war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Appeal of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights about the events in Sumy

The appeal concerns the illegal actions of Sumy militiamen against the students, who organized a protest action.

During the 20th century the students in Europe were the bared nerve, which acutely reacted to unfairness. The experience has showed that Ukraine is not an exception.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights is extremely worried with recent events in Sumy. According to the information of the press-center of the Ministry of Interior, for more than a month the law-enforcers tried to guarantee the public order on the territory of the students’ tent camp and the safety of its inhabitants. However, it is noteworthy that the militiamen were not present near the tent camp either on 2, or on 5, or on 23 July, when a poisonous liquid was splashed around (which endangered the right to life). They were also absent during the repeated “annoyances” of drunks and when one person was taken to hospital by a motor ambulance after an attack of strangers (then the inhabitants of the camp caught the guilty by themselves, passed him to militia and presented the witnesses; yet, the results of the investigation are still unknown, although the parents, students and teachers are writing numerous appeals to the Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of extraordinary situations). And at night of 31 July, when it became known about the intention of students to organize the march to Kyiv, the law-enforcers rushed into the camp, detained, by different data, from 10 to 20 students and tried to destroy the tents. During this attempt to ruin the tent camp the property of many participants of the protest action disappeared or was damaged.

We believe that the above-mentioned actions violated the right to freedom of peaceful assemblies, freedom of expression, right to liberty and personal security, and the proprietary right. The following arguments prove these statements.

Firstly, according to Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine, restriction of the right of citizens to gather peacefully, without arms, and conduct assemblies, meetings, rallies, street marches and demonstrations may be imposed by court in accordance with law and only in interests of national security and public order, or with the aim to prevent disorders or crimes, for protection of health of population or protection of rights and freedoms and other people. There was no court decision about the restriction of realization by citizens of this right at the moment of the described actions of Sumy militia. The information about probable commitment of crimes by the participants of the tent camp was not confirmed, since none of the detained was accused of anything. In fact, several tens of persons were detained without grounds, which was directly connected with the action held by the students. After the dispersal of the tent camp 8 persons were condemned for resistance to militia and 2 – for petty hooliganism, which obviously did not correspond to the goal of the actions of militia. This means that the actions of militia were ungrounded, disproportionate and biased.

Secondly, Article 19 of the Constitution of Ukraine, according to which the organs of state power and local self-government, their officials must act only on the basis and within the limits of the Constitution and laws of Ukraine, and only by methods envisaged by these laws; Article 11 of the Law of Ukraine “On militia”, which establishes the rights rendered to militia for the fulfillment of its duties, does not stipulate the right to restrict constitutional rights without the proper grounds.

Thirdly, according to Article 14 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the proprietary right is inviolable and nobody can be illegally deprived of the proprietary right. In the course of the illegal search of tent camp and personal search of the participants of the peaceful action, their personal property was damaged or disappeared.

It should be also noted that these actions of Sumy militia violated:

a)  principles of activities of militia (Article 3 of the Law of Ukraine “On militia”) -- “activities of militia are based on the principles of legality”;

b)  basic tasks of militia (Article 2 of the Law of Ukraine “On militia”) – “protection of rights and freedoms of citizens, their legal interests”.

Now representatives of the power do their best to prevent the students’ march. We want to declare that there are no legal grounds for this, and such actions, impeding the peaceful protest actions, are illegal. Yesterday Sergiy Tigipko, the head of V. Yanukovich’s headquarters, resorted to open threats: “The power needs stability, and if somebody would distort this stability, the problems can appear”. We want to remind Mr. Tigipko about article 3 of the Constitution, according to which the support and protection of human rights is the main task of the state. We want to point out that there is nothing illegal in the students’ march, and the power should promote this step and guarantee the public order, but not threaten students with violent actions.

The students’ action has purely peaceful character, they do not commit and do not intend to commit any illegal doings for the achievement of their goals. We denounce the attempt of the power to present the considered events as illegal activities or the activities that endanger the stability in the state, which is incompatible with democratic and European values.

We demand from representatives of the power to observe the Constitution and Ukrainian laws and not to violate the human rights and fundamental freedoms envisaged by the European Convention on human rights. We demand not to use the law-enforcing organs for political purposes.

We want to point out that expression by people of any political views in a peaceful way is a fundamental value of a democratic state, and the state must do its best for the creation of proper conditions for this, no matter whether these views are oppositional or pro-power.

Evhen Zakharov,

Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights

4 August 2004


The Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights is the all-Ukrainian Association of public human rights protecting organizations, the main goal of which is the promotion of practical application of the humanitarian articles of the Concluding Act of the Helsinki Council on safety and cooperation in Europe of 1975, other international documents adopted for its development and all obligations of Ukraine in the sphere of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights was created on 1 April 2004 and consists of 15 public human rights protecting organizations.


The law is still absent in Ukraine, which would regulate the conduction of peaceful public actions. “Prava ludyny” wrote about this more than once. Two law drafts, Nos. 5242 and 5242-2, had been suggested, but both drafts were rejected by the Parliament. So, a new, most perfect, law should be developed, which would be adopted by the Parliament. In this connection the given below general remarks concerning the principles of creation of such law seem to be rather important.

 Share this