Letter to Interpol regarding the prosecution of Arsen Avakov
KHPG and UHHRU have written to Interpol outlining the reasons for concern over the prosecution and request to detain the former Governor of the Kharkiv region, leader of the Kharkiv branch of the opposition Batkivshchyna Party
6 February, 2012
General Secretariat of International Criminal Police
Dear Sir or Madam,
The media in Ukraine have reported that on 26 January a criminal investigation was initiated against the former Governor of the Kharkiv Region, Arsen Avakov under Article 365 § 3 of the Criminal Code (exceeding power and official authority with grave consequences). It is reported that Avakov has been placed on the international wanted list. Guided by Articles 2, 3 and 41 of the ICPO-Interpol Constitution and General Regulations, we would respectfully ask you to turn down the request from the Ukrainian law enforcement bodies to look for and detain Arsen Avakov as a person who is being subjected to political persecution.
We believe that the prosecution of Arsen Avakov is politically motivated for the following reasons.
Arsen Avakov heads the Kharkiv regional branch of the Batkivshchyna Party. He was a successful Governor and one of the two main candidates for the post of Kharkiv Mayor at the October 2010 Local Elections. The elections were won by Gennady Kernes from the Party of the Regions, however his majority was extremely small and the elections were marred by numerous infringements of electoral legislation (see http://khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1288995839). At present Arsen Avakov has the highest rating among Kharkiv politicians and would be the most likely winner in the Kharkiv majority constituency in this year’s parliamentary elections. The prosecution is aimed at slurring him and preventing him from taking part in the elections, due in October 2012. It is worthy of note that the criminal prosecution was begun immediately after the leader of the Batkivshchyna Party, Yulia Tymoshenko was moved to the Kachanivska Penal Colony in Kharkiv. The Kharkiv regional branch of Batkivshchyna has constantly demonstrated support for its leader and has organized daily protests against her prosecution and imprisonment. The criminal investigation against the head of the Kharkiv regional branch is clearly aimed at intimidating Kharkiv members of Batkivshchyna and getting them to stop their protests.
The criminal investigation itself seems extremely dubious. At first, on 6 January, a criminal investigation was initiated against officials of the Kharkiv Regional State Administration and the Kharkiv Regional Office of the State Agency for Land Resources over alleged unlawful appropriation of State-owned land in 2009. At that time the Kharkiv Regional State Administration’s website in clear breach of the presumption of innocence reported that Avakov had committed a crime, having unlawfully appropriated 55 hectares of land. On 26 January a criminal file was opened against Avakov himself. On 31 January a search was carried out of his flat. On that same day an order was issued to initiate criminal proceedings with him as the accused and he was declared on the international wanted list, with the Chervonozavodsky District Court issuing an order to remand him in custody.
So what does the alleged exceeding of power and official authority consist of? According to procedure the plan for land allocation is prepared by specialists from the State Agency for Land Resources, passed by a session of the Regional Council and approved by the Governor, after which the State Agency for Land Resources prepares and issues State acts confirming ownership for the land plots. According to an application from Ukrskladbud-Tsentr Ltd, the draft land allocation of 55 hectares of agricultural land which was owned by the limited liability company to use for other purposes was prepared and adopted by the session and on 29 January Avakov signed the relevant instruction. On 17 March Avakov cancelled that instruction since a change in the designated use of land covering more than 10 hectares is the prerogative of the Cabinet of Ministers, and not regional administrations. In this situation it seems highly odd to accuse Avakov of having in May 2009 signed State acts confirming the property rights of Ukrskladbud-Tsentr to land plots with changed designation. He firstly did not have the right to sign such documents and secondly he could not have signed documents whose preparation had been cancelled by his own instruction.
We hope that Interpol will not carry out the politically motivated order to look for and arrest the Ukrainian opposition politician Arsen Avakov.