Legal aid to prisoners:


To the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko

 and the Head of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences, Vasyl Koshchynets

In its letter dated 8 November 2007, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group informed the Head of the Bilozirska Penal Colony No. 105 that it was taking upon itself free legal aid to a number of prisoners moved from the Izyaslav Penal Colony No. 31 in January 2007, among them A.V. Bensyak should they face disciplinary measures. KHPG asked that the Head of the colony give prior notice of any disciplinary proceedings against A.V. Bensyak or the other prisoners listed.

We were not once given such notification and did not have the opportunity to provide legal aid although Bensyak and the other prisoners mentioned in the letter were on several occasions were subjected to such disciplinary proceedings. Such an attitude by the colony administration to the provision of legal aid during disciplinary proceedings places in question the fairness of such disciplinary measures.

Furthermore, on 5 February 2009, the Head of Bilozirska Penal Colony No. 105 refused to allow lawyer V.O. Pankiv to see Bensyak despite the fact that the lawyer had agreed with Bensyak’s mother on legal assistance. Prisoner A.V. Bensyak was thus artificially prevented from making a complaint against disciplinary proceedings. That strengthens our impression that the said proceedings were carried out with violations of elementary procedural requirements and that the penalties were unfounded. We cannot in any case find explanations for the stubborn resistance from the administration to any possibility for the prisoners to receive legal aid.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group is disturbed that such cases where prisoners are refused legal aid have become more frequent.  For example on 28 October 2008 the Head of the Temnivska Penal Colony No. 100 refused to allow Arkady Bushchenko to see a number of prisoners despite the fact that KHPG had, in accordance with the law, applied to the Head of the Colony, providing all necessary documents, even those which are not stipulated by the law, but which the Head had demanded.

On 28 November 2008 Arkady Bushchenko and A.S. Mukanova were unable to see their client who is held in the same Penal Colony No. 100, despite authorization from the prisoners, due to there being no person available to fulfil the functions of management staff of the colony.

We would ask you to provide the relevant instructions aimed at unrestricted access by prisoners to legal aid, especially during procedure related to disciplinary proceedings or appeals against such proceedings to the court.

Yours sincerely,

Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

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