Peace supporters are planted; corruption fighters are intimidated. Amnesty International report on Ukraine
Human rights activists criticize the mayhem of the ultra-right in Ukraine, especially the C14-controlled group
The international human rights organization Amnesty International has released a report, which refers to the violation of human rights in Ukraine. The organization calls on the Ukrainian authorities to bring to justice those responsible for attacks on public activists, human rights activists and journalists.
Amnesty International blames the Ukrainian authorities for failing to prevent or investigate the numerous human rights violations committed in 2018, which creates an atmosphere of impunity in society.
This situation provokes new attacks on human rights defenders of political opponents and representatives of various ethnic groups. Amnesty International also notes pressure on independent journalists and “pro-Russian” media.
Amnesty International says that the Ukrainian government should ensure an impartial investigation of all cases of discrimination and violence.
“Country” gives the main points of the report.
Beginning November 28, 2018, in accordance with a presidential decree of November 26, martial law was introduced in 10 regions of Ukraine. This happened after an armed incident and the arrest of Ukrainian sailors by Russian border guards on November 25. According to the decree, some rights and freedoms in regions with martial law may be limited to 30 days.
During the period of martial law, Amnesty International noted that the authorities began to restrict public meetings, freedom of movement for non-residents, in particular, citizens of the Russian Federation, and freedom of the media.
In the Ukrainian human rights community, it is also widely believed that the full information about the martial law was not effectively communicated to citizens. The government did not provide detailed explanations as to why certain rights should be limited and how these changes will affect the rights of people.
Impunity for members of radical groups
The year 2018 was marked by a sharp upsurge in violent attacks against a number of individuals and groups, often under the guise of patriotism and the protection of “traditional values”. Those who are exposed to violence come from different sectors of society, including journalists, human rights activists, LGBT people and ethnic minorities – especially Roma – and those whose political views attackers consider “pro-Russian.”
In almost all cases, law enforcement agencies reacted slowly, and criminals rarely, if not never, were brought to justice. The Ukrainian authorities do not directly condemn violence, while those who commit it continue to enjoy almost complete impunity, the document says.
Moreover, various commentators accused the media and bloggers of receiving financial and other support from certain authorities. This contributed to creating a feeling in society that some individuals may be above the law. In turn, this has a frightening effect on representatives of the civil society of Ukraine and impedes their participation in public events. People are afraid of ultra-right groups, according to Amnesty International.
In particular, there are examples of attacks on events in honor of the International Women’s Day on March 8 in Kiev, Lviv, Uzhgorod and other cities. At the same time, the presence of police officers did not have any impact on the attackers, nobody detained them on the spot.
The report states that every spring Roma arrive in large cities to look for seasonal work (for example, collecting scrap metal) and settle in wastelands or in remote forest areas. Each time it provokes a surge of xenophobic statements on the Internet and attacks on Roma camps.
In 2018, there was an alarming surge in the number of violent attacks against camps, including two murder cases. The response of the authorities to these incidents was slow and often ineffective, the report says.
In particular, the incident is described on April 20, 2018 in the camp of Roma families on Lysaya Gora in Kiev. He was attacked, which resulted in the burning of 15 tents. The attackers demanded that the Roma leave the camp, they used knives, pepper spray and, possibly, firearms. Before the attack, the site was visited by men, some of whom identified themselves as members of the C14 nationalist organization. The day after the attack, in response to media inquiries, the police stated that they had not received any complaints about the incident, and refused to comment on it. At the same time, in C14, they openly talked about this on the Internet as a successful initiative. Only after the video about the attack appeared on the network, the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov commented on it.
As a result, the police detained one of the leaders of C14, who reported on the attack on Facebook, and officially accused him of hooliganism (Article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). C14 members and other far-right groups actively protested against the decision to persecute their leader, resorting to intimidating actions against the authorities. Currently, the criminal case is still open, and no one is accused of committing a crime.
The report also provides other examples of attacks on Roma – in the Beregove Transcarpathian region, as well as in Lviv, where a 23-year-old man was killed on June 23 and another 4 were injured, including a child. The prosecutor’s office in Lviv announced that a total of 14 people were wanted in connection with the attack; six of them are still at large at the time of writing.
Attacks to LGBT events
Another regular target of attacks by members of ultra-right groups were lesbians, gays, bisexuals, transgender and intersex rights activists (LGBTI), and activities dedicated to their rights.
In most cases, they displayed aggressive homophobic and transphobic behavior, including verbal abuse and threats, as well as physical attacks on participants of LGBTI activities.
