war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Politics and human rights

On people’s right to their own values and view of the past

The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (VAAD) and Congress of National Communities of Ukraine have issued a statement expressing outrage “over the contempt shown by the Kharkiv local authorities towards the right of citizens to have their own values and view of the past.”

They refer to the destruction of “the memorial plaque to the outstanding Ukrainian scholar Yury Shevelyov” which was carried out in enforcement of the City Council’s decision and therefore an act of vandalism sanctioned by the authorities.

Yury Shevelyov, Professor of Harvard and Columbia University; a foreign member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; President of the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in the USA; member of the American Linguistic Society, Polish Institute of Art and Science in the USA, honorary PhD from the Alberta and Lundsk Universities, the Karazin Kharkiv National University, the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy and laureate of the Shevchenko Prize has been subjected to a boorish and uncivilized trial by people whose ideals are communist reprisals against dissidents.

Shevelyov, whose parents were descended from noble Moscow families of ethnic Germans was Ukraine’s pride and glory in the world. It is precisely that which so “concerns” Ukraine-haters who accuse a person from a level beyond their reach of collaborating, without understanding what the civilized world has already understood and given its assessment of – the “spiritual” unity of Nazis and communists.

We consider that the decision of the Kharkiv authorities undermines attempts to create a modern Ukrainian nation which is proud of all outstanding Ukrainians regardless of their ethnic origin, political choice and country of residence. 

Shevelyov Memorial Plaque smashed to pieces

Photo Ukrainska Pravda

Half an hour after the Kharkiv City Council voted to remove a plaque in memory of the renowned Ukrainian Slavist Yury Shevelyov, three “unidentified individuals” arrived with hammers and axes, and simply smashed the memorial plaque.

Mayor Kernev announced at the council meeting that he had signed the decision from the City Council instructing the relevant Kharkiv department to take down the plaque.  He later denied any involvement in the destruction of the plaque which he claimed had nothing to do with him.  The Shevelyov Memorial Committee does not believe this and is demanding a full enquiry.

The Kharkiv City Council’s decision on Wednesday revoked a decision from 2011 to mount the plaque on the building at 17 Sumska St.

The plaque was put up at the beginning of September but aroused objections from the local Antifascist Committee which claimed that Shevelyov had collaborated with the Nazis in the 1940s. 

As reported, Myroslav Marynovych, President of the PEN-Centre issued a statement expressing outrage over the actions of the Kharkiv local authorities directed against “the renowned Ukrainian Slavist and laureate of the Taras Shevchenko National Award, Yury Shevelyov and gross comments from the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration which contain false allegations against the scholar of supposed “aiding the fascists” and overt insults of representatives of the Kharkiv Ukrainian intelligentsia, including the well-known Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan”.

The statement continues: "The primitive ignorance of those in power does not discredit those whom it tries to denigrate, but in the first instance the authorities themselves.  The reputation of Yury Shevelyov himself, Professor of Harvard and Columbia University; a foreign member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; President of the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in the USA; member of the American Linguistic Society, Polish Institute of Art and Science in the USA, honorary PhD from the Alberta and Lundsk Universities, the Karazin Kharkiv National University, the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy does not need our defence.

The foul slander of Yury Shevelyov is yet another confirmation that figures of such calibre are in permanent and inevitable opposition to the world of dark primitivism.  Shevelyov himself would have been appalled if such primitivism accepted him as one of their people.  It is therefore not Yury Shevelyov who needs to be defended, but the honourable name of Kharkiv itself that is in need of defence. We know that there are many people there for whom the name of Kharkiv-born Yury Shevelyov is their pride. We also know that for those currently in power it is first and foremost power that is of significance, and not honour and decency. Therefore the thrust of our protest is aimed primarily at those Kharkiv residents who have not become totally indifferently and have not lost their sense of shame.  How long will you tolerate a situation where you and oblast are represented by people whose hand in a normal society they would not wish to shake? "

Ukrainian PEN Club Centre Statement

The Ukrainian PEN Centre is outraged over the attempts by the Kharkiv local authorities to disrupt the uncovering in Kharkiv of a plaque in memory of the renowned Ukrainian Slavist  avic scholar and laureate of the Taras Shevchenko National Award, Yury Volodymyrovych Shevelyov and gross comments from the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration which contain false allegations against the scholar of supposed “aiding the fascists” and overt insults of representatives of the Kharkiv Ukrainian intelligentsia, including the well-known Ukrainian writer Serhiy Zhadan.

The primitive ignorance of those in power does not discredit those whom it tries to denigrate, but in the first instance the authorities themselves.  The reputation of Yury Shevelyov himself, Professor of Harvard and Columbia University; a foreign member of the Ukrainian Academy of Sciences; President of the Ukrainian Free Academy of Sciences in the USA; member of the American Linguistic Society, Polish Institute of Art and Science in the USA, honorary PhD from the Alberta and Lundsk Universities, the Karazin Kharkiv National University, the National University of Kyiv Mohyla Academy does not need our defence.

The foul slander of Yury Shevelyov is yet another confirmation that figures of such calibre are in permanent and inevitable opposition to the world of dark primitivism.  Shevelyov himself would have been appalled if such primitivism accepted him as one of their people.  It is therefore not Yury Shevelyov who needs to be defended, but the honourable name of Kharkiv itself that is in need of defence. We know that there are many people there for whom the name of Kharkiv-born Yury Shevelyov is their pride. We also know that for those currently in power it is first and foremost power that is of significance, and not honour and decency. Therefore the thrust of our protest is aimed primarily at those Kharkiv residents who have not become totally indifferently and have not lost their sense of shame.  How long will you tolerate a situation where you and oblast are represented by people whose hand in a normal society they would not wish to shake.

President of the Ukrainian PEN Club, Myroslav Marynovych.

Implementation of European Law

Prisoner forced to “donate” ECHR awarded compensation to prison?

The wife of a prisoner awarded compensation in a European Court of Human Rights judgement alleges that her husband is being coerced into making “an anonymous donation” of the money to the prison administration.  Radio Svoboda reports that checks are presently being carried out of the allegations made by K. Khodakivsky’s wife.  It says however that human rights workers have said that it’s standard in the present penitentiary system for prisoners’ relatives to face blackmail and corruption.

Kostyantin Khodakivsky is one of the 17 applications in the case of Karabet and others v. Ukraine on torture of prisoners of the Izyaslav Prison Colony in the Khmelnytsky oblast in 2007.  

See Massive bill for State’s failure to enforce human rights court rulings

The European Court of Human Rights found violation of Article 3 of the Convention (prohibition of torture) and ordered Ukraine to pay each applicant 25 thousand EUR.

Khodakivsky’s wife, Victoria alleges that when the management of the Starobabanivsk Prison Colony in the Cherkasy oblast found out, her husband was suddenly put in a punishment cells and refused visits with this relatives.

“They say directly that if you want him to serve his sentence well, with no repetition of Izyaslav, then let him write that he renounces the money and wants it transferred to the prison’s account. I spoke with the head of the colony, and he said that to my face”.

