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.

Are all individuals serving a life sentence guilty?

Andriy Didenko
In Ukraine, there are currently more that 1800 prisoners serving a life sentence. In a number of cases their sentences arouse serious doubts

Translated by Natalya Manskova

Can anyone possibly imagine himself or herself to be sentenced for life?  You would say “Not a chance, it is impossible, when it comes to me personally, then absolutely not. I could not find myself in a cell for the rest of my life, because I would not commit a crime. Such a harsh pecuniary measure only applies to exceptionally dangerous criminals.” On the other hand members of the Communist Party in this country, when they get a chance, encourage parliamentarians to support “legislative initiatives’ and re-establish the death penalty as a highest pecuniary measure for particularly dangerous and brutal criminals. This discourse allows for the following controversial debate to resurface: is it necessary to return the death penalty?

However, we can considered it altogether positive that in our country, the re-establishment of the death penalty is, thankfully, altogether impossible. This convincingly evidences our motivation and desire to hope for an improvement in the area of criminal justice. This is because all accounts of life prisoners evidence the fact that, had the death penalty still been legitimate, then hundreds, if not thousands of people that are serving “life” would have been executed in cases of ‘judicial mistake’.  Perhaps, successors would have even been able to reverse the judicial decision that lead to the execution of the individual, attained acquittal and received monetary compensation. However, it is impossibly to rectify a lost life.

Whole life prisoners: are they really all murderers?

Currently, correcting a judicial mistake is altogether possible, if you have good will and common sense. In Ukraine, there are currently more that 1800 prisoners serving a life sentence. In their words, they can be divided into three categories.

The first, encompassing about ninety percent of the group, are people that committed murder in aggravating circumstances. The majority of these people repent and devote their life to religion or find another way to overcome their grey and monotonous life.

The second category of people – those that did indeed commit a crime, but the life imprisonment sentence is too severe for the crime that they have committed; in other words, the punishment is disproportionate to the criminal activity. For example, the wife of a prisoner K. turned to academics of the Kharkiv Institute of Criminology with a request to make an expert conclusion with regard to the proportionality of the life sentence her husband received. When the experts studied the materials of the criminal case, analyzed the circumstances surrounding the facts of the case, they unanimously came to the decision that the sentence was disproportionate to the severity of the crime. This was due to the fact that the accused was merely an accomplice, whist the organizer and the executor of this particular crime were convicted for a term of 12 and 13 years respectively.

Finally, the third category – these are people that have been sentenced following truly doubtful judicial decisions. We cannot speculate on guilt and innocence, since that must be decided exclusively by a court of law, however, after studying materials of criminal cases, communication with the convicted, their relatives and other relevant persons, there are, I do not know how many, twenty, thirty, perhaps one hundred persons, that have been convicted following a questionable judgment! You would say that there is no conviction without fault, that if an individual has found themselves in a status of indefinitely imprisoned, then, most likely, there were at least objective and relatively substantive reasons to put a person behind bars for life, essentially without any real possibility of release. Probably, in your eyes the people that remain in the life cells are Chikotils, Onoprienkos and Tkatchs – serial killers, for whom there is no place in civilized society and who must be isolated for the duration of their life.

We have heard, not infrequently, from various publication sources, including statements from first persons of the country, that the judiciary system of Ukraine has flaws that necessitate improvement. Within the framework of the so-called reform of the criminal justice the laws change, the conception of the value of evidence before the court changes, but to this day there has been no change to the practice of sentencing. Thus, faith in the judiciary remains low.  A certain category of people – those in prison indefinitely – cannot exercise their right to a fair trial on the national level altogether, given that because of objective reasons they were deprived of the opportunity to turn to international judiciary mechanisms.  The majority of these people before 2010 would go to the appellate court, the appeal to the decision of the court would be considered by the Supreme Court of Ukraine. Thus, essentially the individual was deprived of the opportunity to exercise their right to review their case within the framework of cassation proceedings.  This is because on one hand theoretically the law foresaw the procedure of review of criminal cases in the cassation instance for the conviction to whole life imprisonment, but from another point of view, the review was conducted by essentially the very Supreme Court that reviewed the case on the appellate stage, thus the likelihood of reversal of decisions was minute, almost non-existent. With the passing of the legislation “Regarding the judicial system and the status of judges” and the changes to the Criminal Procedural Code all cases where the punishment involves life imprisonment are viewed at first instance by courts of general jurisdiction and are reviewed by higher courts under general circumstances.

