Monitoring the case of Mehti Logunov

On November 18, 2019, the Kharkov Court of Appeal examined the appeal against the judgment of the court of the first instance of July 30, 2018, according to which Mehti Logunov was convicted of high treason (Article 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine) and sentenced to 12 years in prison. More than a year has passed since the receipt of the appeal in court (August 31, 2018).

The trial itself has a significant public outcry. But since the case materials include information that is a state secret, the case was heard in closed court.

Following the requirements of the law, the court allowed representatives of the media, public organizations and others into the courtroom while announcing the operative part of the court decision.

The appeal was denied. The sentence remained unchanged.

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights cannot give a legal conclusion regarding such a court decision, since its justification will become known after the announcement of the motivational part on November 22, 2019.

The lawyer said that he would appeal the decision of the Kharkov Court of Appeal.

In the context of this case, the experts of the International Society for Human Rights consider it necessary to pay attention to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter – the ECtHR).

Since Mehti Logunov turned 85 years old, following common sense, we must understand that a sentence of 12 years is life-long for him.

In a similar situation (CASE OF “VINTER AND OTHERS v. THE UNITED KINGDOM”, paragraphs 112-113), the ECtHR has formed the following legal position: if the convicted person is in custody without any prospect of release and without the possibility of reviewing his life sentence, there is a risk that he can never atone for his crime: no matter what the prisoner does in prison, no matter how exceptional he is in the process of rehabilitation. His punishment remains unchanged and not subject to review. In any case, the punishment increases over time: the longer a prisoner lives, the longer his term. Thus, even when a life sentence is a death sentence at the time of its adoption, over time it becomes a poor guarantee of a fair and proportionate punishment. The Federal Constitutional Court of Germany in the case of life imprisonment recognized, this would be incompatible with the provision on human dignity to forcibly deprive a person of his freedom without, at least, giving him the opportunity to someday regain this freedom. It was this position that led the Constitutional Court to conclude that prison authorities are obliged to seek rehabilitation of a prisoner sentenced to life imprisonment, and that rehabilitation is constitutionally necessary in any community in which human dignity is central.

Similar considerations should apply within the framework of the Convention system, the very essence of which, as the Court has often stated, is respect for human dignity.

Also, in this decision, one of the judges (Ann Power-Forde) formed a separate position: Art. Section 3 of the Convention includes what can be described as the “right to hope”. Judgment indirectly recognizes that hope is an important and defining aspect of the human person. Those who commit the most disgusting and egregious acts that cause unspeakable suffering to others, nevertheless, retain their basic humanity and carry the ability to change. Despite a lengthy and well-deserved sentence, they can reserve the right to hope that someday they can atone for their mistakes. They should not be completely devoid of such hope. To deny their experience of hope would be to deny the fundamental aspect of their humanity, and that would be humiliating.

In this regard, we consider it necessary to recall that Mehti Logunov did not commit violent crimes against life and health. The article under which he was sentenced is considered somewhat politicized – high treason.

But the closed form of the hearing does not make it possible to assess the degree of observance of the right to a fair trial with respect to the scientist.