Valiantsin Stefanovich. Ryhor Yuzepchuk’s “secrets of investigation”

2013 2013-08-16T09:54:36+0300 1970-01-01T03:00:00+0300 en The Human Rights Center “Viasna” The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
The Human Rights Center “Viasna”
Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich

Vice-Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna” Valiantsin Stefanovich

As it became known, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus rejected the appeal of Ryhor Yuzepchuk, an inmate of Mahiliou prison sentenced to death earlier this year. The verdict handed down on Yuzepchuk by the Mahiliou Regional Court for the murder of his cellmate finally entered into force. All of the domestic remedies have thus been exhausted, there is only a reviewing authority and hope for President’s mercy. Still, there is little chance that Ryhor Yuzepchuk, who has been repeatedly convicted, including for murder, will be pardoned. Meanwhile, the facts relating to the case are not so unequivocal and lead to some reflection.

The official version of the murder was announced in a story aired on "Secrets of Investigation" show on the national TV channel "Belarus 1" on June 1, 2013. According to the investigation and the verdict, Ryhor Yuzepchuk, having staked life in a game of dominoes with his cellmate Ihar Khodanau and having won the game, with the help of another prisoner Pavel Petrakou strangled Khodanau to death.

However, if you watch the story again, it can be concluded that both inmates, Khodanau and Petrakou, belonged to the category of prisoners with "low social status". The show actually makes it clear that the two men were in an intimate relationship with each other and belong to the above category. It is known that in prison such prisoners are often subjected to violence from other inmates and that is why the administrations of correctional institutions often hold them apart from the other prisoners. The cells where convicts with "low social status" are held receive the same status. According to the unwritten rules of criminal behavior, inmates held in these cells and not belonging to the "low social status" category should as soon as possible leave the cells, otherwise they risk being labeled the same status. And no matter how a convict manages to break out of there, either by attacking a guard, cutting his veins or otherwise injuring himself, or murdering... the inmates of his own cell. Prison authorities very often use all these circumstances of criminal life to pursue their own goals. We have heard of numerous instances when prisoners receive threats of possible abuse from other prisoners. It is for these very purposes that this kind of cells is used. If you are not lucky to leave the cell, then you get a "low status", and explaining what this could mean to such a person in prison, perhaps, would be superfluous. The society we have is rather criminalized, many have passed through prisons, they know the rules.

So I have a question: what was Ryhor Yuzepchuk doing in this kind of cell? The show “Secrets of Investigation” refers to the "low social status" of only two convicts, victim Khodanau and accomplice Petrakou. So Yuzepchuk, according to the story, did not belong to this category. Why did he find himself in the same cell? Perhaps, the prison administration, knowing the criminal rules, as a form of punishment, revenge and further humiliating Yuzepchuk, put him there on purpose? However, Yuzepchuk, many times previously convicted (the latest verdict is 25 years for murder), knowing too well what he faces when staying in a cell for prisoners with "low social status", chose one of the options in the current situation, namely the murder of his fellow inmate. Strangely enough, in the time of the murder the cell peephole was glued over with paper. However, the guards for some reason did not hurry to open the cell door and check what was going on there, twice limiting themselves to verbal demands to open the hole in the door. The dominoes version could appear later to remove the responsibility from the prison administration. Yuzepchuk could be promise to save his lives for cooperation with the investigation and sticking to such a version, which to me seems rather implausible. It's hard to believe that Yuzepchuk would play dominoes with the prisoners, who, in fact, were untouchables under criminal rules. It is forbidden to even say hello to them or sitting at the same table, let alone playing board games. Moreover, the story in "Secrets of Investigation" did not suggest the motives for the murder of his best friend for accomplice Petrakou. The testimonies shown in the story suggest that Yuzepchuk forced him to take part in the murder of Khodanau, probably under a threat of death. In addition, we have information that the cell where Khodanau and Petrakou were held really had a "low status."

Of course, all this is just my speculation and thoughts after watching the story on Belarus-1, but one should agree that all of these circumstances raise a lot of questions. Only it is not known if they were studied by the Mahiliou Regional Court, and later by the Criminal Board of the Supreme Court, or whether they were stressed by Yuzepchuk’s lawyer appointed by the state. The crime took place in the prison where the administration should take all measures to preserve the life and health of prisoners. In case the transfer of Yuzepchuk to the cell was ordered by the prison administration intentionally, it means that in this they jeopardized the lives and health of convicts Khodanau, Petrakou and Yuzepchuk himself, who could have injured himself or committed suicide. Of course, all of these circumstances in no way justify the killer, but they had to be considered and evaluated by the court in determining the motive and the nature of the crime, which, in turn, could have affected the verdict. The right to a fair and impartial trial should be guaranteed to all, regardless of who they are and what crimes they are charged with. This is the essence of a democratic state ruled by law, transition to which we should strive for.

However, we probably will never learn the truth about the crime. Yuzepchuk is on death row in Valadarski Street waiting to be executed, and, according to the administration of prison, he allegedly refused a lawyer’s services. And I would not be surprised if the shooting of Yuzepchuk will happen very soon, as it has often been, and all the "secrets of investigation" of the case will be safely hidden together with Yuzepchuk’s body in an undisclosed location.

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Valiantsin Stefanovich