Defend us from the defenders
This was one of the titles of articles covering the protests held throughout Ukraine on 1 June. Students and others observed moments of silence, lit candles and laid flowers in memory of Ihor Indylo, the 19-year-old student who died in the Shevchenkivsky District Police Station two weeks ago. He had committed no offence, went voluntarily to the police station, apparently after an altercation with a police officer living in the same student hostel. He died from head injuries and haemorrhaging. The police are still claiming that Ihor fell in a state of inebriation and that no police officers are implicated in his death.
However on 28 May, two days after a report on TV “1 + 1” which gave an entirely conflicting story, a criminal investigation was initiated, and top officials in the police station suspended.
It is perhaps not surprising that the police in Kyiv should be denying any wrong doing. The response of the Minister of Internal Affairs, A. Mohylyov is, however, more disturbing. A report on the Ministry’s official website on 1 June stated that Mohylyov had signed an order to hold an internal investigation on “including representatives of human rights organizations and the media.” It is not especially clear why the three journalists, not others, were chosen, nor why members of the media have been added at al. However the words about human rights organizations are particularly cynical. The use of the plural is entirely misleading, but the choice of the one “human rights activist” from one organization is also disappointing. Edward Bagirov may consider himself to be a human rights activist, however this view is not shared by prominent human rights organizations in Ukraine, nor by those representatives of international structures who regularly consult with such organizations.
It is especially frustrating since the issue of police torture and abuse is very real and urgently requires proper attention. This was the message from protesters in 18 major cities of Ukraine who gathered near police stations to remember Ihor Indylo, a healthy young man on the eve of his 20th birthday who died in police hands, and to call for measures to stop lawless behaviour by police officers.