Kharchenko v. Ukraine

Application no. 40107/02
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K was named as a witness in a case brought against a company involving embezzlement. During the investigation, the prosecutor brought criminal charges against K for his suspected involvement in the embezzlement, and on 7 April 2001, K was detained by the authorities pursuant to the prosecutor’s order. The detention, based on a request of the prosecutor, expired in June 2001. The prosecutor did not indict K for theft until September 2001. During that period, K remained in detention without a court order or judicial review of his case. The district court finally held a preparatory hearing in the case in October 2001, in which the judge considered the indictment and a request from K to be released from prison. The district court determined that the case should be remitted for additional investigation and denied K’s request for release based on the prosecutor’s original decision to detain him. The prosecutor claimed to have detained K in order to prevent the evasion and obstruction of justice by K and to ensure his appearance in court. The district court did not provide further analysis or explanation of its decision and K appealed. The Court of Appeal quashed the district court’s decision and ordered that the case be remitted to the district court for examination on the merits.

In three additional instances, the district court held hearings in the case and each time ordered that the case be remitted for further investigation and that K’s release be denied. The district court never provided explanation or analysis in its decision, relying solely on the prosecutor’s initial reasons for detaining K. Each time, K appealed, and the Court of Appeal would quash the district court’s decision and order that the case be remitted to the district court for consideration on the merits.

K was finally released from prison on 4 August 2003, after being detained for a total of two years and four months. All charges against K were eventually dropped in late 2004.

During K’s detention, he was held at various times in 16 different cells. All cells had the capacity to, and often did, hold multiple inmates. All cells had a constant supply of cold water, natural and artificial light, a separated toilet and ventilation. K suffered from chronic health problems prior to entering prison. He received medical check-ups during his detention at least once a year. On one occasion, K complained of chest pain and dizziness. He received a medical examination and was moved to the medical wing of the detention facility the following day. K stayed in the medical wing for two months, receiving medication and undergoing regular medical exams. After leaving the medical wing and until the time of his release, K did not seek medical treatment for any further health complaints. Several days after his release from prison, K received extensive treatment at a medical hospital for his chronic health conditions.

K brought a case against the State before the European Court of Human Rights, alleging numerous violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. First, K alleged that the conditions of his detainment were poor due to overcrowding, poor ventilation and a damp, cold atmosphere. The State denied K’s claims but failed to present any evidence to refute them. Second, K alleged that he received inadequate treatment for his medical condition. The State generally denied his claims and noted that K received immediate care upon complaining of chest pains and was otherwise released in a condition of good health. Lastly, K made a series of procedural claims against the State, including that he was unlawfully detained, his detention was unreasonably long, the courts failed to provide him with a speedy review of his case, the overall length of the proceedings were excessive and he had no effective remedies against the length of such proceedings. The State relied on its criminal procedure laws to refute K’s claims.


[Adapted from INTERIGHTS summary, with permission]

The Court held that:

(1) the physical conditions of K’s detention amounted to degrading treatment in violation of Article 3;

(2) the State violated Article 5(1) because K was arbitrarily detained beyond June 2001 when the prosecutor’s initial detention request expired;

(3) K’s pretrial detention of two years and four months was unreasonably long in violation of Article 5(3);

(4) the courts failed to provide K with a speedy review of the lawfulness of K’s detention in violation of Article 5(4);

(5) the length of the criminal proceedings against K did not violate Article 6(1) because they were not excessive or unreasonable; and

(6) the State is to pay K EUR 20,000 for non-pecuniary damages.


[Adapted from INTERIGHTS summary, with permission]