After the incident at Izyaslav, she didn’t hear anything from her husband and for about a year and a half she didn’t know where he was. She says that the last time she saw her husband, he had fresh bruises.

Arkady Bushchenko, the lawyer who represented the applicants at the European Court of Human Rights and now Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is unequivocal in his response. If these allegations prove true, then this is flagrant contempt for ECHR judgments and he promises to inform all bodies monitoring Ukraine’s enforcement of court rulings. He says that in the context of the negotiations underway over the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, people having the nerve to put forward such demands may have big problems.

A representative of the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Secretariat says that they have sent an information request to the colony and may go there and carry out a check.

According to Andriy Didenko from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, blackmail and demands of bribes for release on parole or improved conditions are standard.

Oleksandr Bukalov from Donetsk Memorial says that it’s extremely difficult to prove such cases of blackmail since the penitentiary system is so lacking in openness. He does not believe the situation can be changed by making amendments to legislation, and says there needs to be the political will at local level as well as in the management of the State Penitentiary Service.

He adds that there are dozens of cases where people are prosecuted for bribe-taking or other violations.  This is not very many, he adds, but not in fact so very few.

After the events at Izyaslav the relevant bodies carried out checks but no criminal proceedings followed. 26 employees faced disciplinary proceedings for not properly carrying out their duties. Two others received warnings. 

Against torture and ill-treatment

Too Many Questions in Zaporizhya Church Bomb Case

Former political prisoners, human rights activists and many lawyers have called on EU Delegation to Ukraine Ambassador Jan Tombiński to attend the appeal court hearing in the trial of three young men accused of the 2010 Zaporizhya church bomb blast. EU presence on Oct. 1, they say in their appeal, will give a powerful and much needed signal regarding a trial with serious implications for Ukraine’s justice system.

The signal would be similar to that given by the EU’s firm stance regarding the imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko. There may be no high-profile opposition figures in the Zaporizhya case, no political context, but there is a shared fatal element highlighting systemic problems in Ukraine.

The “case of the sacristans” gained prominence because of the role played by President Yanukovych. That role is widely deemed to be the determining factor in this case, with the guilt of the three young defendants seen as questionable, but largely immaterial. Since the two former sacristans - Anton Kharytonov and Yevhen Fedorchenko – and Anton’s brother, Serhiy Dyomin are facing 14 and 15 year sentences, the implications for rule of law in Ukraine are grave.

A day after the bomb exploded, killing an elderly nun, President Yanukovych held a televised meeting with the heads of all law enforcement bodies at which he ordered arrests within the week. Less than a week later Interior Minister Mohylyov informed the President on television that the case was solved and the culprits in custody. He also mentioned likely rewards for the officers involved and many have since then also been promoted.

The enforcement bodies certainly acted swiftly. The morning after Yanukovych’s television appearance, former sacristan Anton Kharytonov was taken, together with his mother, to the police station. He only formally appeared at the station, however, some 13 hours later. The protocol of detention was drawn up immediately prior to his first “confession” at midnight and subsequent night interrogation. His brother Serhiy Dyomin, detained that evening, was held even longer in police limbo before writing his first confession. Kharytonov gave four quite different “confessions” over the following days. Dyomin gave only two, but the difference was telling. He first confessed to constructing the bomb, and there is a video of him explaining very tentatively how he did so. This explanation, together with his ability to make the device, was immediately rubbished by explosives experts, and Dyomin swiftly produced another in which he confessed to having bought the device from an unidentified individual.. A second sacristan – Yevhen Fedorchenko – was arrested a few days later and made only one confession.

There are thus 7 confessions from the three defendants which all have retracted, asserting that they were obtained through torture, threats and psychological pressure. The men were not allowed to contact their families and three of the lawyers called in by the investigators who sat in on the formal interrogations later faced professional disciplinary measures for their behaviour in the case.

Some of the other young people taken into custody at the same time also complained of torture at the hands of the investigators. In Kharytonov’s case, the police were never able to explain why the pockets of the young man’s trousers can be seen during the videoed interrogation to have been cut out. Kharytonov asserts that the officers cut them out during the first 13 hours, threatening to cut off his genitals if he didn’t “confess”. Both brothers report threats that their mother would also be arrested, and their grandmother abandoned in an old people’s home.

Two forensic psychologists from the Luhansk and Donetsk Institutes examined the formal interrogations and found that the young men had been placed under considerable pressure, had been constantly asked leading questions and had in fact never given a free account of the crime they purportedly committed.

One of the most worrying aspects of this case can be seen in the judge’s response to those assessments. Judge Volodymyr Minasov simply ordered a third assessment from the Kyiv Institute which totally contradicted the first two, found no pressure and only “inclination to criminality”. Minasov then rejected the defence’s application to have all three psychologists summoned as witnesses to get to the bottom of such divergent assessments. The list of other discrepancies and infringements which he ignored is significant. It is his guilty verdict and heavy sentences that are now at appeal stage.

In fact, however, there is one even greater cause for concern with respect to the “case of the sacristans”. All of the above, the lack of any actual evidence linking the defendants with the crime and other equally disturbing aspects have been reported on many occasions. Yet there has never been any proper investigation into the allegations made of torture and of infringements during the trial, Formal complaints simply get sent on to other departments.

Requests have also been made to the Human Rights Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska, to Amnesty International and other NGOs. A letter with information about the case has also been sent to the Committee for the Prevention of Torture.

The lack of active response is baffling since the complaints are similar to those which have led in many cases, such as Zamferesko v. Ukraine, Nechiporuk and Yonkalo v. Ukraine to European Court of Human Rights judgments against Ukraine. The court in Strasbourg was unequivocal: multiple confessions extracted through torture render all criminal proceedings against the person unfair.

The complaints, as well as the undisputed procedural irregularities in those first days, are also the same as those which have led to damning reports about police impunity and methods of obtaining confessions in Ukraine.

Ukrainians’ trust in the law enforcement bodies and in the courts has reached an all-time low, as has the number of acquittals (0.17% of all criminal trials in 2012).

This is not just material for the next report on Ukraine’s non-compliance with international obligations. A gravely flawed trial is taking place now and the stakes for three young men, their families, and for Ukrainian justice could not be higher.

Standing by and simply watching because the young men are not politicians or in any way prominent figures, is surely another form of selective justice, and must not be an option.

First published on Kyiv Post

How many victims are there of police violence?

In my opinion, the problem of eradicating torture or ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies is the toughest in the human rights realm since the police view such actions as well-established, usual, routine and in no way criminal. Since 2001 torture has been a criminal offence, the punishment for which is set out in Article 127 of the Criminal Code, yet there have only been isolated sentences for it. The number of victims, however, is staggering.

