Mykhailo Koval: «I will not give up!»
On 27 September 2005 in Kyiv “Amnesty International” presented its report “Ukraine. The time to act: Torture and cruel treatment of people detained by the police”. It speaks of an alarming situation as regards the observance of the rights of those detained by the Ukrainian police and gives details of various incidences where torture has been applied. One such case involved Mykhailo Koval from Chernihiv.
Testimony of M. Koval from the case materials: “On 14 August 2001, about 10 a.m., two men, whom I did not know than, came to me and started to demand from me the perforator, which belonged to my son D. Bryk.
Since my son was absent at home and he legally owned this perforator, which is confirmed by the case materials (protocol of interrogation of Maksim Omelyanenko of 19 June 2003, who evidenced that the plugger-perforator “Bosch-Hammer” and the angle rubbing machine “Bosch” had been purchased for the money earned by me, Dmytro Bryk and Yuri Omelyanenko), I refused them, and when they entered my flat with the intent to take the perforator by force, I took my gas pistol (which I possessed legally and stored in a safe) and threatened to use it, it they would not leave my dwelling. I believe that this deed was legal and agreed with dangerousness of the situation: in fact, these men tried to take away a personal thing of my son in my flat).
As it appeared later (which is seen from the materials of the criminal case), the visitors, Yu. Omelyanenko and M. Rebenok, handed, on the same day, a complaint to the Chernigiv town police station: they complained that Koval threatened them with the use of firearms in his flat.
The law-enforcers did not conduct any check of this complaint (investigation of the basis, on which the claimants got to the flat, requests about Koval and about the legality of storage of the weapon by him, questioning of neighbors, etc.) and neglected the explanations of the claimants (in particular, M. Rebenoks told that on 14 August 2001, about 11 a.m., by the address 53 Partizanska St, Apt. 48, a stranger threatened him with arms and physical violence), thus ignoring the fact that the threat to apply any methods of defense for prevention of penetration to a private dwelling is prejudicially legal. Instead of that the policemen at once gathered a group for going to the mentioned address, which is confirmed by the materials of the criminal case and reports of the police officers.
About 18 p.m. several strangers visited me (as it appeared later, they were police officers Gonchar, Danilov and Feshchenko). When I opened the door and saw the unknown persons, who did not introduce themselves, did not produce their service IDs and did not explain the goal of their visit, I tried to shut the door. Yet, they seized my hand, knocked me off my feet and started to push me into the flat.
Feeling fear for my life and health, I broke away to the staircase and began to call for help. They knocked me down again and tried to pull me inside. One of these men – policeman M. Gonchar, as it became known later, sat on me, pressed on my neck with his knee and pulled out his gun threatening to use it, at that he hit my head with the hilt for several times.
My son Dmytro Bryk heard the noise and went out from the flat. When he saw that I was beaten by the policemen, he tried to stop them. Then the officers applied physical force to Dmytro and handcuffed him.
After that me and my son D. Bryk were transported by a patrol car, summoned by neighbors, to the Chernigiv town police station, where we were put to different rooms. There the policemen, applying physical violence and torture to me and my son, forced us to write explanations.
The policemen beat me on head with fists, service gun and a plastic bottle filled with water, they broke my rib, inflicted cerebral brain concussion and the closed cerebral brain trauma.
My son Dmytro was tortured being handcuffed. They beat him on the head too, squeezed out his eyes with fingers and beat on his both ears simultaneously with hands in order to injure his ear-drums.
The physical torture was accompanied with moral torture and threats”.
Ukraine signed the Convention on protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Article 3 of which states: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. Unfortunately, it is too early to say about observance of this norm in Ukraine.
In what following we are publishing the interview with victim of torture M. Koval, prepared by the Chernigiv human rights protection public committee.
Mr. Koval, how “Amnesty International” learned about your case?
When I saw that investigation of my case was knowingly braked, and the policemen, who had tortured me, were not punished, I turned to human rights protecting organizations -- the Chernigiv human rights protection public committee and the Kharkiv group for human rights protection. An advocate of the KhG asked my consent to publication of the information about my case in the Internet. In several days Ms. Hesa MacHill from “Amnesty International” phoned me. Some time later we met in the office of the Chernigiv human rights protection public committee and started to cooperate.
How did you use the tools, envisaged by the Ukrainian legislation, for protection of your abused rights?
From the very beginning I was sure that a crime had been committed by the police officers against me and my family. Investigation of such crimes is in competence of prosecutors office. So, I turned to the prosecutors office and for four years strived for the unbiased investigation of this case.
Has your life changed during this time?
The story that happened with me and my son was horrible. Our health was undermined, we had to undergo medical treatment for a long time. Even now we both have problems with health. My son now does not hear with one ear as a result of torture, his sight has also deteriorated. However, the most terrible thing is that the torturers broke his belief in justice and human kindness. Now he smiles very rarely. I promised my son to restore our abused rights. I want our torturers to read and realize that. I will not give up!
Who, in your opinion, is connected with commitment of the crime against you, what are their names?
14 August 2001 affected my entire life. On the eve of the Day of Independence I got to a hospital “thanks to” police officers. On that day policemen Gonchar, Danilov and Feshchenko burst into my house without any sanctions and explanations and tortured me. Gonchar beat me on the head with fists and his service gun. This is described in testimonies of neighbors. When my neighbors summoned police, the torturers put me and my son into the police car and transported us to the Chernigiv town police station. In the police station captain Tishchenko, Aliokhin, Slivko and others joined to the beating. Gonchar Tishchenko and Slivko tortured us especially cruelly. They tortured us during four hours – from 19 to 23 p.m., and these hours seemed to be eternity to us.
