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Where there is no law, but every man does what is right in his own eyes, there is the least of real liberty
Henry M. Robert

“We need a thorough international investigation”

Expert of the Council of Europe, human rights activist Andrei Yurov monitored the situation of human rights during rallies in Ukrainian cities
30 January, 2014 - 11:01

This week, Council of Europe (CE) expert and coordinator of the solidarity action group of the International Civic Solidarity Platform Andrey Yurov came to Ukraine. The well-known human rights activist visited Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk, and Kharkiv in order to gather information on human rights in the context of peaceful assemblies held in these cities.

Yurov told The Day his view of how international initiatives could help Ukraine:

“I am a member of an international group of human rights activists charged with monitoring the situation in Ukraine. This association appeared on December 2 during the OSCE Parallel Civil Society Conference, it includes human rights activists from the East and the West. For example, I am Russian citizen. The reason for the creation of the group was November 30 events in Kyiv’s Independence Square, where a peaceful rally was brutally suppressed. We try to organize monitoring in the provinces to make people feel a little safer. I am not an unequivocal supporter of either party to the conflict, my main task is to make sure that nobody exerts improper pressure on people who join peaceful protests.

“An important demand of our international group is for the Ukrainian government to investigate all cases of improper use of force. It mostly concerns events in Kyiv on November 30, December 1, December 11, and January 19. I saw dozens of victims during violent dispersal of the Euromaidan in November, because I happened to be in Kyiv at an international conference in those days. Unfortunately, I did not see the dispersal itself: maybe, had there been 10 or 15 international observers in the square then, they would have prevented the violence.

“The president of Ukraine has promised to investigate all illegal actions committed by law-enforcement agencies, but I still do not see it coming true so far. I met with the Ombudsperson of Ukraine Valeria Lutkovska, we talked constructively, and she noted that the investigation was ongoing. Unfortunately, the public knows nothing about it, and if we want civil peace and harmony, people need to know what the government is doing to make good on its promises.

“We need a thorough international investigation, too. All international structures, such as the European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the CE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), declare their readiness to start this process, to send observers, but so far I do not see a real desire to do it, as only human rights activists are present in Ukraine. We work together with the official structures of the OSCE and CE, but still, only informal public international organizations are on the ground. In my opinion, international investigation ought to begin in early December. Ukraine is not an exception, we give the same attention to other countries, including Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey.

“International bureaucracies are always very sluggish, but if global civil society exerts pressure on them, they will, in their turn, influence, for example, the government of Ukraine. I think that a fair investigation of four violent episodes would greatly reassure people. I am human rights activist and make no political assessments. Provocateurs are present on both sides, what is important to me is whether the police arrest some hooligans and conduct investigations or arrest everybody and do not react. The best way to resolve conflicts is by negotiation. What we need is a prompt and fair investigation of disproportionate use of force and implementation of a real amnesty for peaceful protesters.”

By Maria PROKOPENKO, Donetsk