Location Ukraine Ukraine

2 May violence in Odessa: Ukrainian nationalists regularly threat courts and judges

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a new Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine since 16 November 2016 to 15 February 2017. The report pays special attention to 2 May 2014 violence in Odessa.

The Office’s report notes, more than two and a half years since the violence in Odessa on 2 May 2014, nobody has been held accountable for the death of 48 people. The investigations have progressed selectively, and the ongoing trials have been subjected to undue delays and continued interference.

On 2 December 2016, following the replacement of one of the judges hearing the case considering the involvement of 20 ‘pro-federalism’ supporters in mass disturbances in the city centre, the court ordered a retrial. At least five consecutive hearings on the merits were postponed due to the absence of one of the accused and the civil claimants (the Odessa Russian theatre and the Odessa department of the National Police). (The report means hearings of the Malynovskyi district court of Odessa, 24 and 25 November, 8, 16 and 22 December 2016.) OHCHR is concerned that the retrial will result in further delays, most negatively affecting five individuals detained since 2 May 2014. According to OHCHR observations, the accused in this case are the victims of arbitrary detention, since their measure of restraint has been extended without sufficiently reasoned decision at least 17 times. For example, on 16 December 2016, the prosecutor filed a motion on extension of custodial detention for 60 days concerning five individuals, without proper justification of the necessity to do so. He only referred to general risks, such as escape, tampering with witnesses if released, or lack of social links.

In parallel, ‘pro-unity’ activists continue interfering in the independence of judges in regards of the five ‘pro-federalism’ detainees. On 10 February 2017, the court postponed a hearing, while the National Guard had to evacuate the five detainees, because of mass disturbances organised by ‘pro-unity’ activists in the Malynovskyi district court of Odessa. Riot police stopped the disturbances; however none of the perpetrators was arrested. Generally since November 2014, OHCHR has observed significant presence of male ‘pro-unity’ activists, often in paramilitary uniform, during custodial detention hearings in the 2 May violence trial on mass disturbances in the city centre. In most cases, the ‘pro-unity’ activists openly harass judges and the defendants, their lawyers and relatives. The police, while present, remains inactive and only separates the opposing parties.

The only individual accused of perpetrating a killing during the 2 May 2014 events is not in custody. He is a member of ‘pro-unity’ activist groups. Around 30-40 fellow members, sometimes in camouflage, attend all of his court hearings, exerting pressure on the defendant and victims’ representative. On 5 January 2017, the court ruled to return the indictment to the prosecutor for revision, indicating unwillingness of the judges to hear this case on the merits.

The case concerning three officials of the State Emergency Service accused of leaving those trapped in the burning House of Trade Unions, which led to the deaths of 42 people, has also been subjected to undue delays. Only in January 2017, the prosecution finished the pre-trial investigation stage and sent the indictment to the Prymorskyi district court of Odessa, since in November 2016, the Odessa Regional Court of Appeal had returned the indictment to the prosecutor for revision.

 

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