Human rights advocates, experts: Ukraine needs mechanism to correct miscarriages of justice


Experts and rights advocates are calling upon resuming the work on the draft law No.2033-а to set up a mechanism of correction for miscarriages of justice, as for now there is no possibility of appealing against a life imprisonment sentence whatsoever, they said at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.

Andrii Didenko, Coordinator of programs of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reminded that in 2010 the Supreme Court was deprived of the authority to review criminal cases in exclusive proceedings. This mechanism wasn’t always working, but it existed. “There are a number of cases in our practice regarding people who were convicted under Soviet Criminal Procedure Code, and they don’t have a single legal opportunity to go to court. Experts acting as critics claim there is a procedure of reviewing a case in view of newly found circumstances, but lawyers are perfectly aware that this practice does not work, as courts do not accept them for review,” he explained.

The draft law has already been voted for in the first reading, but no progress has been made after that. According to Mykhailo Zhernakov, expert at the Reanimation Package of Reforms, the main reason is police and prosecutors’ lobby in the parliament. “We cannot claim to be a country bent on democracy if we put corruption interests above the interests of freedom, human right and rights of those who are imprisoned for someone else’s crimes. Both me and my colleagues from the Reanimation Package of Reforms are consistently supporting this law,” he stated.

Didenko reminded that the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
made a photo exhibition in Verkhovna Rada – eight stories of wrongly convicted, among them Oleksandr Rafalskyi, Volodymyr Panasenko and Liubov Kushynska. Oleh Levytskyi, lawyer of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union reminded that Volodymyr Panasenko was convicted on the basis of evidence from a mentally and nervously impaired person – false witness who changed his evidence several times during the process. “We cannot feel dignified and calm if we know that there are numerous people convicted under unfair sentence who unjustly endure punishment,” he emphasized. “Before we start talking about judicial reform, we should talk about the mechanism for correction of miscarriages of justice. I call upon MPs once again to vote for this law in the second reading and as a whole, because it’s about people’s destinies,” emphasized Didenko.

Viktor Shyshkin, former judge of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine believes that the present judicial reform will not reduce the number of miscarriages of justice in itself, so there should be a mechanism of reviewing a case. “There is not a single country able to get rid of miscarriages of justice, so we need to minimize them. When we are talking about miscarriages of justice, it’s mostly in the light of criminal legislation. However, miscarriages of justice are present in civil, commercial and administrative cases,” he said. Eric Svanidze, expert of the Council of Europe commented that presence of such mechanism is not a international legal obligation, not even within a framework of the European Convention on Human Rights. Nevertheless, Ukraine needs this mechanism in view of the number of miscarriages of justice. “My advice is considering a possibility to apply this mechanism not only to grave offenses, and not only to people who are serving their sentence, as some of them could have already finish serving it; second of all, basis for reviewing a court decision should be clearly defined to avoid imbalance towards the opposite,” he said. Moreover, mechanism of compensatory measures for those found wrongly convicted should be envisaged, as this is the requirement of the European Convention on Human Rights.