15.12.2003 | Oksana Guzinets-Mudrik, Kalush

The European Court acknowledged the violations of rights of the Ukrainians condemned to death penalty


This story began in 1994, when Borislav Poltoratskiy, a 19-year-old dweller of Ivano-Frankivsk, was condemned for the murder of the family of Gomonays. This mysterious assassination was described by all mass media, and not only in our oblast. Evhen Poltoratskiy, Borislav’s father, is sure until now: the crime was committed by other persons, and the boys (his son and Mykhaylo Kuznetsov) were the accidental witnesses of this terrible tragedy. The youths were condemned to death penalty, and law-enforcers got higher ranks, flats and popularity. Some days ago the European Court issued the decision concerning the conditions of the upkeep of six Ukrainians (including Borislav Poltoratskiy and Mykhaylo Kuznetsov), who were condemned to death penalty, which was later replaced by life imprisonment. I want to tell about the story that happened nine years ago and about the decision of the European judges.

Militia juggled with the facts

Evhen Poltoratskiy (he is now heading of the Parents’ committee „Poriatunok“ that unites the parents of those, who were condemned to the capital punishment) is sure: this was a tragic concourse of circumstances.

– To their misfortune, the boys were in the neighboring flat, – recollects Evhen. – When they heard the noise, Kuznetsov went out and came across the criminals. One of them entered the flat, where the youths were and ordered to be silent about what they saw, else, he said, the criminals would murder them and their families. Having seen the bloodstained hands of the murderer, the boys froze with fear. What could they do? To be silent, of course!

Law-enforcers could not or did not want to find the real criminals and decided to lay the blame on Poltoratskiy and Kuznetsov. For this falsification they applied the illegal methods of investigation: threats, humiliation and beatings, intravenous injections, hypnosis, stoolpigeons, night interrogations and other Stalin’s methods.

The criminal case is throughout false and mendacious, it contains the enormous number of contradictions and inanities. For example, the protocol of the first interrogation is absolutely senseless. At first Kuznetsov allegedly confessed that he murdered four persons: Gomonay, his wife and their two children. After this the investigators understood that this confession was somewhat fantastic: it seemed doubtful that the 18-year-old youth, whose weight was 48 kilograms and who was drunk, was able to murder the physically healthy, sober man with psychical disorders (he was deaf-mute), and then three persons more. Then the militiamen modified the case: they invented the non-existent events and forced the youth to confess to some incredible things.

Long before the trial the officers of Ivano-Frankivsk militia shared the awards: ranks of general and captain, two-room flat, carpets, furniture, money bonuses, which they were expecting to obtain for the „conscientious service“ and „disclosure“ of the murder of Gomonays family. At the same time, Evhen Poltoratskiy believes that they purposely concealed the fact that the victim was a drug-pusher.

– Unfortunately, this method of investigation is not new or unusual in our oblast, on the contrary, it is quite typical, said E. Poltoratskiy. – I will mention several examples of the most sensational cases: the arrest and illegal custody of former banker A. Prut and of lieutenant colonel Shkurashivskiy, the former head of the financial-economic department of the militia directorate (who stayed in a solitary cell for six months), illegal condemnation of two youths: I. Vovk and M. Shevchenko (the case of ruining the crosses on the graveyard of the settlement Burshtyn)… The methods of falsifying were similar in all these cases: a person was detained without any proofs of his guilt, and then the law-enforcers forced the detained to admit the guilt by humiliations, threats, physical and psychical pressure.

E. Poltoratskiy sent the enormous number of complaints to various instances: the General Prosecutor’s office, the Supreme Court of Ukraine, MPs, etc. His complaints were immediately passed to the General Prosecutor’s office, and from there he received the similar answers, which read that there were no grounds for appealing against the court decision. The condemned boys named the concrete persons, who committed the crime. Being isolated one from another for many years, they identically described the events of this tragic night, but in vain. Nobody wanted to read, to believe or to do something.

Thus, the conclusion is obvious: somebody wants very mush to protect the criminals and to do away with the witnesses. „There are no proofs of the guilt of my son: no fingerprints, footwear or knife, with which the victims were killed“, says the inconsolable father.

The European Court acknowledged the facts of torture in the Ivano-Frankivsk prison

It is unbelievable, but the convicts condemned to death penalty were prohibited to meet their relatives and priest, their correspondence was checked. Besides, the prisoners underwent cruel treatment, which resulted in the suicidal attempt of Mykhaylo Kuznetsov in September 1998. Six convicts condemned to death penalty (including Borislav Poltoratskiy and Mykhaylo Kuznetsov) sent the complaint to the European Court about the unbearable upkeep conditions in the Ivano-Frankivsk prison. On the request of parents and with their support the commission of the European Court of human rights visited the prison. On 29 April the chamber of the European Court consisting of seven judges, including Ukrainian judge Vladimir Butkevich, issued its decision: the violation of the rights of the condemned was acknowledged and the compensation was assigned equal to 2000 Euro to each one, plus 1000 Euro to Poltoratskiy and Kuznetsov. The judges almost unanimously admitted that the personnel of the Ivano-Frankivsk prison violated Article 3 of the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which prohibits torture and declares: „Nobody may underwent torture or inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment“. It was stated that the conditions of the upkeep in the cell for the condemned to the capital punishment were unbearable, and the demands of the convicts about the official investigation of torture applied to them in the prison were not satisfied. The Court chamber also unanimously acknowledged the violations of Articles 8 and 9 of the European Convention, which stipulate the right for the respect to private life, the secrecy of correspondence, the freedom of opinions, consciousness and religious convictions.

As to the complaint of Poltoratskiy and Kuznetsov against the beatings by jailers in September 1998, after which Kuznetsov committed the suicidal attempt, the court decided that the official investigation of this case was perfunctory and negligent, medical examination of the victims was not conducted, and the authorities did not show any serious intentions to learn the truth. The upkeep of the people condemned to death penalty in the confined room (solitary cell without natural light) and absence of minimal contacts with other people (even after the suicidal attempt) inflicted the mental sufferings to the prisoners and humiliated their human dignity. However, the Court took into account social and economic problems of Ukraine, problems of penitentiary administration in the fulfillment of laws and instructions. Yet, the European Court reckons that the lack of resources does not excuse such conditions of the upkeep in prisons.

One more confirmation of the unendurable conditions in Ukrainian prisons was not a sensation, but the world community got just another confirmation that Ukraine is very far from the established standards of human dignity and human rights. And Ukrainian citizens can learn from this example that the consideration of their complaints by the European Court is quite real.

From „Prava ludyny“ editorial board:This article is published in the author’s version. We had no opportunity to verify the information about the innocence of the complainers. This must become a topic for separate investigation.

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