Article by: Olena Removska
“I ask to condemn Kravtsov Vitaly Alexandrovich, born 1979, according to wartime laws, to the highest measure of punishment – death by firing squad. The decision is to be accorded by the people of Novorossiya by means of a vote,” this is an excerpt from the hearing of the so-called ‘popular tribunal’ in Alchevsk. The majority of those present in the hall voted in favor of shooting this mercenary, a representative of Prizrak group; at least, this was the decision that was announced by the ‘tribune presidium.’
The video published on-line shows the ‘hearings’ of two cases. Both have to do with rape, both of the ‘defendants’ are mercenaries from the aforementioned group, Prizrak. The death sentence, however, was only supported by those present in the hall once. The members of the ‘presidium’ during the hearing appealed to ‘popular power’: “The voice of the people is the voice of God. It will be as you decide.”
Meanwhile, when discussing the behavior of the rape victims, the representatives of the group who are part of the ‘presidium of the tribune’ threatened to arrest all the women who spend time in restaurants and nightclubs. “If you want to remain honest and dedicated to your husband, stay at home, do embroidery,” stated head of the group Anatoly Mozgovy. “Sit at home, make some pirozhki, celebrate the 8th of March.”
Mercenaries use Soviet documents
It is unclear whether the ‘defendant’ was executed: the video ends together with the ‘hearing.’ Earlier, ‘DNR’ group reported on the implementation of the death penalty, and photos of the ‘protocol’ signed by former head of the mercenaries Igor Strelkov (Girkin) were published online. According to these papers, the mercenaries are using… the order of the Presidium of the USSR High Council published on June 22, 1941 on martial law.
Lawyer Yevheniya Sakrevska spoke about the possibility of using the death penalty on the territories under the control of the mercenaries; she is currently engaged with cases of several hostages. “Not just murder under any circumstances, but the imitation of a court process with a mix of legislative norms in the shape of the Ukrainian Criminal Code and the 1941 martial law order, which prescribed, essentially, executions and military tribunals,” noted Zakrevska. “There are instances when it is documents but I am sure that not all of them are.”
MIA: all those who voted are accomplices in a crime
Advisor to the Ukrainian Minister for Internal Affairs Anton Herashchenko says: even if there was no execution, the ‘tribunal’ itself is a court case. “There is an article of the Criminal Code: self-righteousness. Nobody has the right to do the job of the state bodies, which they are supposed to do following the law. Besides, if a person really is shot to death, it will be viewed as murder,” Herashchenko emphasizes.
According to the MIA advisor, all the people involved in the ‘tribunal’ will be subject to judgement, including the hundred participants of the vote, as accomplices.
Lawyer Ihor Holovan thinks that the Ukrainian side should press charges and gather evidence of criminal acts committed by the separatists, particularly on the territories it does not control at the moment. “Of course, it is impossible to hold any investigation there now. However there is a case, people have claims, especially those who manage to get out of there,” the legal expert notes.
However, citing his legal experience, Ihor Holovan says that Ukrainian law enforcement is very passive when investigating such cases. The lawyer emphasizes that investigating such cases, gathering evidence (in particular of the fact that Russian citizens were involved in the crime) are an important basis to plead with international courts to punish Russia, which Ukraine and a number of Western countries call the direct sponsor of the pro-Russian mercenaries in Donbas.
Member of Russian human rights center Memorial Svetlana Gannushkina says she hopes that the ‘verdict,’ and especially its execution, will turn out to be untrue. “If it’s real, there is no excuse for this crime, those who are guilty should be punished according to the law,” says the Russian human rights advocate.
Inspire and intimidate
Meanwhile psychologist Olena Lishchynska explains: such ‘popular tribunals,’ besides the declared achievement of justice, have an important ideological goal: on the one hand, it supports the illusion of people’s power (even thought the ‘people’ are deciding on the issue of execution, so murder), on the other, it intimidates those who doubt the authority of the mercenaries in any way.
“The people who support it (the actions of the ‘tribunal’ – ed.) share the same values the government allows them to, so they are inspired to execute these values. The people who are shocked by this are instead being intimidated.”
The death penalty served as punishment in the Soviet Union. Ukraine abolished it twice – in 1995 and finally in 1997. In Europe, the death penalty only exists as punishment in Belarus.