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20.11.2009

Rehabilitation not for all

   

People who in Soviet times faced politically motivated criminal prosecutions are not able to gain rehabilitation and have their “convictions” revoked. The Law “On Rehabilitation of the Victims of Political Repression in Ukraine” does not apply to them and courts refuse to re-examine old, trumped up cases. The story of Volodymyr Horovy is like that of hundreds of Ukrainians.

During the 1960s Volodymyr Horovy, the Head of a design firm “Kinescop”, was part of a group united by nationalism which engaged in circulating samizdat [in Ukrainian samvydav] literature. His basement contained an amateur radio laboratory, a typewriter with Ukrainian letters, and in it people listened to programmes from Radio Svoboda [Radio Liberty].

The Soviet authorities found it inconvenient to use the political article regarding “anti-Soviet activity” all the time. A search was carried out of Horovy’s basement during the night from 6-7 November 1976. 107 items were removed, including samizdat literature, Horovy’s private tools and cameras, and other things. The KGB were intent on ensuring that the items came to a certain amount in order to trump up charges of “theft of State property.”

All attempts to get the conviction quashed have been in vain.

Volodymyr Horovy was convicted of the above-mentioned criminal charge and imprisoned for 6 years. There were hundreds of people like him, convicted unjustly.

After his release, Horovy had difficulty finding work because of the stigma of a “criminal record”.  Many of those responsible for his imprisonment are still alive. He has spent all the years since independence trying to get the conviction revoked. He explains that he approaches the authorities who tell him that he is not eligible for rehabilitation which he already knows. He has witnesses who can testify to his innocence, yet both the investigators, and the courts respond that there is no criminal file. For him it is not a question of an increase in pension or material benefits, but rather a matter of principle. He wants the criminal record revoked since he committed no crime. He is by no means alone in his dilemma. The courts refuse to examine such cases, and people appeal to the President.

Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, believes that the President’s Decree is not enough. It is the courts which are obliged to re-examine such cases. “We need a special law like in Germany. There in 1997 a law was passed which gave Germans the possibility to demand justice and have old criminal files with a political colouring to them re-examined. We have no such law, the courts themselves decide whether or not to examine a case. They are reluctant to agree to such cases and one requires incredible effort to achieve re-examination. The cases against Chornovil, Horbal, and others are yet to be revoked, and the men rehabilitated. Hryhory Prykhodkov made effort to have his case re-examined, but nothing came of it. A Law needs to be prepared and the President could submit it to the Verkhovna Rada”.

However Ukrainian society is also entirely indifferent in their knowledge of real history. In such a situation there is a paradoxical thing: those who have committed real crimes get into parliament, while those against whom a prosecution was flagrantly rigged endure the stigma of a criminal record for decades.

From a text at www.radiosvoboda.org

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