Monitoring the trial of Alexander Shchegolev (session 12/12/2019)

On December 12, a regular court session was held on the case of the former head of the Main Directorate of the Security Service of Ukraine in Kiev and Kiev Region, Alexander Shchegolev, who is accused of having led the headquarters of the anti-terrorist operation conducted against supporters of the Maidan (winter 2013-2014).

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights continue to monitor this lawsuit.

Due to the workload of the board at this hearing, it was possible to consider only one petition. The prosecution, referring to information from the video of A. Shariy (among other things, the well-known YouTube blogger in Ukraine), filed a motion to change the measure of restraint to A. Shchegolev. Prosecutors asked the court to take the accused under round-the-clock house arrest. The motivation for the petition was that due to the information disseminated by Shariy, the prosecutor’s office would not be able to monitor the fulfillment of the obligations of A. Shchegolev assigned to him by law. According to lawyer K.Legkih, the court was puzzled by this motivation for the prosecution, since it is not entirely clear how the blogger is connected with this criminal case. The court did not grant the request, leaving the accused with a measure of restraint in the form of a personal obligation.

In a previous report, the experts of the ISHR noted a positive trend in the form of the absence of unjustified adjournments of court hearings, which, as a result, entails the possibility of considering criminal proceedings within a reasonable time. But at this hearing, the lawyer, in a personal conversation, expressed his concern about the timing of the proceedings in this case, the lawyer noted that “he himself might not live up to the final sentence” (irony). Of course, the words of the defense should not be taken seriously, but nevertheless it should be noted that this attitude of the lawyer is a matter of concern, since the case has already been considered for about five years and it is difficult to predict how many more years will pass before the final court verdict.

It is difficult to argue with the fact that violations of the principle of reasonableness of time are most often encountered in criminal proceedings and are noted by the ISHR experts in the reports. We have already cited dozens of judgments of the ECtHR, where the Court speaks about the importance of this principle and the criteria that should be used to correctly interpret the principle. So, taking into account the positive aspects of the organization of court hearings, it should still be said that even if certain stages of the hearings are carried out at an acceptable speed, the total duration of the hearings may nevertheless exceed a “reasonable time” (“Dobbertin v. France”, para. 44). In other words, the streamlined schedule of court hearings and the lack of rescheduling is certainly a positive factor, but the volume of issues considered at the hearing plays an important role in considering the case as a whole within a reasonable time. So, the experts of the ISHR believe that considering only one petition per session is an unacceptable luxury, given the fact that A. Schegolev has been under the burden of prosecution for five years.

It is worth noting that the ISHR observer was a little late for the hearing and the presiding judge made a remark in connection with this. This is an interesting aspect, since earlier in this trial activists were often present who could disrupt the course of the examination with their emotional statements and the board practically did not make any comments to them. In this regard, it can be assumed that the presence of activists in some way put pressure on the court. ISHR experts have repeatedly pointed to this in their reports and during working meetings. In the process of monitoring, we have already encountered a similar situation. As an example, a judge of the Svyatoshinsky district court was attacked next to his house immediately after the collegium, in which he presided, changed the measure of restraint to one of the defendants in the Maidan case.

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor and clarify the details of this lawsuit.