war crimes in Ukraine

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Demand for Long Sentences in Gravely Flawed Zaporizhya Church Bomb Trial

22.02.2013    source:
Halya Coynash

In a trial which has from the outset aroused profound concern, the prosecution has demanded very long sentences for three young men who all maintain that their multiple confession were beaten out of them.  The three are charged with the bomb blast in the Zaporizhya Svyatopokrovsk Church on 28 July 2010 which killed an elderly nun. 

The prosecutor has demanded 15 years for Serhiy Dyomin, and 14 for his younger brother Anton Kharytonov. and Yevhen Fedorchenko., both of whom were sacristans of the church. 

The case is well-known largely because the day after the explosion President Yanukovych ordered the enforcement bodies to effectively solve the case and find the culprits within the week. The then Interior Minister stated just as publicly on 6 August that this had been done.

A number of people, including former political prisoners, independent defence lawyers, human rights activists, journalists and others have signed an appeal ( ) to participants in the EU-Ukraine Summit on 25 February asking for this case to be raised.

There are, quite simply, too many reasons for concern. 

These include the number of confessions and the highly irregular fashion in which they were obtained

Anton Kharytonov was taken into custody some 14 hours after the President’s order was issued.  He was held in custody, alone, for a further 13-14 hours before his detention was recorded.  The protocol of detention immediately preceded a videoed interrogation and the first of four “confessions”, all of which are very different.

Details of this interrogation, including a rather menacing remark from the investigator followed by an inexplicable 45-minute break in the interrogation can be found here   The next interrogation and entirely different confession also began at midnight.

Anton’s brother Serhiy Dyomin was held without any formal record of detention for roughly 48 hours before his first confession and videoed interrogation. Well into that same night, he was videoed explaining how he had made the bomb.  Explosives experts immediately concluded that he was not capable of having done this, and by the next day Serhiy had made a secondly “voluntary confession” in which he said that he had bought the bomb.  

These and many other details outlined in the above-mentioned texts give the strongest grounds for concern since there is effectively no other evidence against the three men.  

This case is very widely viewed with at least equal scepticism as those against prominent opposition figures.  Few believe the men are guilty, but do not expect them to be acquitted.

This is surely as destructive and far-removed from rule of law as the selective justice which the EU, and western democracies have rightly condemned.

There are very many reasons for fearing that the young men’s right to a fair trial has been violated.  These include, for example, Judge Volodymyr Minasov’s behaviour with respect to the following:

1)  the fundamental change in the indictment two months ago (and almost two years into the trial) including removal of the part for which all three men had watertight alibis.  The judge made no objections.

2)  Twp forensic psychologists from authorized institutes independently concluded that all the defendants had been placed under psychological pressure and gave their reasons in detail.  Judge Minasov simply ordered a new assessment which asserted that there was no such pressure.  He has since rejected the defence’s application to have the forensic psychologists summoned to give evidence.

The ongoing refusal to investigate the men’s allegations of torture and ill-treatment, and the prosecutor’s demand for very long sentences give this case particular urgency.

It is vital that it remains under the closest scrutiny from EU and other structures who have expressed their concern about rule of law in Ukraine, and all organizations including Amnesty International committed to combating torture and police impunity in Ukraine. 

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