During the parade in Kiev, Odessa and Krivoy Rog, the police provided sufficient protection and measures to prevent violence against LGBTI human rights defenders. But in most other cases, the Ukrainian authorities failed to protect the participants and ensure the safe conduct of the planned activities.
For example, an open public event “Insulting LGBTI rights as a form of censorship: Russian experience” was to take place on a private platform in Kiev. More than 20 attackers arrived at the scene and threatened the participants with violence if they did not leave. Five police officers of the Pechersk district were present on the spot, but refused to intervene. Only after the arrival of a group of city patrol police more than an hour later, were the participants able to safely leave the venue, but the event was canceled.
At the time of writing, Amnesty International is not aware of any tangible progress in the case.
In several cases where the investigation began, the police rarely, if ever, took into account the hate motive in the attacks, including against LGBTI activists and Roma, and treated the incidents simply as hooliganism, which is a minor crime.
Violence against human rights defenders and community activists
International human rights organizations recorded more than 50 attacks on activists and human rights defenders in Ukraine during 2018. A Coalition of local human rights groups puts this number even higher — more than 300 attacks.
In the overwhelming majority of cases, there was no effective police investigation of these incidents, and the perpetrators were not brought to justice, the authors of the report state. Those who suffered from the attacks, or their friends and colleagues, often resorted to conducting their own investigations by collecting evidence and interviewing witnesses, which in some cases led to the identification of the suspects. The police did not help them in this.
As a rule, in response to a public outcry, authorities promise to identify criminals. But these promises are not kept, and public interest gradually disappears.
The report provides an example of the case of Katerina Gandziuk, an anti-corruption activist from the city of Kherson, who died from injuries sustained during an acid attack. This case illustrates the government’s lack of response to such attacks, the document says.
Ukrainian authorities must counter threats, harassment and attacks on human rights defenders, including by ensuring timely, thorough, impartial and independent investigations into such cases, Amnesty International said.
Harassment of journalists and independent media
2018 was also marked by encroachment on freedom of speech and the media. Criminal cases were filed against people who openly challenged the official version of the conflict in the east of Ukraine. Those who criticized the authorities on topics related to corruption were harassed and intimidated.
On October 4, the Ukrainian Parliament took an unprecedented step by taking steps to close down 112 and NewsOne, which the Ukrainian authorities regularly criticize. Parliament appealed to the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of Ukraine with a request to impose sanctions against companies that own these TV channels, and to deprive them of a broadcast license. These measures have not yet been implemented.
Anti-corruption journalists Natalya Sedletskaya and Kristina Berdinskikh found out in late August that the Kiev Pechersk District Court allowed the Prosecutor General’s Office to track the location of their phones, call logs and text messages as part of an investigation into the head of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau Artem Sytnik. Journalists are witnesses in this case, because they communicated with Sytnik during the investigation. Sedletskaya was able to successfully cancel the initial decision of the Pechersk District Court. During the hearing, Berdinsky’s appeal was repeatedly delayed for procedural reasons, effectively leaving the permission to follow her telephone in action.
Vasyl Muravitsky, a journalist from Zhytomyr, faced many accusations, including treason, a threat to the territorial integrity of Ukraine, participation in terrorist activities and incitement to hatred. All charges stem from his work on Russian-language sites suspected by the SBU in administration from Russia or from territories under the control of separatists in eastern Ukraine. Authorities arrested him on August 2, 2017.
The trial against Vasily Muravitsky was overshadowed by a number of violations, including the intimidation of a lawyer, pressure from the SBU and ultra-right groups. During the court session on September 6, 2018, members openly threatened Muravitsky and his lawyer at the courthouse, and then attacked the lawyer. At the time of the attack, a police officer was present at the scene who was talking on a cell phone and ignoring what was happening.
The key evidence against Muravitsky was his employment relationship with the Russian news agency RIA Novosti. This in itself is not a criminal offense under Ukrainian law. The SBU also published a list of articles written by Muravitsky, which allegedly violate the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Amnesty International analyzed these articles and was unable to find statements that contain calls for violence or hate speech, or signs of any other crime. In January of this year, the court once again extended Muravitsky to house arrest.
Ukrainian authorities must respect the right to freedom of expression. Any restriction measures must be justified by legitimate goals, the report says. Procedural safeguards, such as judicial review and the ability to appeal restrictions, must be respected, the report stresses.
Information taken from: https://strana.ua/news/185621-doklad-amnesty-international-o-pravakh-cheloveka-v-chem-obvinjajut-ukrainu.html