19 June 2007, Moscow. The court has passed the sentence under the so-called case of Ulman. The Public Verdict Foundation expresses its gratitude to relatives of the victims: Mr. I. Satabaev, Mr. M. Salmanov, Ms. K. Tuburova, Ms. T. Tuburova, Ms. Kh. Bakhaeva, Ms. M. Musaeva, Mr. G. Aslakhanov and Mr. M. Salimov for the their striving for justice even when there was almost no hope, for their courage with which they have been struggling for the triumph of justice for four years.
The Foundation is very grateful to lawyers Ludmila Tikhomirova and Magomet Gandaur-Egi with whom the Public Verdict Foundation has cooperated during the trial. The Foundation hopes that the verdict of the Northern Caucasus Regional Court Martial will put an end to the mental anguish of the victims’ relatives which they suffered in the course of the trial.
Nevertheless, the Public Verdict Foundation believes it necessary to state the following:
None of trials under the case of Ulman gave an answer to the question: “Who among the higher commanders is responsible for giving this criminal order?” It means that the main culprits of the cruel and senseless murder of people have not been called to criminal liability for their decisions.
The terms of sentences appeared to be shorter: the prosecution required to strip the accused of their ranks and decorations and sentence captain Ulman and major Perelevsky to 23 years’ imprisonment each, warrant officer Voevodin to 19 years’ imprisonment and senior lieutenant Kalagansky to 18 years’ imprisonment.
In the upshot Eduard Ulman was sentenced to 14 years’ imprisonment in a high-security colony (he has already served 2 years’ of his sentence while in custody during the investigation); warrant officer Vladimir Voevodin was sentenced to 12 years’ imprisonment (he has already server 9 months of it); senior lieutenant Aleksandr Kalagansky was sentenced to 11 years’ and major Perelevsky to 9 years’ imprisonment. The court did not strip them of their decorations – the Order of Courage and other medals.
The Foundation appeals to the relevant authorities for an effective search of the convicted in absentia.
The killers were finally found guilty, but none the less the case of Ulman upon the whole seriously undermined the authority of jury trials and the judicial system in Russia:
On 11 May 2004 the jury passed a non-guilty verdict. Eduard Ulman was released form custody in the courtroom. 26 August the RF Supreme Court quashed the verdict on appeal on the grounds that “the verdict was passed by an unlawfully composed jury”.
On 25 May 2005 the jury again acquitted them. On 30 August 2005 this decision was annulled because of certain violations of domestic criminal procedure laws.
On 17 November the Northern Caucasus Regional Court Martial started a third trial. In February 2006 the trial was suspended due to a letter of inquiry forwarded by Chechen President Alu Alkhanov to the Constitutional Court challenging the lawfulness of a jury trial over crimes committed in Chechnya, where there are no jury trials.
On 6 April 2006 the court agreed with the Chechen President and ruled to have the similar case considered by a chamber of three professional judges, without any jury.
Exactly this order of events gives us grounds to believe that the decisions of both the Supreme and the Constitutional Courts were politically motivated. The events would have looked more logical if the Chechen President applied to the Constitutional Court before the jury trial of the case of Ulman, and not after two acquittals, which openly irritated both former Chechen President Alkhanov and actual President Kadyrov. It should be mentioned that even a suspicion of political motivation in the reversal of the two verdicts undermines the institution of jury trials and gives rise to doubts in incontestability of the authority of a jury.
The case of Ulman is an important precedent; however there were other war crimes and criminals have not been called to account yet. It is very important that every crime was thoroughly investigated and criminals were administered a fair punishment.
The Public Verdict Foundation