A court has awarded three Dnipropetrovsk EuroMaidan activists 50 thousand UAH each in compensation for wrongful arrest and detention. All three were arrested on Jan 26 during a peaceful demonstration in support of European integration and in protest over the beating of peaceful protesters on Maidan in Kyiv, and the killing of two activists, one of whom – 21-year-old Serhiy Nigoyan - was from Dnipropetrovsk.
Image: police and titushki together against peaceful protesters in January 2014 in Dnipropetrovsk
The protest outside the regional administration resulted in gratuitous violence being applied against protesters. As reported at the time, there was clear evidence from video footage, as well as eye witnesses reports, that the police and local authorities had worked in collaboration with ‘titushki’, or hired thugs. In the video here, for example, you can see people being savagely beaten by titushki with police officers present, while here titushki and police are clearly running together.
It was also easy to see that the titushki had been brought in and provided with the weapons to use against protesters. On one video a group of athletic-looking young men, most wearing masks and hoods, can be seen inside the Dnipropetrovsk regional administration from where they head to the exit holding sticks and bats. Some are also carrying the same shields used by law enforcement officers.
According to one witness, a former police officer, the titushki had provoked the attack on the regional administration. “The police defended them with incredible ferocity, using water cannons against people in temperatures of minus 15, as well as tear gas. The titushki meanwhile hid behind the Berkut riot police, hurling stones at people and shooting with shock pistols.”
During the night from 26-27 January Judges M. Bibik and M Reshetnik issued numerous detention orders, remanding people in custody for two months, until March 27. The detention orders were as though copy-pasted, with all claiming “weighty evidence in the form of witness testimony and other material from the criminal proceedings”, with this supposedly indicating that the people might try to abscond, obstruct the investigation or commit other offences.
Vitaly Pogosyan, Oksana Tomchuk and colleagues were involved in defending 14 of the people, including those who have been awarded compensation. It was thanks to magnificent efforts from them that some of the detention orders were successfully appealed with the court agreeing to other measures not linked with detention.
The scenes in Dnipropetrovsk and the behaviour of judges were seen in other cities in Ukraine at the time, with people being automatically remanded in custody.
On Feb 19 and 20 the same Babushkinsky District Court in Dnipropetrovsk ruled that the people detained be released on the basis of the so-called ‘amnesty law’. The lawyers appealed against this ruling on the grounds that the proceedings were to be simply closed “according to non-rehabilitating circumstances”.
The appeal court revoked the ruling and sent the cases back to the first court, and finally from May 16-20, the prosecutor’s official closed the cases for lack of any criminal offences.
The next step was ensuring compensation for unlawful detention. The original application asked for 100 thousand UAH for each person. Pogosyan stresses that this was based on European Court of Human Rights case law.
Rather disturbingly the prosecutor and police representatives both challenged the applications for compensation, claiming that the investigators and prosecutors had simply carried out their work within the framework of the Criminal Procedure Code. They also claimed there had been no infringements from the prosecution in arresting and seeking the detention of the protesters. This despite the fact that the charges were dropped in May because no offences had been committed.
An investigative commission has already concluded that both judges, Bibik and Reshetnik, acted in breach of their oath. A decision is now awaited from the High Council of Justice.
Congratulations are due Vitaly Pogosyan for his success in obtaining compensation for three of the protesters unlawfully detained. He has no intention of stopping here and stresses that applications have been accepted by the European Court of Human Rights over all 14 people he and his colleagues are defending.
If they don’t find justice in Ukraine, they will surely in Strasbourg, however these compensation rulings, however, give a glimmer of hope that justice can be found at home.
November 13, 2014
copyright: Halya Coynash
source: Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
image: copyright Stepan Klimov