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Home arrow newsitems arrow ECHR condemns Ukraine for jailing and ill-treating a Handicapped Russian in Crimea before 2014

ECHR condemns Ukraine for jailing and ill-treating a Handicapped Russian in Crimea before 2014

Written by ACM
Thursday, 19 March 2020

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*Strasbourg/Angelo Marcopolo/-  It's after incidents Between the successive Presidencies of Yushchenko (2005-2010) and Yanukovych (2010-2014), that a Handicapped Russian, WheelChair-bound, faced Criminal Prosecution and Prison Detention, at Crimea, for the comparatively Minor accusation of allegedly having "Threatened" a Policeman, who had vainly Detained his Son at an unrelated Murder Case, and "Punched" a local Official, that he considered responsible for having Cut Electricity to his restaurant, in addition, (Disputes on which, Curiously, Nothing is said by the ECHR's judgement published Today).

A. K. Vagapov, Despite being Aged 55 and Suffering from "the Most Severe Level of Disability" ("Category 1"), with "Paraplegia of his lower Limbs", since "a Gunshot Wound to his Spinal cord", leaving him "WheelChair-bound" during 24 Years, provoking also "a Skin ...Ulcer", Nevertheless, he was "remanded in Custody, Pending Trial", right from the Start of the Investigation, afterwards Condemned into "3 Years ImPrisonment", and later Jailed. He was Released only towards the End of September 2013, after "having Served his sentence in Full", ECHR observed.

"During his Detention", he had to be Treated for "Aggravated" "PyeloNephritis", and underwent "Surgery" for that Ulcer, was "Diagnosed with Aggravated ...Bronchitis", and found with "a Black Burn Wound" and "a Burn Blister" on his Feet, (later "Diagnosed" as "3rd Degree -out of 4- ...Burns") that "Failed to Heal", added to an "Aggravation" of his Skin Ulcer (advanced into a "PuruloNecrotic Stage, with ...Fistulas"), but also to "Urinary InContinence", "Acute Conjunctivitis of both Eyes", "a Purulent Inflammation of ...Cellular Tissues" (with an "Abscess" which should "be Surgically Drained" : something reportedly "Contra-Indicated in the ...Conditions pertaining" in his Detention area), and even "a Broken Rib" (sic !) with "Pain in the Chest area", (etc)...

But the "Request(s)" of his "Lawyer" for "a Panel of Medical Specialists" to Examine the ImPrisoned Handicapped man in order "to determine his State of Health and Medical Needs", and Whether it was "Possible to Meet those Needs", or not, inside his place of Detention, or at least to "Allow a Civilian Doctor to Examine" him, were Both Rejected by the Ukranian Authorities.

Thus, meanwhile, Vagapov "had Refused the Treatment(s) recommended by ...These Doctors", (of the Prison System), Complaining that they had "Understimated" the "Poor Condition of his ...Health", and that he had been "Denied Access to the Doctor of his (Free) Choice".

+ In Addition, that Prison "had Not been Adapted for WheelChair-bound detainees", Obliging him to be "Dependant on other InMates for his Basic Needs", (f.ex.,  "Toilet", "Shower", "Meals", etc), "Deprived of daily Walks", stay "Held in a Cell measuring about 11 sq. m and Shared by 3 Inmates, with No Space for any Movement in a WheelChair", have "Fewer Meetings with his Lawyer..., as ...his CellMates had had to Carry him", also provoking "several Accidents..., such as Burning his Feet with Hot water, and Breaking a Rib (Comp. Supra), etc, while "the Physical Conditions of his Detention had been Poor".

=> Therefore, the Jailed Handicapped man "complained to the ECHR that "the Conditions of his Detention", "with regard to his Physical DisAbility", and that "Medical Treatment" were "InAdequate", and Violated the "Article 3" of the PanEuropean Convention on Human Rights, which Prohibits "Torture or ...InHuman/Degrading Treatment", in any circumstances.

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Russia indicated that "they did Not Wish to exercice their Right to Intervene in the proceedings" (given also the Russian Nationality of the Jailed DisAbled man), as ECHR noted.