We will not draw any conclusions, but will relay what we have been able to learn regarding this category of individuals and also the arguments in the prosecution that were put before them and evidence in their defense that we have been able to procure. Before writing these lines, the author has had to spend plenty of time on the Internet in order to determine, who these 1800-and-somehting persons are that are currently serving a sentence in the form of indefinite deprivation of freedom. We have provided a few examples of stories that we have been able to investigate. With the assistance of the heads of the Governement Penitiary Service of Ukraine we have visited a few figures in criminal proceedings that, in our view, belong to the third group of convicts. However, first of all, I would like to give a little information for the wider circle of people, especially those, that pursue the goal of returning the death penalty, about the reality of the penalty in the form of whole life imprisonment.

Conditions of detention

Some would say that those that committed terrible and brutal, inhuman crimes, that have outraged society with their audacity should repent in harsh and unbearable suffering. Human rights lean towards mercy, that even those individuals must serve their sentence in humane conditions and that they cannot be subject to torture and inhuman and degrading treatment. Contrastingly, all these people that we talk about convincingly state that they have lost their lives entirely, since this is not life, but existence.

As you may know, two thirds of the countries of the world legislatively or in practice have abolished the use of the death penalty. The death penalty has been entirely abolished by 96 countries, including Ukraine. Belarus is the last country in Europe where people are still executed, and what is more is that they are executed absurdly and secretly. Often the relatives are not provided with the date of the execution, or the opportunity to collect the body.  In Ukraine the death penalty was abolished in 1995 under the requirement of the Council of Europe, as an obligation to this international organization. Thus, the death penalty of execution by shooting has been abolished for almost 18 years; from the year 2000 sentences in the form of the death penalty have been replaced with indefinite imprisonment. As of the 1st of January 2013, under the provisions of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine (SPSU), there are 1810 persons sentenced to life imprisonment, sentenced for whom have entered into force. The first institutions for the detention of this category of criminals were created in Zhitomir and Vinnitsya. Since the number of such detainees is constantly increasing, a necessity has developed for each colony of maximum level of security to have sections for the detention of whole life prisoners. We have had the opportunity to communicate with a whole life convict, that for over eighteen years has been detained, having first been sentenced to a death penalty by shooting (the highest form of punishment) and now having the life sentence status. For ethical reasons we will not disclose the surname of the individual and the facility, where he is held. The interview will be presented in the form that it was conducted, without editing.

-         Please, tell us what you have experiences in these years of being convicted to indefinite detention? What changes have you experienced to your state?

