We, representatives of Ukrainian civil society organizations, express deep concern over a series of searches conducted in respect of volunteers. In particular, on September 8, a well-known volunteer, Sviatoslav Litynskyi, who has been helping the Armed Forces of Ukraine for a long time, was searched.
This is not the first criminal case against volunteers, but the law enforcement officers consider this case to be exemplary.
The rhetoric of high-profile public accusations, which law enforcement agencies resorted to after the searches, also causes concern. In our opinion, it is hasty.
It is necessary to remind that according to Article 62 of the Constitution of Ukraine, a person is considered innocent of committing a crime and may not be held criminally liable until their guilt is proven in a legal procedure and established by a court verdict. The accusation in this case cannot be based on assumptions.
Despite this, the Kyiv police made a statement about the searches in the homes of the “offenders”, although at that time no charges in the case had been pressed (this is also stated in the police statement). And later it turned out that Sviatoslav Litynskyi, one of the volunteers who were searched, was a witness in the case, and no charges were brought against him. It is also worth noting that the above statements contain a contradiction: in the beginning, it claims the embezzlement of donations, and then it is about the sale of humanitarian aid from foreign countries.
These police statements have already cast a shadow and caused distrust in the volunteer movement in society, and may have a negative impact on the support for volunteer initiatives on the part of citizens and international partners.
We also emphasize that an integral part of the corpus delicti under Article 201-2 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, for which proceedings were initiated, is the purpose of making a profit.
The materials released by the police do not indicate the existence of such a purpose, and accordingly, there are doubts about the existence of the corpus delicti.
Therefore, police statements about “fraudsters”, “criminals” and that the persons against whom charges were pressed will necessarily bear criminal responsibility, are definitely premature. And since the persons against whom investigation is underway are famous in the society, such statements can be considered as pressure on volunteers and the volunteer movement – an integral and powerful component of Ukraine’s defense in the war with the Russian aggressor.
In addition, we consider it necessary to remind about the inadmissibility of provoking a person to commit a crime for the purpose of their further exposure, helping them to commit a crime that they would not have committed if the investigator had not facilitated it. Such actions are expressly prohibited by Article 271 of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine and contradict the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Taking into account the above, as well as considering the increasing number of open criminal cases regarding the illegal use of humanitarian and charitable aid, we call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police of Ukraine for a dialogue with the civil society and the volunteer movement to develop a joint solution and actions to reduce the number of such cases and prevent the abuse of humanitarian and charitable aid.
We also call on the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the National Police of Ukraine to refrain from premature statements and public high-profile accusations against volunteers before their guilt is proven in accordance with the law, as this can be seen as pressure on and persecution of civil society and volunteers in particular.
Human Rights Center ZMINA
Media Initiative on Human Rights
Center for Civil Liberties
Kharkiv Anticorruption Centre
VolUA Charitable Foundation (Kharkiv)
Unbreakable Ukraine Charitable Foundation (Ivano-Frankivsk)
Cherkasy Human Rights Center NGO
Initiative Center to Support Social Action “Ednannia”
Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research
Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
Regional Human Rights Center
Almenda Civic Education Center NGO
Postup Human Rights Center
Educational Human Rights House in Chernihiv