Monitoring the case of Kirill Vyshinsky (session 08/20/2019)

Photo: tvi.ua

On August 20, a hearing supposed to be held in the Kiev Court of Appeal in the case of the chief editor of “RIA Novosti-Ukraine” Kirill Vyshinsky, who is charged with high treason (Article 111 of the Criminal Code). In addition to state treason, Vyshinsky is charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order (Article 109 of the Criminal Code), separatism (Article 110 of the Criminal Code), inciting ethnic hatred (part 1 of article 161 of the Criminal Code) and illegal possession of weapons (part 1 of article 263 of the Criminal Code Code).

Vyshinsky was detained on May 15, 2018, in Kiev during a search of employees of “RIA Novosti Ukraine”. The law enforcement agencies of Ukraine claim that they found a contract between the journalist and the Russian media group “Russia Today”, as well as a large amount of money and firearms. On May 15, Vyshinsky was transferred from Kiev to Kherson, and on May 17, the Kherson City Court applied the measure of restraint against the journalist in the form of detention. Vyshinsky himself denies all charges and considers the case politically motivated. He claims that all the materials on the “RIA Novosti-Ukraine” website, in which the prosecution sees the corpus delicti, met journalism standards. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Arlem Desir, noted that “journalists should not be imprisoned for their professional activities” and called on Ukraine to release Vyshinsky.

During the session, it was planned to consider the defense’s complaint against the decision of the Podolsky District Court of Kiev on the extension of the measure of restraint in the form of detention of the journalist, but it did not take place again. The first time the session was adjourned due to the absence of one of the lawyers, and today the reason was the sick leave of the judge, which became known 20 minutes after the session was supposed to begin, although at first the delay was explained by technical problems with the courtroom. It is worth noting that many journalists arrived at the trial, and one of the defenders, according to him, came to the hearing from Kherson, which is 500 km away from Kiev. Such an organization of the trial does not facilitate consideration of the case in reasonable terms, given the fact that the accused has been in custody in jail for more than a year. 

In almost every report, ISHR experts focus on a systematic violation of the principle of reasonable time (cases of V. Yanukovych, S. Yezhov and many others), which is one of the main elements of fair trial. In its practice, the ECtHR insistently draws the attention of national courts to “a special obligation to ensure that all parties involved in the trial do everything in their power to avoid unjustified delay in the consideration of the case” (“Vernillo v. France”). The provisions of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights indicate that accused persons cannot remain in ignorance for too long about their fate (“Nakhmanovich v. Russia”, “Ivanov v. Ukraine”).

It is important to note that throughout the trial, the prosecution refers to the initial risks in its requests for an extension of the measure of restraint (possible influence on witnesses and renunciation of citizenship of Ukraine, which, according to prosecutors, entails a desire to hide from justice), although over time, the initial reasons for detention are becoming less and less significant. For example, according to the legal position of the ECtHR in the case of “Todorov v. Ukraine”, there must be exceptionally good reasons for extending detention. Moreover, as the Court points out, only the gravity of the crime, the complexity of the case and the seriousness of the charges cannot serve as a basis for extending such a measure.

The International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor this trial. Previous reports can be found here.