Kyiv, 29 April 2020

As the first cases of COVID-19 infection in penitentiary institutions are being reported, the Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Matilda Bogner, calls upon the Government of Ukraine to ensure that measures are taken to protect people in detention.

“I am very concerned that there are now cases of COVID-19 infection in penitentiary institutions in Chernivtsi and Kropyvnytskyi. There is an urgent need to strengthen the measures already taken in places of detention, since COVID-19 can spread rapidly in institutions, where people are in close contact with each other,” Bogner said.

“I call on the Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Health to boost Ukraine’s COVID-19 response in the penitentiary system, in particular by improving the screening of personnel and incoming detainees, implementing social distancing, provision of sanitizers and taking other measures to stop the spread of the virus. I also call on donors to help provide protection equipment in penitentiary institutions,” Bogner said.

Measures to reduce the prison population are another effective means of reducing the potential spread of the virus. “I encourage the Parliament to adopt the law on amnesty, and call for additional steps to reduce the prison population, including the broader application of non-custodial measures,” she said.

“In terms of territory not under the control of the Government, I call on the self-proclaimed ‘republics’ to apply similar measures in places of detention under their control, and to be transparent about the COVID-19 situation and mitigation measures taken. I also expect that the Russian Federation will fulfil its obligations as the Occupying Power in Crimea to combat the spread of COVID-19, including in places of detention,” Bogner said.

She reiterated that overall, the COVID-related response must protect the right to health, along with other rights of detainees, as set out by the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules) and other applicable international human rights instruments.

“Finally, I would like to commend the active role of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights regarding prevention of COVID-19 in the penitentiary system, and urge her Office to continue to pay attention to the respect of the rights of detainees,” Bogner concluded.

Relevant UN guidance on COVID-19 response in the penitentiary system: