Monitoring of the trial of Viktor Yanukovych (court session on August 16, 2018)

Foto: censor.net.ua 

August 16, 2018 in the Obolonsky District Court of Kiev the hearing was held on the case of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, accused of high treason. Despite attempts to formally ensure the implementation of all stages of proceedings related to the observance of the right to a fair trial, in practice, what is happening cannot be called a judicial process that meets international and national standards of justice.

The existence of a confrontation between the defense and the collegiums of the court became obvious. Despite the formally respectful recourse, the participants in the process actually ignore each other. All demands and petitions of defense are simply not taken into account by the court (lawyers are not even given the opportunity to speak). During the session, the court set itself only one goal – to give the prosecutor the opportunity to read out his speech, prepared to speak in the debate while ensuring the nominal presence of at least one lawyer in the courtroom. In such a situation, it is difficult to talk about the objectivity of the lawsuit.

An attempt to ensure the nominal presence of a lawyer in a court session. On August 1, 2018 “public defender” V. Ovsyannikov left the courtroom, due to the court’s refusal to give him time to get acquainted with the case materials before the trial continues. After that, new “free lawyer” Yu. Ryabovol was assigned. Defenders of the ex-president have submitted a statement to the court in which Viktor Yanukovych officially refuses the services of Ryabovol because he already has 5 official defenders (the maximum allowed number) and he does not trust the state attorney. Moreover, Yu. Ryabovol himself stated that he cannot fail to execute the court’s decision on his participation in the case, since this could lead to his criminal prosecution. He regarded this situation as pressure on the bar and asked the court to make the only correct decision and to cancel its previous decision to summon the “free lawyer” in the process.

Despite the defendant’s statement, the presence of the maximum number of lawyers allowed (Paragraph 3, Article 46 of the Criminal Procedure Code states: “No more than five defenders of one accused can participate in a trial at the same time”) and the public confession of Yu. Ryabovol in that he is compelled to take part in the process under the threat of criminal prosecution; the court refused to satisfy Viktor Yanukovych’s statement and left the “public defender” in courtroom. This situation not only contradicts the principle of fair trial, but also creates a dangerous precedent when a convenient “state attorney” is introduced into the process, whose task is to ensure the formal presence of a lawyer in the courtroom. Experts of the International Society for Human Rights have repeatedly stated that such a negative trend exists in Ukraine.

In protest V. Yanukovych’s defenders tried to prevent Yu. Ryabovol from entering the courtroom, however, the presiding judge V. Devyatko ordered the police to bring lawyers to the courtroom “for the observance of Yanukovych’s rights”. As a result, at the entrance to the courtroom there was a clash between the defenders of the ex-president and the police. Lawyer V. Serdyuk said that police officers tried to destroy the original written statement of Viktor Yanukovych, in which he refuses the services of lawyer Yu. Ryabovol. During the confrontation, the representative of the International Society for Human Rights, present at the hearing, informed the Secretariat of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine about the violations of the right to a fair trial.

ISHR experts repeatedly pointed to the inconsistency to the current standards of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The nominal presence of a lawyer in the courtroom cannot be considered as observance of the right to a fair trial (cases of the European Court of Human Rights: Yaremenko v. Ukraine, Pelladoah v. The Netherlands), especially if the accused did not communicate with such lawyer (case “Kan v. Austria”). However, the situation is only aggravated. After the session it became known that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine opened a criminal case against the defenders of the ex-president.

Providing a formal transition to the debate stage. During the monitoring, the problem of refusing to give the defense the opportunity to interrogate all the witnesses, including those that were agreed with the court, was discussed more than once. Each time such a refusal was motivated by the need for a transition to the stage of debate. The situation repeated on August 16, but this time the court simply stopped paying attention to the protests and statements of defense and gave prosecutors an opportunity to read their speech. For an hour, both sides read their documents at the same time – prosecutors read their speech in debates, and lawyers read their petitions. People presented in the courtroom did not have the opportunity to perceive the information, because the parties shouted and spoke at the same time. It seems that in such a situation the judges also did not have the opportunity to perceive the information, but they did not try to somehow influence the situation and silently looked at the prosecutors. After the prosecutor read his text, the presiding judge announced that the procurator had proclaimed his speech and now the stage of the debate has begun.

What is happening in the courtroom cannot be called respect for the right to a fair trial, which, in a democratic society, must be guaranteed to the maximum extent possible (the case of “Salduz v. Turkey”, “Taxquet v. Belgium”). The judges managed to fulfill their goal – to give the prosecutor the opportunity to read out his speech prepared for the debates (even if nobody heard it) while ensuring the nominal presence of at least one lawyer in the courtroom. After such actions, it is no longer possible to talk about the impartiality of the panel of judges, especially after they refused to consider the defense’s appeal to dismiss the present boar of judges.

Despite the requests of the new lawyers to give them three months to get acquainted with the extensive materials of the case, prosecutors and judges considered that it was not necessary to study all the materials in detail. The presiding judge announced that less than a month is enough to get to know and prepare for the debate. The next session is scheduled for September 13, 2018.

Experts of the International Society for Human Rights will continue monitoring the trial. The previous materials can be found here.

Expert Council