Have things budged an inch? Prosecutor General's Office, Interior Ministry fail to reach agreement in ‘Odesa tragedy’ case

The investigation into the Odesa events of May 2, conducted at the national level, does not meet the requirements of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights. The problem is the lack of specialists and the inability of the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry to divide the authorities within the framework of the investigation into the tragedy in Odesa.

This was noted by Sir Nicolas Bratza, Chairman of the International Advisory Panel, former President of the European Court of Human Rights. Today, he presented the report of the International Advisory Panel, the Human Rights Information Center correspondent reports.

Three proceedings have been opened over the “Odesa tragedy”: concerning the actions of the police officers, concerning the riots and fire at the House of Trade Unions, and concerning the actions of the State Emergency Service during the fire.

The second and the third investigations were conducted without the proper level of independence, Sir Nicolas Bratza noted. In particular, he said that the statements about the signs of collusion involving the police, the rioters and the Emergency Service were heard.

The expert emphasized that it was important to demonstrate the independence of the investigation now when the confidence of the Ukrainian society in the criminal justice system was low.

In his opinion, the problems in the investigation are mostly linked with inefficient allocation of responsibilities between the Prosecutor General’s Office and the Interior Ministry of Ukraine.

"The authorities needed two weeks to arrest the main suspect, and he had already managed to escape from the country," Bratza said.

The significant deficiencies were revealed in the collection of evidence. In particular, the House of Trade Unions was not sealed immediately after the fire and the forensic examination was not promptly conducted.

"The fire brigade arrived at scene only 40 minutes later, but the investigation over that fact was initiated only five months later, and only after the complaint had been filed," the expert said.

The process has been also adversely affected by continuous challenging of judges, resulting in significant delay of the investigation.

Bratza stated that the events had been so significant that the government would have had to inform the public in detail. However, the effective communication strategy was not elaborated and the public, including the relatives of the killed, have not been informed of the investigation in detail and on time.

The main obstacles to the effective investigation into the tragedy, according to the findings of the International Advisory Panel, were the following ones:

  • the scope and breadth of the investigations;
  • the lack of investigators, who have experience in investigating the massacres;
  • the need to simultaneously hold other complicated investigations, including the case of Maidan;
  • the problems of identifying the perpetrators, as many participants were masked and witnesses were often reluctant to give evidence.

However, these obstacles, the International Advisory Panel experts emphasized, could not justify poor quality of the investigation.

The experts, however, noted some positive moments. The International Advisory Panel was amazed at the large information obtained by the ad-hoc commission and the Ombudsperson’s representatives. The authorities also provided exhaustive information following the Panel’s inquiries. The experts pointed out that there was the need for closer cooperation with the Ukrainian authorities.

The International Advisory Panel representatives indicated that the Ukrainian authorities had assured them that other criminal cases, which would be sent to court, were being prepared now. However, the experts stated that much time had passed since the tragedy in Odesa.

The International Advisory Panel hopes that the confidence in the investigation will be restored and the circumstances of those tragic events will be clarified.

As a reminder, the International Advisory Panel controls whether the investigation complies with the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and the practice of the European Court of Human Rights and whether there are conditions for adequate public oversight. The investigation into the tragedy in Odesa is carried out by the Ukrainian authorities.

Photo by Reuters

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