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(Washington, D.C.) -- Amnesty International today called for urgent reforms within the Ukrainian police ahead of the Euro 2012 soccer competition, in the wake of the robbery and severe beating of two men by six officers in Lviv on April 21.
With only 38 days to go until Euro 2012 kicks off, Amnesty International urges the Ukrainian government to publically commit to creating an independent body to investigate complaints of police abuse, sending a clear message that rights abuses will no longer be tolerated.
"The Ukrainian government must take action now to stop widespread police criminality," said John Dalhuisen, director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International. "Failure to do so will encourage police to continue acting as a law unto themselves, and put Euro 2012 fans in danger."
Ihor Savchyshyn and Andrei Semenyuk were arrested following a disagreement in a bar, and CCTV footage shows the men being robbed by six officers of $2,075.
The police also subjected the men to a brutal assault in which they were punched, kicked, sprayed with tear gas and then handcuffed. Police repeatedly struck the pair with batons as they lay restrained on the floor.
The men were taken to Sykhivskiy police station at 6 a.m. and kept in custody, without medical care or access to a lawyer, for 12 hours. Following their released, the pair were taken by ambulance to a nearby hospital, as neither was able to walk. No explanation was given for their detention.
Local prosecutors refused to open a criminal case against the officers until the victims' lawyer gave an interview to a local television channel. Five of the policemen were arrested on April 25. The other officer admitted himself to the hospital the same day, claiming that he had been injured by the two men days earlier.
"This case is yet another example of how the current system allows criminal behavior by police officers to go unchecked in Ukraine -- the authorities only took action when the media became involved," said Dalhuisen. "The country desperately needs a new and robust system for investigating crimes by police."
In a briefing released today on human rights violations in Ukraine, Ukraine: Euro 2012 Jeopardized by Criminal Police Force, Amnesty International documents numerous cases in Euro 2012 host cities in which police have tortured people in an attempt to extort money, extract a confession, or simply due to the victims' sexuality or ethnic origin.
"Our government claims to be striving toward European human rights standards, but officials live on a different level," said Andriy Golod, the lawyer representing Ihor Savchyshyn and Andrei Semenyuk. "They think they can do what they like with people."
During the 2012 UEFA European Football Championship between June 8 and July 1, 11 matches will be played in four Ukrainian cities, and tens of thousands of football fans will visit the country.
Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.