Monitoring of criminal proceedings of Sergey Vyacheslavovich Popov (hearing 11.03.2020)

On November 03, 2020, in the Kremensky District Court of the Luhansk Region, a hearing was held in case No. 433/300/19 on charges of Sergei Vyacheslavovich Popov accused of committing crimes under Part 4 of Art. 187, part 3 of Art. 289 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (robbery, illegal seizure of a vehicle).

On November 03, 2020, the court considered the issue of extending the measure of restraint (detention) for the accused.

The prosecutor indicated that the accused is on the international wanted list, is wanted through Interpol channels and, if the measure of restraint is changed, is subject to immediate arrest. In addition, she provided for examination documents from the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine that the according to the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia in the Belgorod Region S.V. Popov is wanted for criminal offenses on the territory of the Russian Federation.

The accused objected to the approval of the request for an extension of detention, asked to change the measure of restraint to 24-hour house arrest or to release him on bail. He argued his position by the fact that:

  • The position of the prosecutor that he can hide from the pre-trial investigation bodies or the court does not deserve attention. At any attempt to cross the border, he will be detained and arrested, since he is on the international wanted list. In addition, the accused indicated that the actual transfer under the extradition procedure was postponed until the end of the criminal proceedings;
  • The accused cannot influence the witnesses and victims, since they have already been questioned;
  • The accused has strong social ties, has been legally married for over 20 years, has two children, a permanent place of work, a registered place of residence in the city of Kharkov.

In the accused’s view, the length of detention for more than two years is not reasonable.

As a result of consideration, the prosecutor’s request was granted.

The decision of the Kremensky District Court of the Luhansk Region states that “… when an accused is found on the interstate wanted list through Interpol channels, changing his measure of restraint may complicate or make it impossible to ensure his appearance in court sessions.”

A similar problem has already been considered by the European Court of Human Rights. In “Quinn v. France”, the applicant applied to the ECtHR and noted that the extradition proceedings are generally very expeditious and that in his case they lasted for almost two years, which is an evidence of abuse of the extradition procedure. The real aim of the French authorities was, according to him, to keep him at their disposal as long as it was necessary to conduct an investigation in France (para. 44).

The Court considers that detention pending extradition is, in principle, justified under Article 5 para. 1 (f).

Para. 1 of Article 5 requires, above all, the “lawfulness” of the detention, which means, inter alia, the need to comply with a procedure established by law. Here, the Convention, in fact, refers to the provisions of national law, but at the same time it requires that any deprivation of liberty be consistent with the purpose of Article 5, namely, to provide a person with guarantees against arbitrariness (para. 47).

In accordance with Art. 18 of the Convention, the restrictions allowed in this Convention in relation to the specified rights and freedoms shall not apply for purposes other than those for which they are established.

As regards the extension of the detention period, the European Court of Human Rights notes that the domestic courts must first and foremost ensure that the detention of an accused person in a particular case does not exceed a reasonable time. To this end, they must, taking due account of the principles of the presumption of innocence, examine all the circumstances of the case that may confirm or deny the existence of a public need that justifies deviations from the requirement to respect individual liberty, and indicate this in their decisions to extend the term of detention (“IA v. France”, para. 102).

The European Court of Human Rights points out that at the initial stages of the investigation, the possibility of obstruction of justice by the accused justifies the detention of such an accused. However, once evidence is gathered, this rationale becomes less convincing. In particular, as regards the possibility of putting pressure on witnesses, the Court reiterates that the domestic courts must show that during the relevant period of the applicant’s detention there continued to be a substantial risk of intimidation of witnesses, it is not enough to rely only on some abstract possibility not supported by any evidence. The court must also analyze pertinent factors, such as progress in the investigation or proceedings, the applicant’s personality, his behavior before and after arrest, and any other specific factors to justify the risks that he might abuse the returned freedom by acting in for the purpose of falsifying or destroying evidence, or putting pressure on victims (“Sokurenko v. Russian Federation”, para. 88).

Having studied the legal position of the European Court in the case “Sokurenko v. Russian Federation”, it can be concluded that the prosecutor, when applying for an extension of the period of detention, must, among other things, provide real facts confirming the existence of the risk of intimidation of witnesses. However, in the present case no such facts were presented.

Having studied the decision of the Kremensky District Court of the Luhansk Region of September 8, 2020 to extend the period of detention, it is worth noting that it was based on the same grounds as in the current decision. Observers are concerned that the extension of detention in this case may be automatic.

Representatives of the ISHR will continue to monitor the criminal proceedings of S.V. Popov. The next hearing is scheduled for December 7, 2020.