The scale of the problem

According to data from the Kharkiv Institute of Social Research the estimated number of victims of unlawful violence in 2004 was 1, 04 million; for the period from 2005-2009 – 1, 32 million; in 2010 -  790, 000, у 2011 – 984, 000.  The study was carried out by asking people in five regions (3, 000 people in the Kyiv, Kharkiv, Lviv and Poltava oblasts, as well as the Crimea, through structure interviews carried out at the respondent’s home. The percentage of respondents who had suffered from police violence was extrapolated over the entire adult population in Ukraine. It is noteworthy that under the civilian Interior Ministers Yury Lutsenko and Vasyl Tsushko who tried to tackle this shameful behaviour, the estimated number of victims fell by around 4 times, then from the beginning of 2010 again began increasing and in two years hovered near one million a year. In 2012 the study was not carried out.

According to reports from the Prosecutor General’s Office, in 2012 44 criminal cases involving the use of torture by police officers were passed to the courts. 8 were under Article 127 of the Criminal Code; 3 under Article 364 (abuse of power or official position); 31 under Article 365 (exceeding power or official position); 2 cases under other articles.  This is a pitiful result for criminal prosecution of law enforcement officers who use torture and other forms of unlawful violence given that for the first 9 months of 2012 prosecutor’s offices received 3, 600 complaints of ill-treatment.  However according to Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska only 100 criminal cases were opened over those complaints, this confirming the ineffectiveness and incapability of the Prosecutor.  During the first half of 2013, 41 complaints were received alleging a crime by police officers falling under Article 127. 3 cases were passed to the court, while the criminal investigations over 32 complaints were terminated. Under Article 364 146 criminal investigations were carried out: 139 were terminated, and not one was passed to the court.  1, 938 criminal investigations were carried out under Article 365; 1692 were terminated, and 34 indictments were passed to the court.

NGOs’ statistics indicate that the prevalence of ill-treatment by law enforcement bodies is considerably higher. The network of 15 Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Public Advice Centres registered 202 complaints in 2009; 172 in 2010; 241 in 2011; 178 in 2012 and 139 in the first 6 months of 2013. Of these the Kharkiv Human Rights Group [KHPG] received 55 complaints in 2009; 63 in 2010; 88 in 2011; 30 in 2012; 28 for the first half of 2013. In 2012 the number of complaints fell a little, and in 2013 the number of complaints alleging various forms of ill-treatment has risen as compared with 2012.

These statistics are convincing evidence that the claims that with the entry into force of the new Criminal Procedure Code [CPC] on 19 November 2012, torture by the police would stop are premature. This view, for example, was expressed by Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska in an interview to Channel 5, based on a reduction in the number of such complaints to her Secretariat.  However, the absence of complaints to the Ombudsperson, in my opinion, is rather a consequence of the obligation under the new CPC to start criminal proceedings. Furthermore, the number of complaints is significantly lower  than the number of victims. The lack of complaints alleging torture can indicate lack of faith by the victims that they will obtain satisfaction. Also people are scared of complaining about the police and not without cause. Nonetheless, how does the new CPC influence the use of unlawful violence by the police, where does such optimism come from?

Safety devices against torture in the new CPC

At first glance the new CPC does indeed make torture impossible. We know that it is used most often immediately after a person is detained, with the protocol of detention being drawn up after “working” with the detainee and obtaining a confession.  Anything from minutes to several hours or several days could divide the moment when the person was actually detained and the point at which the detention was registered. The new CPC specially stipulates that a person’s detention begins when he or she is by force or in compliance with an order forced to remain with an authorized official or in premises stipulated by the latter. The CPC also sets out fairly strict requirements regarding registration of detention and being brought to the relevant police stations, including the duty to carry out an investigation where this has been unwarrantedly drawn-out.

It is furthermore much harder under the new CPC to detain a person without a court order, and this has led to a 30% reduction in the number of criminal procedural detentions, or 850 cases each month. The number of applications from investigators and prosecutors for detention orders has decreased by 45%; the number of searches – by 30%.

Without any doubt the prohibition in the new CPC for court rulings to be justified on the grounds of evidence given to an investigator or prosecutor hypothetically makes it futile to receive written confessions from a detainee. Now the court should receive evidence of guilt directly at the court hearing.

The new CPC also demands that the person who carried out the detention informs the person without delay in language which s/he can understand about the grounds for the detention and what crime s/he is suspected of having committed. They should also explain that the detainee has the right to a lawyer; to receive medical assistance; to give an explanation, testimony or not say anything regarding the suspicions; to immediately inform other people of their detention and where they are; to demand a check into the grounds for the detention and other procedural rights envisaged by the CPC.

How these safety devices look in practice

The list of rights which the law provides a suspect with the latter’s signature must be attached to the protocol of detention, yet this is not a guarantee that the suspects are familiarized with their rights. According to a study, despite the fact that in 99% of the criminal files there was a protocol that detainees had had their rights explained to them, more than 70% of those detained had not been informed of their rights, while 20% had been given the chance to quickly read a sheet of paper with a list of these rights without anybody explaining anything.

Our observations show that there have not been significant changes in the work of the law enforcement agencies. Infringements like covert detention; delays in registering detention; or detention on trumped up grounds continue to be used.

According to Interior Ministry statistics, 3801 suspects were detained by Interior Ministry investigative bodies without a court order in the first quarter of 2013.

The practice continues where a person is actually detained by officers with the official protocol of detention being drawn up by the investigator. The time and place of the actual detention is accordingly given wrongly on the protocol, with the delay in registering the detention thus concealed, . Most importantly, this conceals the actual detention under the control of officers for an indefinitely long period without any possibility of enjoying the appropriate procedural rights.

Advocates defending clients in criminal proceedings report that in order to bypass the general ban on detention without a court order sometimes the following “procedure” is used: first a person is actually detained and held in a police station where the information needed about a crime is obtained. Various forms of subterfuge are used, for example entries in the registration book about the person “visiting” the police station at his or her own wish and then “leaving” the premises whereas in fact they continue to be held at the police station.  Then the investigator applies to the court for a detention order and, upon receiving it, draws up the protocol of detention in which a point after the court order was issued is given, with the place of detention also invented.

The chance of obtaining, via physical and / or psychological pressure, information which will make it possible to receive evidence, including material proof, of the crime, being held unlawfully under the control of officers from the moment of actual detention and until official registration of the detention, remains sufficient motivation for the use of torture. Moreover, through the use of physical and psychological force you can intimidate the detainee so that during his meeting with his lawyer he either rejects the latter’s services, or, afraid of being ill-treatment by officers in the future, he chooses to admit guilt.  Furthermore, despite the fact that explanations received from those involved in criminal proceedings and others are not proof, such explanations continue to be attached to the criminal file.

We would note that the result of an investigative experiment is a separate form of evidence, and there is thus nothing to stop the suspect being forced to demonstrate the mechanism for committing the crime (even if the person has not committed anything against the law) during the investigative experiment, and this evidence will from the formal point of view be allowed. The possibility also remains of simply planting certain proof on the suspect and no code is capable of preventing such practice in the investigation of criminal cases. Therefore the role of the courts is vital and they should take a tough stand when analyzing evidence in a case and reject all obtained under dubious circumstances. 