As for the Ukranian Government, it Claimed that, "Although" that Jail "had Not been Adapted for WheelChair-Bound Detainees", nevertheless ,"2 people from the Staff (would) have been Alloted to Assist" the DisAbled prisoner.

ECHR "took Note of the (Ukranian) Government's Acknowledgment of the Lack of technical Arrangements" for "the detention of individuals with physical Disabilities", and "reiterate(d) that", as a matter of General Principle, "where the Authorities decide to place and Keep a Disabled person in continued Detention, they should demonstrate Special Care in Guaranteeing such Conditions as Correspond to the Special Needs resulting from his or her Disability".  

On the Controversy whether the Handicapped Prisoner "had been Assisted by ... fellow InMates, or by the (Jail's) Staff" (Comp. Supra), ECHR observed that the Ukranian "Government did Not provide Any Details in that connection", Not even "whether the ...Staff had been Trained or had the Necessary Qualifications"...

Moreover, the Ukranian "Government" did Not Say Anything "on the Incidents which led to ...sustained boiling-water Burns in the course of taking a Shower ..., and having his Rib Broken", as Vagapov had Denounced, (Comp. Supra), ECHR notes, pointing at the incredible Helplesness into which Handicapped People may fall, if they are Obliged to live their EveryDay Life in outlets Deprived of the slightest Facility for Autonomous Movements, (as, f.ex., Metalic Bars, etc)...         

=> "Therefore", the PanEuropean "Court found Plausible... that the ... Injuries" were "a Result of the Failure to Meet" the Handicapped Prisoner's "Basic Needs, in Conditions that would Respect his Human Dignity". "This ...shows that the (alleged) Assistance of the (Jail's) Staff, IF Any, (Comp. Supra), "could Not have ensured (his) ...Autonomy or ...Physical and Moral Integrity".

Indeed, as ECHR had Already noted, at a previous decision on this case, when it had Initially raised relevant Questions to the Ukranian Government, in order to find out its reactions, it's also the f. UN Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment ..., Mr Manfred Nowak", who stressed that "Persons with Disabilities often find themseles in [situations of Powerlessness], for instance When they are Deprived of their Liberty, in Prisons, or Other Places", where "the  particular Disability of an individual may render him or her more Likely to be in a Dependent situation, and make him or her an easier Target of Abuse".                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

+Moreover, ECHR "refer(ed) to the Findings of the CPT (CoE's Anti-Torture Watchdog) in 2013, that Conditions in the Cells" of that Crimea's Jail, in general,"had been as Miserable as some Thirteen Years Previously (i.e. on 2000), when (it) had First Visited that facility...

>>> In Consequence, "and" given "the Cumulative Effects" of such Facts, ECHR Concluded that "the specific Conditions" of the Handicapped Prisoner's "Detention, in view of his Physical Disability, ...in particular, his InAbility to Access the various parts" of that Jail "Independently, including the Canteen and the Sanitation Facilities, and ...the Lack of any Organized Assistance" for "his Mobility ... or his Daily Routine, must have Caused him UnNecessary and Avoidable Mental and Physical Suffering, Diminishing his Human Dignity".                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

"That amounted to Inhuman and Degrading Treatment", in "Violation of Article 3, of the" PanEuropean "Convention" of Human Rights, ECHR Concluded.

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+ The Handicapped man had also Denounced to the ECHR that the Ukranian Court's decision to Condemn him in 3 Years of ImPrisonment was "an Arbitrary and UnNecessary measure", which "had Not been Based on relevant and Sufficient Reasons", and "had Failed to Take into Account (his) ...state of Health; it had Never Examined an Alternative, ... such as a Commitment Not to Leave the Town, or Bail", etc.  

In fact, an Initial "Undertaking Not to Abscond", imposed by a 1st Court, had been "Changed", by a 2nd Court, into "Remand in Custody", under Pretext of the alleged "Seriousness and the Nature of the Criminal Offences in issue", (Comp. Supra)...

