Ukraine slammed for obstructing prisoners seeking redress at the European Court


The European Court of Human Rights has issued a press release in which it stresses that “Ukraine must ensure prisoners are provided with effective access to documents necessary for them to complain to Strasbourg”

On Thursday it announced its Chamber judgment in the case of Vasiliy Ivashchenko v. Ukraine (application no. 760/03), .  The Court held unanimously, that there had been: a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that Ukraine had failed to comply with its obligations under Article 34 (right to individual petition) as regards the authorities’refusal to provide Mr Ivashchenko with copies of documents for his application to the European Court of Human Rights.

The case concerned in particular the alleged ill-treatment of a criminal suspect and his complaint that the authorities hindered his effective application to the European Court of Human Rights, as they refused to give him access to the necessary documents. The Court underlined in particular that the complaint about the authorities’ failure to provide Mr Ivashchenko with copies of documents from his case file, which he had requested while in prison in order to substantiate his complaints before the Court,  concerned a systemic problem in Ukraine. The Court asked the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that prisoners had effective access to the documents necessary for submitting their complaints before it.

Principal facts

The applicant, Vasiliy Ivashchenko, is a Ukrainian national who was born in 1961 and is currently serving a prison sentence in Izyaslav, the Khmelnytsk Region (Ukraine). 

In April 1998, Mr Ivashchenko was arrested on suspicion of aggravated robbery and murder. According to his submissions, he was tortured by the police during his arrest. In particular, he alleges that he was hit and kicked in the head, chest, kidney and groin, to the point that he passed out, and that police officers pierced his cheek with a needle and burned his hand with a cigarette lighter. Several hours later he regained consciousness in the medical wing of the detention facility to which he had been taken. The doctor who examined him noted a number of lesions and bruises on Mr Ivashchenko’s head and body. The medical report also stated that he had several blisters on his fingers which, according to Mr Ivashchenko, were the result of burns. Mr Ivashchenko maintains that fractures of his ribs and two fingers were not reported as no X-ray examination was carried out.

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