Monitoring of criminal proceedings of Nelia Shtepa (09/04/2020, 09/10/2020)

On September 4, 2020, in the Ordzhonikidze District Court of Kharkov, a hearing was held in the case of Nelia Igorevna Shtepa. She is charged with encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine, resulting in the death of people and the creation of a terrorist group or organization.

Recall that one of the judges, G.V. Matvievskaya, at the hearing on August 17, 2020, recused herself, since the accused did not submit a petition to consider the case by a panel of three judges. On July 21, 2020, Law No. 817-IX was adopted, which amended Art. 31 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. Now, criminal proceedings in the court of first instance in relation to crimes for the commission of which punishment is imprisonment for a term of more than ten years are carried out collectively by a court of three judges only at the request of the accused. The transitional provisions of Law No. 817-IX provide that in criminal proceedings in the court of first instance, in which, prior to the entry into force of this Law, the collegiate composition of the court was determined according to the rules in force prior to the entry into force of this Law, and a preparatory hearing takes place, and the trial has not yet been scheduled, the trial in the criminal proceeding is being conducted and completed by the composition of the court provided for in the light of the provisions of this Law.

On August 4, the question regarding composition of the court in the case was considered in detail.

The defense and the prosecution objected to the satisfaction of the judge’s application for recusation.

The panel of judges considers that the application of G.V. Matvievskaya is not subject to satisfaction, since Art. 75 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine does not provide for such a basis for self-recusation. In addition, the right to file a motion for the trial by one judge was not explained to Nelia Igorevna Shtepa.

During the court session, Nelia Igorevna Shtepa was explained the changes made to the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine. The accused used the right and stated that she did not insist on the collegial examination of the case. A motion was filed with the court’s registry to hear the case in the composition of one judge. As a result, the petition was granted – the case will be considered by judge O. Glibko.

In addition, at the beginning of the court session, it was established that new prosecutors had entered the case – Aleksandr Valerievich Chekin and Oksana Valerievna Pavliychuk.

The next court hearing was supposed to take place on September 10, 2020. However, the lawyers filed a motion to postpone the hearing as they were engaged in other proceedings.

It should be noted that the representatives of the ISHR monitored 3 court sessions in the case of Nelia Igorevna Shtepa – 08/17/20, 09/04/20, 09/10/2020 The last of them did not take place for the reasons indicated above, the other two were devoted to consideration of exclusively procedural issues. In fact, the examination of the case has essentially not advanced a single step.

The ECtHR holds that the State is responsible, under the “reasonable time” aspect of Article 6 § 1, for the delay in the delivery of judgments by the judges (“McFarlane v. Ireland”, § 121). However, the length of the proceedings must be assessed in the light of the specific circumstances of the case, taking into account the criteria set out in the Court’s case-law, in particular the complexity of the case, the behavior of the applicant and the competent authorities, and the importance to the applicant (“Chiarello v. Germany”, § 45).

In this case, court sessions are scheduled with a frequency of approximately 3 times a month. Thus, the court is ready to deal effectively with the case. Despite the fact that the group of prosecutors was replaced, the prosecution is always present at court sessions. However, in spite of the fact that three defenders of the accused are involved in the proceeding, the last court session was postponed precisely on their initiative.

Representatives of the ISHR will continue to monitor this proceeding. The next court hearings are scheduled for September 18 and 27, 2020.