The right to a fair trial

A Cloak and Dagger Farce in Ukraine

Absurd espionage charges against an academic and two young men would be funny if the stakes weren’t so high.

In Ukraine a professor is facing a possible 15-year prison sentence for treason for having collated information he found on the Internet. Forget Snowden, Manning, or Assange, this is Ukraine, where even spying gets turned on its head.

The Security Service, or SBU, has charged Kharkiv academic Volodymyr Chumakov, together with two young engineers, with spying for China over information downloaded from open websites. This was only theoretical information, it should be stressed, since no scientific research is taking place in the relevant field in Ukraine.

Chumakov is charged in connection with a book he compiled based on lectures given to students, specifically a section pertaining to electromagnetic accelerators, or railguns. “I can’t even boast of any important discover, " he told Ukraine’s Express newspaper.  "I simply systematized a lot of material on the subject, using open, mainly foreign, sources.”

Chumakov said SBU investigators have pulled sentences from his textbook that they claim give away state secrets that could threaten Ukraine’s defense. They even assert that particular sentences or paragraphs set out the technology for creating a weapon.

Neither Chumakov nor the two engineers, one of whom is a former student, had access to state secrets. This supposed threat to national security remains freely available on the Internet, as does all the material it was based upon. Even if they had inadvertently divulged sensitive information, it would be because the material had not been properly classified and restricted.

Yet a year after the book was published – with the requisite Academy of Sciences review behind it – and after Chumakov received a presidential honor for his contribution to science, the SBU came knocking.

Assessments of the information by supposed experts have had a farcical air. One thought he had spotted a state secret, only to backtrack when the investigator pointed out that the information in question was from an open, Russian source on the Internet. He was simply invited to try again.


However absurd, the charges against Chumakov and the young men are serious and carry long sentences.

Oleksy Rud and Serhiy Chichotka met a young Chinese graduate of a St. Petersburg institute in 2008 and together founded the company Top Science Ukraine. The idea was to seek out Ukrainian scientists and inventors whose institutes do not have the funding to promote their work, and to find investors from China. This was all open and aboveboard, and close cooperation with different Ukrainian institutes was envisaged from the outset.

Rud approached Chumakov back in 2008 and offered to help promote his projects. Chumakov’s institute, like all Ukrainian academic establishments, is seriously strapped for funding and positively demands that staff seek outside funding. There was a potential investor interested in a number of projects, but he asked for a report. This was cleared with the university and Chumakov prepared a book taking material from lectures given to students, notes, etc., all largely gleaned from the Internet. He worked on the material in 2009, though it was, as mentioned, published only in 2012.

Investigators say some material on railguns that until 2006 was classified is in Chumakov’s book. Why it was ever classified is not known, nor why it stopped being so in 2006, but independent assessments have found no match between Chumakov’s work and the material in question. What is most disturbing, however, is the fact that the investigators have gone to the trouble. Even if Chumakov had knowingly used this source, it would have been some three years after the material was declassified.

Chumakov says investigators have openly suggested that he testify against the two young men. Both men have been in pretrial detention for 18 months, with their trial not even begun. They are reportedly under strong pressure to “confess.” Conditions in Ukraine’s pretrial detention centers are grim: a team from Brussels last year documented credible evidence of "ill-treatment ... of such a severity that it can easily be considered to amount to torture, " including infliction of electric shocks, asphyxiation with a plastic bag or gas mask, suspension in a hyperextended position, and death threats with a gun put to the head.  

The prosecutor in Rud and Chichotka’s case has just applied for a fifth expert assessment. Chumakov’s trial is about to begin. Despite the surreal nature of the charges, the danger is real. Ukraine’s acquittal rate in criminal trials has dipped over the last three years to a new low – 0.17 percent – with judges under pressure to convict. Where a case is too scandalously flimsy or where defendants retract confessions made under duress, the trials can simply be dragged out with the defendants held in pretrial detention for years.

There are frightening echoes here of the worst years of Stalin’s Terror when men facing execution were tortured into “confessing” to spying for any number of countries.

In 2013 it seems depressingly clear that for the SBU officers involved in this case, all that matters is getting good statistics on catching spies, with the human cost still treated as immaterial.


Nechiporuk, Motsny and their torturers

Yury Lukanov has investigated a notorious case in which one man – Ivan Nechiporuk - was released after 8 years only after the case when to the European Court of Human Rights and where his supposed accomplice remains in prison. He shows how a whole system from ordinary investigator to first Deputy President of the Supreme Court was involved in the miscarriage of justice

In March 2004 two masked men killed a Khmelnytski woman and the investigators decided that the culprits were 22-year-old Ivan Nechiporuk and 25-year-old Oleksandr Motsny.

The investigators claimed that Nechiporuk’s wife who worked at the Iskrytskys’ factory had told her husband that Oleksandr Iskrytsky was going on a business trip, leaving his wife and 25-year-old son in the home alone.  Nechiporuk had supposedly persuaded Motsny, and they went there to rob the house.

Lukanov writes that the strangest thing was how the investigators got the idea that the two young men were guilty.  At the end of that month, the son of the murdered woman who had supposedly opened the door to the two masked men and been attacked by them was driving along the road and saw the two young men, the husband of a woman who worked in the family’s factory and Motsny who’d studied at the same school as a relative of his. The two young men were standing and talking.  In court Iskrytsky said that some sixth sense had worked, and he went to the police.

Nechiporuk and Motsny were arrested for suspicious behaviour.

Nechiporuk’s suspicious behaviour, police officer Dmytro Martsenyuk said in court, was that before his arrest he called a lift, got in and then got out again.

Lukanov begins his article by noting that the Iskrytsky family are claiming that Nechiporuk was acquitted wrongly.

From the ECHR report:

“Mr Nechiporuk was apprehended by the police on 20 May 2004 and placed in “administrative detention” in a police station on suspicion of illegal drug possession. A written note by one of the arresting officers explained his arrest with his suspicious behaviour in the street. His relatives were not informed of his whereabouts. During the first night of his arrest, Mr Nechiporuk, according to his submissions, was urged by two police officers under threat of violence, to confess to the murder of a woman who had been shot by armed intruders at the door of her flat in Khmelnytskyy one week before his arrest. After he refused to confess, he was handcuffed, suspended from a metal bar and given electric shocks to his ankles and coccyx. The officers further beat him up and threatened to give his eight-month pregnant wife, who was also in custody to be questioned, the same treatment. Mr Nechiporuk then wrote a confession, allegedly under dictation from a police officer, stating that he had committed the murder together with another person.”

Motsny and Nechiporuk say that they were tortured by three officers: Viacheslav Mostovy; Ihor Vesna; and Dmytro Martsenyuk.

The forensic expert Serhiy Dunayevsky found various cuts and bruises, however said that it was questionable whether electric shocks had been applied, as the men alleged, to their genitals. He also failed to notice Motsny’s beaten head.

During that first trial, however, the judge noticed and an independent examination was called. That corroborated the allegations made by the two men. It confirmed that a light electric shock had been applied to their genitals.

