In 2010, EHRAC agreed to take the case of Judge Oleksandr Volkov, who had been unfairly dismissed from his post at the Supreme Court of Ukraine under President Yanukovych.
However, it was only in 2014 that EHRAC formally expanded to litigate other cases from Ukraine. Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ensuing conflict in the Donbas region, EHRAC identified a pressing need among lawyers and NGOs to challenge gross human rights violations. There are currently approximately 3000 individual cases of detentions, deaths, torture and ill-treatment – as well as three inter-State applications – pending before the European Court arising from the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.
Examples of cases against Ukraine
Independence of the judiciary
Judge Oleksandr Volkov was reinstated to the Supreme Court in February 2015, following our sustained efforts to implement the groundbreaking European Court judgment concerning his unfair dismissal. EHRAC’s Director Philip Leach participated in a panel discussion to launch a Council of Europe project on “Strengthening the system of judicial accountability in Ukraine”, which addresses the systemic failures relating to the political control of the Ukrainian judiciary identified in the case. In light of the judgment, Ukraine has amended its national legislation to ensure greater accountability of the judiciary, and is also taking steps to amend its Constitution. The measures outlined in the Volkov judgment provide a roadmap for national representatives working in the field of justice reform in Armenia, Georgia and Moldova as well, under the Council of Europe’s guidance.
Grad missile attack in Horlivka
On 27 July 2014, during fighting between Ukrainian forces and ‘separatists’ in the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), the launch of grad missiles on civilian targets resulted in a number of civilian casualties. Neither side has accepted responsibility for firing the missiles. With the Regional Centre for Human Rights, we are litigating the case of a mother and daughter who were killed by these missiles whilst in a park in Horlivka. The applicant, the mother and grandmother of the victims, alleges violations of the right to life, the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment, and the right to an effective remedy. Both Ukraine and Russia have, to date, failed to conduct an effective investigation into the victims’ killings.
Ukrainians held in Russia
Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh were arrested and detained by the Russian authorities in March and August 2014 respectively, and have since been held in several locations in the North Caucasus and the Stavropol region. They face politically-motivated charges relating to the activities of an armed group which allegedly participated in combat operations in Chechnya between 1994 and 2000. Mr Karpyuk is also charged with creating and leading the armed group in the course of these operations. They both allege that they were tortured by the Russian authorities in order to extract confessions. The cases, and the political nature of the trials, have been widely criticised by human rights NGOs and in the international media.
Unlawful detention, torture and forced labour in eastern Ukraine
Together with UHHRU we are litigating the cases of four Ukrainian civilians who were detained in the Donetsk region by members of the DPR. All of the victims, who include a journalist, a student, a theatre producer and an artist, were held for between six and ten weeks. The applicants in these cases allege that they were unlawfully detained in inhuman conditions, subjected to torture and/or other forms of ill-treatment, forced to work for their captors, and in some cases denied access to adequate medical assistance.
The majority of our cases in Ukraine are being jointly litigated with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, an umbrella association of twenty-nine human rights NGOs, and the Regional Centre for Human Rights.
Ukraine at the European Court
- Ukraine ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1997.
- Almost half of the cases pending at the European Court of Human Rights at the end of 2015 concerned three member States: Ukraine was one of them, along with Turkey and the Russian Federation.
- Of the 51 judgments handed down against Ukraine in 2015, the most commonly found violations were: right to a fair trial, inhuman or degrading treatment, and right to liberty and security.