What the policemen wanted from you?
They demanded to confirm in writing that I voluntarily gave them the gas pistol (I had a permission for it) and perforator. And they beat out this evidence.
When we were transported to my house and witnesses were found, I gave away my pistol. Yet, about the perforator I said that this was my private property and they had no right to seize it. In presence of witnesses Tishchenko and Slivko began to threat that they would conduct a search, and if they would not find the perforator, they would carry away all valuable things and would throw us to the cell with criminals. Then I understood that they really could do everything and gave them the perforator. I asked to give me the document confirming that they took away the perforator. I was inattentive because of shock and accidentally signed the protocol of voluntarily handing.
How do you think, what were the motives of such actions of the policemen?
When the policemen rushed into my flat, they were accompanied by two civil persons – M. Rebenok and Yu. Omelyanenko, who, for some reasons, even drove the policemen by their car. Maybe one should look for motives in presence of these men? Yet, this must be done by investigation.
(Advocate of the victim O. Trofimov asks about the corruption deeds of the police officers).
As it is seen from the case materials, the CID officers illegally seized the mentioned perforator owned by D. Bryk; according to the appeal of Yu. Omelyanenko and I. Omelyanenko, the perforator was passed to them against a receipt and still has not been returned to the owner.
From explanations of M. Rebenok of 11 September 2001:
“… On 17 August I came to the CID head M. Gonchar in order to learn whether I could take the perforator. He explained that this could be done only through court.
Since I needed the perforator for work, I had to write the appeal on behalf of the majority of members of our brigade.
When I got the perforator against a receipt, M. Gonchar turned to me with the entreaty to render, if I could, some financial aid.
On the next day I came to the police station, wrote a request about allocation of 300 hryvnas for purchase of combustive-lubricating materials and passed it to M. Gonchar together with the appeal…”
As it has been pointed out above, these facts were established and acknowledged as illegal by service investigation, in accordance with the materials of service check of 17 September 2001.
What were your actions, when torturers left your dwelling?
I lodged a complaint to the prosecutors office. I also turned to the Chernigiv regional organization of the Peoples Rukh of Ukraine. The newspaper “Sivershchina” described my story. Head of the regional organization of the PRU V. Stupak (now an MP, a member of the Ukrainian National Party in the Supreme Council) directed a request to Mykhaylo Manin, the head of the Chernigiv regional directorate of the Ministry of Interior. The service check had been carried out, and I got the written notification that, by order of General Manin, officers of the Chernigiv town police department Gonchar, Danilov and Feshchenko were dismissed from law-enforcing organs. The order was issued in September 2001. I learned about it on 20 September 2001. However, these people still work in police.
Mr. Koval, what would you advise to the people, who has become victims of the arbitrary actions of law-enforcers – to be afraid or to protect themselves?
During torture one should agree with all demands in order to stop the humiliation. Yet, later the victim should use all opportunities to prove the crime. If there are bodily injuries, the forensic expertise must be carried out, or, at least, the injuries should be photographed by relatives. Proper complaints to the prosecutors office should be lodged as soon as possible. The victim must act: turn to human rights protecting organizations, organize publications in the press about the atrocity of torturers, etc. Then there will be some hope for the victory of justice. I am sincerely grateful to MPs Volodymyr Stupak and Yulia Timoshenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union Oleksiy Tarasov, co-chairman of the Kharkiv group for human rights protection Evhen Zakharov and the KhG advocate Arkadiy Bushchenko, representative of “Amnesty International” Hesa MacHill, members of the Chernigiv human rights protection public committee Valentina Badyra, Natalya Romanova and advocate of the ChHRPPC Oleksandr Trofimov, who have responded to my problem. Thanks to their actions I have the hope that my case would get moving and would be, sooner or later, passed to court.
P. S. Today this scandalous case has changed its “dead” status to “semi-alive” one. Its investigation lasts since 2001. During this time the prosecutors office several times tried to “bury” the case. Yet, owing to interference of MPs and advocates, the resolutions on closure of the case were cancelled. Advocate O. Trofimov has got the information that investigation actions on this case are carried out now and the investigation experiment will be conducted in the nearest future. The speed of investigation of “Kovals case” will demonstrate how the situation had changed in Ukraine during the work of the new power. We hope that this resonant case will not be ignored by President of Ukraine V. Yushchenko, who has received the report from “Amnesty International”. It is easy to ruin the belief in justice, but it is very difficult to restore it.
Mr. Koval has turned to the European Court, and his case has a perspective. Its solution is anticipated by the Ukrainian society and those citizens, whose honor and dignity were brutally mutilate with policemens boots.
According to the information of the Chernigiv human rights protection public committee, four out of six policemen, whose names are mentioned in this interview and who are accused of torture by M. Koval, continue to work in law-enforcing organs, and even has got new posts and ranks during these four years: captain Feshchenko and major Danilov work in the CID of the Chernigiv town police department (by the way, Danilov is a relative of Oleksandr Bugayov, a notorious Chernigiv criminal of the end of the 1990s), major Gonchar works in the regional CID, and Eduard Aliokhin has got (already under the new power) the rank of lieutenant colonel and was appointed… the head of the Chernigiv town police department (accidentally, and maybe not very accidentally, Eduard Aliokhin studied in the Chernigiv pedagogical university together with MP Mykola Rudkovskiy).28 October 2005