war crimes in Ukraine

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Plans to abolish right of release on bail in certain cases condemned

Human rights groups have issued an open appeal in connection with legislative initiatives proposing to abolish the option of bail as a restraint measure.

Human rights groups have issued an open appeal in connection with legislative initiatives proposing to cancel the option of bail as a restraint measure.

The appeal points out that the 2012 Criminal Procedure Code, which was assessed highly by international bodies, stipulates that remand in custody is an exceptional preventive measure.  Where the alleged crimes do not involve violence, other measures are envisaged, including bail.

The authors note that in the context of fighting corruption and separatism, there are currently both government and parliamentary initiatives on amendments to legislation which would prohibit judges from releasing people suspected of offences under certain articles of the Criminal Code on bail.  Some of these initiatives have already been withdrawn, but some are still before parliament.

Abolition of bail in cases where people are not suspected of grave violent crimes is in direct breach of Article 5 § 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as European Court of Human Rights case-law.  In the case of Ilijkov v. Bulgaria from 24 July 2001, for example, the Court found a system entailing mandatory custody to be in violation of the Convention’s Article 5 § 3.  There must be convincing proof of the existence of specific circumstances that override the principle of respect for personal liberty.

Mandatory custody also breaches Article 29 of Ukraine’s Constitution which states clearly that “no one shall be arrested or held in custody other than pursuant to a substantiated court decision and only on the grounds and in accordance with the procedure established by law.”

The rights organizations also point out that the statistics for 2014 show that the system of bail is working, with infringements of its conditions recorded in only 0.26% of cases.  The problem that these legislative initiatives are supposed to resolve does not, therefore, exist.

Furthermore, application of bail results in the real chance of paying compensation to victims of crimes.  The money paid to the state in the form of bail  - 30-40 million UAH per year - is, where the person is convicted, used to pay compensation. 

“Such legislative initiatives are incompatible with Ukraine’s European choice.  They will inevitably damage the country’s image in the world, and will lead to Ukraine losing many cases in the European Court of Human Rights. The taxpayers will once again have to pay for the government’s irresponsible actions.”

They call on the President, the Cabinet of Ministers and all MPs to reject any attempts to abolish bail to be withdrawn, and stress that integration with the EU envisages respect for human rights and adherence to the principle of rule of law.

The appeal is endorsed by Arkady Bushchenko, Executive Secretary of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union [UHHRU]; Yevhen Zakharov, Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group; Oleksandr Banchuk, Chief Reanimation Package of Reforms expert on reform of the law enforcement bodies; and Boris Zakharov, head of the UHHRU Advocacy Centre. 

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