But the ECHR found that "Neither the (Ukranian) Government's observations, Nor ... that Court ...had made an Appropriate Assessment of the Facts ... (on) Whether ... (this) was Necessary ..., in particular in view of the applicant's DisAbility". "Neither did (it) ...state Which Risks Justified the ... Detention on remand, (f.ex. the Risk of ...Absconding, Influencing Witnesses, or Hindering Investigation").

This was Contrary to "Article 5§1" of the PanEuropean "Convention" on Human Rights, which stressed that "Everyone has the Right to Liberty and security of person. No one shall be deprived of his liberty save in the following Cases, and in accordance with a Procedure prescribed by law ... (c) the Lawful arrest or detention of a person effected for the purpose of bringing him before the competent legal authority on reasonable Suspicion of having committed an offence, or when it is reasonably considered Necessary to prevent his committing an offence or Fleeing after having done so", EuroJudges observed.

=> Therefore, ECHR judged that the contested Measure "did Not Afford the applicant the Adequate Protection from Arbitrariness, which is an Essential element of the "Lawfulness" of Detention, within the meaning of Article 5§1 of the Convention", and,  "Accordingly, there has been a Violation of that provision" too.

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>>> In Consequence, it's "Unanimously" that the  Strasbourg's Court held that "there has been a Violation of Article 3 of the (PanEuropean) Convention" on Human Rights, because of Inhuman/Degrading Treatments (Comp. Supra) "on account of the specific Conditions of the applicant’s Detention ... in view of his Physical Disability", and "a Violation of Article 5§1 of the Convention", about Personal Liberty (Comp. Supra), Deciding to "Award" to the Victim "EUR 3.000, (three thousand euros)", "in respect of Non-Pecuniary Damage, Plus any Tax that may be chargeable", due to be Paid by "the Respondent State", i.e., in this case, Ukraine.

 

(../..)

("Draft-News")

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People in Europe and the World expect from CoE to make a succes of its "Monitoring" for Human Rights and Democracy, despite difficulties, said Finland's President Tarja Halonen to "EuroFora" at a crucial moment for the mecanism built 15 years ago by the paneuropean organization which celebrates its 60th Anniversary in 2009.

Halonen, known as "Mother" of CoE's "Monitoring" mecanism, a long-time MEP and former Foreign Minister before becoming Finland's President, holds a long experience in the mattter, after also serving twice as CoE and EU Chairwoman in the past. That's why she is well placed to judge how CoE's "monitoring" should deal today with some crucial issues of importance both to CoE and to the EU.

The move came just a Month before a crucial, last visit to Turkey, scheduled for June, by the President of CoE''s "Monitoring" Committee, Ukranian MEP Serge Holovaty, to finalize his Report on Ankara, the CoE Member State with the longest Monitoring procedure. From its results depends its overall credibility.

This is a Test-case, because, in fact, it's in order to avoid Sanctions threatened against Turkey by a CoE's Assembly's April 1995 Resolution for grave Human Rights violations, Democracy gaps, the continuing Military Occupation in Cyprus, the unresolved Kurdish problem, Aegean differend with Greece, etc., that MEPs decided to create, for the 1st time on April 1996, a "Monitoring" proces, allegedly destinated to check, without excluding Countries who did not fulfill all CoE's standards.

In the Past, the obliged withdrawal of Greece's Military regime and of its "Civil" cover-up out of the CoE had helped bring back Democracy in 1974. But, on the contrary, since April 1996, the idea was to "monitor" Human Rights' respect while keeping most concerned Countries inside the CoE. After Turkey's oldest example, this was extended also to several former "Eastern" European Countries, even if CoE's Assembly has imposed to some of them (fex. Ukraine, Russia, etc., after Belarus, Serbia, etc) various "Sanctions", that Ankara always avoided. Curiously more succesful even than .. USA itself, (a CoE "Observer" since 1995), which has been at least threatened with sanctions some years ago..

EU-effects of CoE's Monitoring process became obvious between 2001-2008, since the "closure" of this procedure, when CoE felt that a Country had met most of its Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law obligations, (i.e. the "Copenhagen Criteria" for the EU), helped trigger Negotiations with the EU for "Accession" or other closer relations : This occured already before the 2004 and 2007 EU Enlargements to former "Eastern" European Countries, as well as for the commencement of "accession" negotiations with Croatia, and of "open-ended" negotiations with Turkey in 2005.

