The Pomilyaiko case – the litmus test for Ukraines commitment to fighting torture
A press conference was held in Kharkiv on 18 May to report on the course of the criminal investigation into a pivotal case involving former police officers. The investigation is under the article on exceeding official duties, and is connected with allegations that the men used violence towards two women they were questioning. The press conference was attended by one of the two victims, Svitlana Pomilyaiko, the Kharkiv Region Human Rights Aide to the Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Chumak, and the Head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group Public Advice Centre, Ludmila Klochko.
As reported earlier, two women were taken in for questioning after two computers went missing from their work. According to the women’s testimony, the two officers questioned them separately, trying to force both to make confessions. Svitlana was kicked and had a bag put over her head. Natalya also had tweezers used to press her nipples. Svitlana could hear her friend’s screams, yet neither woman signed a “confession”. They were released, but only after both signed statements that they had no criticism against the police. Both have medical reports from the hospital which they went to following their release. Only Svitlana Pomilyaiko decided to make a formal complaint.
A criminal investigation was initiated only to be revoked by the Ordzhonikidze District Court in Kharkiv. This court ruling, however, was, on 7 May overturned by the Kharkiv Regional Court of Appeal, and the case has been sent back to a first instance court to be examined again.
According to Oleksandr Pletenko, the victim’s lawyer, the Prosecutor’s Office took 10 days to investigate the case from when Ms Pomilyaiko lodged her complaint to the initiating of a criminal investigation. The Court of Appeal concluded that sufficient material had been gathered.
According to KHPG lawyer Oksana Stanislavska, this case is fairly specific for another reason, since it is more often than not the Prosecutor’s Office that refuses to initiate a criminal investigation, with the court being forced to accede. Here, effectively, the opposite happened at first instance court level.