war crimes in Ukraine

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Two men imprisoned following confessions made under duress awarded 1 million UAH in compensation


The court awarded damages over the unlawful actions of detective inquiry and criminal investigation bodies, the prosecutor’s office and the court.

The court rulings into these cases were on 13 June 2008 Yury Vysochynenko against the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office and the State Treasury was heard in the Chervonozavodsky District Local Court in Kharkiv and 19 June by Ihor Oliynyk, against the same respondents.  The two men were represented by Alyona Kutyopova who is working for the Kharkiv Public Defence Office for Legal Aid.

Mr Vysochynenko was unlawfully held in custody for more than 6 years, from 22 July 2000 to 19 August 2006, these including almost a year serving a life sentence.

There is only one positive thing to be said about this appalling case and that is that it has finally been recognized.

The ordeal began for Yury Vysochynenko on 22 July 2000 when he was unlawfully detained by police officers in Kharkiv.  No protocol of detention was drawn up which meant effectively no control over the behaviour of the officers, no time limit and no contact with the outside world.  On 25 July, following systematic beating and torture, the officers extracted a “confession”. He “admitted” to an armed robbery and the murder of N.H. Knyazeva on 14 April 1989.

The court ruling says that on 26 July Vysochynenko was detained on suspicion of having committed a crime in accordance with Article 115 of the Criminal Procedure Code [CPC] . He had thus been held in police custody for up to four days before a formal protocol was drawn up.  The case was taken over by the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office on 28 July.

During the pre-trial examination, the Prosecutor’s Office was guilty of a whole number of flagrant infringements.  These included: infringements over time periods for remand in custody; the systematic use of unlawful measures of physical and psychological influence in order to force him to sign all documents presented by the prosecutor’s office.

Vysochynenko’s statements regarding his innocence were not taken into consideration and were basically not checked.

The ruling reads that “in December 2001 through intentional and conscious fabrication by the prosecutor’s office of evidence, the claimant was officially charged.”  It should be stressed that this was more than one year after Mr Vysochynenko was remanded in custody.

Almost three years after being remanded in custody, Vysochynenko was convicted by the Kharkiv Regional Appeal Court of armed robbery and the murder of N.H. Knyazeva and sentenced to life imprisonment with confiscation of property.  The ruling states that the judicial examination was unwarrantedly dragged out. On 2 March 2004 the Supreme Court reduced the sentence to 15 years imprisonment with confiscation of property.

On 25 November 2005, on the basis of new evidence, the Prosecutor General made a submission to the Supreme Court to have the court rulings in this case reviewed.  On 16 February 2006 the Criminal Proceedings Chamber of the Supreme Court effectively revoked the court rulings convicting Mr Vysochynenko and sent the case back for further investigation.

Despite the conviction having been revoked, after Mr Vysochynenko had already spent nearly six years in custody, the Court did not choose a different preventive measure and release him.

Finally on 19 August 2006, following the additional investigation, the case against Mr Vysochynenko was closed since his part in the crimes had not been proven. He was finally released, having spent 2,218 days deprived of liberty, including 300 days sentenced to life imprisonment.

The court ruling explains in detail the suffering sustained by the victim of this terrible miscarriage of justice and his family. They included the death of his father-in-law and injuries which his wife sustained in a car accident when they were driving to Moscow to gather evidence of Vysochynenko’s innocence.

Vysochynenko’s own health has been seriously damaged by the ordeal.

Mr Vysochynenko had sought 3 million UAH in damages and also official apologies from the prosecutor’s office.

Incredibly, the prosecutor’s office claimed that there had been sufficient evidence against Mr Vysochynenko while his case was under their jurisdiction. They pointed to the “confession” which they alleged the claimant had made of his own free will and claimed that Mr Vysochynenko had not proven that force had been used against him.

The State Treasury representative argued against the amount of damages sought on the grounds, presumably deemed by them to be compelling, that this would hurt the State budget.

The court partially allowed the claim.

While not questioning Mr Vysochynenko’s right to compensation, the court awarded 1 million UAH only. The grounds given were that the claimant had not provided proof that he had been tortured during both the detective inquiry stage [diznannya] and the pre-trial investigation.  It is not clear what kind of proof Mr Vysochynenko could have provided.  Certainly the official opinion, as well as current provisions in legislation, made it possible to establish that the confession and other documents had not been signed by Vysochynenko of his own free will.  In February 2006, the Supreme Court had ruled that Mr Vysochenko was not the author of the confession and other documents, and that pressure had been placed on him to write them as dictated.

The judge refused the claimant’s demand for official apologies since there was nothing in current legislation allowing for this.


Ihor Oliynyk’s case differs only in details, with his detention beginning on 21 August and the “confession” finally extracted through beating and torture on 2 September.  He was also held in custody, some of the time serving a 15 year sentence for the same armed robbery and murder for almost 6 years. Unfortunately the judge used the same grounds for not paying the compensation sought in full, i.e. that the use of torture to extract the confession, etc, had not bee proven.



(Halya Coynash)

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