Two Ukrainian Journalists Sentenced to 9 Years’ Imprisonment for Assisting Separatism

Update: 28 Mar 2018 State replied
Year 31 Dec 2017 Country Ukraine Category Detention and imprisonment of journalists Source of threat State Partner EFJ/IFJ Alert level Level 1
31 Dec 2017 Ukraine Detention and imprisonment of journalists State EFJ/IFJ Level 1

On 28 September 2017 the Ukrainian journalist Dmytro Vasylets and cameraman Yevhen Timonin were sentenced to 9 years’ imprisonment, after being found guilty of assisting separatism by a district court in Zhytomyr. The prosecution ruled that Vasylets and Timonin helped to rebroadcast content from the separatist Novorossiya TV on YouTube. This sentence includes the two years they had spent in jail since the beginning of the case in 2015. It was read out in absence of the defendants, since Vasylets was removed from the courtroom after criticising the court’s ruling. Alert : 2 detentions

Updates

22 Feb 2018 : On 21 February 2018, the Kyiv Appeal Court overturned the Andrushevskyi District Court of the Zhytomyr Region's decision that found journalists Dmytro Vasylets and Yevhen Tymonin guilty of aiding the activities of the self-proclaimed "Donetsk People's Republic" and inciting ethnic hatred on the basis of procedural flaws. Vasylets and Tymonin were released from custody, placed under house arrest for 2 months and ordered to wear electronic bracelets. The appeal court returned the case to the court of first instance for review .

State replies

28 Mar 2018 : 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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