“I will tell you about the nineties and will draw up the situation a little bit about the current moment in time, about what is happening. If you take the nineties, then that was total chaos and total lawlessness, pretty much what you still have now, but on a bigger scale. In the nineties, the people who ended up in here – this is completely the caste that nobody is interested in. There was no glass in the window frames of the cell, twenty four degrees below zero, a completely frozen wall, you had rats climbing out of the close-stool, they brought in the porridge, such that you could not stand its smell, you choked from the very thing they were going to feed you, there was borsh, porridge. In the nineties you could only dream of a little potato, to have one in the borsh. If you started trying to obtain something, then they simply ran in at night with a dog, ten people with a huge wooden fork, pressed you up against the wall by your neck and started intimidating. A certain moral pressure, it is psychological.  Say, there was a check in the morning, you would put out your hands into the ‘feeder’, so they would put handcuffs on you, obviously you had dogs there, they could hit you with a ‘kiyanka’ (wooden hammer) on the hands, that was normal. If you demanded something that you have a right to, say some underwear, that was out of the question. The people came in to be executed by shooting, when it was already moratorium, but the death penalty still happened. The people came in, the cold, the hunger, absolute damp, the conditions were such that you could not class them as conditions. With regard to feeding, normal food that contained at least some calories that a person must consume in a day was out of the question. The bread they provided was such that if you squeezed it, liquid came out. Programmes were not permitted. Then somehow it normalized itself, we started raising questions, they started allowing us eight kilograms of food products every two months. Then year 2001 came, they started taking us to the two prisons, Vinnitskaya or Zhitomirskaya, they started gradually transporting us to these two prisons. The “reception” of each stage was very serious, they “broke”, the Dniepropetrovsk stage was in March, if I’m not mistaken, there were eight corpses. The people were killed in such a way that that they never fell to the ground. Those that were treated with a drip, though an IV, the doctors would come and say “So, shall we treat him or let him die?.” All were beaten and taken though this prison. Obviously the same thing with dogs, the same beatings every day, every morning and every night. In the current moment, of course, it has become less severe, a little bit better in terms of upkeep and food. From 2001 to 2005 we were made to move inside the prison only by running, until the complaints started coming in, despite the fact that when you go on your visit, you are told “talk about salo [lard]”, but not about the beatings, God forbid pressure.  This continued until the specific complaints did not start from the side of “parent committees”, this is to do with the mother of Rafal’skiy and another detainee, Poltarotskiy. And another thing contributed to it all, that one detainee that didn’t see very well was coming out of his cells they put handcuffs on him and shouted ‘run’, but in every corridor you have these metal stands for telephones and they stand a little way away from the wall. So here was this person coming out, he gets told to ‘run’, he runs and knocks over this metal stand, this metal thing, this plate. When the head of medicine got there, looked, the man way lying there croaking, he was so broken up, but only the ribs were broken, three ribs. After that they ceased movement at such a rapid pace.  They put “show masks” here that came in and simply beat people; myself and my inmates not infrequently were subjected to such ‘masks’. And that’s considering that I didn’t do anything, followed all the rules. They still beat you, then search you, and they search you as if you were cattle, throw of all your clothes that are really folded, throw them on the flood and stomp on them with their feet. Obviously if there is anything like decent cigarettes or chocolate that the relatives passed on, they may put it in their pocket and continue walking. This is “zapolozhnyak” [typical]. But everything is the same, a check in the morning, all the movement in handcuffs, like a dog, a walk, then you come “home”  and the whole day in the cell system where 2-3 persons are held in sixteen square meters. Those who have support from outside, such as friends, relatives, then they have it a little easier and obviously people have a different attitude towards them, but those people that do not have any support from outside, then no one wants to talk to them. And if they talk, then they would talk to a homeless person on the street better, than with a person who has no support and no social links.

-         Tell me please; are there many convicts that have been sentenced to fifteen years or more?

I think that in colonies, where whole life prisoners are detained, about seventy percent are ‘heavyweight’ (those, who have definitely done more than fifteen years inside). So I think that five percent, maybe ten are those people that obviously do not deserve this verdict. These people are not socially dangerous, that are absolutely adequate, though we all already have problems with our nervous system, that is for sure, because we have lasted such a period of time with such an attitude towards us, and nevertheless each person controls themselves, that is why I think that seventy percent remain detained for that period of time and out of them ten percent quite obviously do not fit into that category, into the caste of murderers. Because here you have people who have participated in a crime, but took a passive part, not like the executor of the crime, but received an indefinite sentence or death sentence by shooting. You begin to get the impression that the government has decided that this person is not worthy, not even to exist, but to even have a right to life. And you look at him and you see that yes, he has committed a crime and is ready to bear the punishment, but for the actions that he has committed, not for the crime that no one investigated, looked at, petitioned, that people wrote to the judges, that were written here, sought. And who judges here? The Judges themselves, they are people. And how are we judged here?

