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Real Measures from Democratic Countries needed now

20.02.14

The text below was written as an appeal to the heads of all European Parliament factions, asking them to support a permanent observer mission to Ukraine.  The information also, I hope, explains why targeted sanctions and other active measures now are vitally needed to restrain Ukraine’s leaders. . 

The need at present for scrutiny from Europe of events in Ukraine cannot be overstressed.  Recent developments make it clear that the authorities are resorting to measures against the population which have no place in a democratic society, and are resisting all calls to investigate and punish those guilty of serious human rights violations.

The following are just some examples

Excessive violence against protesters. 

There is evidence that Berkut special force snipers shot at peaceful protesters on the morning of Feb 18, and that on Feb 20 many protesters have been deliberately shot and killed by Berkut  snipers whose deployment the authorities are denying. 

Over recent months the authorities have used Berkut to savagely beat totally peaceful protesters.  On Jan 16 and then Jan 29 the government pushed through legislation which effectively prevents any officers or higher facing prosecution for grave excesses on Nov 30 and other occasions.  There is an extremely dangerous level of impunity with even such shocking reprisals against civic activists and journalists as the attack on Tetyana Chornovol being classified as “hooliganism” prompted by supposed road rage (see: Chornovol investigation descends into "road rage" farce)

Titushki and possible “death squadrons”

There is compelling evidence that the government are deploying paid thugs in very large numbers and that these thugs or “titushki” often work in close cooperation with Berkut and local authorities.   These thugs are being brought to main cities, equipped with helmets, weapons etc and paid to provoke trouble, intimidate, injure or even kill, activists and journalists, and also carry out excesses while masquerading as Maidan activists.  See, for example,  

Titushki and Bercut riot police attack an STB film crew

Police together with “titushki” in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhya

It is unfortunately very likely that the law enforcement bodies are implicated in a number of abductions and beatings of activists.  Yury Verbytsky’s badly mutilated body was found in the forest outside Kyiv days after being abducted from hospital  (see: Yury Verbytsky sustained horrific injuries ). 

Dangerously repressive measures

Although the overtly repressive measures against peaceful protest, freedom of expression and civic organizations pushed through parliament on Jan 16 were officially revoked, some have been reintroduced via Cabinet of Ministers decrees or are presently back in parliament, with one retrograde draft law having presidential backing and likely to be passed.  These measures provide the law enforcement bodies with dangerously broad powers, while the measures proposed by the president would reintroduce highly dangerous norms regarding the judiciary.

On Feb 19 the president replaced the head of the armed forces with a person believed to be more compliant and an “anti-terrorist action” was announced covering the whole country.  The powers given the SBU [Security Service], enforcement bodies and army are effectively those of a state of war.  A state of emergency must be approved by parliament and such attempts to describe hundreds of thousands of people expressing their protest at the regime as “terrorists”, as well as the overt contempt for constitutional requirements are of immense concern.

State propaganda and control of the media

Freedom of speech and media diversity have been gravely eroded under President Yanukovych and most major television channels muffle or distort information about what is happening in the country.

There have also been overt attempts to mislead the international community, including through measures supported by Russia to present the Ukrainian political opposition and / or the EuroMaidan protests as “fascist” and even anti-Semitic  (please see: “Anti-Semitism on EuroMaidan: Not seen, just heard about

These and many other cases indicate that Ukraine’s leaders are using totally illegitimate and basically criminal methods against Ukrainians. 

European observers are urgently needed to monitor such abuses.  They will also save lives since their very presence will be a restraining factor.

 

Halya Coynash

Kharkiv Human Rights Group

see also:
MPs vote to condemn violence and ban “anti-terrorist operation”
EU introduces targeted sanctions
Titushki and Bercut riot police on the attack
Blood and Berkut Sniper Bullets on the President’s Hands
Mustafa Dzhemiliev on Maidan: I’m proud of you, dear fellow Ukrainians
Berkut snipers aimed at protesters
Waiting for more bloodshed?
Open threats and covert plans as ‘hostage law’ deadline nears
Ruling majority takes hostages through new “amnesty law”
Ruling party absolves Berkut of liability for Nov 30
Ukraine’s ruling majority slips in dangerously repressive law
Traffic police deployed against EuroMaidan protesters