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24.04.2014 | Halya Coynash

Amnesty Law: Geneva’s endorsement of impunity

   

Peaceful demonstrators for Ukrainian unity in Kharkiv on April 13 were chased into the metro and viciously attacked by pro-Russian "separatists"

Western leaders are continuing to wave a remonstrative finger at Russia while patting Ukrainian government figures on the back for “restraint” and “steps to implementing the Geneva agreement”.  The praise is received for, among other things, “tabling an amnesty law”.

This is indeed in compliance with the agreement which states that “amnesty will be granted to protesters and to those who have left buildings and other public places and surrendered weapons, with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes”.

It is possibly for the best that the pro-Russian militants currently terrorizing the population and taking hostages, including at least one foreign journalist, are demonstrating so little willingness to play ball.  Or, of course, have been told not to comply by those supplying them with spruce new weapons, camouflage gear and a carte blanche for criminal activities.  These, they know, will be referred to by Russia’s Foreign Ministry as “Ukrainian citizens defending their rights in the South-East of Ukraine”, regardless what they get up to.

The EuroMaidan movement, and the lives sacrificed, were in the name of a European choice that included rule of law.  Ukrainians are now being asked to understand why this quadrilateral agreement should have avoided the subject of the Crimea altogether and have failed to guarantee Ukraine’s territorial integrity, but asks for a blanket “amnesty”.  Almost blanket, with the exception of those found guilty of “capital crimes”. How these crimes are to be investigated when no other suspected offences can be examined is anybody’s guess.  Lawyer Yevhenia Zakrevska points out that the draft law even proposes to prohibit collecting and storing personal data of people involved in the protests, meaning that the Security Service will be unable to even hold on to information about likely terrorists.

There appears to be confusion as to what does not fall under the amnesty.  The Geneva Statement would seem to have been signed only in English, with capital crimes doubtless understood by the US side quite literally as those which carry the death penalty. The EU representative may have interpreted this as those carrying life sentences, however the Ukrainian draft bill excludes “especially grave crimes”.  Article 12 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code defines such crimes as being “crimes which carry a fine of over 25 thousand times the minimum income before tax, imprisonment for over 10 years or life imprisonment”.

The scope is thus broader than in the English.  The fact that Moscow could try to present this as non-compliance is a minor consideration.  Total incomprehension of such blithe disregard for rule of law from the population as a whole, and the victims of pro-Russian militants’ lawlessness is inevitable, as is a sense of profound betrayal. 

The civic initiative EuroMaidan SOS has issued a statement indicating the unacceptability of such impunity “for grave bodily injuries; abduction and hostage-taking; armed robbery; extortion; banditry; terrorist acts; attempted murder of public figures, law enforcement officers; and other offences

It says that parliament is effectively encouraging a continuation of violence and terror from individuals who are supporting the Russian saboteur units active in Ukraine.

Likening militants armed with Kalashnikov rifles to the Maidan protesters is hypocrisy and a flagrant insult to the memory of those who died on Maidan, and misleads the public.”

Moscow has from the outset tried to push the idea that the militants in Slovyansk and other east Ukrainian cities are the same as those on Maidan in Kyiv, only with different views.   For all who have seen unarmed protesters gunned down on Institutska St in Kyiv, any attempt to equate those slain with men in masks brandishing Kalashnikov rifles, torturing hostages or catching and beating up people demonstrating in support of Ukraine’s unity, is truly monstrous.

Is this really the message western countries wish to give Ukrainians who upheld their right to a democratic “European” future?  

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