The only evidence against Nechiporuk was 5 “confessions” which the European Court of Human Rights found to have been beaten out of him through the use of torture.  Motsny gave three confessions in all.

Lukanov writes about some of the gaps in the investigation.  Although the police found that three beds had been slept in, they do not appear to have ascertained why. There were a number of strange aspects in Iskrytsky’s behaviour, for example, he asked the neighbours to call an ambulance for his mother but did not ring the police.

He was in fact initially treated as a suspect.

Lawyer Halyna Berehova asserts that the investigator Ruslan Sydelnykov actually found out who committed the crime.

There were a number of other questions which the investigators did not raise.

During the first medical examination, no injuries were found on the victim’s son who was supposed to have been fighting the intruders when his mother ran out and was shot.  A forensic expert – Serhiy Khiblen – found injuries only several days later when the investigators changed his status from suspect to victim.  The fact that Khiblen was not qualified to examine live people, not bodies, was also not taken into account.

Lukanov mentions also that the investigators were seen to be travelling in the Iskrytskys’ car.

Acquitted then imprisoned

The Khmelnytsky City District Court acquitted the two young men.  According to human rights worker Tetyana Yablonska, the case was so full of holes that it would have been impossible to act otherwise.

The court also passed a separate ruling pointing out that the investigators had committed a number of unlawful acts and drawing the Prosecutor’s attention to the inadequate forensic examination.

And that, Lukyanov writes, was when bizarre things began happening. He says that it seemed as though the courts were prepared to satisfy any of the Iskrytskys’ whims. The latter appealed against the ruling.

Ivan Nechiporuk applied to the Supreme Court asking that the trial be held in a different oblast since the head of the Khmelnytski Regional Court was a relative of the Iskrytskys.

The European Court of Human Rights noted the contradictory rulings passed by the Deputy Head of the Supreme Court, Petro Pylypchuk, who refused Nechiporuk but allowed an application from the victims.  The Ternopil Regional Court of Appeal sent the case back for a new trial.

There were a number of further stages which were fully outlined in the ECHR judgement which can be read here #{"itemid":["001-104613"]}

Lukanov describes how the victims kept making applications which Pylypchuk allowed, sending the case back again to the Ternopol Regional Court of Appeal.

It was judge of that court Olha Demchenko who sentenced both Motsny and Nechiporuk to 15 years.  Lawyer Halyna Berehova believes the protocol was falsified.

Yet the Supreme Court under presiding judge Mykola Morozov found no grounds to overturn the ruling.

Motsny did not apply to the European Court of Human Rights and remains in prison despite a damning judgement from the Court which thankfully has now led to Nechiporuk’s acquittal.

As reported the ECHR found on 21 April 2011 that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights both on account of his having been tortured, and due to the lack of an effective investigation into his complaints in that respect; violations of Article 5 §§ 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 (right to liberty and security) on account of his detention during five separate periods between 2004 to 2007; violations of Article 6 §§ 1 and 3 (c) (right to a fair trial) as regards the proceedings.

All the law enforcement people involved in this case are doing well, and most have been promoted.

Ihor Vesna is now the head of staff for the city police;

Dmytro Martsenyuk is now the deputy head of a district police station in the Khmelnytski oblast.

The former Khmelnytski Prosecutor, Volodymyr Shevchuk is now the deputy Regional Prosecutor;

Other officers and investigators have also been promoted.

Serhiy Dunaevsky and Serhiy Khiblen are continuing to work as forensic medical experts. 

New „jury” trial in Ukraine – first assessments

Deutsche Welle writes that over 6 months ago (a form of) trial by jury was introduced.  The lawyers they have spoken with do not  believe there are any grounds for believing that such a court increases defendants’ chances of acquittal (which have fallen over the last three years to a record low in 2012 of 0.17%  – translator).

The Criminal Procedure Code which came into force in November 2012 established a “Ukrainian jury” which is closer to the old Soviet system of people’s assessors, than to a western jury. Two professional judges and three “jurors” rule jointly through a majority of votes.  This system can be applied at the wish of the defendant and only if grave crimes are involved, for example, envisaging life imprisonment.

There are lists of such “jurors” in each local court however according to information from the State Judicial Administration since the CPC came into force there have only been 6 court hearings involving such “juries”: two in the Luhansk oblast, and one each in the Mykolaiv, Rivne and Khmelnytski oblasts and in the Crimea.

The State Judicial Administration was silent on the subject, but according to the media not one verdict was in favour of the defendant.

Vitaly Pogosyan, an advocate from Dnipropetrovsk has been observing the work of such a “jury” over recent months. His client is accused of murdering somebody in 2009.  A first court sentenced him to 12.5 years but that sentence was revoked at higher level and a retrial called.  Pogosyan says that his client denies any guilt and the evidence is dubious.  Under such circumstances an acquittal is possible, but a majority is needed, i.e. three of the five members of the “jury”. He is counting on his address to the court since he has the impression that a present the “jury members” don’t fully understand what the case is about.  They have the right to ask questions, if the presiding judge permits, yet have not thus far asked any.

Hennadiy Tokarev, lawyer for the Kharkiv Human Rights Group says that any hope of an acquittal from such a court is purely theoretical.  He points out that the new CPC does not allow for these jury members to hold hearings and take decisions themselves, separately from the professional judges. “Even if one of them has a different opinion, it’s unlikely he or she will be able to withstand the pressure of arguments from an experienced judge”.

“Jurors” unknown

Pogosyan says that he would find it easier to appeal to the “jurors” if he had any idea who they were, what their education was, where they work, etc. No information is made available, however, only a list of names, and under the Personal Data Protection Act he cannot obtain more information.  The lists are approved by local councils, with no information given about the criteria for their choice.

Neither advocates nor defendants have the right to receive any information about jurors, before an automated system chooses the jurors at the beginning of the court hearing. Tokarev points out that there are thus no guarantees that specific jurors will carry out their functions properly. “We don’t in fact have a trial by jury, just the name”.

From the report on the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service

Pressure or diversion tactics in flawed Reva Trial

The car of Dmytro Reva’s lawyer and sister, Oksana Tomchuk, was broken into during the early hours of Friday morning. The car window was smashed, and documents pertaining to the defence’s case stolen.

Oksana Tomchuk learned of the break-in from her neighbours. She notes that more valuable items were not taken: expensive glasses; a leather-bound business card container; a baby’s seat.  Those who broke in did not even try to steal the tape deck. “All the things that most interest thieves were left. Yet they turned all documents upside down, taking only those with Reva’s name on them.”

The documents are important and pertained exclusively to the terrorist acts in Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhya and Kharkiv.

As reported here, Dmytro Reva has been remanded in custody now for 15 months on charges which a top criminal law expert has slammed as lacking any element of a crime.  He is accused of having been an accomplice because he was in the centre (paying a bill) during the hour or so in which four explosive devices went off in Dnipropetrovsk on 27 April 2012.   He was in the vicinity of two of the explosions, although explosives experts confirm that there was no way of knowing when the devices would explode.  An hour later he received a text message from one of the main defendants asking if he and their mutual acquaintances were OK. Despite the fact that the same message was sent to a number of other people, and there is no proof of Reva’s “complicity”, the court has persistently refused to release him.

