Minsk District Сourt turns down claim by wrongfully convicted person
On January 28,the Minsk District Court considered a lawsuitby former prisoner Mikhail Hladki, who demanded to compensate for serving8 years in prison as a result of a wrong verdict pronounced in a murder trial back in 2002.
During the trial, Mikhail Hladkitold that violence was used against him only at the moment of his detention, when one of the police officers, which he himself called to the scene of murder of his mother and brother, repeatedly struck him in the chest and abdomen. He said that he encountered no physical or psychological harassment during the investigation and the trial. Mikhail Hladkiconfirmed his earlier testimony,but noted that he really believed that it was him who had killed his brother Viktar by striking him several times with an axe, and therefore admitted his guilt during the investigation and in court.
He also claimed said that during his stay in mental hospitalhe feared that he would be declared insane, andtherefore he signed all the papers after that.
The claimant’s representative,A. Kremko,stressed the circumstances of the murder,poorinvestigation, as well as improper assessment of numerousconflicting facts that became the basis for the sentencing of Mikhail. She also said that at themoment the legal acts of the Republic of Belarus haveno clear definition of “voluntary self-incrimination”. In her speech, she referred to a resolution of the Supreme Court of the USSR of1988, which reads as follows: “Self-incrimination shall be understood as false testimony of a suspect, accused, defendant, providedin order to convince the authorities of the preliminary investigation and the court that it is him or her who committed the crime, which he or she did not commit. Self-incrimination resulting from abuseof violence, threats or other illegal meansagainst the citizen does not prevent compensation for the damages. Meanwhile, a factof violence, threats or other illegal means should be established by the investigating authorities, the prosecutor or the court.”
According to this definition, the counsel argues that Mikhail was genuinely mistaken when admitting his guilt, as he did not intend to mislead the investigation and the court. Therefore, the fact of self-incrimination cannot be recognized. The lawyer requested to grant the claim and pay the compensation.
In addition, she noted that cases of compensation are rare, and this case could be a good example of law enforcement in the future.
A representative of the Ministry of Finance, I. Mamonau, drew the court’s attention to the fact that mistakes committed by the investigation and the courtcould not be considered in this meeting because it only dealt with compensation for unlawful conviction and sentence. According to him, the Criminal Procedure Code gives every reason to believe that the very fact of admitting one’s guilt isvoluntary self-incrimination. And Part 2 of Art.461 of the CPC, provides no right to compensation in cases where a person voluntarily incriminated himself.
After a break, the court announced that with his confession to the murder of his brother, both during pre-trial proceedings and during the trial, the claimant voluntarily incriminated himself, thereby preventing the establishment of the true circumstances of the criminal case, which, in accordance with Part 2 of Art. 461 of the Criminal Procedure Code, deprives him of the right to compensation. The court ruled to dismiss the claim.
Mikhail Hladkiis going to appeal the decision.
Pavel Sapelka, lawyer of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”,commented on the decision of the District Court:
“I am deeply convinced that the main mistake committed by the Court of Minsk district is that the Court found that Hladki’s wrong believes about the nature of his actions were not of critical legal significance in the case. Sincehis confidence in the fact that it was him who killed his brother was sincere and Hladki did attempt to convince the court of any non-existent facts. It seems that voluntary self-incriminationwas viewed by the legislator as cases when a person, for example, deliberately incriminated himself in order to clear another person of suspicion, to get to places of detention,to evade responsibility for gravercrimes, to receive benefits for a long meeting with relatives, if the person is already in prison. The decision of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus of September 28, 2001 says that “confession of guilt can become the basis of conviction only upon its confirmation by a body of other evidence collected in the case”. This means that for the court that considered the criminal case of Hladki his confession shouldhave had exactly the same value as the rest of the case file. Bothhad to be thoroughly examined and evaluated. An admission of guilt by itself does not preclude a decision of acquittal. This was stressed by the Supreme Court’sdecisionof September 28, 2006:“Provided there is confession of guilt an opportunity of acquittal is not excluded if the body of other evidence collected in the case raises reasonable doubts as to its authenticity. In such cases, the court during the trial should take measures to clarify the motives of the accused”.
The case of Mikhail Hladki suggests that legislation should be more specific in the definition of grounds for denial of compensation for damages caused by illegal actions of state agencies. And this specification should be done in a spirit of maximum protection of citizens’ rights.”
Andrei Paluda, who attended the hearing, said:
“I must say that we are monitoringthe casewithin the campaign “Human Rights DefendersAgainst the Death Penalty in Belarus”. We are interestedin the case both as human rights defenders, becausedeath convict Eduard Lykau was involved in the murder of Hladki’s brother and mother, for which Mikhail was illegally convicted,and from human viewpoint,aswe sympathize with the person who was smashed by a machinecalled the Republic of Belarus, the personwho lived for almost 10 years with a belief that it was him who killed his brother, who lost his job and health while in detention.
In addition, this is evidence and confirmation of one of the arguments against the death penalty, which is called a miscarriage of justice. By and large, it must be said that Mikhail Hladki was on the verge ofa death verdict, because initially it was believed that he had committed the murder of two people – his mother and brother, and the death penalty is used for the murder of two or more persons in Belarus.
Mikhail is a qualifiedprofessional, but during 8 years he lost his job and qualification, and now it affects his income. In court, he said that his main motivation for receiving compensation was using part of the money to purchase gravestones for his mother and brother, as he now has no funds for them.”