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28.05.2009

Police officers who beat to death Oleh Dunich get 6 and 9 years

   

Three former police officers have been convicted of causing the death in custody of Oleh Dunich in December 2005. The men were charged with exceeding their power and official authority, with this being accompanied with violence (Article 365 § 2 of the Criminal Code).

The case took a long time to reach the court. The following is a brief account – more detail can be found here.

There have been conflicting stories as to what happened during the night between 7 and 8 December. The account given in the media this week is presumably that presented in court. It states that 29-year-old Oleh Dunich from Kharkiv was in a café on the outskirts of Kharkiv on the evening of 7 December. There were police officers and civilians at neighbouring tables. A brawl broke out over something trivial and the officers took Oleh Dunich out to “speak with him” on the street, and then took him to the Chervonozavodsky District Police Station. After several hours of interrogation, an ambulance needed to be called and he was taken to hospital where he died in the morning of 8 December from skull injuries and internal haemorrhaging.  

The report cited here mentions only a later forensic report which found multiple fractures and damage to internal organs. The earlier report indicated that the first forensic report had suggested that Dunich had received his injuries some three days before. The case gained a lot of publicity and the family disputed the first report.

The City Prosecutor’s Office which investigated the case laid the charges against three officers only in 2007. The men were remanded in custody, although there were attempts to have another preventive measure chosen. The verdict was announced this Monday: two former officers got 6 years, and the third – nine.

The crime under Article 365 § 2 envisages a sentence of between 3 and 8 years, so the charges also need to be clarified. It is likely that the men will appeal against the verdict.

Yury Chumak, Human Rights Assistant to the Minister believes this case is vital in putting an end to the sense of impunity among police officers. Most often the worst that happened is that they were dismissed, and the Prosecutor frequently refused to even initiate criminal investigations.

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