Monitoring of the trial of V. Yanukovich (brief information on court hearings 22.10.18 – 30.10.18)

From October 22 to October 30 in the Obolon district court of Kiev, hearings were held in the case of high treason of the ex-president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich. During the sessions, the court interrupted the speech of attorney A. Baidyk and did not let him finish his debate speech, declaring that the stage of the debate was terminated.

On October 22, it became known that American lawyer S. Schneibaum joined as an advocate for lawyers of law firm AVER LEX in a criminal case opened after events of August 16, 2018 when the presiding judge V. Devyatko ordered police officers to use force against the lawyers of AVER LEX (who were trying to protest against participation of the “public defender” Y. Ryabovol in the hearing).  However, his attempt to make a statement during the court session (S. Schneibaum officially appealed to the Obolon court with a lawyer’s request) was interrupted by Judge V. Devyatko, who stated that at this session only court debates were held on treason of V. Yanukovich. Speaking to the press, S. Schneibaum later stated that he was surprised and disappointed by the court’s position and hoped that the court would be ready to make the trial open and transparent for everyone, but now it’s possible that they wouldn’t receive help from the court.

Subsequent hearings on October 23, 24, 25 and 26 lasted only one hour, since lawyer A. Goroshinsky participated in other proceedings in the case of ex-officers of the riot police unit “Berkut”, which was held in the Svyatoshin District Court of Kiev. It is noteworthy that the Obolon court even appealed to Svyatoshin court to postpone the hearings in the “Berkut case”. That is, the need to end the debate in the trial of V. Yanukovich is so great that it outweighs the importance of the process where five defendants have been detained for several years awaiting a court sentence. After this attempt was unsuccessful, the Obolon court’s collegium obliged a lawyer to come to meetings at least for one hour a day. Such haste is absolutely uncommon to Ukrainian judicial practice. If we take into account the fact that the lawyer Goroshinsky was forced to get acquainted with the case materials in parallel with his speeches in the debate (because the court had previously refused to give him the necessary time to get acquainted with the case), then the situation in which the lawyer has to participate in two different processes for four days and still continues to get acquainted with the case has a clear negative impact on the quality of legal assistance provided by the lawyer, because he most likely is not able to adequately prepare for the hearing.

During one of the sessions, the lawyer told the court that V. Yanukovich wanted lawyer Goroshinsky to be present next to him during the last word in the videoconference. For this, he needs to get a lawyer registration in Russia, since according to the law of this country; a lawyer cannot otherwise carry out his activities. The request itself to provide the lawyer with the opportunity to be close to the client during a video conference not only complies with the standards of art. 6 of the European Convention, but it is also necessary to respect the right to a fair trial, because the accused must be able to communicate effectively and confidentially with his counsel (case of the ECHR “Sakhnovsky v. Russia”). Representatives of the prosecutor’s office stated that the lawyers of AVER LEX V. Serdyuk and I. Fedorenko are already registered in the Russian Federation and therefore they can be near the ex-president during a video conference. However, V. Yanukovich himself brought these lawyers out of this process; advocates A. Baydyk and A. Goroshinsky represent his interests. However, the court said that if A. Goroshinsky did not have time to get registered, the ex-president would have to use the services of lawyers of AVER LEX. Such a position deprives the accused of the opportunity to freely choose his defense counsel. This right has already been violated by compulsory participation in the process of “public defender” Y. Ryabovol, and now it may be again violated due to the court’s unwillingness to wait for the registration of attorney Goroshinsky in Russia.

After the end of A. Goroshinsky’s debates speech, advocate A. Baidyk continued his speech. He said that in the course of acquaintance with the materials and communication with the client, he found new circumstances and they should be studied in court. The court, contrary to part 5 of article 364 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, which provides for the suspension of debates to examine new evidence, rejected all lawyer’s petitions aimed at resuming clarification of the circumstances of the case.

On October 30, the court stopped the speech of A. Baidyk and announced the end of the debate. Such actions of the court in particular are motivated by the fact that the lawyer, in the opinion of the court, abused repetitions and unjustified quotations. It is important to clarify that the Code of Criminal Procedure clearly regulates the circumstances in which the court can stop the attorney’s debate speech: if, after a warning, the defender has gone beyond the limits of the criminal proceedings, which is being carried out, or has repeatedly made offensive or obscene statements (Part 6, Art. 364 Code of Criminal Procedure).

The court granted V. Yanukovich the opportunity to deliver the last word on November 19.

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

Expert Council of ISHR