Ukrainian Romani Man Dies Under Suspicious Circumstances; Police Involvement Suspected by Family

16 December 2004

In June 2004, Ms Y.A. Dikonenko, a Ukrainian Romani woman, told the ERRC partner organisation Herson Municipal Roma Community that she believed that under the supervision of Officer V.A. Kurbat, head of the Criminal Investigation Department, police officers of the Vysokopolskiy Regional Police Department in Ukraine’s Herson Oblast falsified a criminal case against to her 64-year-old illiterate father Mr Yakov Dikonenko and murdered her brother, Mr Ivan Dikonenko.

According to a complaint filed by Ms Dikonenko with the General Prosecutor’s Office on April 7, 2003, Officer Kurbat arranged, with the assistance of local drug user Yuriy Parunov, the planting of marked money and drugs in her family’s home. At around 7:00 PM on March 18, 2003, more than ten police officers from the Vysokopolskiy Regional Police Department broke into their home and without explanation, began a search. Mr Y. Dikonenko and Mr I. Dikonenko were forced to lie on the ground and the police proceeded to search everyone, including women, and damaged their furniture. Ms Dikonenko stated in her complaint that after the raid, the police took her father to the Vysokopolskiy Regional Police Department where he was detained for three days, though in accordance with the law under which he was detained he should not have spent more than three hours in detention. Mr Dikonenko’s family was not informed of the reason for his detention. Mr Dikonenko was reportedly not provided with food during his detention and was not permitted to use the toilet within a reasonable time of request. Ms Dikonenko repeatedly requested that her father be released but without success.

According to Ms Dikonenko’s complaint, on March 19, intoxicated and upset at their father’s detention, her brother Ivan grabbed a knife and went to speak to Officer Kurbat and Mr Parunov. When he found him, Ivan started a fight with Mr Parunov, during which he lost his knife. Ms Dikonenko stated that her brother then threatened to take revenge on Mr Parunov’s relatives in the nearby village of Olgino for his role in the detention of his father and threatened actions against Officer Kurbat for his role in the planting of drugs. Ivan then drove off towards Olgino, but his car died on the way. He reportedly went to a petrol station and asked Mr Nikolay Pivovarov, an employee, for help. Mr Pivovarov tried to help Mr Dikonenko but they were unable to start the car, so headed back towards the petrol station. On the way, according to the complaint, they met Officer Kurbat, and several other officers, who told Mr Pivovarov to go back to the station. Mr Pivovarov reportedly did not see Ivan after this but the next day, on March 20, Officer Kurbat visited Mr Pivovarov and his wife at their home and tried to persuade Mr Pivovarov to hide the fact that he had seen Ivan the night before.

On March 21 Ivan Dikonenko’s dead body was found in the neighbouring village of Zagradovka. According to the complaint, Officer Kurbat went to the scene of crime without any officials from the Prosecutor’s Office, though this is required under Ukrainian law. Also on March 21, 2003, Police Investigator A. A. Kucevol initiated the criminal case against Mr Y. Dikonenko related to drugs. On March 22, 2003, Ms Dikonenko hired a lawyer to defend her father, then informed Police Investigator Kucevol of the lawyer’s arrival. That same evening, Investigator Kucevol reportedly told Mr Y. Dikonenko that he would be released if he refused the lawyer hired by his daughter and accepted a local lawyer. On March 24, 2003, Mr Dikonenko was released of his own recognisance according to a decision of the Vysokopolskiy Regional Court.

Ms Dikonenko reported in her complaint that until March 24, police officials hid the fact Mr Ivan Dikonenko’s dead body had been found and only on that day was a post-mortem examination of the body undertaken. The examination of Mr Dikonenko’s body revealed the cause of death to be grave bodily injury and on March 26 a criminal investigation was opened. On March 28, Mr Pivovarov was detained on suspicion of murder as the police alleged that he was the last person to see Mr Dikonenko before he died. Mr Pivovarov’s wife then went and informed the Dikonenko family what she knew about the case at Mr Pivovarov’s urging. The same day, Ms Pivovarov and Ms Dikonenko filed complaints with the Herson Oblast Prosecutor’s Office and Mr Pivovarov was released later that day.

According to the complaint, several officers informed Ms Dikonenko that Officer Kurbat stepped down from duty during the investigation, but on April 3rd or 4th, a subordinate of Officer Kurbat threatened that she should stop pressing for the identification of her brother’s murderer. On April 7, Ms Dikonenko filed her complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office, detailing all of the above. As of the date the publication went to press, Ms Dikonenko had not received any response. The ERRC is considering legal action in the case.

(ERRC, Herson Municipal Roma Community)


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