war crimes in Ukraine

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NABU’s unlawful actions could result in Ukraine being accused of pressure on European Court of Human Rights

Yevgeniy Zakharov
On 31 October, I published an article on cases known to me of surveillance by National Anti-Corruption Bureau in the European Court of Human Rights. This publication assesses the causes and potential consequences of this surveillance.


On 31 October, I published an article on cases known to me of surveillance by National Anti-Corruption Bureau [NABU] in the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR].  According to information from one source, it was stated then that NABU Director Artem Sytnyk had personally confirmed that such surveillance had taken place, and according to another source, that the relevant body within the Council of Europe had initiated an internal inquiry into these illegal actions.  There was no reaction from Ukraine’s law enforcement bodies which is itself telling. It looks as though the NABU Director remembers very well whom he entrusted the surveillance in ECHR to and is therefore silent.

In fact, one prosecutor, ‘K’, from the Central Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, wrote to me in private saying that he had flown together with Serhiy Rokun and the management of NABU on 14 October 2019 from Kyiv to Frankfurt. Sytnyk and [Gizo] Uglava [First Deputy Director of NABU], had then gone on to somewhere in Italy and we went to Strasbourg – to the latest two-week training session for law enforcement officers from the EU and Ukraine at Strasbourg University. He therefore reproached me, saying that “the comparison with KGB killers is particularly inappropriate”.  I replied that both those Russians, and those who undertook illegal surveillance in ECHR under the pretext of a seminar had committed crimes in carrying out their work, and therefore there could be such a comparison.

Having very reliable sources, I consider that this outrageous case of misuse of the law, including with regard to such a respected international court institution is a serious threat to human rights in Ukraine and to the image of my country. Therefore it is simply my professional duty to sound the alarm on this subject. A criminal investigation over this needs to be initiated immediately. Only an effective investigation at national level can save the situation.

I will be so bold as to give my explanation for the surveillance in ECHR.  I think that the target was ECHR judge from Ukraine Hanna Yudkivska and, perhaps, some staff of the ECHR Secretariat.

I would remind reasons that at the beginning of November 2016, a campaign on the Internet began, involving numerous Ukrainian websites. Quoting a source in NABU, they spoke of “a criminal conspiracy” between the First Deputy Justice Minister Natalya Sevastyanova with MP Georgy Lohvinsky, as well as his wife, Hanna Yudkivska, ECHR judge.

The dirty propaganda campaign was taken up by the Russian media which was a blow to Ukraine’s authority on the international scene. Such an anti-Ukrainian resource as Russia Today published an article, entitled ‘Two Ukrainian representatives at ECHR, using their official position, caused the squandering of millions from the state coffers’.  It is interesting that the article simply fully duplicated false assertions used by NABU detectives. In fact, the false information circulated by NABU has already been used by the Russian state for influence on the Council of Europe and has had serious consequences which I will soon write about. The defamatory campaign in the media has not abated, with seemingly reputable organizations, such as the ‘CHESNO’ movement, joining in/  And all of this is based on a total lack of understanding about the procedure for consideration of cases at ECHR and the presumption and everybody steals!

And anti-corruption activists, and most ‘investigative journalists’, and, I suspect NABU detectives and Central Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office prosecutors have simply not read the legal conclusions prepared by the best experts on ECHR.  A legal conclusion on the legality of the actions of the Justice Ministry was provided by Mykhailo Buromensky, NABU auditor, member of the Ukrainian GRECO delegation and ad hoc ECHR judge.  Ivan Lishchyna, Deputy Justice Minister and Government Representative on ECHR cases back in December 2016 gave an exhaustive explanation on his Facebook page of why the NABU accusations were nonsense.  The Kharkiv Human Rights Group and Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, at the request of the Justice Ministry, studied all the documents concerning the ECHR judgement in this case and gave its conclusion that the actions of the Ministry were entirely lawful and well-founded. A year ago, Mustafa Dzhemilev, Josif Zisels and I published our own appeal to the law enforcement bodies at a press conference on NABU’s unlawful actions.  The fourth author was Refat Chubarov, and all of us, except Mustafa Dzhemilev, had been in the commission on choosing an NABU Director. We are, nonetheless, convinced that this persecution was politically motivated. The relevant conclusion was drawn up by the Kharkiv Human Rights Group in an appendix to the appeal. However in NABU they pretend that there are simply no objections to their actions, and stubbornly continue to investigate a non-existent crime, supposedly committed by staff from the Justice Ministry and ECHR. Now they’ve reached the European Court. And indeed, if the Kyiv Synagogue can be wiretapped as part of this case, why not work in the European Court?!

One of the consequences of this case is the violation of human rights through the almost total rejection by the Justice Ministry of proposals to ECHR applicants to reach an amicable agreement. Look at the Hudoc website ( and you’ll see. Who would agree to use the amicable regulation procedure which the all-powerful NABU treats as corrupt deals?

This story well illustrates the famous premise that if an investigative body in any country is uncontrolled, it very quickly begins to abuse its powers. Trying to protect NABU from external interference, it has been left only the procedural control of the Central Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office, with lawlessness positively flourishing. One can and must fight corruption, but only through lawful methods. It is time to stop this lawlessness so as not to shame ourselves before the whole world.

In my opinion, the political persecution aimed at putting pressure on ECHR judge Hanna Yudkivska and her husband, Georgy Lohvinsky through fabrication of criminal cases and accompanied by a whole range of criminal actions by anti-corruption bodies will lead to a huge international scandal with very bad legal, political and economic consequences,. After all, from the point of view of law there is no prosecution of a single ECHR judge, there is interference in the activities of the court.  Ukraine is risking becoming the first country in history accusing of pressure on the European Court of Human Rights.

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