Ukrainians held in Russia following convictions on politically-motivated charges
On 26 May 2016, two Ukrainian citizens, Mykola Karpiuk and Stanislav Klikh, were sentenced to 22.5 and 20 years in prison respectively by the Supreme Court of Chechnya (Russia), having been convicted on 19 May 2016 of pre-meditated murder and attempted pre-meditated murder of Russian soldiers during the first Chechen war between 1994 and 1995. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU, Kyiv), with the support of the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC), based at Middlesex University, represents Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk in their cases before the European Court of Human Rights. An updated application was recently submitted by UHHRU and EHRAC in Mr Klikh’s case before the European Court.
Mykola Karpiuk and Stanislav Klikh were arrested by the Russian authorities in March and August 2014 respectively, and were detained in various locations in the North Caucasus while awaiting the outcome of their trial before the Supreme Court of Chechnya. Following their arrests, Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk were denied access to lawyers of their choice, consular representatives and family members for over 10 months. They have also claimed that they were tortured by the Russian authorities in order to extract confessions (which were then accepted by the Supreme Court as evidence in their joint trial). Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow) issued a statement on 17 February 2016, declaring that it considered Stanislav Klikh and Mykola Karpiuk to be political prisoners. Memorial Human Rights Centre has also published a series of analytical reports on the trial, which seek to expose the substantial and procedural weaknesses in the prosecution’s case. For example, of the thirty soldiers allegedly killed by Mr Karpiuk and Mr Klikh, eighteen died in another place altogether, and a further eleven were not killed by gunfire as alleged. The conviction and sentences are being appealed by the Russian lawyers of Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk.
Mr Klikh’s and Mr Karpiuk’s detention, subsequent trial and conviction was described by Zoya Svetova, a prominent Russian human rights activist, as “one of the most insane and monstrously falsified prosecutions initiated against Ukrainian nationals since the annexation of Crimea”. Following their sentencing, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry demanded “that the Russia immediately annul this unlawful decision and release Nikolai Karpiuk and Stanislav Klikh”; and the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice has also stated that it will exercise its right to file for extradition requests for both men.
Mr Klikh’s and Mr Karpiuk’s respective cases before the European Court relate to their arrest and pre-trial detention, and their conditions of detention. There have been several requests for interim measures (under Rule 39 of the Rules of Court) in Mr Klikh’s case relating to his deteriorating physical and psychological health. Further to the latest request for interim measures, UHHRU and EHRAC recently submitted an updated application to the European Court setting out in full violations concerning his allegations of torture (Article 3 ECHR), the failure to effectively investigate the same (Article 3 ECHR), and the unlawful basis of his prolonged pre-trial detention (Article 5 ECHR).
Mr Karpiuk and Mr Klikh are among several Ukrainian citizens who have been prosecuted in Russia on politically-motivated charges in trials reminiscent of Soviet-era ‘show trials’. Among such cases is that of Nadiya Savchenko, a Ukrainian military pilot, who was accused of having been complicit in the deaths of two Russian journalists and illegally entering Russia. She was found guilty and convicted to 22 years in prison by a Russian court on 6 April 2016. She was released on 25 May 2016 and returned to Ukraine. Another example is that of Oleg Sentsov, a Ukrainian film-maker, who on 25 August 2015 was found guilty of planning a terrorist attack in Crimea following Russia’s annexation of the peninsula and sentenced to twenty years of hard labour.