Oksana Tomchuk says that on 8 September a car tyre suddenly went flat in the middle of the bridge across the Dnipro River. At the station, she was told that the cut in the tyre could have been made deliberately.  At the time, she says, she did not take that particularly seriously, but now she is certain that the tyre and the break-in are inter-linked.

“I view this as an attempt to put psychological pressure and to intimidate Reva’s defence and family. This may be provocation aimed at escalating conflict in the case. We have recently uncovered a whole range of systematic falsifications in the case which do not only concern Reva, who had absolutely no involvement in the terrorist acts”.  She explains that as well as the phone call made by an SBU ]Security Service] officer from Reva’s phone in an attempt to produce evidence against him, they have uncovered other irregularities. These include destruction by the police of video evidence and the planting of letters supposedly containing demands for money from terrorists. 

“And we have literally just established that the Security Service could have prevented the series of terrorist attacks in Dnipropetrovsk in April last year, and arrest Sukachev and Fedoryak long before that since they had a video showing Fedoryak and a witness who identified him after the first explosion in Dnipropetrovsk in November 2011.” She says that there are quite specific people within the enforcement bodies who should answer for this, and who are instead trying to drown out the information by creating noise on other subjects. She says that the law enforcement management has more brain and that they should be interested in finding those engaged in such provocations.

She is adamant that she will not be stopped, until Reva is freed and Ukrainians learn who really planted the bombs. 

Dnipropetrovsk Trial: Still Missing a Crime

The text below has been sent to EU officials, Members of the European Parliament and representatives of foreign embassies in Ukraine.

In May 2012 the Prosecutor General publically stated that there was sufficient evidence to convict four men over the bomb blasts in Dnipropetrovsk on 27 April 2012.  He and the Prosecutor’s Office at all levels have continued to push this line, despite an ever-increasing number of grounds for questioning the evidence, the number of actual crimes and also the motives behind the confessions given by the two key defendants, and initially by a third. .

The continued detention and trial of the fourth defendant demonstrates an unprecedentedly cynical disregard for the law.  Dmytro Reva is accused of having acted as an accomplice.  The investigators have not only failed to provide any proof of criminal intent, conspiracy, etc, but have charged him with behaviour which quite simply lacks any element of a crime. At the end of last week, two witnesses summoned as witnesses for the prosecution – Reva’s immediate superior and a colleague - testified fully in Reva’s favour, backing the account of his activities on the day in question. 

It is worth noting that some 15 months after his arrest Reva remains a member of staff.  All his colleagues were clearly convinced that this was all an absurd misunderstanding and that Reva would soon be home with his wife and young daughter.

The absurdity is undoubted, making the behaviour of the Public Prosecutor and the courts especially disturbing.

The bombs planted in rubbish bins exploded in the space of around an hour at midday on 27 April 2012.  They ousted Tymoshenko’s allegations of ill-treatment in both the national and international media, coming as they did five weeks before the start of the Euro 2012 Soccer Tournament which Ukraine was co-hosting.  Exactly one week before the first match, Prosecutor General Pshonka announced that four men had been arrested.

Four identikit pictures had been posted, however it is unclear from the case itself, and the witnesses called, why the investigators were looking for four men.

There are no witnesses at all who have testified against Reva.  He is accused of having gone to the centre of Dnipropetrovsk on the day of the blasts in order to “observe the reaction of the police and public to the explosions, and if necessary pass on information to Sukachev and Fedoryak, so that the latter could coordinate their further actions”. 

The bombs had been planted at least an hour before Reva set off for the centre to pay a bill.  They were constructed from chemical detonators, making it entirely impossible to predict the exact timing of any particular explosion.  In the event he witnessed two of the four explosions, but during his lunch break slightly extended so that he could pay a bill in town, he could have missed them all.   Please see Trial by Quota for more details.

The lack of elements of a crime has been confirmed in an expert assessment provided by Mykola Khavronyuk, a prominent criminal law specialist.

One of the SBU [Security Service] officers who carried out a search of Reva’s flat used Reva’s phone to dial another suspect’s number.  This was immediately presented to the court as evidence against Reva and formed the grounds for his remand in custody.  Although it has been proven that the call was made by the SBU officer, the Prosecutor is refusing to prosecute him for falsifying evidence and the court has repeatedly refused to release Reva pending the verdict.

This leaves the “evidence” against Reva being one exchange of text messages from Sukachev where the later asked if everybody was OK, and Reva said yes.  Not only is this an absolutely normal question after bomb blasts, but Sukachev sent similar messages to a number of people.  Two weeks ago, the court rejected the defence’s application to have one such person called in as a witness.

An especially worrying aspect of this case is the role played by the State-controlled UTV-1 which around one week before the parliamentary elections twice broadcast what it asserted was a documentary about the bombings.  The film contains flagrant untruths, including some with a clear anti-opposition political flavour and is very clearly aimed at convincing the viewer that all four men are “terrorists”.  An initial court ruling which found the film to be defamatory was inexplicably overturned at appeal level (See A Public Watchdog with a Difference). 

The Regional Prosecutor has also been active in making public statements claiming that the guilt of all defendants has been proven.  Not only is this demonstrably not the case with respect to any of the defendants, but as regards Dmytro Reva, he has been held in detention now for 15 months without there even being a rational criminal charge to answer. 

Halya Coynash

Freedom of expression

Kharkiv Eparchy bans «Art of Tolerance” concert

The “Art of Tolerance” project is an important element in the Kharkiv Human Rights Group’s work. It includes both research into intolerance in Ukraine towards various vulnerable groups; monitoring of hate-related crimes; fighting discrimination; defence of victims of discrimination; and “Art of Tolerance” music festivals with the involvement of different ethnic bands playing global music. The festival, with high-class jazz, has already taken place a number of times in Ukraine and abroad.

Now suddenly the concern scheduled for Friday in Kharkiv has had to be moved at the last minute to a location with less places than the number of tickets already sold. .

The concert was planned for the Kharkiv Philharmonia and everything seemed to be going according to plan.  It then transpired, however, that renovation work on the Philharmonia building had begun and the concert needed to be moved to the Organ Hall which is located in Uspensky Cathedral.  This is owned by the Kharkiv Eparchy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church who, learning that jazz was to be played in the Organ Hall,  simply banned the concert.

The cancellation is disturbingly strange. The musicians taking part in the concert have already played in a synagogue, a Catholic cathedral, a Dominican cathedral without any problems arising.  Yet the Orthodox Church doesn’t want to hear of a jazz concert.  Yevhen Zakharov, head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, says that the people who could ban this Art of Tolerance concert seem to have some kind of fossilized mentality from the 1950s “Today he’s playing jazz, tomorrow he’ll sell out his country”. Such a ban is pure bigotry, he says. 

More dangerous to fight or not fight lawlessness?

