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High Anticorruption Court and the Chamber of Secrets

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The Anticorruption Centre, aka AntAC, does seem to enjoy special privileges and access to a separate secret chamber at the High Anticorruption Court of Ukraine. Unlike AntAC employees, journalists are not even admitted to the courthouse

Last week, AntAC published a fairly detailed summary of the appellate ruling in the Pysaruk&Bakhmatyuk case at the very moment when the ruling was being pronounced. It has transpired that HACCU has a separate secret chamber where AntAC employees get a video feed from the courtroom and webcast court sessions without the litigants’ consent or seeking permission from the court, which is against the Code of Criminal Procedure. Journalists with DS asked to be provided with a separate room with a video feed to watch court proceedings and were denied, such privileges apparently only being enjoyed by members of AntAC.

On Monday, 3 August, DS paid a visit to the Appeal Chamber of HACCU. The case scheduled to be heard that day was on the docket of a panel of judges comprised of Viktor Pankulich, Serhiy Bodnar and Ihor Panayid, also known in the media as ‘Sytnyk’s Troika’ because by some miraculous coincidence they get to review all cases of special interest to the NABU Director, while cases are supposed to be randomly allocated among judges. 

Those were the same judges who heard the case, whose outcome was made public by AntAC in a long post published on its Telegram channel at the time of pronouncement of the ruling from a secret chamber. Journalists, however, were not provided with a separate room from which to watch the proceedings, as were AntAC people, despite having proper credentials and a motion seeking permission to take photos and video and the hearing. What is more, they were even denied access to the courthouse under the pretence of quarantine restrictions. 

Vadym Klyschenko, the media liaison officer of the Appeal Chamber of HACCU refused access to the courthouse, initially citing various reasons and eventually settling on somebody at the courthouse allegedly contracting coronavirus. He claimed that access was restricted not only to the courtroom, to which only the litigants had been admitted, but also to the entire courthouse.  Klyschenko referred to some unnamed court employee contracting coronavirus as being the reason for the lockdown, which was why access for members of the general public to the Appeal Chamber of HACCU had allegedly been restricted since the previous week.

The journalists, however, approached four barristers who had attended HACCU hearings, presided over by the same trio of judges, and found out that nobody had told those lawyers that a judge had contracted coronavirus. SAPO employees have also been regularly visiting the courthouse, they have not been warned of a judge falling ill, with whom they might have been in contact, they have not been tested, nor any restrictions have been imposed on their visiting the HACCU courthouse. The media liaison officer of HACCU also stated that the hearing had been altogether cancelled over the judge’s illness. But the very next day the same trio of judges had two cases on their daily docket.

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