“For example, at the time of sending a complaint on your case  - that was unreal, for that complaint you could have been killed, you were thrown in the punishment room and told, “if you write another one, you will have similar problems”.  Not to mention letters to the European Court, those letters were not mailed altogether. That was before the year 2000, because after that it became easier, so if you write on your case and try for something, then write wherever you like, but don’t touch the subject of conditions and specific administration”

“The only thing that we were permitted were foodstuffs, again, foodstuffs for those who had support from outside, and even then only from the shops, and for those who do not have anyone, what difference does it makes, what is permitted? Without a doubt, you have a category of people here that have done things that would make the dead turn in their graves, but you also have a category of people who really did get here by mistake. If you were to open their files again and look, then they are either not guilty, or have atoned themselves long ago, proportionately to their crimes. Take for example Russia, even under Putin the whole life sentence has been reviewed, changed to fifteen years, except for terrorists, maniacs, they really are the people that should be held in prison for life.  Really, the indefinite imprisonment sentence should be kept for the people that are really dangerous, yes, they should be held inside under strict supervision, because you never know what they may do tomorrow. But the sentence should be humane, and everything that is provided by law should be available. How is it that a person is deprived of everything, no visits…”

By the way, in accordance with applicable laws, the underlying principles of the penal system are treatment with humanity and respect for honor and dignity, human rights. The purpose of punishment is primarily to change the social behavior of a person serving a sentence and their denouncement of socially dangerous acts ie – a change of conscience. This applies to those, imprisoned for life, because the law still provides, hypothetically, the review and release for this category of people, so the basis of the penal system should be extended to them in the account and humane treatment of this category of people.

We have written in previous publications on the relationship between staff and prisoners, including the use of masks and special equipment during the intimidation and beating of prisoners.

Here is what Victor Pushkar, a social psychologist, says about this: "The vast majority of people are not pathological sadists. In terms of Christian morality, and even completely secular humanism beating the unarmed with special devices - it's inhuman treatment. To truly abuse a human being, they must be dehumanized, framed as a non-person. In psychology this is called the formation pseudo-type. And to temporarily transform you from an ordinary person into a function, a mask is helpful. If there is no face – there is no person - no human attitude. That is why the European institutions’ staff wear name badges, and the Department of Implementation of Penalties (not yet in service) was also formally introduced in the early 2000s, though I do not know whether it's implemented everywhere now. Name badges name work as an antidote to the mask. Regarding the use of masks and helmets, I doubt that anyone openly writes that these are a means to achieving anonymity during brutal actions. "

Here is another account of an individual imprisoned indefinitely:

“In October 2004 I was taken to Sokal Penal Colony Number 47 in Lviv country, I was convoyed from the investigation isolation facility. Upon arrival at Sokol Penal Colony Number 47, we had black bags put over our heads, there in the “Stolypin” wagon, were taken to the very colony, had the bags pulled off and we were beaten by co-workers of the administration in the presence of the colony officers, operatives and the on-duty assistant of the colony chief.  Of course no one gave any reasons for the beatings. Such beatings continued practically every day for the duration of about half a year.  The morning began with a six a.m. wake-up call, and then we had to make the beds and roll up the matrasses. During the day we were not permitted to sit down on the bed. If they found even the smallest excuse, they would not make corrections, they would just beat everyone in the cell. They basically entertained themselves this way. Things went missing, from the storeroom of personal items, but of course people were afraid to say anything, afraid of beatings. The food was, of course, disgusting. When we went to the bathroom, the corridor was long and cold, especially in the winter; we had to walk practically naked, in our underwear, and the water was barely warm, same as in the summer. Medical help as far as I am concerned was non-existent, was absent altogether, you had to buy all your medication yourself, ask your parents, your relatives, if you have such an opportunity of course, to buy you medication, because there is no medical help there. Same with food, you know, breakfast, lunch and dinner is such, that it is impossible to eat, it is not fit for human consumption.  Visits happen once every three months through glass, yes, it would be preferable to have longer visits [in the framework of the current law, life prisoners are not permitted lengthy visits with relatives] with close relatives, wives, children, mothers, but currently this is not provided for by the law. Let’s hope that our government will think about how to do this and will legislate to make changes and improve.

