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20.03.2008 | Halya Coynash

Whose side are you on?

   

An appeal to the Ukrainian authorities

It would be simplistic to assume two categories in life – victims and perpetrators – and ne’er the twain shall meet. However when the victim of a racist attack, still in hospital with a near-fatal knife wound, is presented with criminal charges, then some hard-hitting questions need to be asked.

Like where is the authorities’ commitment to the rule of law and justice, not to mention combating racism and xenophobia?  And do you really want to so catastrophically damage Ukraine’s reputation?

There are two stages to the following story – both disturbing, but the second also grotesquely surreal.

Up against thugs

At around 2 in the afternoon on 19 February a group of young men armed with knives and teargas canisters stood in wait at the entrance to a Kyiv supermarket for Nigerian national Daniel Osameor.  They presumably wanted him to provoke a fight and hurled racist insults. He responded verbally only, though using English expletives well-known in Kyiv.

The three assailants caught up with Daniel near a machine for topping up telephone credit and without, shall we say, niceties, plunged a knife into his heart.  It was probably the winter layers he was wearing which saved his life.  Daniel ran out onto the street, calling for help, However he then saw the three run in different directions, and sped in pursuit of the man still holding his bloodied knife.. .

Although Daniel is doubtless regretting this instinctive wish to catch the man who’d tried to murder him, we are so far still at stage one.  Articles 36 and 38 of the Criminal Code allow for force in self-defence or to stop an armed assailant.

Daniel was not armed, but he was carrying in his pocket a metal leg from a corner table, found at his market.   He caught the young assailant, but the latter, breaking loose, used his teargas, and in the ensuing scuffle, Daniel either flung or hit the assailant’s head with the metal leg.

The above events were recounted to Oleh Levytsky, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union lawyer, as well as to the investigator from the Solomyansky Police Station.  Of course, Daniel could have made some of it up, you may say.  There is however one serious piece of corroborating evidence: the knife wound due to which he has been in hospital ever since the events of that fateful day.

And fateful they may be … and not only for Daniel

An inkling of the grotesque turn of events about to hit his client and conceivably Ukraine’s reputation was swift in coming.  In his agreement to provide legal assistance to Daniel, Oleh Levytsky wrote “in the case of defence against a racist attack”.  The investigator read this carefully and objected, saying that there were no grounds for calling the attack racist. 

Immeasurably worse was to come. The man with the knife and now the injury to his head was also in hospital, but being, it transpired, a Russian national, had returned to Russia for treatment.  The investigator stated that they had received incontrovertible evidence in the form of a document about the “victim” that he was no skinhead, but a rapper. In response to Mr Lewytsky’s bemusement, the investigator began explaining how there was such an originally African movement in modern music culture, and its fans are traditionally at loggerheads with skinheads, even more, they actually become their victims. It is probably redundant to mention Mr Levytsky’s continued and emphatically expressed bemusement.

And yet, the investigator still produced an incredible document, namely an official decision to lay charges against Daniel Osameor. The charge is truly staggering: Daniel Osameor is accused of “flagrantly disrupting public order out of clear disrespect for society accompanied by particular brazenness in using an object prepared in advice to cause bodily damage to V. Sosnovsky, via several blows to the head and back.”  For this reason, it has been decided to lay charges against Daniel Osameor under Article 296 § 4 of the Criminal Code.

There is plenty more to tell, and not just the difficulty of explaining to Daniel in his hospital bed that he was the assailant (forget the knife wound!).  There were also clear irregularities over attempts to gain blood samples. On close analysis of the decisions regarding these samples, it became clear that the blood was wanted in connection with the charge of hooliganism.  It would seem that some had indeed forgotten the knife wound.

What can you say?

The world community can – and will – say quite a lot, and none of it will be pleasing to the ear. 

We can only hope that this travesty of justice and appalling behaviour to a person almost killed by racists are due to some extremely temporary mental aberration.

We can only endorse Oleh Levytsky’s call to put an end to this abomination and stop shaming the country.  The charges against Daniel Osameor must be dropped immediately, and a criminal investigation launched into the racially motivated and near-fatal attack upon him.

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