Major trends in human rights violations and prosecutions of protesters during the protests in Ukraine – “Euromaydan” November 2013 - January 2014


1. Freedom of expression:
Violation of freedom of expression in the designated period manifested itself in attempts to impose censorship on the media, layoffs and intimidation.  

Since late December the policy of the most major channels has changed. Censorship concerned restrictions on the dissemination of information about “Euromaydan”. Thus, the "Telekritika" video called "Berkut” (Ukrainian special forces unit) to reporters - "We'll show you freedom of speech, bitches”, which presented video evidence of crimes committed against the media on December the 1 outside the Presidential Administration has been removed from YouTube. This video has been removed due to a copyright claim by the Office of Public Relations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine. In addition, the parliamentary channel "Rada" at the time when the vast majority of the media has been informing of beating of journalists on December the 1st and “Euromaydan” events aired a series of interviews on rotation on economic issues with the Ministry officials. After a disagreement with the editorial policy of the First National Channel three journalists have resigned. In answer to the censorship at "INTER" channel the team of journalists and managers who occupied leading positions at the channel has left. Before that, in December "INTER" had been covering the “Euromaydan” story comprehensively. In Zhytomyr regional state broadcasters prohibited the journalists to produce a story in support of the beaten colleagues in Kyiv. Almost 20 employees has left the "Correspondent" periodical (UHM group media holding) after the change of the owners and imposed editorial policy. Prior to this, a similar situation has occurred at "Forbes Ukraine”, due to the acquisition of  UHM media holding by Sergey Kurchenko, who is close to the current government.
Now the journalist community is circulating a petition for cancellation of the law passed on 16 January 2014, namely the so-called law of Kolisnychenko-Olejnik, which introduced liability for defamation and extremism, but actually meant censorship. On January 24, the petition has been signed by 1265 journalists and citizens. "In fact, investigative journalism, as well as gathering of information on law enforcement officers, judges, and their fortunes is now illegal. The coverage of any protests according to the law of January 16, 2014 may be considered extremist. By law, any online resource can be blocked if it contains investigative reporting or information about protests. Legal liability for journalists is - fines, corrective work and imprisonment up to 3 years. This makes normal journalism impossible, "- is said the petition.

The growth of cyber- attacks on news websites in December 2013 is also related to the coverage of “Euromaydan”. Many leading central online media that were broadcasting online from “Euromaydan” suffered DDoS- attacks. In particular, the Ukrainian Pravda, Radio Svoboda and Channel 5 websites. In addition, regional websites which have been covering local “Euromaydans” have undergone hacker attacks - ZIK,, Transcarpathia Online,

The obstructing of the performance of the professional duties of journalists by police and unknown individuals, mostly followed by threats to life and health, should be investigated separately.
According to various reports, only during the coverage near Presidential Administration on December 1, 2013 more than 50 journalists suffered beatings and harassment. Later, Attorney General's Office acknowledged 27 as casualties and started criminal proceedings on the grounds of a criminal offense under Part 2 of Art. 365 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine into the excess of power by the police.
Attacks on journalists also occurred after the aforementioned events. Оn January 12, 2013 in Kharkiv, “Ukrainskiy Prostir” (Ukrainian Space) periodical and "Malva- TV" Internet Channel  reporter Roman Cheremsky was attack by "Berkut" because he was filming their buses not bearing any license plates. “I was approached from behind by "Berkut", was electrocuted in to the neck, twisted, sustained a few blows in to the kidney area, shoved into the bus, there sustained another few blows and was threatened: "Tell your reporters, not to film us." They broke the camera and took away the memory stick"- Cheremsky told the reporters. He reported the incident to the police. Meanwhile, the Department of Public Relations in the Ministry of the armed forces of Ukraine in Kharkiv region denies using force against Cheremskyi.
With the aggravation of confrontation between police and protesters the number of victims among journalists has increased. According to the Institute of Media in Kiev during the period from 19 to 22nd of January 2014, in the area of Hrushevskoho str.,where the clashes between protesters and police took place, at least 42 journalists were injured. The list of injured is constantly updated, on January 26 we are talking about 57 people, some of them in the regions, the representatives of Ukrainian and international media. Almost all the journalists had press identification mark and the video cameras. 10 of the wounded said they were fired at intentionally. Aimed fire on members of press was filmed by the journalist of "Radio Svoboda", who was live broadcasting from the scene. A plastic bullet damaged the camera of the "Channel 5"crew. The editor of the "1 +1", Natalia Pisnya was injured by a plastic bullet in the leg. The cameraman of the Internet channel "Spilnobachennya " was wounded in the hand when filming the attack of special forces. A spokesman for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Sergei Boatmen in an interview on Radio "Voice of Capital" said the information that the police is aiming at the media, it is not true. At the same time, documented facts of direction of aggression against journalists indicate the obstruction of the performance of their professional activities contrary to the Ukrainian legislation and international human rights standards.

