Monitoring of criminal proceedings of Nelia Igorevna Shtepa (11/23/2020)

On November 23, 2020, the Ordzhonikidze District Court of Kharkov heard the case of N.I. 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.

Earlier, the court session was repeatedly postponed. One of the reasons for the postponement was that the defendant was sick and tested positive for Covid-19. At the beginning of the trial, she provided the court with medical documents confirming this fact.

The court session on November 23, 2020 began with the interrogation of the witness A.V. Pivovar using video communications.

It is worth noting that the court has not yet moved on to the examination of evidence and the witness was interrogated as part of the consideration of the issue of applying a measure of restraint.

Earlier, the prosecution filed a petition to apply a measure of restraint against N.I. Shtepa – partial house arrest.

At the hearing, witness A.V. Pivovar stated that N. I. Shtepa and her lawyers were exerting pressure on him. During his stay in the pre-trial detention center in 2017, the witness wrote a statement to the prosecutor’s office that he received threatening letters and pressure was being exerted. Representatives of the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), in agreement with the accused, threatened the witness’s wife. In addition, he indicated that, through another witness, the defendant’s lawyer sought to meet with A.V. Pivovar. But the witness did not accept such an offer.

The defendant’s lawyer A.V. Tatanakin filed a letter to the court from the Bakhmutskiy Penitentiary Institution that witness A.V. Pivovar during his stay in the institution did not receive or send correspondence.

In addition, the lawyer D.I. Marchenko asked the court to attach to the case materials an extract from the Unified Register of Pre-trial Investigations that N.I. Shtepa asks to take measures and bring to justice A.V. Pivovar for knowingly giving false testimony.

N.I. Shtepa indicated that earlier, when deciding on the application of a measure of restraint, the Leninsky District Court of Kharkov had already interrogated A.V. Pivovar, took into account his testimony and changed the measure of restraint from detention to house arrest.

In accordance with paragraph 1 of Art. 177 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine, a measure of restraint, among other things, is applied to prevent attempts to influence witnesses. On this point, the ECtHR stated: 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, as well as any other specific factors to justify the risks posed by him being able to abuse his returned freedom by acting for the purpose of falsifying or destroying evidence, or putting pressure on victims (“Sokurenko v. The Russian Federation”, paragraph 88).

The International Society for Human Rights believes that in the case of N.I. Shtepa, the representatives of the Prosecutor’s Office have seriously approached the substantiation of their position on the need to apply a measure of restraint – partial house arrest. The prosecution defends the position that N.I. Shtepa unlawfully influences the witnesses.

In addition, the prosecution insisted on the interrogation of the witness – the wife of A.V. Pivovar. At the court hearing on November 23, 2020, she could not come for interrogation, since she could not leave work.

The next court hearing will take place on December 02, 2020. The International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor these criminal proceedings.