Council of Europe: Insist on international investigation of police brutality at EuroMaidan

Members of the Civic Solidarity Platform have addressed the letter below to Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland in view of the current situation in Ukraine. The letter was presented to Jagland in Strasbourg on 28 January 2014.

Your Excellency,

We are writing to you on behalf of the Civic Solidarity Platform (a coalition of 57 human rights organisations from 17 countries across the Council of Europe and the OSCE region), as well as the International Group of Human Rights Defenders on the Situation in Ukraine (a coalition launched on 2 December 2013 in response to one of the first waves of police brutality in Ukraine) to express our deepest concern about serious breaches of human rights and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine accompanied by violence and reported incidents of inhuman treatment, torture, enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings.

During your visit to Ukraine in December 2013 you proposed a seven-point plan of stabilising the situation and rebuilding citizens’ trust in Ukraine’s political and judicial institutions. The latest events show that the authorities of the country are still attempting to resolve the situation by force. Violent clashes between protesters and law enforcement officers have already resulted in human casualties and loss of lives. Hundreds of people have been injured, several deaths have been reported. More than 100 journalists covering events in Kyiv have been injured; reports indicate that media, as well as medical staff, were specifically targeted by the riot police.

We consider the violent events in Ukraine to be a major challenge to the whole system of the Council of Europe and to the values which the organisation you lead is based on. The situation in Ukraine requires a truly rapid response by the international community.

We turn to you with the following recommendations:

1) We urge you to immediately appeal to the authorities of Ukraine to refrain from the use of excessive force, as well as to all sides to put an end to violence. The government of Ukraine should ensure a swift, impartial and effective investigation of all cases of deaths and all allegations of enforced disappearances, torture, and inhuman treatment.

2) It is high time to reiterate your suggestion to launch an international investigation into the use of force, while dealing with protests, notably on 29-30 November (dispersal of the first wave of the protest at the Independence Square), 1 December (the events on Bankovaya street); 10-11 December and continuous violent actions starting from 19 January.

3) The Council of Europe should establish its direct presence on the ground by forming monitoring groups composed, on one hand, of the staff members and representatives of international structures and, on the other hand, of civil society experts; develop recommendations on the basis of the results of monitoring and act as a mediator between the different sides. Such a presence should be aimed at monitoring not only the situation in Kyiv, but also in other regions of Ukraine.

4) We welcome the efforts of the Council of Europe to provide its expert opinion on the legislation adopted on 16 January and ask you to suggest and insist that the Ukrainian authorities request an opinion of the Venice Commission when passing any laws that affect fundamental rights and the rule of law.

5) We believe that with your encouragement the authorities of Ukraine could use the potential of the Council of Europe and its INGO Conference as a platform for good faith negotiations and dialogue between the authorities and the protestors in order to bring about a peaceful political resolution of the current situation. Ukrainian and international civil society organisations should be engaged in these efforts.

It is urgent that Council of Europe undertakes actions to minimize violence, put an end to impunity and police brutality and prevent further breaches of fundamental human rights and freedoms in Ukraine in the current situation.

The Civic Solidarity Platform and its member organisations, as well as the International Group of Human Rights Defenders on the Situation in Ukraine are ready to propose, discuss and support particular steps and initiatives aimed at bringing the situation in Ukraine in line with rule of law principles and respect for human rights.

Association of Ukrainian Monitors on Human Rights (Ukraine)
Center for Civil Liberties (Ukraine)
Kharkiv Regional Foundation “Public Alternative” (Ukraine)
Ukrainian Helsinki Union (Ukraine)
Armenian Helsinki Committee (Armenia)
Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly-Vanadzor (Armenia)
Center for National and International Studies (Azerbaijan)
Human Rights Center of Azerbaijan (Azerbaijan)
Belarusian Helsinki Committee (Belarus)
Human Rights Center “Viasna” (Belarus)
Bulgarian Helsinki Committee (Bulgaria)
Analytical Center for Interethnic Cooperation and Consultations (Georgia)
Georgian Young Lawyers’ Association (Georgia)
International Bureau for Human Rights and Rule of Law (Kazakhstan)
Kosovo Rehabilitation Centre for Torture Victims
Movement “Bir Duino” (Kyrgyzstan)
Human Rights Monitoring Institute (Lithuania)
The Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House (Lithuania)
Promo LEX (Moldova)
Netherlands Helsinki Committee (Netherlands)
Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland)
Center for the Development of Democracy and Human Rights (Russia)
Moscow Helsinki group (Russia)
Public Verdict Foundation (Russia)
Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia (Serbia)
Nota Bene (Tajikistan)
Human Rights House Foundation (Norway)
Crude Accountability (USA)
Freedom Files (Russia)
International Youth Human Rights Movement
UNITED for Intercultural action (Netherlands)
International Partnership for Human Rights (Belgium)