The Pechersk District Court of Kyiv last week held a hearing in absentia to take into custody fugitive ex-president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych. Since Ukrainian law enforcement have long established that Yanukovych had been hiding in Russia, both national and international legislation provides for the extradition procedure to be applied. Extradition is applied in case of criminal prosecution and enforcement of a court sentence. At the same time, extradition is possible only if the person in question is a citizen of the country initiating it. If the person is a citizen of the host state, then the extradition tool cannot be applied, according to the norms of the Minsk Convention on Legal Assistance, to which Ukraine and the Russian Federation are parties.
Often, Russia ignores extradition requirements put forward by Ukraine
It is worth noting that extradition is not only about handing out an individual, but also about an official establishment of their place of residence on the territory of the host state and verification of circumstances that could hinder extradition. Thus, the investigating authorities can establish the citizenship or status of the person in question if any were granted by another state. The information obtained shall be recognized as admissible evidence and can be used during an investigation in a criminal proceeding, for example, with the aim of putting a suspect on an interstate or international wanted list.
The provisions of international treaties to which Russia is a party provide for the obligation of parties to extradite persons prosecuted by the competent law enforcement authorities with the aim of bringing them to criminal responsibility. But, despite the commitments made, Russia often ignores extradition requirements put forward by Ukraine.
Actually, Russia's likely rejection of the extradition appeal for Yanukovych becomes obvious
For example, Moscow had previously refused to extradite ex-president of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych to Kyiv to execute a sentence earlier handed down in Ukraine in another criminal case. Back then, Russia claimed "prosecution for political reasons" as a justification of their decline. Such kind of justification allows Russia to snub Yanukovych extradition requests under the pretext of compliance with international agreements.
Actually, Russia's likely rejection of the extradition appeal for Yanukovych becomes obvious.
Another issue in such extradition appeals to the Russian Federation is that, by sending such requests, Ukraine confirms the fact of ongoing international cooperation on ratified treaties and its readiness to cooperate with Russia in this regard.
At the same time, since proving the guilt of suspects in criminal cases shall be carried out the framework of procedures provided for by law, extradition is a normal practice during the investigation. Conducting a full pretrial probe gives hope for the inevitability of punishment for those who fled abroad once they return under the jurisdiction of Ukrainian law enforcement. Besides, this leaves fewer chances to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights the sentences that have been handed out.
Oleksandr Ozerov is an attorney with Investment Service Ukraine