Archive for July 1st, 2017

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UA soldier arrested in Italy for the murder of an Italian journalist in Donbas

July 1, 2017

It appears that Vitaly Markov, call sign “Italian” has been arrested in Italy on matters surrounding the death of Italian photojournalist Andrea Rokkelli (and Russian journalist Andrei Mironov) near Slavyansk on 2nd May 2014.

At that time the Ukrainian 95th Brigade and 3rd Special Forces Regiment were in that theatre, however Mr Markov is described as being within a “special group” which may mean SOF – or equally as likely given the circumstances of the time, perhaps simply a volunteer group.

The code name of “Italian” for Mr Markov is neither coincidence, nor particularly imaginative, for it appears that he holds both Italian and Ukrainian citizenship.

Ergo it is perhaps no surprise that Mr Markov was in Italy when arrested by the Italians.

It seems the Italians are not allowing Mr Markov Ukrainian consular assistance, and this appears to be irking some within Ukraine“In this investigation General Prosecutor’s Office is actively cooperating with our Italian colleagues, provides the results of examinations of witnesses, results of examinations, etc. In this case, according to Ukrainian investigators, the deaths of two journalists took place as a result of shelling by the Russian terrorist forces.

We stand on guard the legitimate interests of every citizen, both in Ukraine and abroad.”

Putting aside the fact that former MPs such as Andrey Artemenko are former MPs due to holding other citizenship, and the stripping of his Ukrainian citizenship and thus ability to act as a parliamentarian was deemed mandatory in such circumstances, thus raising the question why this would not equally apply to Mr Markov, there are questions to ask relating the Ukraine’s right to provide consular assistance.

If a dual national is arrested in a third country, they have the ability to obtain consular assistance from one of the nations of which they hold citizenship – though not more than one.

However Mr Markov has not been arrested in a third country.  He has been arrested in a country in which he holds citizenship, so this will be seen by the Italian authorities as an entirely domestic affair where both alleged victim and suspect are their citizens.

Italy will no doubt apply a fairly standard position as host government of not allowing consular assistance to somebody they consider (rightly) their own, nor necessarily divulging information relevant to the case to Ukrainian government as it deems fit.  Thus it seems very unlikely that Mr Markov will be granted Ukrainian consular assistance, nor likely that Italy will furnish Ukraine with any/all evidence it has against him.

Other foreign combatants from the war in occupied Donbas have also been prosecuted by their home governments upon their return.

If Ukraine is determined to tackle Italy over this case on Mr Markov’s behalf, perhaps it is possible to raise issues over the matter of jurisdiction.  While the crime/incident may (or may not) have involved two Italian citizens, it actually took place within the territory of Ukraine.  Ergo, prima facie it is a Ukrainian crime/incident to deal with via Ukrainian investigation and due process.

However that is perhaps not as clear cut as it may seem.  Some domestic laws are deliberately designed to travel with their citizens – the UK Bribery Act 2010 (as hopefully Roman Nasirov will discover) for example.

Jurisdiction is often challenged and often asserted by States beyond their borders.  It is not unusual for States, in this case Italy, to open their own investigations to be subject to their own due process in such cases where there is clearly an Italian interest.

Thus Mr Markov is likely to be in for a long and drawn out process as the wheels of Italian justice slowly turn regardless of anything Ukraine may say or do (if it decides this is a matter it wants to officially tackle.)

Perhaps of most interest is what evidence the Italian authorities have collected, collated, and analysed to provide sufficient grounds – or not – for arrest relating to the guilt – or not – of Mr Markov from May 2014 – a time when the fog of war was particularly thick,  Ukrainian units were almost absent Ukrainian command and control, and acts probably amounting to war crimes by combatants of all stripes and flavours were seemingly all too frequent and just as frequently unreported.

Thus it may be that this case will give an insight into just how well, and in just how much detail, the international community has thus far collected and collated evidence of such matters – for eventually such matters will reach international courts (perhaps regardless of any Ukrainian amnesties that may or may not eventually arrive – issues of jus cogens and erga omnes etc).

A case to watch.

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