    But a stricking new development are Holovaty's recent findings that on core Human Rights issues as Torture and Freedom of Expression, Turkey, even "5 Years after" CoE closed its "Monitoring", back in 2004, inciting EU to start accession Negotiations in 2005, still presents grave problems.

    His findings are of crucial importance after a 2008 CoE Resolution called, "if need be", to "seriously consider the possibility of Re-Opening the Monitoring procedure for Turkey" : A move which might affect Ankara's controversial EU bid, since EU Accession Negotiations are based on the Hypothesis that the Candidate fullfils the "Copenhagen Criteria" (See above)..
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    Holovaty expressed his will to check  "Matters still Outstanding" and  those that he "didn't have an opportunity to discuss" at an earlier visit this year, "in order to discuss the more complex issues in greater depth", at his forthcoming New Visit to Ankara, before the December 2009 EU Summit.  This is all based on the 2004 CoE Resolution which stresses that, CoE "will continue.. post-monitoring Dialogue with the Turkish authorities,...in addition to a 12-points list,..and on any Other Matter that might arise in connection with Turkey’s Obligations as a CoE member state".

    CoE's Resolution also asks  from Turkey "to secure the proper Implementation of Judgements, particularly in the Cyprus v. Turkey InterState case", of 2001, which concerns also the plight of many Hundreds of MISSING People. It adds Turkey's obligations to "execute" ECHR's Judgements in the Loizidou case,..and in particular adopt General Measures to avoid repetition or continuation of Violations found by the Court" to the detriment of Refugees.

    Nevertheless, Holovaty said to "EuroFora" that "MISSING" persons,"might be included" and cannot be excluded, but he has yet to examine the situation "to find out  which issues will be raised" to the Turkish Government.

    Therefore, "EuroFora" asked Halonen, as the Historic "Mother" of CoE's Monitoring mecanism, if she thought that, "whenever there are grave Human Rights Violations, as fex. "MISSING" persons, attested even by ECHR's judgements, they should be always checked by a Monitoring process. Or could they be forgotten ?"
    
     - "We (CoE) must be, at the same time, Fair, Realistic, but not in the mind that "now we have Forgotten", etc., replied to "EuroFora"'s question Halonen, speaking as a matter of general principle.

    - "When we think of those People that are suffering from the lack of Democracy, of Human Rights, and of the Rule of Law", "we should find a base on how to deal with the (Monitoring) system more rapidly"', she stressed.

    - "Sometimes it's very difficult to combine Transparency and Effectivenes together, particularly in this specific case", she went on to say. But, "I have not found a (CoE Member) Country who could be insensitive in this sens", Halonen answered concerning grave Human Rights violations attested by the ECHR.

    - "I have no ready-made answer. I have the expectations that you, in the CoE, will, step by step, find the different types of the monitoring systems."

    Also "because this is a part of the UN's Post-Conflict system, (fex. when it comes to Cyprus' MISSING persons), and it's a more Global system". So that, "If we make a succes in Europe, the others will follow", throughout the World.  "But they expect that we (Europe) are this opportunity, this Opportunity to make a Succes", Halonen concluded.

    In addition, she advised to extend CoE's Monitoring to all its 47 Member States, "because, as long as we hear that, all these monitoring systems are "OK for the neighbor, but not for me", "it's very difficult" to understand. Something which could make easier to Compare...

    Finnish MEP Jaako Laakso, former CoE Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories of Cyprus and one of the 5 Signatories of the Historic CoE's call to create the "MONITORING" mecanism since 1996, was more specific :  - "We (CoE Assembly) have to find a way for the issue of Cyprus' MISSING People to be better followed", he stressed, anouncing his intention to "speak to Mr. Holovaty" about that. "There might be also other ways", added Laakso.

    - The 2008 "Year had been a very Bad one for Turkey with regard to Human Rights in general, and Freedom of Expression in particular", denounced, meanwhile, Holovaty's preliminary Post-Monitoringh Draft Report by Holovaty, published by the CoE on April 2009.

