Five confessions are fine


The Ternopil Regional Court of Appeal considers five confessions to be normal. Let’s see what the Supreme Court has to say. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union hopes that journalists and the public in general will cast their gaze on a case which is truly unprecedented. The story has all the makings of a Hollywood blockbuster, with a killer, torture, acquittals and convictions, expert evidence, with one contradicting the other. The last word is supposed to come from the Supreme Court on 20 March.

It all began in 2004 when, on leaving his flat, Serhiy was attacked by two strangers. His mother ran out and when she attempted to defend her son, was shot and killed.

Serhiy accused two people he knew slightly – Oleksandr Motsny and Ivan Nechyporuk  He said that he suspected them because in height and figure they were similar to the assailants.

 The police got their suspects, now all that was needed was to prove their guilt. Or easier still, to get them to confess.

According to Ivan Nechyporuk’s father, Ivan was taken to the police station where they immediately took fingerprints. Then they took him to wash his hands, leaving his jacket in the office. When he returned, they searched him, and found a small parcel in the pocket of his jacket. They said they suspected it contained drugs and drew up a protocol which Ivan refused to sign.  At that point they began torturing him, yet he still refused to sign any “confession”.  The police got twitchy and brought in Ivan’s wife who was in her eighth month of pregnancy. They threatened to torture her if Ivan didn’t cooperate.  He signed.

On the same day they detained Oleksandr Motsny and also “politely questioned” him.

The result – 5 (!!!) confessions, which is an absurdity since we’re talking of a document which a person is supposed to write of his own free will, having decided to come to the police station.

The Khmelnytsky Inter-District Court acquitted the men, stating that the confessions given by Ivan Nechyporuk and Oleksandr Motsny had not been voluntary.

In a separate judgment the court also stated that the police officers involved had violated norms of current legislation and the right of a person to defence. The court also pointed to violations of all established norms by the experts who, after carrying out an investigation, had destroyed all expert samples in order to mask their mistakes.

One would have hoped that this would be the end of the story. However the victims lodged an appeal and the Ternopil Regional Court of Appeal totally ignored all the circumstances investigated by the Khmelnytsky court (the differences in witness statements; the suspicious actions of the experts; 5 confessions; the use of torture) and convicted both men, handing down 15-year sentences.

A claim over Ivan Nechyporuk’s torture is presently under examination in the European Court of Human Rights.

It remains to be seen what the Supreme Court decides on 20 March – and to be hoped that justice will prevail.

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