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9 July, 2012

The European Court of Human Rights Sides with Yuriy Lutsenko

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg supported the complaint filed by defence attorneys representing the former Interior Minister of Ukraine, Yuriy Lutsenko.

The court ruled that the arrest and detention of Lutsenko in December 2010 was unlawful. He was taken into custody as a person under investigation, because he was alleged to be able to put pressure on witnesses in a criminal case under which he was charged with abuse of power and overspending budget funds to celebrate Police Day in 2008. The European court ruled that Ukrainian law enforcement agencies violated Article 5 of the Convention on Human Rights: unlawful detention. “The formulations of the court are clear and unambiguous and point to the unacceptability of the practice used in the proceedings against Lutsenko,” Lutsenko's attorney Valentyna Telychenko explained.

Telychenko added that this court ruling on Lutsenko’s arrest and pre-trial detention “is a precedent not only for Ukraine but also for the European Court [of Human Rights] in general”, because it marked the first time that the court had recognised political persecution in Ukraine. “Considering the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights, a Ukrainian court of cassation may either repeal the decisions of the first court and the appellate court and release Lutsenko from custody due to proven violations on the part of the law enforcement agencies, or it can pass another unlawful decision in response to a political order,” Telychenko said.

Serhiy Vlasenko, the attorney representing Yulia Tymoshenko, says that the ECHR ruling in the Lutsenko case suggests that the same verdict also pertains to the Tymoshenko trial and would recognise it as politically motivated. He said he based this reasoning on the fact that the ECHR operates on the foundation of precedent law.

Party of Regions MP Volodymyr Oliynyk claimed that “it does not follow from the ruling of the European Court [of Human Rights] that Lutsenko should be released, because no preventive measure is being applied to him now – he is past this stage, so it is impossible to restore his rights in compliance with the ruling.” He also said he believed it unlikely that anyone would be held responsible in the wake of the court ruling in Strasbourg: “If procedural breaches took place within the framework of Ukrainian legislation but in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights, there is no-one here to punish.” His words may hint at how Ukraine’s justice system will react to the European ruling.

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