Ukraine: Five years after the Maydan protests, justice still not attained for victims

The Ukrainian authorities have failed to attain justice for all victims of police abuses committed during the EuroMaydan protests five years ago, Amnesty International said on the fifth anniversary of the protests’ worst day of violence which led to the downfall of then-President Viktor Yanukovych.

“The sheer scope of the human rights violations committed during EuroMaydan was far beyond what the Ukrainian criminal justice system was designed to deal with, to say nothing of its inefficiency. Worse, it has resisted and obstructed justice instead of prosecuting the former and current members of the law enforcement,” said Colm O Cuanachain, Senior Director at the Office of the Secretary General of Amnesty International during his visit to Kyiv on the day.

“Five years is a long time to wait when it comes to justice, and for most victims who suffered at the hands of Ukrainian police, justice is still not even in sight. Promises were made, strong words were said by the post-Yanukovych authorities, but time and facts speak volumes. Until all those responsible, including those in command, are brought to account there can be no sense of justice.”

Five years is a long time to wait when it comes to justice, and for most victims who suffered at the hands of Ukrainian police, justice is still not even in sight
Colm O Cuanachain, Senior Director at the Office of the Secretary General of Amnesty International

More than 100 people were killed in the EuroMaydan protests, which were brutally quashed by security forces. As of the end of 2018, the Prosecutor General’s Office had identified 441 suspects, most of them former law enforcement officers, but also city administration officials, prosecutors and judges.

In total, the cases of 288 individuals were sent to court. Of those, 52 cases resulted in court decisions including 48 convictions, but only nine custodial sentences were handed down. Not one of the individuals imprisoned was a former police officer.

“A year after the events, we published a report Ukraine: A year after EuroMaydan, justice delayed, justice denied. Five years after EuroMaydan, the title is still accurate. This is a shame and an indictment of Ukraine’s criminal justice system,” said Colm O Cuanachain.

Amnesty International calls on the Ukrainian authorities to fully commit to the effective investigation of human rights violations committed during EuroMaydan
Colm O Cuanachain, Senior Director at the Office of the Secretary General of Amnesty International

“Amnesty International calls on the Ukrainian authorities to fully commit to the effective investigation of human rights violations committed during EuroMaydan, including beatings and killings. They must shield investigators from political pressure and equip them with the resources and authority they need to carry out their tasks, including allowing the re-enactment of the shootings that took place on 18-20 February 2014.”

Background

Between 21 November 2013 and 22 February 2014, hundreds of thousands of people took part in protests in Kyiv’s Maydan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), and other Ukrainian cities. In the standoff with police, the protests in Kyiv became violent. Law enforcement officers responded with indiscriminate and excessive use of force against protesters, including those who were not engaging in violence.

The violence escalated on 18-20 February 2014, when 77 people died as a result of clashes between police and protesters, leading to the fall of Viktor Yanukovych’s administration. According to the Ministry of Health, the overall death toll reached 106 people, including at least 13 police officers.