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Mystery strongmen in black outside Mezhyhirya identified


So much for the Public Information Act: it’s taken the Centre for Civil Liberties five months to get an answer to a very simple question.  Simple, yet sensitive, since it concerns the extraordinary measures taken to keep the public away from President Yanukovych’s controversial residence at Mezhyhirya.

As reported, in May this year the Centre’s peaceful assembly watchdog OZON issued a public statement demanding that the Interior Ministry explain who the identified men in black were that had obstructed a peaceful gathering near Mezhyhirya on 15 April.

OZON said that their representatives had been present at a peaceful gathering in defence of freedom of peaceful assembly organized by the Democratic Alliance party and its youth branch in the village of Novi Petrivtsi near Mezhyhirya.  They were confronted by a group of individuals in black uniform with bullet-proof vests, rubber batons, walkie-talkies and other special devices, yet without anything to indicate who they were. They were obviously working closely with the police including the Berkut riot police and pushed the demonstrators away, creating a circle around some of them and detaining one.

They refused to identify themselves when asked both by the demonstrators and by OZON.

Five months of correspondence later …

The Kyiv Regional Police have finally admitted that, despite the lack of any means of identifying them, the officers were in fact from a Special Force Berkut unit.  This same body had previously told the Centre for Civil Liberties that they didn’t know who the men were. 

OZON stresses that the lack of any means of identifying officers supposedly protecting public order is unacceptable. They note also that the gathering was in an open public area and that the organizers had given prior notice of their intention to hold a meeting.

They cited the OSCE ODIHR Guidelines on Freedom of Peaceful Assembly

Item 12:  Police officers should be clearly and individually identifiable. Police officers, while in uniform, must wear or display some form of identification (such as a nameplate or number) on their uniform and/or headgear and not remove or cover this identifying information or prevent people from reading it during an assembly.

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