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At least 345 prisoners remained under sentence of death at the end of the year; at least 81 of them were reportedly sentenced to death in the first six months of 1998. Torture and ill-treatment in detention continued to be reported.

    In January the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe adopted its third successive resolution strongly condemning Ukraine for continuing to carry out executions. The Parliamentary Assembly stated that unless it received formal notification that all executions had been halted, it would consider revoking the credentials of the Ukrainian delegation. Ukraine had made a commitment to impose a moratorium on executions, and to abolish the death penalty in law and practice by November 1998, when it entered the Council of Europe in November 1995 (see Amnesty International Reports 1996 to 1998). However, between November 1995 and March 1997, when executions were unofficially halted two months after the second Council of Europe resolution, Ukraine executed at least 212 people. A further execution was reportedly carried out in 1997 after May, when Ukraine signed Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the death penalty.

    The Council of Europe resolution in January also called on Ukraine to put an end to the secrecy surrounding executions. In March the government reported that, under instruction from Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and Prime Minister Valery Pustovoitenko, it had lifted the secrecy on data and information on the death penalty. By the end of the year the government had failed to incorporate these steps into national law.

    In September a draft new criminal code was passed on first reading by the Ukrainian parliament, which contained no articles providing for the death penalty and introduced life imprisonment as an alternative punishment. However, also in September the chairman of the Ukrainian parliament, Oleksandr Tkachenko, reportedly told a delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe that it was too early to speak about full abolition of the death penalty in Ukraine.

    The government failed to abolish the death penalty by the Council of Europe's November 1998 deadline. In November the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe adopted a draft resolution to be considered at the January 1999 session of the Parliamentary Assembly, which stated that the Ukrainian delegation's credentials would be annulled at the Assembly's June 1999 session if the country's commitment to abolish the death penalty had not been honoured.

    Also in November President Kuchma made a public statement which put at risk the existence of the moratorium on executions. Commenting on the trial of Anatoly Onuprienko, accused of murdering 52 people, he reportedly said: “As a human being I cannot see any punishment for him other than death.” In connection with this case, there were reports that Yury Mozola, who had been arrested in 1996 in Lviv on suspicion of murders later attributed to Anatoly Onuprienko, had been tortured to death while being interrogated about the murders. He died in custody four days after his arrest. Another man arrested in Lviv and sentenced to death in connection with other murders subsequently attributed to Anatoly Onuprienko, was reportedly released following Anatoly Onuprienko's arrest.

    Amnesty International received reports that 91 people were sentenced to death during the first six months of 1998. Ten of them were later granted clemency. Among those who remained under sentence of death were two women. The Ukrainian government, however, reportedly told the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in September that 73 people had been sentenced to death in Ukraine between January and September 1998. No executions were reported during the year.

    In January the Supreme Court of Ukraine upheld the death sentence on Yuriy Vladimirovich Bubyr, who was sentenced to death by Donetsk Regional Court in July 1997. Yuriy Bubyr was allegedly convicted on the basis of evidence extracted under duress. He was held incommunicado after his arrest, and a defence lawyer was granted access to him only after five days.

    Cases of torture and ill-treatment continued to be reported. Sergey Mikhailovich Voronok, a deputy of the Supreme Soviet of Crimea, and Aleksandr Vitalyvich Kovalenko, a deputy of the Yalta City Council, were arrested in February and allegedly tortured and ill-treated while held in incommunicado detention.

    Law enforcement officials in the city of Uzhgorod reportedly tortured Yaroslav Mysyak with electric shocks after his arrest in May on charges of premeditated murder. It was reported that no investigation of these allegations of torture was carried out by the authorities and Yaroslav Mysyak remained in detention at the end of the year.

    In January information was received about the case of Dmytro Volodymyrovich Vazhnenko, an artist who was allegedly tortured in detention by Kiev police. He was apprehended in June 1997 following the murder of a police officer and was taken to the Leningrad District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was severely beaten during interrogation and lost consciousness at least three times. His treatment reportedly included having his head banged on a table and being beaten on the spine with a stick. He was reportedly also threatened with being shot or buried alive. Both Dmytro Vazhnenko and his girlfriend Oksana Konovalova were reportedly forced to sign statements testifying that he had killed the police officer, Oksana Konovalova under the threat of rape. The District Procurator was allegedly present for some of the time Dmytro Vazhnenko was being beaten.

    Dmytro Vazhnenko was allegedly beaten again by prison officers with clubs on arrival at Lukianivsky prison in Kiev in 1997. In January 1998 he was released pending trial. Further death threats were reportedly made against him and his lawyer by officers of the Leningrad District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

    Amnesty International urged the President to grant clemency to all death row prisoners, to observe the moratorium on executions and to ratify Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention (see above). The organization was also concerned about the apparent discrepancies in official government statistics regarding the number of people under sentence of death.

    Amnesty International urged the authorities to stop torture and ill-treatment in detention. It called for full and comprehensive inquiries into the allegations of torture or ill-treatment, with the findings made public, and for anyone responsible for such acts to be brought to justice in accordance with the norms of international law.

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