When no sentence can be a death sentence
Olena Karas writes of yet another harrowing case where a person with serious illnesses (P) has been held without proper treatment in SIZO [pre-trial detention centre] for a year. New illnesses have been developing and an epileptic attack was treated by the SIZO staff as a stroke. He was placed in hospital for one day and then rapidly discharged.
His lawyer appealed to the European Court of Human Rights which immediately sent a request to the SIZO for documents about the person’s condition. As a result, P. was beaten by police officers who demanded that he withdraw his complaint to the Court in Strasbourg, and also confess to the crime.
P. was arrested on drug-related charges in January 2012 and held in a SIZO up till 30 January 2013. His case is at court stage, but the hearings are hundreds of kilometres from the city where he is being held. He is an orphan, and obviously without means, and has been provided with a State defence lawyer. The latter has, thankfully, taken the plight of his client seriously which is by no means always the case. He has endeavoured to prove to the court that there is no evidence of P’s guilt.
P. had been diagnosed before being imprisoned in the SIZO as having HIV at III Clinical Stage, yet it was only in 2013 that the SIZO took any measures to organize treatment. Before the SIZO he had received treatment for tuberculosis in a city hospital. While in detention, he has not been treated for this at all.
Through failure to address his health problems new illnesses have developed. He was resuscitated with difficulty after an epileptic fit on 9 January which, as mentioned, was wrongly assumed to be a stroke.
The SIZO applied that same day for the court to change the restraint measure to a signed undertaking not to leave so that P. could be placed in an emergency ward. The court rejected the application, but allowed him to receive treatment in the ward. The hospital found that he had not suffered a stroke, but that he was now, after a year in SIZO, also suffering from epilepsy and meningoencephalitis.
His lawyer approached the Kharkiv Human Rights Group on 10 January, writing that he had realized that P. was dying and asked at least for advice. “I just want to save the man!”, he wrote.
With the help of the KHPG legal aid network, on 17 January a lawyer applied to the European Court of Human Rights.. The Court responded the next day asking for information from the SIZO.
KHPG lawyers believe that there is violation of Article 3 of the European Convention in this case. In the application to the Court in Strasbourg, they pointed out that even had there been a verdict already in this case, P. would have been liable for release on grounds of health. .
The above-mentioned beating and pressure to withdraw his application came on 31 January. They only stopped beating a gravely ill man when he signed the statement that he was withdrawing his application.
P. was brought to the court where he told Lawyer O. about the beating and handed him a hand-written statement about the crime against him. He wrote that he refused to be taken back to that SIZO since he feared for his life and health.
The court rejected the lawyer’s application that P., who was complaining of stomach pain after the beating, receive a medical examination. On 1 February he was returned to the same SIZO and placed in the medical unit. He has been provided with some treatment but it is not clear for which specific illnesses.
The KHPG Programme on protecting the rights of vulnerable groups in society through a nationwide network of legal aid is run with the financial support of the International Renaissance Foundation.