Court decision prompts fresh EU calls to free Tymoshenko

Strasbourg court human rights.JPG

The European Union has urged Ukrainian authorities to “reconsider thoroughly” the imprisonment of  Yulia Tymoshenko following a European Court of Human Rights ruling that the arrest of the former prime minister was illegal and politically motivated.

 

The court ruled on Tuesday (30 April) that Tymoshenko’s pre-trial detention in 2011 was arbitrary, that the lawfulness of her detention had not been properly reviewed, and that she had no possibility to seek compensation for her deprivation of liberty.

At the same time, the Strasbourg-based court dismissed the complaints by Tymoshenko that she was subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment during her transfer to a hospital on 20 April 2012.

Western officials have repeatedly blamed Ukrainian authorities for the poor conditions and the treatment of the opposition icon, who is serving a seven-year sentence for abuse of office.

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton and Štefan Füle, the commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy, reiterated the Union’s concerns in the Tymoshenko case.

“We call on the Ukrainian authorities to reconsider thoroughly the situation of Ms Tymoshenko, the leader of one of the strongest opposition parties in the country, who remains detained after a trial that did not respect fair, transparent and independent legal proceedings,” Ashton and Füle said in a statement released after the court ruling.

They urged Ukrainian authorities to remedy “the systemic procedural shortcomings identified in this ruling”, as part of a comprehensive reform of the judiciary, which is one of the conditions for the signature of an EU-Ukraine association agreement (see background).

Tymoshenko was convicted of abuse of office on 11 October 2011. She has also faced accusations of embezzlement and tax evasion and of attempting to bribe Supreme Court judges. She was charged in January with commissioning the murder of Yevgen Shcherban, a powerful lawmaker, in 1996.

Tymoshenko has denied the charges, calling the murder accusations “hysteria”. The EU has called the charges against her and other opposition figures “selective justice”.

Representatives of the centre-right European Peoples’ Party (EPP) gave a more politicised reading of the court decision.

“The only way Ukraine can restore Yulia Tymoshenko’s rights is by releasing her,” EEP leader Wilfried Martens stated.

German MEP Elmar Brok said that the court ruling “confirms the trial against Ms Tymoshenko was politically-motivated”, adding that “Ms Tymoshenko must be freed immediately”.

Jacek Protasiewicz, chairman of Polish EPP delegation and vice-president of the European Parliament, said the Ukrainian authorities should address selective justice “in a proper way” by releasing Tymoshenko.

Rebecca Harms, president of the Greens/EFA in the European Parliament, said that the decision brought “fresh motivation to continue to work to free Tymoshenko and to re-establish the reputations of all former persecuted members of government”.

At a EU-Ukraine summit on 25 February, Council President Herman Van Rompuy reiterated the three areas where the EU wants to see progress before signing an association agreement with Kyiv.

The three conditions are to address the problem of "selective justice" - a reference to the imprisonment of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko - dealing with the democratic shortcomings stemming from the October national elections, and advancing judiciary reforms.

Van Rompuy made it plain that the EU wanted to see progress “at the latest May this year”.

President Viktor Yanukovych said the outstanding issues could be solved in time for the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit in November, during the Lithuanian presidency of the EU.

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