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Implacable: No Pardon for Tymoshenko

Halya Coynash
The President’s site informs that the Pardon Commission has wheeled out the same flawed arguments in order to conclude that it would be “premature” to pardon former Prime Minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko

The image is from the Polish Wyborcza newspaper appeal for Tymoshenko’s release.  Thousands of signatures were collected within a matter of weeks

The President’s site has quoted the Chair of the Pardon Commission as stating that “a decision to pardon Yulia Tymoshenko is premature”.  The arguments used are those first presented by Valeria Lutkovska, Human Rights Ombudsperson, and then by President Yanukovych. 

On 9 April Ms Lutkovska told Kommersant – Ukraine that it had been possible to seek a pardon for Yury Lutsenko since all legal avenues in Ukraine had been exhausted.  She asserted then that “the situation with Yulia Tymoshenko is different: there are still two cases under examination in the courts, and therefore not all national remedies have been exhausted. It would be premature to speak of the pardoning process”.

President Yanukovych used the same arguments on 11 April in Mykolaiv, stating that “it is impossible to consider the question of a pardon until all court proceedings in the Tymoshenko cases have been concluded”.  

Their view was not shared by the 30 NGOs which make up the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, nor some 18 different groups of lawyers, public figures, prominent intellectuals and politicians.  All have called on the President to pardon Yulia Tymoshenko. 

It should be stressed that this comes after numerous appeals organized in Ukraine, Poland and throughout the world calling on the President to release former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, ex-Interior Minister Yury Lutsenko and others, and to put an end to politically motivated prosecutions of members of the opposition.

Ms Tymoshenko’s release and real measures against selective justice are key conditions for the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. 

The President’s response can, regrettably, be seen in the refusal by the Pardon Commission to ask for Tymoshenko’s release.  Once again, we are told that this would be “premature” with the same flawed arguments wheeled out.

The Commission voted unanimously to reject the application to the President for a pardon from women MPs.  They based this on the circumstances of the case and took into account the conclusions of scientific institutions regarding the possibility of applying the Pardon Act”.  “Considering the circumstances, that on three criminal cases (sic), the courts have not passed rulings regarding her guilt or innocence, we felt it necessary to send the appeal to scientific institutions for them to give their assessment…”.    Lo and behold, these “scientific institutions” gave the same assessment as Valeria Lutkovska, “that if such a decision were taken by the Commission, it would be premature”.

Then, most incredibly, Hennady Vasilyev asserts that the law only allows for the pardoning of people who have been convicted, and states that he and his colleagues then “considered what if tomorrow in those cases which are presently at the stage of court examination or criminal investigation, a court convicts her and sentences her to the relevant term of imprisonment, how will that be seen by the victims?

This argument must effectively abolish the entire system of pardons since anybody can offend again.  Yes, there are charges pending, however even if anybody believed that those charges were not politically motivated, and few do, Ms Tymoshenko remains innocent until proven guilty.

Yulia Tymoshenko is serving a seven year sentence following a trial universally condemned as flawed and for a political decision taken during a conflict between Russia and Ukraine which had led to gas supplies in winter being cut to a number of European countries.  All legal remedies within Ukraine have been exhausted. 

Her trial and imprisonment have gravely damaged Ukraine’s reputation in the world and put its chances for a vital Association Agreement with the European Union on the line.

How much more must be destroyed before Tymoshenko’s release is found to not be “premature”?

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