UHHRU: The Police are carrying out unlawful instructions
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has issued an open appeal in which it expresses concern over recent action by the Police.
Recent events with the crushing of civic protest in Kharkiv demonstrate a serious worsening in the country’s human rights situation. They arouse great concern due to the wide-scale nature of unlawful actions by the local authorities and police which risk going unpunished.
On 2 June at around 4 a.m. 50 men dressed in black, together with workmen carrying saws switched on attacked activists defending the trees under threat in Kharkiv’s Gorky Park. This was with police officers standing by watching the unlawful actions of these unidentified individuals and taking no measures to protect people from violence. Later the police in arbitrary fashion detained 4 of the park’s defenders. Not one of the assailants was detained. After the attack, the workmen began cutting down the trees despite the danger to life of those trying to protect them. Three people were injured.
After all the trees had been felled, the activists packed up their tents, cleared up the rubbish and set off peacefully to the city’s central square to express their protest outside the Kharkiv Regional Council and Administration.
During this spontaneous peaceful gathering (in the form of a meeting with deputies of the Regional Council, two activists were detained without any warning or grounds being given.
UHHRU condemns the unlawful actions by bodies of local self-government and the police.
It is known that the allocation of land for building a road through Gorky Park and the felling of trees was unlawful. The necessary permits had not been obtained. The road was not envisaged in the General Plan of the city approved on 23 June 2004. The Ministry for Environmental Protection had ordered the Regional Department for the Environment to revoke its conclusion on agreeing the allocation of this land back in 2008 which had been done. There had been no State environmental impact assessment and there is no knowledge of any public discussion having taken place. Despite all of this, the Kharkiv City Council in May 2010 adopted an unlawful decision to fell trees in Gorky Park.
The police officers in a situation of confrontation should apply measures to maintain public order and defend people from violence. Yet the police on every occasion stood by while unidentified individuals beat up the activities and only detained environmental activists. The activists committed no offences nor did they show any physical resistance to the actions of the police. Their resistance was peaceful and they were simply expressing their protest and trying to obstruct manifestly unlawful actions by the local authorities in felling the trees.
It is a crime for police officers to stand by when people are being assaulted.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union calls on the Prosecutor General to:
- register Prosecutor protest at the decisions of the local authorities regarding the construction work in Gorky Park;
- initiate disciplinary and criminal proceedings with regard to the large-scale unlawful arrests of defenders of the Park;
- initiate a disciplinary and criminal inquiry into the criminal inaction of police officers which led to grave consequences with the activists suffering bodily injuries of varying degrees of severity as well as the destruction of old trees.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union calls on the Human Rights Ombudsperson to initiate an investigation into cases of unlawful detention, beating, obstruction of peaceful assembly, as well as the violation of citizens environmental rights as guaranteed by Articles 29, 39 and 50 of the Constitution.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union calls on National Deputies to form a special enquiry commission to investigate what happened in Kharkiv and to hear a report from the Minister of Internal Affairs regarding the lawfulness of the actions of the police.
Volodymyr Yavorsky, UHHRU Executive Director
Yevhen Zakharov, member of the UHHRU Board and Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group