Legal Aid Lawyer Serhiy Medvedev
Tetyana Pechonchyk from the Human Rights Information Centre has interviewed Kharkiv lawyer Serhiy Medvedev, whose name has often appeared here in connection with his defence of Yakiv Strogan. It is thanks to Serhiy Medvedev that Strogan was finally, after 14 months in custody, released in March this year.
Serhiy Medvedev worked in the Prosecutor’s Office for 20 years before training as a defence lawyer. He qualified in 2007 and began working in the Kharkiv Legal Aid Bureau which gives free legal aid in criminal cases.
Asked why the courts acquit less than one percent of cases, he explained it as being a system where they close ranks and all look after each other. Nobody wants conflict since it’s very easy to lose your job, they can always find some pretext.
Serhiy Medvedev says that the authorities are not only approving, but also stimulating this shameful situation since all you need to convict a person is a confession, whereas to get a person acquitted, you have to work, study all the evidence and material.
This is not always about laziness. He says that he knows of cases where not only the district court, but also the court of appeal handed down acquittals, justifying their decision. It was the Supreme Court (now it’s the High Specialized Court on Civil and Criminal Cases) that, without particularly going into the case, revoked those rulings and sent the case for further investigation.
“Why spoil the statistics of Prosecutor’s work with an acquittal? Furthermore, the law enforcement bodies do everything to prove in court not even the guilt of a particular person, but mainly the lawfulness of the decision in the criminal case taken by the official. That’s, firstly the simplest version; secondly they have the demand hanging over them to solve the crime as quickly as possible. Thirdly and mainly, it’s reluctance and inability to professionally solve crimes.”
The case of Yakiv Strogan, he says, is simply unique.
He is accused of attempted murder yet the victim (who incidentally has already recovered) has only slight cuts which could have been caused, for example, by falling on broken glass.
In order to prove this I worked with an excellent specialist in the field of forensic medicine, Professor Mykola Tahaev. It was he who noted that in the hospital the victim had had three wounds treated, while the expert conclusion claimed for some reason that there were four wounds.
He says he is very concerned over whether the court will acquit Strogan. He says he hopes for an acquittal, but is almost certain that in order to try to justify the criminal investigators the court will convict Strogan at least of deliberately causing light bodily injuries.
There are offices like the Kharkiv one in Khmelnytski and Bila Tserkva, and in their cases he sees no difference in quality and professionalism between the free legal aid offered and in cases where lawyers work for a fee.
With respect to the law passed by the Verkhovna Rada on legal aid, he stresses that they need to decide what kind of workload is optimum.
“I want my grandchildren to live according to laws which are observed by all, first and foremost, the State and officials.
So that there’s no need to give bribes, hide your income from the tax authorities. So that it’s like Lincoln once said, that nobody is above the law, and nobody believe. All comply with the Law”.