Secrecy of the investigation or how the attack on Roma camp in Lviv is being investigated

Jan 05, 2021 | Judiciary, Justice
Ukrainian journalists trained during the CFI Media in Ukraine won awards at "Trial in simple words" national competition organised by the NGO Human Rights Vector. Lviv-based reporter Natalya Lazarovych (Tvoe Misto) was awarded for her coverage of the court case related to a dramatic Roma camp attack in Lviv.

The trial in respect of teenagers who attacked a Roma camp on the outskirts of Lviv has been going on for more than a year.

The three attackers on Roma camp will not be imprisoned - the court has sentenced them to 1.5 and 2 years probation. The trial over nine defendants is still ongoing. The next hearing in the case of murder and hooliganism is scheduled for December 6, in Sykhivskyi District Court. Tvoemisto.tv within project "Our Reforms" tells how the trial in the case of Roma is proceeding and how their socialization takes place.

"Sober and spiteful youth"

Last June teenagers attacked Roma camp. A 24-year-old man was killed and four others were injured in the attack. Among the victims there is a child. Soon after, the police reported that 14 attackers had been detained: they had a plan to destroy the camp and they had determined the positions, actions and tasks of each attacker in advance.

The court has already sentenced five boys - they will not be in prison because they have entered into plea agreements. Four of them were appointed probationary period of 1.5 years and one for 2 years. Yurii Matlakh, deputy head of the juvenile justice department at Lviv Oblast Prosecutor's Office, says the boys must now visit the probation body at their place of residence and report a change of residence, study or job. Also, everybody paid monetary compensation to the Roma injured. If the convicts violate the conditions, they can still be imprisoned.

An acquaintance of an attacker said to Tvoemisto.tv that some of them knew each other from childhood, some met in the "National Corps". The boys called themselves "Sober and Spiteful Youth" because they fought for a "clean Lviv" without drugs, alcohol and disorder, they wanted to be like the "Right Sector".

They had their own YouTube channel where they stored video "Safari for Roma". The video was deleted after the attack. The meeting place was a garage. There they left their wallets with student IDs and pupils IDs before going to the camp. The National Police later reported that they took knives, knuckle-dusters, clubs and steel bars with them for the attack.

"They made a living by collecting scrap metal in landfills." There were about 10 people in the camp that night. During the pogrom, most managed to escape. David Popp died on the spot from fatal stab wounds. His wife, Iboia Rats, was injured. A 10-year-old boy, Iboia's brother, was also injured. Another relative of the woman, Raja Arpadoma, was hospitalized with severe stab wounds. After the pogrom, they said that the attackers were in masks, shouted obscene words and called them gypsies." – says the lawyer of the victims Dmytro Shvets, with whose permission Tvoemisto.tv publishes the names of the victims.

Organization "Sober and Spiteful Youth" included schoolchildren from one neighborhood and college students. Among them are three gold medalists, all from functional families. They were 16 and 17 years old at the time of the attack. And only one adult accused – 20-year-old Andrii Tychka. As a result of the investigation, he was determined to be the organizer of the attack. The young man is suspected of murder and hooliganism.

Yaroslav, a pupil from Lviv school is also charged with murder. He recently became of age while in pre-trial detention. Andrii Tychka has also been in custody for 1.5 years. There is another man accused of murder. He is under house arrest. According to prosecutors, his involvement in the crime was later revealed and they chose such a pre-trial restriction measure because the young man did not resist when he was being detained. Andrii Tychka and Yaroslav tried to run away from the police from the crime scene, and the police detained them in hot pursuit.

The other six defendants are charged with hooliganism. As Tvoemisto.tv was able to find out from their own sources on the part of the victims, that night at the scene of attack there was another guy.

"One of them fled to Poland immediately after the attack. A is minor still on the international wanted list", informed the source. The law enforcement officers confirmed this information to Tvoemisto.tv.

18 months have passed since the attack. During this time, those charged who are at large took graduation exams and finished school. Some entered Lviv Polytechnic and Lviv State University of Life Safety, others went to vocation schools. Some even got a job - in an e-cigarette store. The youngest of them is graduating from the 11th grade of one of the Lviv schools.

Trial behind the closed doors

24 October 2019. The Sykhivskyi court is crowded: almost two dozen people are waiting for judges. Among them are several guys in sports jackets, jeans and sneakers of world brands. They talk in whisper to each other, smile slightly at each other, from time to time go out for a smoke break. Parents are also waiting for court session together with them as the defendants at the time of the attack on the Roma camp were minors. A man in a cap and a boy, probably a father and son, stand in silence. The mothers of the suspects communicate with each other on the bench. A fair-haired woman stands apart from everyone. She has a sad face and three packages in her hands. This is Andrii Tychka's mother. From her conversation it later becomes clear: there is food that she hopes to hand over to her son.

