Monnitoring of the trial of V. Muravitskiy (court hearing of 18.01.18)

On January 18, 2018 in Zhytomir, there took place a court hearing in the case of a journalist Vasily Muravitskiy who is being accused o a high treason and infringement of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, via his activity as a journalist. The experts of the International Society for Human Rights continue monitoring of this litigation.

The course of the court hearing. From November 2017, the case has not been considered essentially. All sessions which took place during that time did not mark the beginning of consideration of the case direct materials. The trial which took place on 18 January was not an exception. In the course of the trial, the defenders of V. Muravitskiy filed a petition requesting challenge to the constitution of the court. As a result, one of the judges was excluded from the process, and it turned out that he was an investigating judge in the case of the journalist at the pre-trial investigation stage. According to the norms of the criminal process, he cannot be a member of the tribunal when considering the case essentially (art. 76 of UCC). It remains unclear how this particular judge was selected by the court document flow automated system which had to exclude him from the list of judges who could participate in this trial (sub-clause 2.3.3 of the “Regulation on the court document flow automated system”). Now consideration of the case by court should start again due to the change in the composition of tribunal.

The experts of the ISHR have already come across such a situation. For instance, in the case of A. Melnik a composition of tribunal changed four times during three years of that process. Hopefully, in the case of V. Muravitskiy no delay in the process will occur. The issue of the duration of a case is important from the point of view of observing the European convention on Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, in particular, observance of article 6 thereof.  When a certain court has no possibility of appointing a tribunal of legitimate (for this particular case) judges and is doomed to appoint the judges whom are later have to be challenged, this can constitute a violation of the Convention. In the decision “Frydlender v. France”, the European court on human rights (ECHR) stated that countries must organize their legal systems in a way to enable courts to guarantee to anyone the right for a final court decision within a reasonable time, according to their civil rights and duties. At a certain moment decisions by ECHR on this issue have already resulted in the necessary measures taken (increasing the number of courts, judges, re-arrangement of court districts etc.) on the part of such countries as Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, the United Kingdom, Switzerland.

Information obtained as a result of the monitoring executed. At the meeting of lawyers and human rights defenders with the President of ISHR prof. Thomas Schirrmacher, which took place on January 9, 2018, the lawyer of V. Muravitskiy reported violation of human rights in the criminal process against the journalist.

A representative of ISHR who was attending the court obtained information related to the conditions in which V. Muravitskiy is being held in the Pre-trial detention centre: a holding cell for 14 people, poor food and practically no heating. The authorities make promises to transfer Vasiliy into a cell intended for four people. And, as before, the court room is full of “activists” who demand a strict judgment for the “enemy of Ukraine”.

The next court hearing is scheduled for February 15. Experts of the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor and provide updates on these legal proceedings. The previous materials can be accessed here.

Expert Council, International Society for Human Rights