One positive example

The ability to correct errors probably indicates that the judicial system of the state is able to recover.

Having been imprisoned for two and a half years, 39-year-old Igor Bezsl’ozniy was able to prove that he was innocent. For that he paid with his freedom, health and a successful business – now, a former company director is simply working as a carpenter. A broken life, damaged health – that is what the citizen of Zhitomir got for the efforts of the police and the county prosecution to quickly rid themselves of a prominent murder case.  And the whole reason for this is that he had previous convictions. To ‘hang’ a murder on the nearest previously convicted individuals turned out to be the easiest thing. In September 2005 in Zhitomir there was a crime that all the newspapers wrote about. Volodimir Sahnevich, an authoritative businessman, according to some sources the chief of a local organized criminal group was shot in the salon of his own vehicle. The killer was aiming from a close distance though the side window of the car. Volodimir Sahnevich died on the spot of four bullet wounds. One of the witnesses saw the killer on the crime scene. She identified Igor Bezsl’ozniy in him. In vain, Bezsl’ozniy argued that he was many kilometres away from Zhitomir that day – in Obuhov in a meeting with clients. He was arrested; investigations had began. As a result Bezsl’ozniy was found guilty of shooting and got the maximum term – indefinite prison sentence. Igor was taken to a cell of indefinite imprisonment in Zhitomerskaya Correctional Work Colony Number 8. Here they keep the most dangerous criminals in the country. He remembers, that when the cell doors behind him were shut, it was as if he began to see:

“I felt real terror when I understood, that the rest of my days I may spend in these four walls. I got the impression that it was as if I was standing on the edge of an abyss, and whether I continue living or fall in, depends on my next step”

The judge of the Zhitomir appellate court read out the sentence, “Bezsl’ozniy Igor Valeriyovich is held to be innocent in the given crime and is acquitted by the Court”. The appellate court of the Zhitomir region held, that Igor would be reimbursed 262 000 for all the harms that he has suffered in prison. Whilst this is an isolated incident, it clearly evidences that judicial mistakes do happen and illuminates the issue.  This topic is significant when looking at the events that are happening in the judicial sphere. A guarantee of fair judicature makes a person free and independent. A country in which there is no equitable justice system is ill and vulnerable. In such an environment a person can never feel safe and secure from miscarriage of justice, legal nihilism and negligence on the part of officials of all levels, including the judicial branch.  If a person knows and feels that in any moment a person may be wrongly accused in a criminal investigative system of injustice and reprisal, without the right to a fair trial, a person loses faith in justice on the state level. A society overcome with injustice demands substantive change in the criminal justice system.

Dmitro Bezslyozniy was acquitted on the appellate level. What possibility is there to prove innocence for those that have been convicted to indefinite imprisonment, decisions of which have been confirmed by courts of all instances?

Three questionable cases

The details of a few cases that we have been investigating have been provided.

1.    On the 26th of October 2006 an explosive device was detonated on the vehicle of the director of the market “Shuvar”, Fedishin R.S. The injured Fedishin R.S suffered minor bodily harm, whilst M. Kutsinda, a minor, who was walking nearby, received severe injuries, dangerous in the moment of the impact and died from blood loss in the car of the ambulance on the scene of the crime.  Volodimir Panasenko, who was working on the market, was accused of this crime. He pleaded innocent.

Panasenko was sentenced to an indefinite term of imprisonment on the basis of the evidence of Rudoy, who at the time was being treated for alcoholism in a psychiatric hospital. He was taken from hospital by the police. Under pressure, Rudiy mentioned Fedoshin, named another accomplice and testified against Panasenko the third time. In court he went back on his statement and named the real accomplice in the crime. Even now, he insists on the truthfulness of his evidence. 

