Prosecutions over death of a detainee thanks to journalist investigation

The Chervonohrad Prosecutor’s Office has completed its criminal investigation into charges against former police officers of the Sokal Police Station of exceeding their official powers.
Roman Stasyuk, who lived in a suburb of Sokal, went to the central New Year Tree in Sokal on the night of 31 December. The next morning a police officer visited Roman’s mother and told her that her son was dead. The death certificate stated that he had died of a heart attack. Roman’s mother and sister were asked to collect the body as soon as possible.

After his marriage collapsed, 52-year-old Roman Stasyuk lived with his mother and sister. He worked as a carpenter in a school – orphanage. His friends and relatives are adamant that he never overdid it with alcohol, and even on festive occasions he didn’t have more than 100 grams.

He went to the centre of Sokal that New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks.

The police claim …

According to the former Head of the Sokal Police Station, Oleh Lavrovych a police unit was stationed near the square with a public order inspector and two officers. Roman supposedly intervened when they were addressing somebody else.  They claim he was aggressive and with foul language abused the police, and they decided to arrest him. When they began taking him to the car, they say, he became even more aggressive and they decided to use handcuffs. They assert that when they reached the police station, which is only 200 metres away, he lost consciousness and fell. An ambulance arrived 20 minutes later and the doctors declared him dead.

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The police version was then backed by the Lviv Regional Prosecutor’s Office, using material from a check by the Sokal Prosecutor’s Office. This report said that Roman Stasyuk was drunk and that the death certificate said that he had died of an arteriosclerosis-linked heart condition and acute vascular insufficiency.

Since Roman Stasyuk had never complained of heart problems, a correspondent of the newspaper “Vysoky val” began trying to re-establish what happened that night. A Sokal resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of police reprisals, asserts that he met Roman at 2 a.m. and he was absolutely sober. He says that they drank a symbolic 50 g. of vodka each to celebrate the New Year. “After this we returned to the square. At the New Year Tree, we saw two police officers taking a lad of about 20 to the police car on duty. Roman and I went up to the car and asked them to release the lad because it was New Year, a special day. The young officers told us to mind our own business, insulting Roman, who began arguing with the officers. Then two police officers grabbed his arms, put handcuffs on and took him to their car. All the police officers who were near the car got in and shut the doors. I stood near the car and saw the body of the car shuddering, heart the sound of blows and cries from inside the car…”

The journalist heard of marks of torture from Sokal forensic expert, Oleksandr Kozovsky. He says that he was called to the police station around 5 a.m. On the body he could still see abrasions from the handcuffs, an abrasion above his eyebrow and a bruise on the other side.

The newspaper’s first article led to a forensic medical examination which showed that Roman Stasyuk had died not of a heart attack, but from rib fractures, blunt injuries and severe shock. On 27 January 2008 the Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal investigation into Roman Stasyuk’s death.

The newspaper comments that it is to the credit of the Head of Police for the Lviv Region, Vasyl Lisny that he did not try to protect his subordinates who were dismissed for “discrediting” the police.

However the Sokal Prosecutor’s Office was still unable to find the culprits and the case had to be sent for further investigation to the Chervonohrad Prosecutor’s Office.

After almost two years, criminal investigators have finally confirmed that in the police car, the officers kicked and beat Roman Stasyuk on various parts of his body causing his death.

The former police officers are charged with exceeding official powers, causing grave consequences and inflicting “deliberate serious bodily injuries”. They are remanded in custody.

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