10.02.2010 | Yury Lukanov

Law enforcement terror


In the Sumy region relatives of people serving sentences for murder have decided to join forces for united battle. According to one of its initiators, Tetyana Prokhoda, the association “Against Law Enforcement Terror” “is aimed at uniting relatives and friends of victims of arbitrary law and those who no longer wish to tolerate the unlawful actions of police, Prosecutor’s office and the courts.

In May several families from different cities in the Sumy region, organized by journalist Andriy Shulha, held a press conference at which they asserted that their relatives had been imprisoned for murders that they didn’t commit. The son of Yefrosyniya Voskoboinyk, Oleksandr, got 10 years. He was detained, they beat a confession out of him, and that’s how he ended up behind bars. The verdict was based on his confession that he made after being beaten. No other evidence of his guilt was provided. Serhiy Romchanin was at the time of the murder at work. His lawyer says that there is proof of this. The case was scrappily put together and the Konotop court sent it back for further investigation several times. The lawyer is convinced that this is a puppet court which will issue the ruling the investigators want. Nina Moiseyenko says that they beat testimony out of her son, Ruslan, with a bat. They beat him on the hands, chest and legs. He couldn’t endure it and testified against himself. The investigators have no other evidence against him. They found a hair in the hands of the murdered woman which is different from Ruslan’s hair, yet they didn’t send it away for testing.

The relatives of those convicted have held hunger strikes outside Prosecutor’s offices, written to various bodies, yet to no avail. Such details were made public at the press conference. I have not checked them and cannot guarantee total objectivity from those defending the prisoners however I have carried out a number of journalist investigations of similar cases in other regions of Ukraine, and must say that the picture is extremely standard. With certain variations, it all happens as follows. When a murder is committed and they can’t arrest somebody immediately, they lay it on anybody who had the misfortune to be near the crime. The person detained is beaten, and other well-known methods of influence are also applied, like putting a gas mask on them and closing off the air pipe. Or they apply a weak electric shock to their genitals. There are plenty of such methods. When they resort to them, the person won’t just admit to a crime, but to being a Japanese spy like in the 1930s.

Unlike those years, a confession these days is not enough, you need objective confirmation, for example, fingerprints, bloodstains on clothes, etc. However our law enforcement system doesn’t pay much heed to this.

The police, prosecutor’s office and courts act like one joint stock company – they are focused not on searching for the truth, but on definitely imprisoning the person detained. The roots of this unity are certainly in Soviet times. Then those structures were mainly located in one building, their staff were members of one common party organization and so their tasks they carried out jointly.

The most flagrant case was that of the so-called Polohy maniac. Serhij Tkach, from Polohy in the Zaporizhya region from the beginning of the 1980s raped and killed girls and young women. He was recently convicted in the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Court of Appeal. He was proud of having killed more women than the “great” maniacs Chikatilo and Onoprienko. In very many cases instead of Tkach other people were imprisoned. According to Zaporizhya lawyer Iryna Derevyanko, as many as 25 people. One of them killed himself, another served his entire sentence. The rest were lucky that the real killer was found and they were released. Human rights activist Tetyana Yablonska believes that over 50 % of those convicted of murder are innocent.

They say that the system is to blame for it all when law enforcement officers’ work is assessed by the percentage of cases solved. The more uncovered, the better you work. Therefore they want the figures to be good and fiddle them. Supposedly it would be enough to abolish that rule and all would be in its place. Somehow we’ve got used to apparently correct things leading to absurd consequences. If you take away that criterion for evaluating work, where’s the guarantee that they won’t stop trying to catch criminals altogether?

The initiative of the people in Sumy has not come from above and is a real grassroots initiative. As they say, an element of civic society. You could be pleased, though it’s somehow not easy since the grounds for the initiative are very depressing.

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