High commissioner on human rights on investigation of 2 May 2014 violence in Odessa

No progress has been observed in ensuring accountability for the 2 May 2014 violence in Odessa, which resulted in the death of 48 people. State actors have failed to take appropriate measures to ensure effective investigations of the events and to protect the independence of the judiciary. The investigations into the events have been, at various stages, characterized by general institutional deficiencies, procedural irregularities indicating a lack of willingness to genuinely investigate or prosecute those responsible, and both direct and indirect political interference suggesting deliberate obstruction and delay of judicial proceedings.
OHCHR is deeply concerned that the process of police reform interrupted the investigations into the 2 May 2014 clashes in Odessa, the burning of the Trade Union Building, and the negligence of the Fire Brigade in responding to the fire. Investigations have been suspended since 7 November 2015, when the investigation team dedicated to the 2 May 2014 violence was disbanded due to the restructuring of the police into the new ‘national police’. In January 2016, a new investigation team was constituted under the Odessa regional department of national police and investigations reportedly resumed. OHCHR notes that continuing delays in investigating the 2 May 2014 events appear unjustified and inconsistent with an intent to bring those responsible to justice.
On 25 December 2015, the Office of General Prosecutor reported that the pre-trial investigation into the role of the former Head of the Odessa regional police department in the 2 May violence had been completed. The materials were given to the accused and his lawyer for examination.
OHCHR is concerned about the ongoing trial of ‘pro-federalism’ individuals involved in mass disorder in the city centre on 2 May 2014, which has been characterized by partiality, procedural violations and pressure on the judiciary by ‘pro-unity’ activists. On 27 November, the Malynovskyi District Court of Odessa granted conditional interim release on bail to five ‘pro-federalism’ detainees. ‘Pro-unity’ activists then pressured the prosecution to appeal this decision, in violation of the Criminal Procedural Code. Approximately 50 ‘pro-unity’ activists then blocked the judge of the Court of Appeals of Odessa Region in his office, urging him to grant the appeal. The same day, after the activists met with a panel of judges of the Malynovskyi District Court, the latter signed letters of resignation. Subsequently, the ‘pro-unity’ activists went to the pre-trial detention facility and blocked the main entrance, searching all vehicles in order to block the possible release of the ‘pro-federalism’ detainees on bail. On 4 December 2015, as a result of this aggressive pressure on the judiciary, the Malynovskyi District Court of Odessa reconsidered its previous ruling and cancelled the conditional interim release on bail for all five detainees, in violation of procedural law. The judges also sent letters to the Judicial Council asking to accept their resignation. The prosecutor’s office of Odessa has opened an investigation into this instance of judicial interference.
The failure of State actors to uphold or protect judicial independence has also led to delays in prosecuting the only ‘pro-unity’ activist charged in relation to the 2 May 2014 events, for killing a person and injuring a police officer. Since August 2015, the Malynovskyi District Court of Odessa has sent three petitions to the Court of Appeal, requesting a change of venue for the trial due to continued political pressure from ‘pro-unity’ activists. On 27 January 2016, the case was eventually transferred to the Suvorovskiy District Court of Odessa, but as at February 2016, the trial had not commenced, in violation of national legislation.


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