Deutsche Welle has spoken to the Road Control journalist Oleh Bogdanov who was brutally beaten up outside his home and in front of his wife and child last week. As reported, the journalist, who writes for a civic watchdog monitoring infringements by the traffic police, was beaten up by two athletic thugs on Sunday 21 July. 

He received serious injuries to the skull, a broken nose and jaw, as well as concussion and will be spending at least a month in hospital.

This is by no means the first time that Road Control journalists have come under attack, and Oleh’s colleagues are convinced that the attack was in connection with his work.  Road Control uncovers infringements committed by traffic police officers, films them and puts them on the Internet.

Oleh Bogdanov is almost unable to speak at present, following the attack. He is however adamant that he will not be stopped, and that you have to begin with yourself and demonstrate that you shouldn’t be afraid.

The attack was widely publicized leading to the Committee on Journalists’ Rights under the President stating that they would “be taking the case under their control”.  Oleh’s wife, Nadia expressed the hope that due to the publicity the attack would be properly investigated and the culprits punished.

The couple have a nine-year-old son and two-year-old daughter. Oleh became involved in Road Control after they bought a car and began having encounters with the traffic police.  Nadia says that whereas earlier she was against her husband’s activities, seeing them as too dangerous, she now believes that he should not give up.

Another activist in Donetsk, Pavlo Kolesnyk (who originally reported the attack on Oleh) says that such attempts at intimidation are not rare.  He believes however that fear is not always the best mechanism of self-protection.  He has also suffered physical violence in the course of his civic activities and like Oleh Bogdanov says that he will not give up.  Only such active measures can hope to put an end to police lawlessness.

He also stresses that people should not be under any illusions – violence is encountered much more often by those who do not show resistance.

“The more often they beat us, the more actively we need to show resistance”.

Oleksandr Bukalov, head of Donetsk Memorial says that it is extremely difficult  to get people punished for such attacks especially where police or members of powerful private structures are involved. There is usually pressure on witnesses, the facts get twisted, and bizarre stories get thought up in order to ensure that those responsible do not answer for their actions.

From a report at Deutsche Welle

Prohibition of discrimination

No Heroes: From skinheads to “anti-paedophile” thugs

Martsinkevich has channeled his muscles and neo-Nazi leanings to what he claims is fighting "paedophiles"

The dubious tactics of «anti-paedophile» – often anti-gay - vigilantes from an organization with neo-Nazi links have finally been noticed by the police.  Not just noticed, but actively criticized, which is a long-awaited first.  Less cheeringly, this attention coincides with calls by certain MPs and the Human Rights Ombudsperson for the EU to waive its demand that Ukraine prohibit discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. 

The Mykolaiv Head of Police, Oleh Shevchuk has told the website Prestupnosti.NET that the “lawless excesses” which the vigilantes get up to are in breach of a number of laws and cannot be justified. He advises aspiring vigilantes to contact the police on identifying a suspected “paedophile”. 

Shevchuk was talking about young members of a movement called “Okkupai-pedofilyai” whose methods for “identifying” and “re-educating” supposed paedophiles make one shudder.  The movement’s roots are no less disturbing.  Its founder is former Russian skinhead leader, Maxim Martsinkevich whose first gang received notoriety with some harrowing video clips including an “execution” in a Moscow region forest which may well have been based on the real killing of a migrant worker. After serving three years in a Russian prison for incitement to racially-motivated violence, Martsinkevich decided his neo-Nazi ideology could be best served, as in cosmetically touched up, by a shift to fighting “paedophiles”. 

Sexual exploitation of minors has been fuelled by poverty, social problems, etc in former Soviet republics and is indeed a problem. So too, however, is homophobia, which is now being openly promoted by Russia’s leaders and parliament, and it is no accident that many targets of the self-styled “anti-paedophile” groups are homosexual. Gay Star News recently reported that a gay teenager in Russia had died after being kidnapped and tormented by Martsinkevich’s vigilantes. 

Certain indications that the Russian law enforcement bodies are finally beginning to crack down on “Okkupai-pedofilyai” excesses make the emergence of such groups in Ukraine and the total failure by the police over the last couple of years to react so disturbing. 

The vigilantes use young people – boys or girls - as “bait” enticing men to make arrangements to meet for sex.  Since the youngsters are instructed to chat up men on the Internet, expressing willingness to have sex while spelling out that they are underage, the men organizing such meetings are undoubtedly planning to commit an offence.

   Instead of the expected boy or girl, the men (some very young themselves) discover a group of burley body-builders who use their fists to “re-educate” them,  force them to drink their own urine, etc, with all of this filmed, then posted on the Internet.

Even without the neo-Nazi ideology espoused by the movement’s organizers, the activities are clearly highly questionable.  The motives of those trying the “anti-paedophile” number are entirely cynical and aimed at popular support.  They present themselves as heroes fighting child-molesting villains, although the reality, albeit sordid, may be far less straightforward.  Firstly because the ages named indicate underage sex, rather than sexual molestation of children.  There is, secondly, a dangerous tendency for “anti-paedophile” groups to be a front for gay-bashing thugs. 

Public outcry over the measures used by vigilantes and demands for police involvement have borne fruit in Mykolaiv, however the vigilante groups have been active in other cities – Kerch, Odessa and Yalta – with the police effectively turning a blind eye.

Such activities by an organization which has so often targeted gay people, as well as efforts by some Ukrainian MPs to push for the same law against “promotion of homosexuality” as in Russia, make Human Rights Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska’s position worrying.  Amnesty International slammed her stated willingness to travel to Brussels with a delegation of MPs to persuade Europe to waive the requirement for legislation against discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. Ukrainian LGBT organizations responded by calling on the EU to stand firm.  Lutkovska offered to present an anti-discrimination programme “without contentious provisions” which she claimed would not be supported by parliament or the public.

With the police largely watching on while neo-Nazi vigilantes act as prosecutor, judge and executor of sentences, and certain MPs rearing for battle against gay “propaganda, we can assume this waiver is intended to be indefinite. 


Law enforcement agencies

Trial of Vradiyivka police officers begins

The preliminary hearing was held on Thursday in the trial of three men, two of them police officers, charged over the brutal rape of Iryna Krashkova from Vradiyivka who was left for dead after the attack.  Attempts at the time by the police to shield one of the officers prompted a huge crowd to storm the police station and led to protests throughout Ukraine.

The court on Thursday scheduled the first hearing into the charges of rape and attempted murder for 8 October. The detention order on all three defendants was extended.

The defendants are two police officers and a taxi driver. During the hearing on Thursday, the BBC reports that the defendants’ lawyers denied that their clients had raped Ms Krashkova, and said that they had not been in the taxi that night.

Iryna Krashkova was raped and savagely beaten on 26 June, after leaving a local discotheque.  She managed to drag herself to the town and was taken to emergency care. 

She named her assailants as two officers of the local police station.  One was arrested, together with the taxi driver who apparently did not take part in the rape, however the other – Yevhen Dryzhak – claimed that he had been on duty that night.

