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09.08.2006

On Constitution Day the people blocked the road – to stop the police getting away

   

This story is a month old, or more.  By coincidence it took place on Constitution Day, 28 June.  The reason for the delay was the need to check out the complaints lodged by individuals against illegal actions by police officers.  According to Petro Shyshko on behalf of the Prosecutor’s office of the Staromisky district of Vinnytsa, criminal proceedings have been launched.

So what exactly happened?  The following is an account given by another representative of the same Prosecutor’s office, Mykola Motruk.

On that day, at around 14.00 four officers of the Staromisky District Police Station without any grounds inflict bodily injuries on two Vinnytsa residents.  The police officers claim that the two men themselves provoked the situation, supposedly by infringing the road code on their motorbike. Whether or not this was true is presently being investigated.  In any case, having applied physical force, the law enforcement officers exceeded their powers. In the course of their check, it was established that one of the victims had a criminal conviction. However this gives no grounds for behaving in such a manner with them. The man had served his sentence for the crime committed and was clear of any guilt before the law. And even if he broke the road code, there are road police (DAI) to deal with this. However it is still too early to draw conclusions and it is for the court to determine guilt.

Meanwhile witnesses of the “police lawlessness”, neighbours of one of the victims, a young man of 27, are still outraged by the actions of the law enforcement officers.

“They should be hounded out of the police!  Monsters in uniform”.

In fact, on that day the officers were in civilian clothes. When their “Zhiguli” blocked the road, and four men jumped out of the car, and fell on the motorcyclists with handcuffs, people around didn’t realize at first that they were police officers.

- “The four of them had obviously had a bit to drink”, the neighbours recall. – they were terribly violent, kicking and hitting them, on the head, and on other parts of the body (later one of the victims was found to have considerable soft tissue bruising, bleeding, and abrasions on his arms, legs, the right half of his pelvis, the right side of his thorax and the neck area of his spine – author). The mother of one of the motorcyclists tried to drag the “fighters” off her son, and was herself pushed away with such force that she went flying, hitting her head against the wall of the garage. 

The people around, and by now there were about thirty, began shouting “Call the police!”. It was only then that they were told: “We are the police!”

According to eye witnesses, a police unit did come when called, however they were very passive, while the original four continuing to lash out with punishes, dragged the two men into the police van.

“It was then that we stood arm in arm and simply blocked the road so that the lads could be given medical help, - the neighbours recall – the police “action” overall lasted a few hours”.

The incident in the Old City (Stare Misto) is at present still under investigation. However, it looks as though the “heroic actions” of the Vinnytsa police officers will become the business not only of the local Prosecutor’s office, but also of the Prosecutor General,  whom the victims intend to approach in standing up for their constitutional rights.

According to Mykola Motruk, the actions of the law enforcement officers are being treated under Article 365 of the Criminal Code “Exceeding ones authority, or work-connected powers”. If the court finds them guilty, they face sentences of between 3 and 8 years with the loss of the right to occupy certain positions or take part in certain activities for 3 years.

One would like to believe that this case involving law enforcement officers exceeding their professional powers is an exception, however the statistics come up with plenty of other incidents where the “protectors of law and order” usually come out without a blemish to their record. What will happen in this case?  It’s hard to say. After all the witnesses claim that the police officers were drunk, whereas the results of the forensic tests say that all those involved in the incident were sober.

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