Markiv case: International task group exposes glaring legal errors in Italian court hearings  

Mass rally in support of Vitaliy Markiv on Day of Defender of Ukraine, Kyiv, October 14, 2019. Photo: Heorhiy Lukianchuk 

International, War in the Donbas

Article by: Oleksandra Matviychuk, Chairwoman of the Center for Civil Liberties NGO, member of the Advisory Board on Human Rights of the Office of the Ombudsman of Ukraine
The Memorial Human Rights Centre (Russia) and the Centre for Civil Liberties (Ukraine) have set up an international task group to independently analyze the investigation into the death of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli, Russian dissident and human rights activist Andrei Mironov, and the wounding of French photographer William Roguelon near then-occupied Sloviansk on May 24, 2014.

National Guardsman Vitaliy Markiv, a citizen of Ukraine and Italy, who participated in the fighting in Sloviansk was sentenced to 24 years by the court in Pavia, Italy for complicity in this killing. The case is currently being heard by the Court of Appeals in Milan. The task group has invited international lawyers from the Centre de la Protection Internationale (France) to assess the progress of the trial.

On September 30, 2020, the international task group presented a preliminary report assessing the effectiveness of the investigation into the killing of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rocchelli and Russian human rights activist Andrei Mironov.

The Main Points

  • The Italian judiciary did not take into account the legal status of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. In fact, it failed to consider the provisions outlined in international treaties on International Humanitarian Law  (IHL) when qualifying the actions of the persons concerned, and referred to the said provisions only selectively and inconsistently during the trial. Moreover, the court ignored the fact that Markiv was a soldier serving in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, which guaranteed him functional immunity from prosecution in foreign jurisdictions, despite his dual citizenship. The issue of functional immunity should have been examined by the court.
  • The international task group considers that Ilaria Morani’s article on the Markiv case in Corriere della Sera does not comply with journalistic standards. The court and the investigation team present Markiv’s alleged admission of guilt as an important piece of evidence, referring to “the soldier’s direct confession as an important element of the prosecution’s evidence.” However, during the trial, Morani admitted that she had never spoken to Markiv personally; instead, she ”transcribed” the conversation between the Ukrainian soldier and another journalist Marcello Fauci. In fact, Morani’s article reveals a number of factual errors, possible violations of journalistic standards in terms of separating facts from comments, and the presence of controversial quotes, which were not confirmed during the trial by Markiv or the witnesses.
  • The task group noted the dubious testimony of the main witness, French photojournalist William Roguelon, which was probably caused by emotional shock at the time of the events. Roguelon repeatedly stated that he was awaiting death, and that he was bleeding and on the point of dying. However, it is known that he sustained minor shrapnel wounds to the legs and was able to move about without assistance.
  • The task force noted that Andrei Mironov had excellent military and journalistic experience. However, the court clearly underestimated his role in the situation, and did not take into account his last words in the video, namely that he and Rocchelli were caught in deadly enemy crossfire.
  • The court failed to take into account the presence and participation of Russian-controlled armed groups under the command of Russian citizen Igor Girkin (Strelkov), whose presence at the place of the incident was directly confirmed.
  • The task group noted that prior to the Pavia trial, Italian media pointed to Markiv’s obvious “presumption of guilt”, thus failing to adhere to the sacred principle of “innocent until proven guilty”. The Italian media also used clichés, stereotypes, and made erroneous judgments about Vitaliy Markiv, Ukraine and Ukrainians, frequently identifying Markiv and Ukrainians as far-right extremists. Such allegations could have a significant impact on the outcome of the trial.

The international task group is expected to present its final report at the end of October 2020.

Read the complete report of the international task group here.

Translated by: Christine Chraibi

Source: FB Oleksandra Matviychuk

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