On the 6th of June 2013 the head of the Office of Tackling Organized Crime in the Lviv city council (Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine), Vasil Telitsya, announced at a press conference that the individual that executed the criminal act, Mashevskiy, had been detained after being wanted for seven years. It is unknown how long the investigation will continue for. Whether the arguments of Panasenko, the evidence of Rudiy, in which he states the real accomplice in the crime, Anak, will be taken into account or whether there will be a review on the case of Panasenko remains a mystery.  Also, the materials of the criminal case against V. Panasenko evidence that in the actions of persons connected with the explosion of the vehicle, there was no attempt of murder of R.Fedishin, but an aim to scare for the purpose of attaining certain perks.

2.    The 20-year-old Maxim Orlov and the 14-year-old Oleksander Kozlov have been accused of a double murder.  Regardless of the scattered nature of the position of the prosecution, Orlov was sentenced to indefinite imprisonment and O. Kozlov to fourteen years of imprisonment. The decision was based on the evidence of Kozlov that were received through torture without the presence of a lawyer. This occurred despite the fact that by law if a person is accused in a criminal act, and a sanction of an article provides for indefinite detention of the accused, the presence of a lawyer is compulsory even for adults.

3.    The 30-year-old businessman Oleksander Rafalskiy was accused of organization of a criminal group that also included Chernak S.S., Baranovskiy V.V and Harchenko V.B. (the last individual died in prison, having not received a just court decision), in order to conduct a series of murders on the Territory of Kiev County. All were sentenced to indefinite imprisonment.  On the 4th of April 2001 near the village of Denihivka of the Tetiyivskiy region in the Kiev County four human heads and four arms, that according to previous conclusions of Kyiv Forensic Bureau belonged to three women and one boy. However, the materials of the criminal case contain a number of contradictions, starting with expert conclusions regarding the method of killing and dismemberment of the bodies and the identification of the bodies. The court decision is based solely on the confessions of the accused (except Rafalskiy, he is the only one that never admitted his fault), attained under torture. We have written on this and made a film.

19 June 2013 at the session of the Committee on Tackling Organized Crime and Corruption of the Ukrainian Parliament it was pronounced that “having heard and discussed the appeal by Rafalskaya T.M regarding an independent check of the component organs of her many appeals regarding the unlawful detainment, arrest, conduct of the pre-trial and trial investigation, the judgment of the Appellate Court of Kyiv Region on the 30th of July 2004 and the sentence of her son – Rafalsky O.A to indefinite imprisonment, there have been  blatant violations of the requirements of the criminal legislation and legislation regarding the criminal process at the time of inquiry and pre-trial investigation and subjecting Rafalskiy and other suspects to unlawful methods of conducting the investigation, particularly to torture of the sentenced persons, ignorance by the judicial and law enforcement agencies  of their arguments regarding their innocence, provision of unfounded responses for many years…” The committee has decided: “ To recommend the general prosecution of Ukraine in the established order to open criminal proceedings and to conduct a multi-faceted, complete and objective pre-trial investigation according to the facts of abuse of official position, exceeding competence, application of unlawful methods of conduct of enquiry and judicial investigation in the criminal case regarding the accusation of Rafalsky O.A.  and other persons and regarding employees of the Head office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Kiev region Burmakkov O.P., Shevchuk Y.Y., Tryasun P.R.,   specific workers of the police in the Stanishchevsky regional department of the Head office of the MIA of Ukraine in Kiev region, Obuhovsky regional department, City Council of the MIA of Ukraine in the Kiev region,   investigative organs of the prosecution, responsible for this case, prosecutors that oversaw the process of this trial and the prosecutors that confirmed the given sentence and supported the accusation in courts.  Feedback on the investigation conducted should be provided for the committee before October 1st, 2013.”

However, systematic violations of human rights on this case are continuing for the twelfth year from the side of the governmental agents. Thus, it seems that only a decision by the European Court of Human Rights can provoke the authorities to view the deficiencies of investigations more critically, to strike down its previous decisions and rectify judicial mistakes. For example, this happened in the case of Zamfresko and Nechiporuka.

