Monitoring of the case of I. Bliznyuk and others (hearing of January 26, 2021)

On January 26, 2021, a hearing was held in the Ordzhonikidze District Court of Kharkov on the charges of I. Bliznyuk, A. Golovkin, Y. Khlapovsky. They are charged with Part 1 of Art. 255, Part 3 of Art. 146, Part 4 of Art. 189, Part 1 of Art. 263 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine – creation of a criminal organization, kidnapping, extortion, illegal handling of weapons.

At this hearing, the court continued to examine the evidence, namely the interrogation of the last victim, Dmitry Sidorov, was carried out. The accused asked clarifying questions to which the witness could not answer clearly and, in the observer’s opinion, was confused in his testimony. The accused were outraged by what D. Sidorov said and asserted to the court that everything said was not true.

Also, on February 1, 2021, the measure of restraint expires for the accused Y. Khlapovsky and A. Golovkin (they are detained), and for I. Bliznyuk – (he is under partial house arrest), and the court had to resolve this issue.

Recall that Y. Khlapovsky and A. Golovkin have been in custody for more than three years.

The prosecutor filed another petition for an extension of the measure of restraint with the following grounds: the validity of the charge of a criminal offense and the existence of risks that the accused may:

– hide from the court;

– destroy, hide or distort documents that are essential for establishing the circumstances of a criminal offense;

– illegally influence the victim or witness; interfere with criminal proceedings in any other way;

– commit another criminal offense or continue committing a criminal offense of which they are accused.

That is, all the same risks that were mentioned in each application for the extension of a measure of restraint in this case are provided for by Art. 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. In its judgments, the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly pointed out that arguments sufficient to detain an accused in the first stages of proceedings are not always sufficient during the entire period of his detention. Consequently, as regards the applicant’s alleged potential to interfere with the establishment of the true circumstances, “over time, this justification inevitably becomes less and less appropriate” (“Miminoshvili v. Russia”, para. 89).

Both the lawyers and the defendants themselves drew attention to the fact that the above risks are no longer relevant, since all the witnesses and victims have been questioned and it is impossible to influence anyone, there is no point in hiding from the court because they are interested in completing the criminal proceedings as in “Savchenko Law” have been in custody for over six years and most of the case has been investigated. That is, they argued that detention should be changed to a more lenient measure of restraint.

Nevertheless, the court extended the term of the measure of restraint for the accused Y. Khlapovsky and A. Golovkin – in the form of detention, for I. Bliznyuk – in the form of partial house arrest for another 60 days.

In the decision, the court supported the need to extend the measure of restraint in the form of detention for the accused, referring to the practice of the ECtHR, namely, “Thus, the European Court of Human Rights in the cases “Iliykov v. Bulgaria ”, “ Letelier v. France ”,“Moskalenko v. Ukraine” affirmed that “the severity of the punishment envisaged” is an essential element in assessing the “risks of hiding or re-committing crimes”, and the particular gravity of some crimes can cause such a reaction in society and social consequences that justify pre-trial detention as an exceptional measure of restraint for a certain period of time.” But if you look at paragraph 51 of the judgment in the case “Letelier v. France”, you can see the continuation of the paragraph used by the court, which states that this factor can be considered justified and necessary only if there is reason to believe that the release of the detainee will actually violate public order, or if this order is indeed under threat. Pre-trial detention should not pre-empt punishment in the form of imprisonment, it cannot be a “form of waiting” for a conviction.

ISHR experts observe the incorrect use by the court of the ECtHR practice in order to extend the measure of restraint in the form of detention, which, according to the observations of the ISHR, may have an automatic nature.

Also, it is worth noting that starting from February 3, 2021, court sessions will be held almost every day.

The International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor and clarify the details of these criminal proceedings.