Monitoring of the case of Alexander Shchegolev (hearing of September 18, 2020)

On September 18, the Shevchenko District Court continued to consider the case of Alexander Shchegolev, who is accused of organizing the violent dispersal of “Maidan” protests on February 18-19, 2014.

Recall that A. Shchegolev was in custody for three years, but on June 26, 2019, the court released him under round-the-clock house arrest and ordered him to wear an electronic bracelet, later the measure of restraint was changed to a personal obligation.

At the beginning of the court session, a number of motions were submitted from the prosecutor Suprun, as well as from the victim Plekhanova and from the representative of other victims Zakrevskaya – to change the procedure for examining evidence (a combined procedure was proposed) and one more from the representative of Zakrevskaya – to ensure reasonable time limits for the consideration of criminal proceedings.

The prosecutor explained his request by the fact that for a long time the materials of this criminal proceeding have been studied at the sessions, but due to a number of circumstances the victims are not able to come to court and give testimony. He also drew attention to the fact that at this time only 47 of 136 victims have been questioned, in addition, a large number of witnesses (619) have been declared, who also need to be interrogated, and since they all live in different parts of Ukraine and abroad, to call them the court takes time, and it is also necessary to ensure interrogation in other courts in the mode of videoconference. Therefore, in order to ensure a reasonable time frame, promptly resolve issues of criminal proceedings, as well as to plan further court hearings, the prosecutor proposed to change the procedure for examining evidence and insisted on interrogating the victims via videoconference. The victim’s defender Zakrevskaya supported the prosecutor’s motion.

The ECtHR points out that equality of arms is an integral part of a fair trial. This principle requires each party to be given a reasonable opportunity to present its case in such circumstances as does not place it at a material disadvantage with respect to the opposing party (“Fouche v. France”, § 34; “Bobek v. Poland”, § 56; “Klimentiev v. Russia”, § 95). After all, it is worth noting that the legislation of Ukraine is not limited to the fact that testimony is possible only at that time and in the court where the sessions are held, the prosecutor proposed options for interrogation by videoconference in the premises of the courts of the location of the victims.

Shchegolev’s lawyer objected to the prosecutor’s petition, supporting only part of the interrogation of the victims, but emphasized that it was their duty to appear at the hearing and give evidence. He proposed to complete the order that had already been chosen, because written evidence, documents, video recordings had already been examined, and further examination of material evidence should be carried out and then – the interrogation of witnesses.

The court expressed its dissatisfaction with the fact that the victims, notified of the legal proceedings, were not present during the examination of the evidence.

Also, the judge emphasized that if it were not for the constant petitions of the parties, the proceedings could move much faster. But the practice of the ECtHR notes that the government should not justify the protracted proceedings by referring to appeals, motions, requests and other procedural actions of the applicant himself, unless they are of the nature of abuse. The defendant cannot be blamed for taking full advantage of the resources and tools provided to him by national law in order to protect his interests (“Kolomiets v. Russia”, §§ 25-31).

As a result, after consulting, the panel of judges drew attention to the fact that the order that has been established at this time was chosen in order to comply with the CCP, namely, the reasonableness of the time of trial, having considered the petition, the court decided to partially satisfy it and continue to examine the material evidence. In the event of the arrival of the victims – to resolve the issue of their interrogation. As for the combined order, the court considers that today it is unacceptable, because they understand that in this case, they will have to return many times to the study of the same evidence, which will lead to a loss of time.

The International Society for Human Rights will continue to clarify details and monitor this proceeding.