The Real Roundtable Agenda
Oleh Panas, photographer, remanded in custody on Dec 10 for two months
Trust is inconceivable after Tuesday night’s mass deployment of police against peaceful protesters however negotiations between all parties are vital. Not Viktor Yanukovych’s tea party parody of a roundtable with ex-presidents, but hard talking with real demands on the table. A key condition must surely be an end to the use of the law enforcement bodies and courts as weapons against protesters. Abuse of these institutions was already widespread before this crisis, it is now endemic.
Another person has been detained for 2 months by the Shevchenkivsky Court in Kyiv over alleged involvement in the Dec 1 disturbances. Oleh Panas is a photographer from Lviv who took pictures of the savage dispersing of the Kyiv EuroMaidan protesters in the early morning on 30 Nov.
Panas was grabbed by three men in plain clothes on 9 Dec in Lviv and taken to Kyiv. A witness said that Panas had called for help, saying that he was a EuroMaidan activist, and that the men had claimed that Panas had stolen a telephone. The telephone was not mentioned in court on Dec 10, and he appears to have been charged with attacking Berkut officers on Dec. 1. His father says that he was not on Bankova St that day having been injured during the Berkut attack on peaceful protestors the previous morning. During that attack, his video camera got smashed, however he did manage to take photographs which he passed to Reuters.
As was the case with other people remanded in custody, Panas’ lawyer was not allowed to see her client before the court hearing. This is in breach of the law and clearly arouses suspicion.
Most worrying is the fact that once again the only witnesses are law enforcement officers. Video footage from Bankova St on Dec 1 shows Berkut officers charging and brutally beating those who crossed their path, as well as people lying on the ground showing no resistance. Around 7 of the first 9 people ended up in hospital, under guard, with serious injuries as a result.
This video material is clearly particularly damning if Berkut beat up innocent protesters, and it is in the police’s interest to claim that the beaten men are the guilty party. Even if a proper investigation into the behaviour by the Berkut officers is carried out, the crumbs Yanukovych offered by promising the release pending trial of some of the first 9 people detained in custody are woefully inadequate. Where there is considerable evidence of indiscriminate use of violence by the police, and no evidence of the arrested men’s involvement in disturbances except testimony from those same police officers, there can be no justification for remanding any of them in custody at this stage.
There are numerous other uses being made of the police at present, all equally illegitimate. Students from Lviv attempted to travel to Kyiv to protest at the criminal prosecutions of peaceful protesters. Their coaches were stopped on fictitious grounds by traffic police, prompting the students to block the road in protest. Three students of the Ukrainian Catholic University are now facing criminal charges of blocking the road which could carry 3 year sentences. The university’s president Father Borys Gudziak told Channel 5 that three students from the university had been warned of criminal proceedings while many others were getting phone calls. “We all live in Ukraine, we know our history and know what it means when the security services ring a young person, what happens in their families, at their institutes, when somebody arrives from the prosecutor’s office and asks for information about students. This is pure and simple intimidation.”
News that the police were moving in last night prompted only mass calls on all social networks for people to mobilize. The future that EuroMaidan protesters are upholding their right to is one based on rule of law. The methods being applied at present are as illegitimate as those which were rightly condemned as selective justice. They also need scrutiny and response. .