“Thank you [Amnesty International] for the work that you are doing. I didn’t believe I can get justice in this country. I thought I’ll never be free and that one day they will just lead me out and shoot me. It is so great to see my family again.” Dmytro Koroliov
Former inmates of a secret detention facility in Kharkiv, Ukraine, have been released – thanks to pressure from Amnesty and its supporters.
The release of Dmytro (pictured above with his mother Iryna Koroliova) and 12 others recently followed concerted pressure from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
In July, our teams flew to Kyiv to meet the Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoly Matios as we published a joint report, “You Don’t Exist. Arbitrary Detentions, Enforced Disappearances and Torture in Eastern Ukraine”.
Dmytro’s name was among 16 names on a list that was submitted to Matios. He found long-awaited freedom four days later, when he was taken from the Security Services compound in Kharkiv and dumped by the side of the road, with warnings to tell no one about his ordeal ringing in his ears.
He is determined to seek justice and challenge a practice he knows is still going on. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe at least five more people are being secretly detained in Kharkiv.
Secret detention in Ukraine
Since the conflict broke out in eastern Ukraine in April 2014, hundreds of civilians have been held in secret detention. Many are tortured and forced to “confess.” Many are still in detention, with no access to the outside world.
Both the Ukrainian authorities and pro-Russian separatist groups have taken people captive, often because they suspect them of cooperating or sympathising with the other side.
People may be held for weeks or months before being released or exchanged in “prisoner swaps”. In many cases, having captives for “currency” may be the sole reason for detaining them.
Amnesty is still calling for all parties to: Stop secret detention; Stop torture and other ill-treatment of detainees; Ensure all allegations of torture are investigated and those responsible brought to justice.
Action still needed on Ukraine: Call for release 5 men held in secret detention