The loudest in the corridor are lawyers. Eight men stand in a circle, joking loudly and bragging about successful deeds. They also talk about how many paper cases fit in each portfolio. One of them shows a black folder, says that there are 20 cases there and they do not wrinkle. The trial they came to is not being discussed.

Yaroslav's mother is also standing at the door. A tall woman with curly brown hair, she looks about 40 years old. When the convoy leads the handcuffed Andrii and Yaroslav, she kisses them both on the cheek. A panel of judges enters the courtroom.

After an hour of case consideration, a break is announced and the judges leave the courtroom. Through the half-open door you can see Andrii's mother squatting next to the cage, asking her son, “Are you cold?”. He shakes his head in denial. Someone opens a bar of chocolate and treats the young men in a metal cage. They eat slowly piece by piece. A girl enters the hall uncertainly, later she will introduce herself as Andrii Tychka's girlfriend.

In 40 minutes the judges return and continue considering the case for an hour.

After it is over, some parents and the charged come out smiling - today three defendants entered into a plea agreement.

When the convoy takes the charged out of the courtroom, the girl kisses Andrii and goes with the other guys to smoke next to the courthouse.

On the ground floor, Andrii Tychka's mother continues to hold plastic bags in her hands. She wants to give her son food and a toothbrush. She refuses to talk about the case, but explains through tears,

"He doesn't have anyone but me. He's a good guy. They are all from functional families. You know, it's probably fate, or he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. I don't see him. Only through the glass at family visits in detention center. I can't hug him".

His girlfriend also agrees to say a few words, albeit on the street, she explains that guys are still respected in the area.

"Our acquaintances and friends give Andrii sportswear, money and cigarettes. They are not called murderers. There is a lot of injustice in this case. Andrii was my best friend for many years. We had been dating for six months before the attack. I will continue to come to trials".

Secrecy of the investigation

On the day of the attack, Andrii Tychka's apartment was searched. Investigators seized four drawings and various objects. Among the seized – a picture of a dog with the inscription "Revenge" and "Loyalty"; a sheet of paper with the image of a dog's head and the inscription "Never give up" and "Tychka Andrii"; a sheet with the inscription "Refusing war, you refuse from a great life", as well as a sheet with the image of a fist, a bat, a razor with traces of blood and the inscription "Love thy neighbor" and a green helmet. Does the investigation consider the seized as one evidence of murder due to racial intolerance – it is the secrecy of the investigation.

Dmytro Shvets says that the indictments of all the charged do not indicate racial motives.

"In European jurisprudence, racial intolerance is an aggravating factor, and we do not have such sentences in such cases at all. Three boys are suspected of murder, others are tried for hooliganism. This is not the first pogrom of a Roma settlement. The victims' lawyer adds that after the attack they were taken to Transcarpathia. Legal organizations are still helping them there, and the Roma themselves continue to collect scrap metal. From part of the money, grave-stone for David Popp was installed. "If the motives of racial intolerance are not stated in the judgement, we will go to the European Court of Human Rights", says Dmytro Shvets.

Mykola Yurchenko, Head of Ternipe Roma Cultural and Educational Association told Tvoemisto.tv how Roma live and whether they are attacked again. He says that there had been no similar incidents since the tragic attack. Immediately after the tragedy, they tried to cooperate with the police.

"After the murder of a young Roma, the authorities and the police started listening to us and reached out to us. We have set up a working group together with law enforcement officers that visits temporary settlements in the Lviv region, because there are many Romani there. They have lived there for 8-10 years, there are many children in the camps. These working groups communicate with people, asking if they are safe. They can call a police officer if they are attacked. It is a pity that the death of David Popp was the impetus for the people to start protecting Roma and try to integrate them into society. There were arsons and murders before that, but nobody investigated them".

There are 11 such spontaneous Roma settlements in the Lviv region, where more than 600 people live permanently. Senior police lieutenant Oksana Sanahurska says police monitor each settlement on a weekly basis.

"Law enforcement officers interview people whether they need help, respectively direct social workers, civic society organizations that provide clothing for children", she says.

The policewoman added that sometimes Roma do not have documents and this causes difficulties: mothers with many children, for example, cannot get social benefit payments.

The working group which includes police officers, the Security Service of Ukraine, regional state administration and members of civic society organizations is working to provide individual education for children living with their parents in Roma settlements.

Nataliia Lazarovych