In addition, on the night of December 24, 2013 Tatiana Chornovol journalist and activist of “Euromaydan”, was brutally beaten. She noticed being followed when returning to her home in village Hora. An unknown car began to press her car to the wayside. When Chornovol stopped the car, two people has broken the glass of her car and then beat the journalist. On that night Tatiana was filming the houses of the interior minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka and conducted her own journalist investigating. A protest against the beating of Tatiana Chornovol was held in Donetsk on December 25, 2013 by 8 journalists. The protesters then received threats, warnings of dismissal from their management "for posting information that is contrary to editorial policy." A similar situation was observed in other regions.

2. Freedom of Assembly:
The formal decisions to ban the events in the regions have began to be issued immediately after the growth of protest activity in the 20 days of November 2013 .
Hence the order of the mayor of Kharkiv Gennady Kernes on November 22 was to ban mass events in the city due to the spread of flue. The resolution has appeared on the website of the city only on November 25. However, according to the official data of the Ministry of Health the incidence of influenza and flue at that time did not exceed the epidemic threshold in any region and in the Kharkiv region were lowest in Ukraine. 

Despite of the appeal and in consequence the automatic suspension of the decision of the District Court of Dnipropetrovsk to ban all public events, the police interfered with Dnepropetrovsk “Euromaydan” and threatened to arrest its activists .

From November 23, 2013 to January 7, 2014, the District Administrative Courts of Nikolaev City Council at the suit of the executive committee banned the rally of supporters of European integration, as well as other protests.

On November 23, 2013, Chernihiv Regional Administrative Court at the request of Chernihiv City Council banned until January 7, 2014 all private and legal persons to fix tents during mass meetings on the Red Square of Chernihiv and some surrounding streets and the use of sound and video equipment.

Overall, in Ukraine since the beginning of “Euromaydan” the authorities have tried to ban the free assembly 64 times. However, considerable concern is the situation with the prohibitions of peaceful meetings in Kiev. As to the decree of 21 and 30 November and 5 and 6 December 2013 the gatherings on the main streets were banned for all subjects who exercise the right to peaceful assembly. Also, on December 9, 2013 the court ordered the authorities to take measures to ensure the free movement of people and vehicles on the central streets of Kyiv. Then, after the filing of the relevant claim of the Kyiv City State Administration, the District Administrative Court of Kyiv has banned the holding of peaceful assembly for all persons in the period from 8 January to 8 March 2014. The court decided to restrict the right to peaceful assembly, events, use of loudspeakers, vehicles, posters, installation of tents, stages and sheds.

Observed was the widespread coercion of employees of state institutions to participate in pro-government rallies, as opposed to the protest movement.