Local residents say that both officers’ actions have been known for a long time, and a huge crowd stormed the police station where they believed Dryzhak was being shielded by colleagues.

There were initially threats of criminal proceedings against the protesters however the level of outrage and publicity over the case far beyond Ukraine led to Dryzhak also being arrested. 

Photo: Reuters

Penal institutions

Pavlichenko Junior makes protest suicide attempt

Following reports in the media that Serhiy Pavlichenko had tried to commit suicide after ill-treatment, the State Penitentiary Service has confirmed that Serhiy used a concealed razor and slashed his neck.  The Service claims, however, that this was protest at being moved to serve his sentence in a different oblast (Kharkiv).  The incident appears to have happened on 16 September, and has become known only because of the media reports, based on a VO Svoboda deputy’s assertion that he had been driven to the suicide attempt by torture.   The Service asserts that Serhiy Pavlichenko did not injure himself seriously and now regrets his action.

Serhiy Pavlichenko and his father Dmytro have been sentenced to 13 years and life, respectively, charged with murdering a Kyiv judge Serhiy Zubkov.  The prosecution asserted that Dmytro and his son had murdered Zubkov from the Shevchenkivsky District Court because the latter had passed a ruling on some land against them.  The same judge had, however, been responsible for many land-related rulings, some doubtless treading on the toes of developers by supporting individuals protesting against development projects in the centre of Kyiv.  He was also facing investigation by the High Council of Justice over other rulings. The ruling which the Pavlichenkos allegedly felt aggrieved over had, in any case, been revoked at appeal stage.  Dmytro Pavlichenko had been extremely vocal in publicly protesting his rights.  

The two men were arrested three days after Judge Zubkov’ was found murdered

Despite grave doubts about the case, huge protests from football fans (Serhiy’s club mates and others), and difficulty in finding the motive convincing, the Kyiv Court of Appeal upheld the first court’s hearing on 2 August this year.

Serhiy Pavlichenko had asserted that his “confession” was extracted through torture and specifically electric shock. He also says that the police told him what to say during the interrogation and investigative experiment.  At his appeal, he asked the Prosecutor General to initiate a criminal investigation against the investigator of the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office. He asserted that the investigator had falsified the material of the interrogation of a key witness. 

Deported peoples

Crimean Tatars demand recognition as indigenous people

We are on our land!  (photo: Radio Svoboda)

Crimean Tatars want Ukraine’s government to recognize them as one of the indigenous peoples of Ukraine.  This would comply with the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples which Ukraine however abstained from voting on in September 2007.

Mustafa Jemilev, Head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar  People, explained to Radio Svoboda that the term “indigenous peoples” is used several times in Ukraine’s Constitution, but there is no exact legal definition for the term. Nor is it stated which people’s can be considered indigenous.  Jemilev believes that this is why Ukraine did not support the 2007 UN Declaration.

The situation could, however, change following adoption by the Cabinet of Ministers of a draft law on a Concept Framework for Ukraine’s Ethno-National Policy”. This is due to be tabled in parliament shortly.  Mustafa Jemilev explains that though there is no direct mention of the Crimean Tatars, the document does contain a clear definition of the term “indigenous peoples”.

Natalya Belitser from the Pilyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy believes that three ethnic communities in Ukraine are entitled to be considered indigenous peoples: the Crimean Tatars, the Karaim, and the Krymchaki.

“The Crimean Tatars, Karaim, and the Krymchaki are undoubtedly indigenous peoples, not national minorities. She points out, for example, that they do not have a kin-state and are therefore at a disadvantage to national minorities who may be protected through bilateral agreements and can often receive help in promoting their cultural, educational and linguistic identity.  She is convinced that their status as indigenous peoples needs to be regulated through legislation, including through reference to the norms and provisions of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples”.

Natalya Belitser is convinced that it was a mistake for Ukraine to abstain from the vote back in 2007, and it is time for this to be rectified, with this being supported by the international community.

Ali Khamzin, Head of the Mejlis’ International Section, also hopes that Kyiv will change its current policy towards the Crimean Tatars which he calls the most discriminatory in all the years of Ukraine’s independence.  He says that the situation has worsened, and that they are seeing overt discrimination against the Crimean Tatar people, with further confrontation with the authorities lying ahead.

The UN Declaration does not simply protect indigenous peoples from discrimination and assimilation, but also affirms their right to self-determination, including through autonomy and self-government. Indigenous peoples also have the right to maintain and consolidate their particular political and other institutions.

According to Crimean Tatar activist Nedim Khalilov, it is these last provisions which are not accepted by the Ukrainian government and public. He believes that Ukraine is not willing to acknowledge the Crimean Tatars’ right to self-government and autonomy.

One of the key characteristics of indigenous peoples is that regardless of their legal status, they preserve some or all social, economic, cultural and political institutions. An example of these is the Kurultai-Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People.  Also fundamental is an awareness of themselves as being indigenous to that place.  Natalya Belitser is adamant that all of this undoubtedly applies to the Crimean Tatars.

Based on a report by Volodymyr Prytula at Radio Svoboda

News from the CIS countries

Ales Bialiatski receives highly symbolic Václav Havel Human Rights Prize

Joint Press Release by FIDH and Viasna: 30 September 2013

As the Council of Europe just announced the 2013 laureate of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, FIDH and HRC Viasna express their utmost support to its recipient Ales Bialiatski, President of Viasna Human Rights Center and Vice President of FIDH. Prominent human rights defender in Belarus, Ales Bialiatski was sentenced to 4 and a half years of detention in severe regime in August 2011 for his human rights activities.

 «This prize is particularly symbolic for Ales», explained Valiantsin Stefanovic, vice-president of Viasna. «Vaclav Havel and Bialiatski met, and a few days before he died, Václav Havel wrote a letter to Ales in prison. In it, he expressed his support to Ales and the hope that Belarus would one day be a democratic state».

Ales, who celebrated his 51st birthday behind bars on 25 September, has dedicated the past twenty years to the defence of human rights not only in Belarus but also abroad. The 38th FIDH Congress which was held in May 2013 in Istanbul demonstrated its support and its faith in Ales and re-elected him Vice President of FIDH.

Together with his organisation in Belarus, Viasna Human Rights Centre, which he founded in 1996, Ales has been bringing support to political prisoners and their families. The organisation’s activities have been clearly targeted by the regime of Alexander Lukachenko which accused Ales of fiscal evasion because of the foreign funds the organisation was receiving to operate and ordered to confiscate the offices of the organisation.

«The regime has no shame about targeting Viasna, its members and other human rights organisations in Belarus for their legitimate and necessary activities; and doesn’t hesitate to prosecute them as common law criminals» stated Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. «I hope this prize will remind the international community and particularly European States that there are still regimes nearby who repress their own population in complete impunity», he added.

FIDH and "Viasna" also congratulate the other short-listed nominees for this prize, including the 2 other finalists, the Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (Georgia) and the Rights Defence Network (China).

The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize is awarded each year by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation to reward outstanding civil society action in the defence of human rights in Europe and beyond.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2013, #09