04.11.2005 | Oleksandr Stepanenko, Chortkiv

“Great-small” victory of human dignity


Mykhaylo Demyan lives in a small settlement Melnitsy-Podilskiy near Dniestr. Both in appearance and in biographical details, he is an ordinary person, like hundreds of thousands of such people in our country. To the question about his place of employment he answers: “I do not work anywhere”. This means that he works in his vegetable garden and helps his fellow-villagers to keep their households for minimal pay.

Just because of these everyday affairs Mykhaylo sometimes visited the house and homestead land of his neighbor I. Polivchak. One of April days a trouble happened: rather great, by local criteria, sum of money (several thousands hryvnas) allegedly vanished from Polivchak’s house. Mykhaylo was suspected of this theft, and although he categorically denied his guilt, in morning of 26 April 2005 Polivchak lodged the corresponding complaint to police. The events developed swiftly… Officers of the Borshchivskiy district police department Vitaliy Chepesiuk and Vasyl Kutasevich did not want to burden themselves with procedural formalities and looking for proofs of the crime. On the same day, without any arrest warrant and informing Mykhaylo’s relatives, Demyan was detained. The policemen transported him to the district police station and tried to beat out the confession from him. During the entire day two robust torturers kept the aged man handcuffed, without food and water; they brutally beat him with fists, feet and rubber hose, blackmailed, humiliated and intimidated him… Nobody knows what result would have this “investigation”, but in evening Polivchak’s wife phoned to the police station and informed that the ill-starred money had been found.

When the “investigators” were releasing M. Demyan, they, of course, gave him some “recommendations”: how to behave in future and what consequences will have the non-observance of these “friendly advises”…

Yet, the modest dweller Melnitsy-Podilskiy did not turn out to be “appeasable” for some reasons. The next day he underwent the forensic examination and lodged the complaint against the offenders-policemen to the Borshchivskiy district prosecutor’s office. Of course, the prosecutor’s office did not start the investigation of deeds of colleagues-law-enforcers immediately. At first district prosecutor Shavarivskiy signed the refusal to institute the criminal case “because of absence of corpus delicti in the actions of the policemen”. When M. Demyan appealed this decision in the regional prosecutor’s office, the first deputy of the prosecutor signed the repeated refusal… Only in June, after several appeals of the victim to the prosecutor’s office of the Ternopil region, the criminal case was started and only in July it was passed for consideration to V. Parfeniuk, a judge of the Chortkiv district court.

Consideration of the case lasted for almost two months. It is known that during this time several attempts were made to persuade M. Demyan to come to a compromise with his offenders, but he did not surrender. As a result, the Chortkiv district court acknowledged that policemen V. Chepesiuk and V. Kutasevich were guilty of “misuse of power and service authorities” in accordance with part 2 of Article 365 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. On 21 October 2005 the appeal court of the Ternopil region left this verdict unchanged. Both uniformed criminals were sentenced to 4 years of deprivation of liberty.

According to words of judge V. Parfeniuk, this was the first case in his practice, when policemen were incarcerated for the illegal violent actions in the course of investigation. Yet, we could not obtain a perspicuous answer to the question why in this case the actions of the policemen were not classified as torture…

It is noteworthy that during past years the prosecutor’s office of the Ternopil region stated, in the official responses to our requests, that “courts of the region did not issue the convictions concerning any workers of the organs of the Ministry of Interior and the regional directorate of the Penitentiary Department of Ukraine for commitment of crimes consisting in the illegal cruel treatment during detention, arrest, investigation or serving of sentence”. So, one can assume that the “Demyan’s case” is the next after the resonant “Shpakovich’s case” precedent, when policemen were sentenced to deprivation of liberty for the illegal violent actions.

(Note: the case of Mykolay Shpakovich, a Polish citizen, who perished on 17 September 1994 because of beating inflicted by police officers in the town of Pochaev. As a result of interference of Amnesty International the prosecutor’s office of the Ternopil region carried out the investigation of this case. One of the policemen was then sentenced to 8 years of incarceration “for exceeding his authority”).

However, in the majority of cases the complaints against application of illegal violent actions by officers of the Ministry of Interior do not reach court. The prosecutor’s office rather frequently refuses to start a criminal case. Sometimes the investigation of such cases lasts for years and is regularly closed; all this lasts until the claimant understands that his intention to punish his offenders is hopeless. Yet, most frequently the victims of police torturers are “persuaded”, in various methods, to take away their complaints.

The described case of implementation of justice is interesting because a common citizen, without any advocate’s aid, managed to achieve court consideration of the case, could defend his human dignity and demonstrated the force of his temper…

“Our own helplessness is as dangerous as somebody’s violence”. This is one of Stanislaw Jerzy Lets’ aphorisms. By the way, he could produce this idea just in our town…

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