For the pro government rally on November 30, 2013 in Kharkiv , local authorities rounded in the state employees to attend "Antymaydan " - public utilities, factory workers, doctors, teachers, university professors ( there is evidence of professors from Kharkiv National University and Kharkov National Polytechnic University. There was made ​​a list of participants of 1000 which were ordered to be signed by them). The meeting was attended by various estimates, between 40 and 70 thousand state employees.   People made to attend the pro-government rallies in Kherson have included local school pupils. The announcement for paid participation in pro-government rallies in Donetsk for 50 hrn per 2-3 hours was placed on record.

During the protests there were recorded various attempts at obstructing them and dispersing them. Analysis of these cases suggests a direct or indirect control and monitoring of these attempts by local authorities.

From December 25, 2013 till January 5, 2014 on the main square of ​​Lugansk, which regularly hosts protests powerful audio equipment has been installed to make it impossible to hold a rally. With each attempt of the participants to change the location on the square, the speakers were turned in their direction. Local authorities have ignored the complaints of residents about the exceeding the permissible noise levels in areas of human habitation and the unsanctioned connection to the electricity supply. Groups, who guarded the audio equipment, took part in the attack on protesters on 26 and December 29, 2013, when they tried to prevent the screening of the film "Open Access ", an entry of the festival of documentary films on human rights. It covers the developments in Ukraine after the Law "on Access to Public Information” came into force and journalist investigation on the owners of unofficial residence of Viktor Yanukovich - Mezhyhirya . As a result of the attack the organiser’s computer was damaged. Four organisers received minor injuries; one sought the help of a doctors. The next attack happened on 29th of December during the screening of "Open Access ", protesters were attacked with smoke bombs and spit devils. The protesters together with police officers detained four attackers.

On the night of November 23, 2013 in Nikolaev police repeatedly stormed the local activists demanding the removal of “Euromaydan” tents.
On November 23, 2013 the rally in support of European integration in Cherkassy ended in clashes of protesters with the police, the police dismantled the tents and issued the administrative reports on law violation to activists.

On November 25, 2013 about a hundred policemen surrounded Odessa "Euromaydan" and then without letting the journalist and deputy assistants in, security officials let about 30 unknown people into the range of protesters. The unknown force raided the tent camp and shoved the tents into a truck.

On November 25, 2013 a few dozen employees of the Interior Ministry (including "Berkut") surrounded "Euromaydan" in Chernihiv and dispersed the protesters. Then they let in a truck and unknown people in civilian clothes. In a few minutes these people loaded the truck with the property of activists and the civil organization "Orange" (tents, loudspeaker equipment, generator , etc. Totalling around 40 thousand. hrn. ) into a truck and drove away in an unknown direction. Prosecutors refused to make the Unified Register of pre-trial investigation on larceny and failure of police duties. City police only recorded the fact of theft.

3. Right to life

Deprivation of life and kidnapping are typical violation of the right to life. Unfortunately , such cases were recorded in connection with “Euromaydan” .

Currently 6 people are considered missing. Among them, 3 people have disappeared during the brutal dispersion on November 30, 2013. 2 criminal cases opened. Also among the missing is one of the organizers of Avtomaydan - Dmitry Bulatov that hasn’t been seen since 22 January 2014.

During the last days 4 people died. Yuri Verbitsky - activist of “Euromaydan” from Lvov, who died from torture in hard frost, Michael Zhyznevskyy - Belorussia citizen, who was a part of self-defence of Maidan, died during the events at Hrushevskoho from gunshot wound to the heart, Sergei Nihoyan - one of the guards of Square, died of injuries from lead buckshot during events at Hrushevskoho , Roman Senik - activist, died in hospital from serious injuries incurred on Hrushevskoho.

The deprivation of life facts are reported by the police as well. It was announced that a policemen was murdered while returning home on 25 January in Kiev. A policeman has dies in Kherson on 27 of January during clashes with protesters.

4. Freedom from torture, cruel and degrading treatment
Immediate threat to life and human health from the beating and causing injuries can be attributed to the subject of torture and ill-treatment, especially if it is a well-known person, community activists, whose activities are not desirable for the government.

