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29.07.2013 | Halya Coynash

Judicial Victims

   

     

A poignant anniversary in Zaporizhya on Sunday coincided both with the lavish ceremonies laid on in Kyiv to mark the 1025th anniversary of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus and with the release from forced psychiatric treatment of Raisa Radchenko.

The 70-year-old civic activist is now back at home after a Health Ministry commission on 26 July organized her discharge.  Her release from forced confinement in a Zaporizhya psychiatric hospital is much to be welcomed however this is no unclouded happy ending.  Her daughter is facing two administrative charges of “obstructing” the police for behaving as most of us would if close relatives were being dragged away against their will for unnecessary psychiatric “treatment”.  It seems clear that the authorities were forced to respond after immense public and international pressure, but have no intention of learning any lessons from the occasion.  Quite the contrary: the commission, it is reported, “established, firstly that treatment was timely; secondly that the treatment of the patient was adequate. All of this made it possible to considerably improve her state of health. Therefore the possibility is being considered of changing the form of treatment from hospital-based to outpatient.

In other words, the psychiatrists are vindicated, as is the court which saw no problem with ordering the activist’s forced confinement and „treatment”   This was despite a diagnosis at least as questionable as the above-mentioned commission’s conclusion.

Raisa Radchenko is finally free, thanks almost certainly to public concern.  

The bomb blast in the Svyatopokrovsk Orthodox Church in Zaporizhya on 28 July 2010 and later events also received considerable media coverage.  Yet despite the very widespread belief that the three young men charged with the crime are innocent hostages to a promise made to the President on State television, there has been disturbingly little effort to obtain their release and a full investigation into their allegations of torture. 

The bomb exploded, causing fatal injuries to an elderly nun, during an afternoon service on 28 July 2010  Although it occurred exactly a year to the day after a court ruling over a land dispute involving the Church, the investigators do not appear to have ever looked into this.  This is not because they found a compelling alternative version.  There is no evidence against the young men – only seven “confessions” which all three men have said were obtained through torture and threats.

Anton Kharitonov, a suspended sacristan of the Church, was taken to the police station on the following morning after President Yanukovych issued an order on television to find the culprits within the week. The protocol of detention was only drawn up 13 hours later, around midnight, before the first of four “confessions”. 

Anton’s brother Serhiy Dyomin was taken into custody that night. 24 hours later during a night interrogation he “confessed” to having made the bomb. When explosions experts placed his ability to make such a bomb in question, he confessed to having bought the bomb “from an unidentified individual”. A second sacristan – Yevhen Fedorchenko – was arrested a few days later and supposedly also confessed.  

Two forensic psychological assessments effectively confirmed the use of unlawful pressure. Judge Minasov simply ordered a third, which denied any pressure. The judge turned down the application for all three forensic psychologists to be called for questioning. The same judge ignored serious infringements and turned a blind eye when the prosecution, after a year and a half, changed the indictment to eliminate all three young men’s alibi.

There was no evidence of guilt, plenty of grounds for fearing a grave miscarriage of justice, yet at the beginning of April Judge Minasov sentenced the men to 14 and 15 years imprisonment.  The appeal hearing was due at the beginning of July but then unexpectedly postponed and the file sent back to the Zhovtnevy Court “to rectify inaccuracies”.  What this means is unclear and defence lawyers are concerned that attempts may be made to falsify the records. 

There has been no investigation into allegations of torture and other violations of the right to a fair trial. Although the Ombudsperson did – quite rightly - intercede in the case of a Nigerian student held in detention for well over a year, her Secretariat has consistently asserted that she cannot get involved. 

The position of the European Court of Human Rights is entirely unequivocal in all cases where there are multiple confessions, well-founded fears that they were obtained through unlawful methods of influence, and no other evidence.  However the European Court’s backlog is huge and in any case all domestic avenues must first have been exhausted. 

Three young men are beginning their fourth year in detention, with no news on their appeal, and near silence.. If the policy is deliberate, it is frighteningly effective. 

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