Explosions that rocked a Kyiv court on Wednesday, killing a defendant and injuring two policemen have thrown a spotlight on Ukraine’s judicial system, with accusations its sluggish processes contributed to the deadly incident.
What happened on Wednesday?
An explosive device went off in the building of Kyiv's Shevchenkivsky District Court during a trial on July 5. Preliminary reports said it was set off by a defendant attending a hearing.
Later, Interior Minister Ihor Klymenko disclosed the defendant's name: Ihor Humeniuk.
"The explosion happened while Humeniuk, the defendant, was being led out of the courtroom after the hearing during which his custody was extended."
According to the minister, after a failed attempt to escape the defendant locked himself in the men's room, and then opened the door and threw an explosive device at the guards. "There were two explosions," Klymenko said.
The guards were hospitalized with limb injuries. Humeniuk died on the spot.
How he managed to bring the explosive devices to the courthouse is still an open question.
"We don't know where the explosive devices were – either they were hidden in the men's room beforehand or he may have somehow bring them there," Klymenko said, adding that an investigation was underway.
Who was Ihor Humeniuk?
In 2015, Ihor Humeniuk, then aged 21, was detained and charged with the murder of National Guardsmen on August 31, 2015. That day, several thousand people gathered in front of the parliament building in Kyiv to protest against proposed amendments to the Constitution which, as many experts argued, would have effectively granted special status to the then Russia-occupied parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Many claimed the legislative move was tantamount to capitulation.
The protest rally was quite peaceful until the midday when activists heard that the amendment bill had just passed the first reading and broke the news to the enraged protesters. Minor skirmishes with the police then escalated to clashes.
Smoke and stun grenades were thrown. 40 minutes later, a hand grenade exploded on the square, killing four National Guardsmen.
Almost 30 people were detained and 16 of them, including Humeniuk, were arrested and held for two months. He was charged with premeditated murder as the one who allegedly threw the grenade.
As the BBC-Ukraine reported, Humeniuk was at the time of detention a member of the Sich volunteer battalion, which was later resubordinated to the Interior Ministry.
Shortly before arriving in Kyiv for the protest rally, he left the group. Prior to his service in the battalion he was an active member of the nationalist party Svoboda.
The Shevchenkivsky District Court took on the criminal case almost a year later, in August 2016. Humeniuk denied the charges and spent almost eight years behind bars while his case was considered.
On July 5, 2023, the court extended his pretrial custody for another two months, and that may have been the last straw for him.
This story went viral with Ukrainian Facebook users. Some of them call into question the potency of the Ukrainian judicial system which has kept a person in pretrial custody for eight years.
"Do you know when an investigation lasts eight years? – When they are unable to prove a person's guilt," Leonid Yemets, a member of the Kyiv City Council and an authoritative jurist, wrote on social media.
He added: "They don't want to release him from custody, because a lot of unprofessional investigators, prosecutors and judges would then be exposed. So, the man stays behind bars for years without a verdict, not even knowing what will happen to him, in excess of all terms of custody allowed by procedural norms. And then he gets so embittered that he kills himself and his guards.
“I don't know if he was guilty or not, but I know that the state is equally guilty of yesterday's tragedy, and that the prosecutors, investigators and judges should answer for these deaths."
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