Activists of protests became victims of unidentified plainclothes persons for their public activity. The obvious aim of this was to intimidate and to smother the protest potential.    

On the night of 30 November 2013 around 3 am one of the Euromaydan leaders in Ivano-Frankivsk and the youth organization FRI (ФРІ) leader Maksym Kytsyuk was severely battered. The hospital reported deep cuts on his legs and a concussion. The attack occurred immediately after announcement of the national student strike.

On 24 December 2013 in the very center of Kharkiv two unidentified persons attacked one of Euroaydan co-organisers in Kharkiv – Dmytro Pylypets. They inflicted on him four stab wounds. Not having waited for the ambulance, the activist reached the hospital with the assistance of his friends.

The next day a severe assault was committed against Tetiana Chornovol. The woman suffered serious beating and spent almost a month in a hospital.
The deeper concern is caused by statements about people kidnapped by persons wearing the uniform of law enforcement authorities and their further torture.
For example, on 21 January 2014 of the activists of Euromaydan Ihor Lutsenko and a participant of Euromaydan Yuriy Verbytskyy were kidnapped from a hospital. The men were tortured by men wearing uniform and were taken to a forest, where torture continued. As a result of the torture, Yuriy Verbyskyy died.

There are facts of use of excessive force against protesters during their arrest. It was remarked that police used unjustified brutal force during disperse of the peaceful protest, particularly with regard to a group of students in the morning of 30 November 2013 року – protesters were pursued by the police even outside Maydan. The video as of 1 December – “Down to your knees, scum” – demonstrates brutality of the police when “Berkut” officers beat people lying on the ground with their legs and batons or check whether protesters are alive punching them.

On 15 January 2014 the Minister of Justice Olena Lukash made a statement that the protests are no longer peaceful and emphasized that the police has a right to use force against protesters. It is worth mentioning that protests remained peaceful at that time.

Police abuse was present during the conflict at the Hrushevskoho Str., though here humanitarian law should be invoked rather than human rights law. Open abuse was committed with regard to captured persons who did not participate in the conflict. Inter alia, this was battery, undressing and dousing with water outdoor in cold, shooting rubber bullets and filming all this abuse on cameras.

Facts of humiliation and libel against activists of Euromaydan should be mentioned separately. Defamation and creating a negative image was done by unidentified persons, but the law enforcement agencies either supported these acts or did not interfere with them. Police inactivity supports the opinion that the attacks have been ordered and that the state agencies bear responsibility for pressure on activists. Accordingly, such acts should be considered as degrading treatment. Below are examples from Luhansk where a whole set of psychological attacks was used against participants and organizers of the protests.

Starting from 25 December 2013 unidentified persons disseminate leaflets calling organizers and participants of protests “foreign agents” and “sodomites”. Activists Volodymyr Shcherbachenko and Konstantyn Skorin claim that they are under surveillance. The activist Anastasia Rozhkova was demonstratively and openly followed home by unknown persons previously noticed in assaults on participants of anti-government protests on 26 and 29 December; they questioned her about her activity and disseminated information about her. On 28 December one of the provocateurs, who was arrested for assault on protesters on 29 December, made death threats to the activist Andriy Vasylenko. On the night of 29 December unknown persons glued leaflets all over the block of flats, where the activist of Euroaydan, journalist Konstantyn Sorokiv lives, calling him a drug addict and a homosexual. Similar leaflets were disseminated around the house of the Euromaydan activist in Luhansk Oleksiy Bida.

5. Right to liberty and security of person
On 1 December 2013 after fights on the Bankova Street nine persons were arrested, though they should have been victims in criminal proceedings on abuse of power by the police officers (all persons were severely beaten by the police and arrested with grave procedural breaches). However, all these people were charged with participation in riots. They actually became first hostages in negotiations of the government and protesters. Soon they were “joined” by the activists of the “Road control” Andriy Dzyndzya, Volodymyr Kadura and the attorney Victor Smaliy.

