Ukrainian youth show the police they know their rights
On 1 September, Day of Knowledge and the first day of school in Ukraine, human rights activists prepared a major action entitled “Defend yourself!”. The action was forced on them by systematic human rights violations by the police. The action was therefore aimed at raising the level of knowledge among young people on defending their rights in contact with police officers.
Outside 30 academic institutions students, members of NGOs and graduates of the nationwide educational programme “We understand human rights” carried out an awareness-raising event against unlawful detentions, interrogations, searches, use of force against young people by police officers. The action was supported by over 30 educational institutions in Kyiv, Luhansk, Kharkiv, Chernihiv, Odessa, Mykolaiv, Zhytomyr, Simferopol, Ternopil, Pivne, Sevastopol, Yalta, Mariupol, Kremenchuh, Komsomolsk and Hlobin.
In Kyiv a street performance was enacted on Knowledge Square, near the National Technical University. Cells of a mock SIZO [remand unit] were set up with students who don’t know their rights and are not able to defend themselves from enraged police officers being forcibly placed in them. In the SIZO, activists told the students about their rights and handed them yellow information cards. “It’s funny but we have to learn to protect ourselves from the law enforcement bodies. If the police don’t remember that they need to observe human rights and carry out their duties, then we need to remind them”, the action coordinator in Kyiv, Roman Shmalko says.
The events were different in each location. In Chernihiv a conflict situation between young people and the police was acted out, with the discussion demonstrating the steps needed to ensure that any detention is in line with the law and all their rights are observed. The organizers have been invited by the Chernihiv City Centre for the Family, Children and Youth to show the performance in city schools.
The yellow cards will help young people be aware of their rights and better able to defend themselves. The new knowledge gained through the actions should also help young people understand the reason why conflicts arise, observe the law themselves and demand the same from the law enforcement bodies.
The action was made possible by the support of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee as part of a Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union project.
From a report on the day’s events by Yaroslav Minkin