    "Amnesty International believes that freedom of expression is not guaranteed given the various articles of the Criminal Code that restrict it. .. "For example, 1,300 Websites are said to have been closed down by the (Turkish) authorities in 2008" ! While "the new Turkish Criminal Code was used to bring a total of 1,072 proceedings between June 2005 and April 2008, and led to the conviction of 192 people", for expressing views. "Representatives of the Özgür Gündem newspaper, which specialises in Kurdish affairs, ..complained about Numerous Attacks on their Freedom of Expression ...as was everyone who advocated a settlement to the question by means other than the intervention of the army" "According to their figures, 19 Newspapers had been suspended 43 times between 4 August 2006 and 4 November 2008" !...

    Moreover, on 2008,  CoE's "Ministers adopted its 4rth Resolution on the execution of the judgments of the ECHR, ...and outstanding issues regarding 175 Judgements and decisions relating to Turkey delivered between 1996 and 2008...  concerning Deaths resulting from the excessive use of force by members of the Security forces, the failure to protect the right to life, the DIisappearance and/or death of individuals, Ill-Treatment and the Destruction of property". CoE's " Ministers urged the Turkish authorities ...to ensure that members of Security forces of all ranks can be prosecuted without administrative
authorisation" for "serious crimes". Holovaty reminded.

"Nonetheless", Holovaty heard anew of "Several cases of Violence committed last year (2008) by the (Turkish) security forces". Amnesty International speaks of Many Cases of ill-treatment and Torture in the prisons and by the police". "Including, fex."'the death of Engin Ceber, a young man of 29 who died on October 2008 as a result of the TORTURE allegedly inflicted on him by police officers, prison staff and members of the gendarmerie. He was part of a group of people arrested on September 2008 during a demonstration and Press Conference in Istanbul'. Proceedings against suspects are "on-going" in this case.

- " I therefore noted an Obvious Contradiction between the Government’s stated “zero tolerance” policy.... of Torture and other forms of ill-treatment, and the different testimonies given", denounced CoE's Rapporteur.  Turkish "authorities must make considerable efforts to guarantee that proper investigations are carried out into allegations of abuses by members of the security forces and that perpetrators are effectively punished" "In this respect, I have requested detailed Statistics on the number of Investigations, acquittals and convictions in cases involving allegations of abuse in order to show the positive impact of the measures taken to date", Holovaty said, repeating a permanently unsatisfied CoE's demand to Turkey since a Decade...

    - "The Political Crisis that shook the country in the spring of 2008 highlighted the Weaknesses of the (Turkish) Constitution", which comes from the Military regime of 1982, "and the Urgent Need of Reforms", stressed from the outset CoE's Rapporteur in 2009. In particular, "the ...Democratic functioning of state institutions, including the independence of the judicial system, are crucial", he observes.

    But, "the Electoral  system and the ways in which it is circumvented do not appear to give those elected complete Legitimacy, and tend to pervert the course of direct universal suffrage", denounces Holovaty, observing that, even 5 Years later, Turkey did not yet change the 10% nationwide Threshold for a party to take any seat, which is "far higher" than the "3%" maximum in Europe and already condemned as contrary to European Standards by the CoE.

    + Moreover, EU Parliament's 2009 Report on Turkey, drafted by Dutch MEP Ria Oomen-Ruijten and adopted in Strasbourg on March, expresses "Concern over the Failure of the (Turkish) Judiciary to prosecute cases of Torture and Ill-treatment, the Number of which is Growing". EU also "is concerned about continuing Hostility and Violence against Minorities" in Turkey. It also "calls on the Turkish Government to launch, as a matter of Priority, a Political Initiatve favouring a lasting Settlement of the Kurdish issue, (while "condemning violence.. and terrorist groups"). EU "regrets that No progress has been made on establishing full, systematic Civilian suprevisory functions over the (Turkish) Military".

    The final results of Holovaty's 2nd and last visit to Turkley will be known later this year, and, at any case, before EU's December 2009 Summit.

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