Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
09.12.2001 | I. Sukhorukova, Kharkov
Court practices

Wail of a taxpayer


Here are some voices of taxpayers:

As a taxpayer I protest, I do not want to keep murderers, who are incarcerated for life.

Looking at this lady I suddenly felt myself a citizen, who upkeeps the bureaucratic machine. So I must demand something from it.

The first national TV channel showed the session of the Constitutional Court of 30 December 1999. At this session the death penalty in Ukraine was canceled as a non-constitutional method of punishment. Journalists wandered along streets in Kyiv and asked the opinion of passersby. The passersby expressed active protest. I watched the feature and recalled the letter of a woman, whose son was condemned to death on 27 December 1999. He pleaded guilty of several murders with rapes. Mother wrote that during the court session her son declared that he was not guilty, but he was forced to confess during the investigation accompanied by cruel torture. In her complaint mother gave some proofs that her son was tortured, but neither the court, nor the prosecutor’s office tried to analyze the fact.

I also recollected a phone call to our human rights protection group. It was from an elderly woman, who asked me what to do: her wages had not been paid for several months and the authorities promised to cut off gas in her house for the arrears of payment. ‘Is it true that newspapers wrote that I may pay for gas from the old bankbook?’, she asked. I answered that I also read something like that, but I was not sure that the order was executed, since reasonable decisions must not work in our country.

This very day I myself phoned to one of the recruiting commissions. I asked them how they formulated the document about the death of a young man, who hanged himself in the army barracks after serving for about two months. If the document is formulated: ‘Perished during execution of service duties’, then his parents will get a tiny addition to their pension. But if the document is worded: ‘Perished during service’, then they will get nothing.

Oh, God, why do we feel ourselves citizens and taxpayers only when we must denounce someone on behalf of the society!

Here is my voice, or rather wail, of a taxpayer. I pay my taxes and I do not want the government to upkeep for my money 226 thousand incarcerated! This is a little less than our entire army, to support which we have no money. As a taxpayer I do not want to keep in prisons and colonies those people, who did not commit violent crimes, who are not socially dangerous, who are condemned for petty felonies. Such people make, according to statistical data, more than half of the incarcerated. Preliminary prisons and other penitentiaries are overcrowded, they do not have medicine, they are the sources of TB. Even prison guards work under a permanent risk to catch TB.

I do not want to pay taxes for supporting the court machine, which condemns people as in the case I am going to describe.

On 2 October 1995 Melitopol town court presided by V. A. Fomina (and all the needed dignitaries) considered the case where five people, earlier never tried by court, and established the following. Three of them worked at one of the plants in the Zaporozhye oblast. They stole at the plant 38780 metallic rings, whose cost was more than 250 minimal wages, that is, according to the law, a large-scale theft. The rings were carried from the plant and sold to a Volodymir Maystrenko, who paid 800 USD. The fifth member of the gang was a charwoman, who was blamed by Article 187 of the Penal Code and incarcerated conditionally for one year. She was the only one who remained free.

V. Maystrenko in his letter to our Kharkiv Group for human rights protection asserts that he did not know that the rings were stolen; in the documents of the case there is no evidence of the opposite, except the evidence of the three thieves.

Thus, the court ruled out that all the four ‘members of the gang’ were guilty of the crime stipulated in Article 86-1 and, after listing extenuating circumstances (good characteristics from the plant, existence of little children, absence of previous convictions), ladled out ten years of imprisonment to each, except V. Maystrenko. Nobody proved that he participated in the theft or organized this theft, but Maystrenko got 10.5 years. Maystrenko complained, our Group complained to the Supreme Court of Ukraine, but nothing happened. We know rather many cases when criminals get a milder punishment for murder.

This case reminded us of the notorious Article 66-1 of the Soviet times — theft of state property on especially great scale, which was punished very severely and included death penalty.

Human life in totalitarian states costs very little. Although the death penalty has been taken out of this article, it is still very severe. Theoretically, all forms of property are juridically equal. Any lawyer will tell you that if Maystrenko and his accomplices stole the rings from a private firm, they would get shorter terms. I, as a taxpayer, am not enchanted that Maystrenko, who could work, feed his children and pay taxes, will stay 10.5 years idle in a penitentiary, wasting much more than 250 minimal wages.

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