war crimes in Ukraine

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Euromaidan: A Year of Impunity and what went wrong

Euromaidan SOS and other civic organizations and lawyers have issued a damning report of the lack of progress in investigating crimes against Euromaidan activists, and identified systemic failings that urgently need to be rectified. .

Euromaidan SOS, together with other civic organizations and lawyers, have issued a report on the investigation so far, with the very title ‘Year of Impunity’ expressing the frustration felt by many Ukrainians that more than a year after the events, so little is known, and virtually nobody has been brought to answer.  However the report is not just an account of ongoing inaction, but an attempt to identify the systematic failings in the work of national investigation bodies.

The civic initiative Euromaidan SOS explains that they passed all information they had gathered in the course of helping activists facing repressive measures during the protests to Ukrainian investigative bodies, and also cooperated with the Council of Europe’s International Consultative Panel. Together with other human rights organizations they have also made two submissions to the International Criminal Court.

They also tried, together with lawyers representing on a pro bono basis victims of the repression and killings of activists, to ensure civic monitoring of the investigations, which they have now presented in this report.

Everybody understands how little has been achieved, they say, but only those engaged in the process can explain with any certainty what went wrong. 

An example given is the public outrage over the fact that the driver of a bus bringing a group of former Berkut officers to court to support one colleague facing charges in connection with Euromaidan was wearing a St George ribbon. 

What should have caused outrage, however, was the fact that this was the same driver in whose bus Maidan activists were beaten in Jan 2014.  Despite this the man is still working in the police force in a unit that was supposedly reorganized, but in fact was just renamed.   (See: Ex-Berkut officer on trial over AutoMaidan ambush).

One of the systemic failings was the inadequate organization of the investigation process.  Despite assurances from the country’s leaders of commitment to effective investigation into all Euromaidan cases, for a long time there was a diffuse range of investigations into different cases carried out by various investigative bodies.  As a result, no investigator or prosecutor had any idea of the overall picture and could not establish the connections between different events.  A number of these episodes, the authors write, ended up being omitted altogether.

Another key failing was that the investigators concentrated solely on those who carried out the abuses, and did not try to establish who gave the orders.

The authors point to direct sabotage by representatives of the Interior Ministry, as well as the lack of interaction between the Prosecutor General’s Office, the Interior Ministry and the Security Service [SBU]. 

It was thanks to serious pressure from the public and lawyers of the victims that 10 months into all official investigations, a special investigation department was created within the Prosecutor General’s Office.  This is now the single centre investigating all crimes committed during the Euromaidan protests.

Certain investigators in this department, they note, have achieved more in the space of a few months, than the entire Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office over more than a year.

The new department has focused on studying the circumstances behind the usurpation of power and all the criminal acts committed under the regime of Viktor Yanukovych.  One of the priority tasks is, of course, to investigate the mass gunning down of peaceful protesters from Feb 18-20, 2014.

While positive about the new investigators now on board, the authors are scathing about the totally unwarranted procrastination in organizing the investigation.  The resulting loss of time could be critical given the legally established time frames for carrying out an investigation.  Some of these time frames are coming to an end, which adversely affects any prospects for establishing the truth.

The authors express the hope that the report and its damning assessment of the investigation will be of use to the new department and help them avoid some of the systemic failings that have so marred this crucial investigation.

The report was put together by Euromaidan SOS, OZON [a civic initiative monitoring peaceful assembly and attempts to restrict it], and the Centre for Civil Liberties.


Halya Coynash

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