Leading expert of Kharkiv Institute for Social Researches Andrew Chernousov presented NPM special report devoted to respect of childrens rights. NPM team visited all 7 youth offender institutions of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine which at the time of the visits contained about 800 children, conducted interviews with about 300 children, and examined conditions of work, education and recreation. Particular attention was paid to providing medical care and impact of prison subculture on re-socialization process of juveniles. As a result of the visits the act of responding was made by the Commissioner to Prosecutor Generals Office of Ukraine and the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine to eliminate specific violations of childrens rights while serving their sentence in juvenile correctional facilities.

Angela Clay, Executive Director of the Association of members of Independent Monitoring Boards (the United Kingdom) focused on the main problems which monitors are facing during visits to custodial settings. First of all, it is a question of safety and appropriateness of certain monitors actions with respect to staff and people who stay in closed institutions. The last must be distinguished by categories and a monitor must know peculiarities of communication with sentenced person, child, mentally ill person, and others. Also, the expert noted that Ukraine and the United Kingdom may have some differences in motivation of monitors due to long-standing British tradition of volunteering. However, it is possible to adopt some practices to attract new people such as recruiting of students of various disciplines to closed institutions that may be useful in their future career. Thus, the Association invites future lawyers to visits so that they can become better acquainted with the internal functioning of the prison system in the country.

Helen Boothman, Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), the United Kingdom, continuing the theme of monitors motivation expressed the opinion that for majority of IMB monitors it is just interesting thing. They feel involvement in a great team, and realize how problems with human rights respect in the prisons can directly touch the community and residents of the area where the prison is situated.
The discussion moderated by KhISR Director Denys Kobzin was devoted to the position of clients of custodial settings in the anti-terrorist operation (ATO) zone in Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The discussion aroused great response especially from representatives of the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine and Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine. In particular, they discussed the problem of food delivery; social benefits to custodial settings in ATO zone and the need to evacuate such institutions and their clients on the territory controlled by Ukraine.

The discussion about the state of medical care providing in custodial settings in ATO zone moderated by Oleksandr Gatiyatullin (Network of People Living with HIV) and Andrew Chernousov (KhISR) focused on the issues of management neglect and lack of drugs for clients in custodial settings on the territory of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. It was found that NPM is one of few agencies that are actively studying situation and trying to help clients of custodial settings in health care and access to essential medicines.

Fifth East-European NPM conference was held due to financial support of OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine.