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To protect the rights of their children the parents turned to militia and then to court

Inna Sukhorukova, Kharkov
The family of the Yakimenkos turned to the Kharkov Group for human rights protection. The family is a typical Ukrainian one: father is a truck driver with many-year experience, mother is a housewife, she breeds two children: a 12-year-old daughter Mariyka and a 4-year-old son Roman. The case that made them to turn to our group is, unfortunately, also typical for our society — a 30-year-old hooligan interfered into the quarrel between two children and beat Mariyka Yakimenko so brutally that she got to the hospital. The behavior of the parents was, on the contrary, rather untypical for our society: instead of joining the brawl they turned to militia and then to court.

In January and February 1999 the Moskovskiy district court of Kharkov, headed by judge Krylova T.G. and with the participation of prosecutor Kashliak K.V., considered the case and pronounced the sentence. What had happened is described in the verdict as follows:

The accused Mashtalov S.R. on 27 June 1997 about noon was present in the yard of house No.191, where he resides, in Moskovskiy avenue of Kharkov. From hooligan motives he brutally violated the public order and worded his disrespect to the society with especial insolence, which was revealed in causing grave injuries to the minor Yakimenko M.M., born in 1986, because of an insignificant pretext, which was a childish quarrel that started between the minor Mashtalova M.S. and the minor Yakimenko M.M.. Understanding the inability of Yakimenko M.M. to protect herself, he hit Yakimenko M.M. on the head with a toy metal bucket full of sand and toys; as a result Yakimenko M.M., according to the conclusion of the forensic expertise No. 3471-o of 18 December 1997, received a closed cerebral brain trauma in the form of the concussion of the cerebral brain with liquor hypertension, astenic syndrome, abrasions on the face and left forearm, which can be estimated as bruises of middle grade.’

To our great pity we often come across in everyday life with brutality and disregard of elementary moral norms. And very seldom the victims find forces and courage to protect their rights in court. But the parents of Mariyka decided to follow the letter of the law and turned to militia. But the investigating officer did nothing and very soon made a resolution to close the case. After this the Yakimenkos turned to Kharkov Group for human rights protection. Our lawyer studied the case and assisted in writing the complaint to the city prosecutor’s office. The prosecutor ordered to resume the case and appointed another investigating officer. Soon the case was completed and passed to court.

Kharkov Group took a decision to direct a public observer for participating in the court session. The appearance of our representative in the judge’s office caused surprise and even some protest.

The difficulty of the case lay in the fact that the eye-witnesses were children of pre-school and early-grade schoolchildren. Judge Krylova T.G. very quietly and tactfully interrogated them. Teachers of Mariyka from her school and teacher of the Sunday school at Ukrainian autocephalic church were invited as witnesses too, and they gave the best characteristics to the girl.

The accused Mashtalov pleaded non-guilty, and his lawyer explained, that the act of Mashtalov was caused by the brutal behavior of the girl. Judge Krylova did not agree with the arguments of the defense and pronounced the sentence which was well-grounded and adequate to the crime.

According to Articles 323-324 of the Penal-Procedural Code of Ukraine the court found Mashtalov S.R. guilty in a crime defined by Article 206 Part 2 of the Penal Code of Ukraine. The verdict was to incarcerate Mashtalov S.R. for two years and six months with the postponement of two years and to pay the fine of 300 grivnas as court expenses. Besides, Mashtalov S.R. had to pay to mother Yakimenko I.V. 5235 grivnas 38 kopecks as a recovery of damages. Now it is essential to make Mashtalov to pay the compensation. It is not so easy because officially the culprit works at a plant where he does not get any wages for months on end. As to his property, it can be easily passed to his relatives. That is why Kharkov Group for human rights protection continues to monitor this case.

We have told this story as an example of the correct behavior of the victim and the objective behavior of the judge. The contribution of Kharkov Group was also important, since the group has the professional lawyer and has the opportunity to send a public observer to the trial.

It is very convenient when a human rights protection organization has professional lawyers who can render the professional assistance free of charge. Since the population is very poor, it happens so that trials go on without advocates. For example, a criminal case by Article 241-a (deserting) was considered without an advocate (whom the parents of the culprit G. could not afford) in the court martial of Zhytomir garrison. There were plausible grounds for defense, since the culprit was mentally retarded.

A network of human rights protection organizations is being extended in Ukraine; this organizations render citizens juridical aid. The information about these organizations is known by a little proportion of the population. That is why in our opinion one of the top-priority directions is further creation of such organizations, where the citizens can get juridical aid, and further spread of knowledge about such organizations in the population.
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