Danish Helsinki Committee slates politically motivated prosecutions in Ukraine

A press conference was given late last week by Mikael Lyngbo, author of Legal Monitoring Reports for the Danish Helsinki Committee on Human Rights, both on the prosecution and conviction of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko and on the prosecutions of Yulia Tymoshenko; Yury Lutsenko; Valery Ivashchenko and Yevhen Korniychuk.

Mr Lyngbo said that on the basis of the four cases mentioned, he had tried to identify general human rights problems within the Ukrainian system.  He stressed that he is not a specialist in Ukrainian law and is not trying to present himself as such. He does however consider that the very fact that defendants are held in cages during court hearings is a violation of human rights.

He mentioned also that during his work in Ukraine he had been staggered by the number of human rights infringements in the criminal prosecutions of former government figures he had investigated. He sees one of the main problems lying in the motives for initiating such proceedings against the politicians. He believes the reasons could be contempt for the law or their fighting corruption. “Or, in fact, a political motive aimed at scaring opposition politicians and putting an end to their activities”.

He stressed that having studied the situation in Ukraine, he couldn’t begin to imagine such cases having been initiated in other countries “at least in traditionally law-based countries”.

He says that one cannot see Yulia Tymoshenko’s “bad agreement on gas in 2009” as a criminal act, it being a political decision.

He also stressed that the best and most experienced judges needed to be selected for examining such prominent cases.  “I see that one and the same judges are involved in all cases. I was also surprised that they’re all very young, just over 30”.  He considers that one cannot expect independent judgements from such judges.

With respect to the balance between Prosecutor and judiciary, he noted that it should be the courts which have control but this is not what he sees in Ukraine.  He had been surprised, he said, to note how many disciplinary proceedings the Prosecutor had initiated against judges.

He pointed out that Ukrainian politicians often demonstrate contempt for the court, for example, shouting at or threatening judges during the hearings, trying to influence the courts more than he would like to see.

There is a huge need in Ukraine, he stresses, for judicial reform, as well as for a change in the mentality of the central figures in the judiciary.

The Danish Helsinki Human Rights Committee’s reports can be found here.  In the last report on the prosecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, the Report concluded:

• that the Debt Case is obsolete due to 10 years statute of limitation.

• that the statute of limitation is not prevented by describing the constituting criminal act as the time when UESU stopped paying its debt in 2000 and not as would be usual legal argumentation the issuing of the guarantee in 1996; An extension of the statute of limitations can subsequently not be based on the Gas Case of 2009.

• that the statute of limitations also prevents the reopening of most if not all of the eight investigations against Mrs. Tymoshenko which were closed in 2004 and 2005.

• that reopening investigation in cases which have been legitimately closed violates Article 6 and Article 18 of the European Convention on Human Rights when the decisions are not justified by legitimate purposes and grounds

• that the President in his public allegations on the crimes of Mrs. Tymoshenko confuses suspicion with convictions,

• that the statements by the Prosecutor General’s Office on the cases against Mrs.Tymoshenko justifies doubt as to the objectivity, independence and impartiality of the Criminal Justice Sector

• that the complicated terminology and mixture of factual descriptions and allegations in the resolution to open investigation in the Debt Case makes it very difficult or even impossible to identify the acts which are incriminated to Mrs. Tymoshenko and therefore violates her right to defence and to a fair trial.

The report on the four prosecutions can be found here:

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