war crimes in Ukraine

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No penalty against Ukrainian judge who ordered Berkut to disperse Maidan

Halya Coynash

The High Council of Justice has decided that there are no grounds for dismissing Yevhen Ablov, the Kyiv judge who ordered Berkut riot police to forcibly disperse Euromaidan activists in December 2013.  The attempt failed after the bells of St Michael’s Cathedral, helped by people on social networks, warned of the danger and thousands of Kyiv residents sped to defend Maidan. 

Roman Maselko, one of the lawyers representing Euromaidan victims or their families, notes that the High Council of Justice has not dismissed even one judge who violated the fundamental civil right to peaceful assembly.

He explains that on Dec 9, 2013 Ablov received an application officially from a member of the public.  The individual asserted that the barricades on Maidan Nezalezhnosti [Independence Square] were preventing him/her from moving freely and asked that the court order Berkut to stop activists breaching the law by blocking the roads.

Within 90 minutes, Ablov had obliged with a ruling banning any action by any individuals in any way blocking all the streets where protests were underway and, soon afterwards, an order obliging the relevant authorities to take appropriate measures. 

The attempt to clear Maidan, using the judge’s ruling as pretext, came during the night from 10 to 11 December 2013.  St Michael’s Monastery, which in the early morning of November 30 had opened its gates to provide refuge for young Maidan activists fleeing from Berkut officers, now began ringing the bells, as in medieval times, to warn of danger.  Calls went out on social networks to alert people in Kyiv that the police were planning to violently disperse the crowd which, despite freezing conditions, had remained on Maidan.  It was an immensely stressful night, but by early morning, thousands of people had rallied to the call, and the regime backed off.

Maselko asserts that within 2 weeks, on Dec 26, Ablov had received a flat for his permanent use.  By 2015 he had privatized this, and by 2016 sold it.  In October 2016, the anti-corruption watchdog Nashi Hroshi [Our Money] reported that Ablov had failed to declare at least one property of the fair number owned by members of his family.

Despite promises by the post-Maidan government to both bring those responsible for crimes against Maidan to justice and to ensure a proper shake-up of the justice and law enforcement bodies, little has been achieved.  Most of the judges and prosecutors involved in Maidan prosecutions have, at most, been moved to new posts, with only a handful actually losing their position.

The Special Investigations Department under Serhiy Horbatyuk, which really is investigating crimes, regularly complains of major obstruction from the courts. In certain cases, this has enabled the accused to flee to Russia where they are likely to be given citizenship swiftly, and not face any danger of being returned to Ukraine. 

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