Monitoring the trial of V. Yanukovych (court hearing of 09/13/2019)

On September 13, a hearing was held in the Kiev Court of Appeal in the case of the ex-president of Ukraine V. Yanukovych.  On January 24, the Obolonsky District Court of Kiev pronounced a verdict convicting ex-President of Ukraine V. Yanukovych of high treason (Article 111 of the Code of Criminal Procedure) and complicity in the planning, preparation and conduct of an aggressive war (Articles 27, 437 of the Code of Criminal Procedure).

The session began when the lawyers of V. Yanukovych handed over to the court his petition about the refusal of the “state lawyer” Yu. Ryabovol, since he ignored the rights of the accused, violated the quality standards of providing free legal assistance. Prosecutors asked the court not to satisfy this petition, since they believe that participation in the trial of the public defender guarantees the accused uninterrupted legal protection. Yu. Ryabovol said that he cannot leave the trial without a court decision, therefore, he asked the court to establish his legal status. The court did not satisfy the petition of V. Yanukovych on the refusal of the state lawyer. This court decision violates the right to defense, since the state lawyer will participate in the trial contrary to the interests of the accused (as evidenced by a petition signed personally by V. Yanukovych). It is worth noting that this position of the court is contrary to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). In the “Khanzevatsky v. Croatia” case, the ECtHR noted that a person accused of a criminal offense should be able to resort to legal assistance of his choice. In addition, the court motivated its decision by the fact that, thanks to the participation of a state lawyer in the trial, V. Yanukovych will have high-quality legal assistance. It remains unclear how such a defense will be of high quality if the fundamental importance for preparing the defense implies the ability of the accused to communicate with his defense counsel (the “Kahn v. Austria” case), and V. Yanukovych has repeatedly filed petitions for refusing the “imposed” defender. It is also worth recalling that according to Ukrainian legislation no more than five lawyers can participate in the trial, and in this situation, Yu. Ryabovol is the sixth.

In addition to the statement, the lawyers filed three motions that related to the settlement of the issue of V. Yanukovych’s participation in court hearings. As before, lawyers insisted on Ukraine fulfilling its international obligations and using the norms of the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters for organizing video communications with V. Yanukovych. The court saw no reason to satisfy these requests and stated that the appeal hearing would be conducted in accordance with the procedure used by the court of the first instance.

Recall that when using the video communication format, Ukraine should have cooperated with the competent authorities of the Russian Federation, it was this fact that served as the refusal of the court of first instance from this procedure, the court referred to the fact that high treason (of which V. Yanukovych is accused) was committed in favor of the Russian Federation. The court decided not to refer to any norms of national or international law, but only guided by internal convictions. It is important to note that according to Ukrainian law, the court has the right to use internal conviction exclusively in assessing evidence (Article 94 of the Code of Criminal Procedure of Ukraine). Thus, the Court of Appeal, having decided to hold court hearings using the same procedure as the prior court, continues to violate international obligations and national legislation.

Experts from the International Society for Human Rights will continue to monitor and clarify the details of this trial. The next session will be held on September 23. The previous materials can be found here.