EHRAC supporting cases at the European Court of Ukrainians detained in Russia

11 November 2015

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Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in April 2014, and the ensuing armed conflict in the Donbas region, EHRAC has been working in partnership with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU) to litigate related cases of human rights violations at the European Court of Human Rights.

Image from the #LetMyPeopleGo campaign by EuroMaidanSOS and the Center for Civil Liberties

Two of these cases relate to Ukrainian citizens accused of being members of a nationalist group in Ukraine, the Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self-Defence, and taking part in fighting in Chechnya during the 1990s, in support of Chechen separatists. Mykola Karpiuk and Stanislav Klikh were detained by the Russian authorities in Russia (Mr Klikh was detained in Orel while on a trip to Russia) in March and August 2014 respectively, and held in several locations in the Stavropol region of the North Caucasus. They are charged with pre-meditated murder (and attempted pre-meditated murder) of members of the Russian armed forces during the course of combat operations in Chechnya. Mr Karpiuk is also charged with creating and leading an armed group in the course of these operations. They are currently detained in Grozny, Chechnya, where the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic is hearing the joint case against them.

Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk’s trial comes after a number of other high-profile Ukrainians have arrested and detained in Russian on allegedly trumped-up charges, largely labelled as ‘show trials’ by external observers and international media outlets.[1] Nadia Savchenko, a Ukrainian helicopter pilot, was captured in eastern Ukraine and then transferred to Russian territory. She was accused of having been complicit in the deaths of two Russian journalists, and of illegally entering Russia. Another high-profile case is that of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film maker, who was arrested on terror charges in May 2014. He was accused of attempting to blow up a statue of Lenin in Crimea. He was sentenced to twenty years of hard labour in August 2015.

To date, Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk have been denied access to their families. The Ukrainian Consul, Aleksandr Kovtun, met with Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk for the first time on 26 October 2015, having previously been refused access. Mr Klikh’s and Mr Karpiuk’s access to lawyers of their choosing has been severely restricted. Mr Karpiuk was denied access to a lawyer of his choice until 14 September 2015, when Dokka Itslayev, a lawyer based in Grozny (and instructed by Mr Karpiuk’s wife) met with him (Mr Karpiuk has also subsequently been visited by Russian lawyer, Ilya Novikov, who is assisting with the case in the Russian courts). Mr Klikh was denied access to a lawyer of his choice until 16 June 2015, when Marina Dubrovina, a lawyer based in Krasnodar region (and instructed by his parents), met with him. Both Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk have told their lawyers that they were tortured by the Russian authorities in order to extract confessions.

Requests for interim measures were submitted to the European Court on 12 December 2014 (on behalf of Mr Karpiuk) and 11 February 2015 (on behalf of Mr Klikh). The Court issued an order for interim measures in Mr Karpiuk’s case, and asked the Russian Government for information on Mr Klikh’s location and the charges against him. A further request for interim measures was submitted on behalf of Mr Klikh on 22 September 2015, in response to which the Court asked the Russian Government for information on his state of health. EHRAC and UHHRU are preparing a response to the information that has been disclosed by the Government.

On 5 October 2015, UHHRU and the Center for Civil Liberties held a joint press conference inviting Mykola’s wife and Stanislav’s mother to speak about their cases. A further joint press conference took place on 7 November 2015.  The two organisations have been working on the cases in Ukraine, gathering evidence and raising awareness about Mr Klikh’s and Mr Karpiuk’s situation. The Center for Civil Liberties has also launched a social media campaign called #LetMyPeopleGo with EuroMaidanSOS. The cases – and the political nature of the trials – have been widely reported in international media.

[1] For example, please see the Economist’s article, The Kremlin’s new show trials, 15 August 2015