All those responsible for the deaths of more than 100 people killed during the anti-government protests in Ukraine must be brought to justice, said Amnesty International today.
The call comes as plans were announced to disband the riot police unit that was allegedly responsible for the excessive force used against protesters.
“Moves to disband the riot police must not be used to allow the perpetrators of crimes off the hook. The Ukrainian authorities must not shirk their responsibility,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s Ukraine researcher.
“Each and every allegation must be investigated promptly, effectively and independently and any police officers found to be responsible must face criminal prosecution.”
In a separate move, on Tuesday the Ukrainian parliament passed a declaration accepting the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court and called for the prosecution of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
Amnesty International believes that every effort must be made to ensure prosecutions in domestic courts in the first instance.
“Any approach to the ICC must be complementary to investigations and trials held in domestic courts. There can be no selective justice. The new government must demonstrate its ability to investigate human rights violations and to hold all those responsible to account in domestic courts. Justice begins at home,” said Heather McGill.
“Those in power now must avoid the pitfalls of the previous government and remember what drove hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians onto the streets in November 2013 – a desire for human rights, the rule of law and an end to impunity.”
The Council of Europe has proposed an Independent Advisory Panel to oversee investigations. Amnesty International applauds this initiative and calls on the Ukrainian authorities to support the move.
It is clear that some protesters resorted to violence. However, the organization has documented many cases of peaceful protesters and bystanders being beaten and traumatically wounded by riot police officers.
It is estimated that as many as 800 people were wounded during the demonstrations which started in November 2013.
Iryna Rabchenyuk, a peaceful bystander, was beaten by a riot police officer on 1 December 2013. The officer struck her once in the face with a baton causing traumatic injuries including a complex fracture of the nose, and possibly permanent loss of sight in one eye. Iryna Rabchenyuk and hundreds like her deserve justice.
Amnesty International has also documented several cases of peaceful protesters being attacked by pro-government vigilante groups. These groups, widely alleged to have links with the security forces, must be brought under control and prosecuted for their actions.
“The long-standing culture of impunity for police abuses must come to an end. Ukraine urgently needs an independent mechanism to investigate allegations of human rights violations by the police,” said Heather McGill.