Ukrainian journalist Ruslan Kotsaba Held for Nearly a Year over Allegations of ‘Treason and Obstructing the Military’

Update: 14 Feb 2017 Resolved
Year 21 Jan 2016 Country Ukraine Category Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ , RSF Alert level Level 1
21 Jan 2016 Ukraine Detention and imprisonment of journalists State EFJ/IFJ , RSF Level 1

Ruslan Kotsaba, a Ukrainian journalist and blogger, was arrested on 7 February 2015 after posting a video addressed to Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, in which he voiced criticism for the mobilisation campaign conducted in the country and called on his fellow citizens to boycott it Amnesty international has declared Kotsaba a “prisoner of conscience” 34 members of the European Parliament signed, in December 2015, a letter condemning the arrest of the journalist “simply for doing his work” and calling for the immediate release of Ruslan Kotsaba. The European Parliament will hold a hearing in Brussels on 26 January to discuss his case.

Resolved The court of appeal of the Ukrainian region of Ivano-Frankivsk dropped criminal charges against Ruslan Kotsaba over lack of evidence and quashed his 3.5-year sentence for supposed obstruction of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. He was released in the courtroom, on 14 July 2016, after over 18 months held in detention. On 10 October 2016, the partner organisations of the Platform declared this case to be "resolved", concluding it was no longer an active threat to media freedom.

Updates

15 Jul 2016 : On 14 July 2016, jailed Ukrainian journalist Ruslan Kotsaba was acquitted. The Appeal Court decided to close the criminal proceedings against him on the basis of lack of evidence. The Court immediately released him.

State replies

14 Feb 2017 : Reply from the Government of Ukraine

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20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Mehmet Altan’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Altan’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Altan’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.

20 March 2018

On 20 March 2018, the European Court of Human Rights issued its Grand chamber judgment on Şahin Alpay’s case. The Court found there had been a violation of Article 5 § 1 (right to liberty and security) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention for Human Rights. With regards to article 5 §1, according to the Court findings, “Mr Alpay’s continued pre-trial detention, after the Constitutional Court’s clear and unambiguous judgment of 11 January 2018 (…), could not be regarded as ‘lawful’ ”. The Court held that “for another court to call into question the powers conferred on a constitutional court to give final and binding judgments on individual applications ran counter to the fundamental principles of the rule of law and legal certainty, which (…) were the cornerstones of the guarantees against arbitrariness”. Under Article 46 (binding force and execution of judgments) of the Convention, the Court held that it was incumbent on the respondent State to ensure the termination of Mr Alpay’s pre-tria detention at the earliest possible date. Under Article 10, the Court held in particular that “there was no reason to reach a different conclusion from that of the Constitutional Court, which had found that Mr Alpay’s initial and continued pre-trial detention, following his expression of his opinions, constituted a severe measure that could not be regarded as a necessary and proportionate interference in a democratic society”. The Court pointed out in particular that “criticism of governments and publication of information regarded by a country’s leaders as endangering national interests should not attract criminal charges for particularly serious offences such as belonging to or assisting a terrorist organisation, attempting to overthrow the government or the constitutional order or disseminating terrorist propaganda”.
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