Two Year Mockery of the Rule of Law


It is two years today since former Interior Minister and opposition leader Yury Lutsenko was arrested. By a whole SBU [Security Service] special unit as he set out to walk his dog on a Sunday afternoon.

Despite international condemnation and a European Court of Human Rights judgement regarding that initial detention, he has remained imprisoned. He was found guilty of three “offences”, all quite absurdly trivial and not even proven. He was sentenced to 4 years in February “for exceeding his official powers and for abuse of office.”. The response from the President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Jean-Claude Mignon, was entirely unequivocal.

"It is unacceptable for former members of the government of a Council of Europe member state to be prosecuted for political reasons. This practice is contrary to the rule of law and takes Ukraine further away the principles of our organisation as well as the European integration to which this country aspires.”

He was even convicted in the separate trial over surveillance of Valentin Davydenko, driver of the former SBU Deputy Head despite the fact that Davydenko wrote to the court saying that he did not consider himself a victim and virtually all witnesses said that Lutsenko had behaved in accordance with the law.

The list of procedural irregularities and flagrant violations of the right to a fair trial is very long. It has been compounded by failure to provide the former Minister with proper medical care. Lutsenko and Tymoshenko are by no means the only victims of flagrant disregard for the rule of law in Ukraine however their cases have most damaged Ukraine’s reputation and have effectively halted vital prospects for European integration

Most worryingly there is still no sign of real implementation of the judgement handed down by the European Court of Human Rights on 3 July. The Court “held unanimously, that there had been: two violations of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of Mr Lutsenko’s arrest and ensuing detention; a violation of Article 5 § 2 (right to be informed of the reasons for one’s arrest); two violations of Article 5 § 3 (right to be brought promptly before a judge) on account of both his arrest and his pre-trial detention; a violation of Article 5 § 4 (right to challenge the lawfulness of one’s detention); and a violation of Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) in conjunction with Article 5”

The Court held in particular: that Mr Lutsenko’s arrest had been arbitrary; that no valid reasons had been given for his detention; that he had not been duly informed of the reasons for his detention; and, that the lawfulness of his arrest and detention had not been properly reviewed.

The Court also found that, given that the prosecutors had referred to Mr Lutsenko’s communication with the media as one of the reasons for his arrest, his right to liberty had been restricted for other reasons than those permissible under Article 5.”

The judgement in full can be read here: #{"itemid":["001-112013"]}

The list of those whose cases involved crimes of violence, drunken driving where people were killed, etc but who received at most suspended sentences is also depressingly long.

Two years stolen from a man’s life.

Two years which have eroded already weak confidence in the judicial system and have done immeasurable damage to the country’s standing in the world.

(Halya Coynash)


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