Ukrainians tortured to confess to Chechnya killings lose appeal against ‘grossly unfair’ jail sentences
Two Ukrainian men jailed in Russia after being tortured into confessing to a series of murders are the victims of a travesty of justice, Amnesty International said after they lost their appeals against lengthy prison sentences today.
Stanislaw Klykh and Mykola Karpyuk were convicted of killing Russian soldiers in Chechnya in the 1990s, despite both providing credible evidence that they were not in the unstable region at the time. Moscow’s Supreme Court today upheld sentences of 22 years in jail for Karpyuk and 20 for Klykh.
“Russia’s case against these men defies reason. The numerous fair trial violations and the unconvincing prosecution evidence all point to a fabricated case. They were denied access to their lawyers of choice and allege that their confessions were forced from them as a result of torture,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Regional Office Director.
“Rather than taking the opportunity to correct this blatant travesty of justice, Moscow’s Supreme Court has again overlooked the evidence and upheld the prosecution case in this propaganda-driven show trial.”
Klykh and Karpyuk, who belong to a Ukrainian right-wing nationalist group, were unable to use their chosen lawyers for several months after their arrest in 2014, during which time they allege they were tortured into confessing.
Stanislav Klykh said he was forced to drink vodka until he lost consciousness, given mind-altering psychotropic drugs, hung from bars in his cell, subjected to electric shocks and kept in solitary confinement for more than a year. None of these torture allegations have been investigated.
Klykh’s state-appointed lawyer was not even present when he was interrogated and later revealed that she had been on maternity leave.
“The Russian authorities must investigate the serious allegations of torture at the hands of its law enforcement personnel, as well as the denial of access to a lawyer,” said John Dalhuisen after Amnesty International attended today’s appeal hearing in Moscow.
The torture has affected the mental health of Stanislav Klykh, who appeared severely disturbed throughout the trial, which began in October 2015.
He undressed himself in the court room, shouted abuse and hung himself upside down inside the defendant’s cage.
In November 2015, Klykh cut himself with a blade to protest against the authorities’ refusal to carry out a medical examination. In October 2016, he claimed not to remember his date of birth during a court hearing and asked to be defended by Stanislav Mikhailov – a Russian pop star.
All requests for Stanislav Klykh to be offered an independent psychiatric examination have been refused and he has instead been declared fit to stand trial.
Up to the time of his alleged torture he had no previous history of mental illness.
“To ignore Stanislav Klykh’s medical condition, despite the evidence demonstrating his vulnerability, is cruel and inhuman. He must be assessed by an independent medical professional as soon as possible,” said John Dalhuisen
Mykola Karpyuk and Stanislav Klykh were arrested, while visiting Russia, in March 2014 and August 2014 respectively.
They were both members of the Ukrainian right-wing group, the Ukrainian National Assembly – Ukrainian Peoples’ Self Defence (UNA UNSO), which is banned in Russia.
They were convicted by Chechnya’s Supreme Court in May 2016 of being members of a group of fighters that killed 30 Russian soldiers during the conflict in Chechnya from 1994–96.
Both men have denied all the charges.
Mykola Karpyuk’s alibi that he was studying in Ukraine at the time of his alleged crimes was ignored by the court. Klykh was under investigation in Ukraine for a different crime during the same period, under travel restrictions.
The conviction was based on the two men’s confessions, allegedly extracted under torture, and the testimony of one other witness, Aleksandr Malofeev, a member of UNA UNSO who is also in jail for the killings of Russian servicemen.