Rule of law Russian-style: where is Ulman?


The court trial of Ulman and his subordinates, accused of shooting six Chechen civilians, is to take place in the absence of three of the four defendants.

The decision to continue with the trial was taken on Monday 28 May by the North Caucuses District Military Court who decided to treat the Ulman case as an “exceptional circumstance”.

The application to continue with the trial was lodged by the State Prosecutor, while Ulman’s lawyer opposed it, saying that it would be in contravention of the Criminal Procedure Code to try his client in his absence.

As reported here, in April Edward Ulman, Vladimir Voevodin and Alexander Kalagansky were declared wanted after twice failing to appear in court. The court then decided that (if the men should turn up), the preventive measure against them would be changed from a written undertaking not to abscond (!) to remand in custody. The fourth defendant remains under such a written undertaking.

It should be noted that Ulman does not deny killing the 6 Chechen civilians. On 11 January 2002 military servicemen under Captain Ulman’s command shot at a car carrying civilians, killing one of them, – the 65-year-old head of a village school l. Then, having questioned the other passengers, a few hours later they killed them all, including a 35-year-old mother of 5. 

Ulman claims he was obeying orders….

This shocking case seemed to have moved closer to justice in August 2005 when the Russian Supreme Court overturned a ruling by a military court which had acquitted the men. They were also, incidentally, acquitted by a Russian jury which found their actions “adequate under the given circumstances and connected with carrying out their official duties”.

The ease with which the men seem to have found another way of escaping justice and the improbability of them having achieved their end without assistance from certain official bodies would seem to suggest that any optimism was unfounded. 

Halya Coynash

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