The Ukrainian court of first instance sentenced the ex-President Viktor Yanukovych.
January 24, Obolonskyi district court of Kiev sentenced the ex-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych, finding him guilty of treason (article 111 of the Criminal Procedure Code) and aiding and abetting the planning, preparation and waging of aggressive war (articles 27, 437 of the Criminal Procedure Code). Thus the court excluded from sentence charges of the actions directed on change of state borders of Ukraine (article 110 of the Criminal Procedure Code). The ex-President was sentenced to 13 years in prison. The lawyers of Viktor Yanukovych have already declared that they will appeal against this decision in the court of appeal.
ISHR experts monitored this case since May of 2017 (starting from the preparatory court meetings). During this period, many violations have been identified that call into question the fairness of the trial. Observers of the ISHR recorded 46 episodes of violations of international principles, the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. Recall that according to national legislation, the Convention and the decisions of the ECHR are the source of law for the Ukrainian courts (law “On Execution of Decisions and Application of Practice of the European Court of Human Rights”). Even the announcement of the verdict was performed with a violation, as according to lawyers of Viktor Yanukovych, the court warned them about the date of the verdict only the day before and not three days prior (as required by law).
Among the gross violations of human rights identified during the monitoring of the trial are the following:
- Refusal of the court to apply the mandatory rules of the European Convention on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters, which is ratified by Ukraine;
- The involvement of the public defenders in the trial, despite the protests of Viktor Yanukovych and his official attorneys;
- Refusal of the court to hear the testimony of the majority of witnesses of the defense, including those whom the defense considers to be the main witnesses;
- Refusal of the court to permit the evaluation of expert opinions of independent international experts from the USA, Great Britain, Switzerland, Ukraine and other evidence of defense;
- Pressure, threats and even use of force against the ex-President’s lawyers by the authorities;
- The court’s refusal to allow lawyers to finish their speech in the debate;
- The reluctance of the court to wait for the discharge of Viktor Yanukovych from the hospital, to give him the opportunity to speak with the last word.
Unusual for the realities of the Ukrainian legal proceedings is the “speed” with which the decision was passed. The trial took 21 months, although, for comparison, many trials on such serious articles (monitored by the ISHR) drag from 2014-2015 and so far none of them has come to an end. Usually the accused are held in custody for 40-60 months, however, unlike Viktor Yanukovych’s trial, the courts consider such cases slowly, interrogating hundreds of witnesses and evaluating new evidence. It can be said that in the process of the ex-President such “speed” of sentencing is achieved by refusing to interrogate a large number of alleged witnesses and refusing to accept new evidence. That is not peculiar to the Ukrainian legal proceedings.
ISHR will continue to monitor this trial. Materials of monitoring of Viktor Yanukovych’s case can be found here.