Here is what Arkadiy Bushchenko, the acting director of UHHRU says on the possibility of review of this case:  “What should be improved in our criminal process legislation in order to guarantee in more serious cases, when you’re talking about life imprisonment practically without a right, without any possibility, to be free before the death of that convict? I understand, that on a wave, so to speak, of euphoria towards the new Criminal Process Code, altogether the proposition to change something may look slightly eccentric, but I must say, that this section, that concerns extraordinary proceedings has been left almost unreformed from 2010. Thus, after this date it was moved to the new CPC and what is strange in this section, the Supreme Court was deprived of the opportunity to correct judicial practice inside the country, without the say-so from the outside.  Thus, they can open proceedings only when there is a conclusion, say from the European Court, now exclusively the European Court according to the interpretation of the Supreme specialized court, thus until this highly regarded institution expresses their opinion on the matter of whether there has been a violation of a fair trial, the Supreme Court cannot do anything.  From my point of view, this is a strange situation, because the Supreme Court exists in this country for the correction of violations of the right to a fair trial, not wait for the say-so of another supranational judiciary instance. Otherwise, you get the impression, that our Supreme Court is consists exclusively of infants, that must get instructions from an adult court system in order to begin to act. Such a situation is offensive to the Supreme Court. There was a problem in fulfilling decisions of the European Court and in resolving this problem our country has gone too far, having essentially narrowed the competence of the Supreme Court, that before 2010, from my point of view, was formulated in a satisfactory manner.  Thus, substantive violations of the criminal process, substantive violations of criminal law gave a reason for the Supreme Court to get involved in the situation.  Now this competence has been narrowed practically to only the directions of the European Court of Human Rights, as is we do not have our own national sense of justice, or that our Supreme Court is entirely incapable of using European standards in the context of a certain case.  You can debate about the success of this institution before 2010, but in principle I think it was satisfactory, it was possible to work with it.  Another issue, which did not satisfy me in the institution of review of exceptional circumstances, is the method of violation of the question regarding the review of the case in light of exceptional proceedings. A collegium of 5 courts that is formed in an unknown manner, thus if you return the authority to the Supreme Court, them you need to outline a procedure for forming of this collegium from 5 courts, 3 courts, it is irrelevant how many, but it is important that it is clear, how this collegium is formed. The claimant in such case must have the opportunity to obtain access to the judicial procedure, sessions of this collegium must be open, transparent, so that the interested party is able to present their arguments and to hear a response.  I am not saying, that every case must be reviewed. There are many cases, where there are truly no grounds for review, but each applicant must be made aware of the reasons for the decision to deny him the opportunity to review his case at that stage. I also think that we are discussing very difficult cases that no person serving a sentence, particularly a life sentence, can handle from the point of view of preparation of the case, because there are a lot of documents.  It is necessary to prepare grounds for review that evidence the falseness of these decisions, sometimes a number of decisions, three decisions, including the decision of the highest judiciary instance, often it is the very decision of the Supreme Court. Sometimes there were decisions to return a case to additional investigations, for a new trial.  This is a group of decisions, practically a person is arguing with the entire criminal law system, and they must present very convincing arguments and evidence that the system, to put it nicely, has mistaken. And no life prisoner can take this, and legislation does not provide free legal aid in these circumstances. Free legal advice is limited to exhaustion of national remedies, exclusive proceedings are not such protection methods. Thus, I stand for expanding the law of legal aid to such cases, furthermore, I think, that as a practical measure, there should be a certain team of advocates. “

Thus, there is an aim to change the legislation: to return exclusive proceedings, that existed before 2010 and to give respective jurisdiction to the Supreme Court of Ukraine.

The author thanks the executive of the Government Penitentiary Service of Ukraine for assisting in conducting interviews with life prisoners and to the editor of the informational agency “Near to You” Olena Bilozerskaya for her help in conducing the video interview and processing of the video.


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