Maidan, one year on: Pride, pain and determination
On this most poignant first anniversary of the bloodiest day of the EuroMaidan protests, civic activists, lawyers and others will be gathering on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] with a clear message to Ukraine’s President Petro Poroshenko and parliamentarians. If you want us to believe that the authorities will never gun down peaceful protesters again, then ratify the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court!
As every first anniversary has approached – of the beginning of EuroMaidan, of the brutal dispersal of protesters, most students, on Nov 30, of the adoption of draconian laws on Jan 16 and the first deaths on Jan 22 – a certain ritual has been played out. The authorities announce arrests or some kind of ‘protest’ over crimes against EuroMaidan protesters, while civic activists, lawyers and the media report the near total failure to find those responsible and bring them to justice. Many of those believed to have ordered the violence and killings, or have played a role in them, are in hiding – some in Crimea, many have been given refuge by Russia. In fact, some – like Petro Fedchuk - may be proving useful in suppressing peaceful protest in Moscow.
There are still no breakthroughs in criminal investigations to report and it remains to be seen whether the appointment of a new Prosecutor General will make any difference.
With the number of human rights crimes committed by Russia and its proxies in eastern Ukraine rising by the day, the need for more than symbolic arrests and reiterated calls for a full and impartial investigation is evident.
There are very many Ukrainians who like EuroMaidan SOS “feel the responsibility to do everything so that this can never happen again”.
As well as remembering Nebesna Sotnya – the Heavenly Hundred – gunned down a year ago, they will be calling for one specific action so that such a terrible sacrifice will never again be demanded.
The International Criminal Court can investigate and prosecute in cases of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It becomes involved where a country is unwilling or unable to prosecute itself.
With many of the perpetrators of EuroMaidan crimes in hiding, and the Kremlin’s proxies and Russian forces in eastern Ukraine carrying out acts which almost certainly constitute war crimes, the need for Ukraine to ratify the Rome Statute is clear.
Over recent weeks those arguing against ratification have pointed to Russian manipulation of refugees, and the likelihood that Russia would itself swamp the Court in the Hague over purported war crimes. For this it has to itself ratify the Rome Statute. Even if it does so, allegations thus far – from Russia’s increasingly politicized Investigative Committee and in the Russian media – have used video footage from different countries and times, an ‘eye witness’ reporting the ‘crucifixion’ of a three year old child in Slovyansk while wrongly naming the central square and clearly not knowing the layout of the city, or ‘witnesses’ used in multiple roles.
The International Criminal Court can surely be relied on to provide a proper investigation, bringing us back to the challenge made on this first anniversary. If Ukraine’s leaders really are willing to follow the lead given during the Revolution of Dignity, let them at very least demonstrate it through their ratification of the Rome Statute.Halya Coynash