Since December 2013 року till the first half of January 2014 unsubstantiated arrests of Euromaydan activists took place in the regions and were followed by absurd criminal charges against them from distribution of pornography to contempt of the President by participation in procession holding his portrait upside down. In most cases criminal investigations were initiated against activists.

On 7 December 2013 the Euromaydan activist in Chernihiv, head of the local office of the party “Democratic Alliance” Ihor Andriycheko was arrested for sticking leaflets that opposed Victor Yanukovych. The administrative offence report was drawn up for the offense “sticking leaflets to traffic lights and posts”.

Criminal investigations have been initated against members of the Volynska Oblast Council Ihor Huz’, members of the City Council of Lutsk Serhiy Hryhorenko and Bohdan Shyba, activists Mayya Moskvych, Mykola Sobutsky and Volodymyr Bondar for holding the photograph of the President Victor Yanukovych upside down. Similar investigation has been initiated against activists in Kalush for burning the portrait of the President Victor Yanukovych. Oleh Savka, Victor Velychkovsky and Volodymyr Kushlyk were summoned as victims in the criminal proceedings to the city police department of Kalush in Ivano-Frankiska oblast.

On 31 December 2013 the police arrested one of the Euromaydan activists in Donetsk Yevhen Nasadyuk. The Main Office of the Ministry of Revenue and Duties in Donetsk oblast started tax pressure and criminal investigation against members of the Association of the Farms who transferred UAH 16,000 for the needs of Euromaydan.

On 4 January 2014 Oleksandr Chyzhov, the activist of Euromaydan in Kharkiv, was brutally arrested by five plainclothes persons without any notice or warning. Afterwards, he was brought to the Chervonozavodsky District police department. In course of arrest the police seized his mobile phone and copied his contacts from it, charged him with distribution of pornography, summoned him for the next interrogation as a witness on 8 January and released in two hours. Having arrived at home, Oleksandr found out that his social media account in Vkontakte was hacked and blocked, he also found a fake account on a dating web-site in his name. The official web-site of the Ministry of Internal Affairs states that there is a criminal investigation against him that may draw five years of imprisonment with confiscation of the pornography movies and videos, means of its production and reproduction. Also, the statement mentions that Oleksandr Chyzhov “refuses to cooperate with the investigation”. It is an interesting fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs denies that Oleksandr Chyzhov is an active participant of Euromaydan.

Since blocking of the roads on 29 December next to the residence of the President, activists of Automaydan have been regularly summoned for interrogation by the prosecution office in different procedural statuses. On 10 January Dmytro Bulatov was invited in a telephone call to the prosecution office as a witness. Pressure on other activists of Automaydan continues. As of 10 January 2014 over 1000 persons have been approached by law enforcement officials from local police offices to the traffic police officers. As a result, there have been attempts to deprive activists of their driving licenses.

On 16 January 2014 a criminal investigation was initiated against the activist from Luhansk Ivetta Kuzmina on the account of fraud. She raised funds for the needs of Euromaydan on her bank account, and unidentified persons filed claims on fraud to the police.

After escalation of the situation and the conflict on the Hrushevskoho Str., there was a wave of arrests of the wounded protesters in hospitals. As a result, people were afraid to call ambulance and to seek medical aid at hospitals. Taking into account the high number of wounded people, this posed threat to life and health of persons.

Transfer of protests to the regions and initiated capture of the RSA led to mass arrests of protesters in Cherkassy, Zaporizzhya, Dnipropetrovsk and other cities. Only in Cherkassy around 32 persons were arrested on 25 January 2014 including at least 20 persons under 18 years old. Their parents were not informed about their detention, police prevented them from access to legal aid. There are grounds to consider that the police arrested persons that were easy to seize regardless of the level of their participation in protests and of whether they committed any offence.
The prosecution office openly declared that all detainees are hostages and will be released if protests stop.

6. Property rights
Another means of intimidation and smothering of protest activities are damage to property, particularly burning and shooting cars as well as arrests of and damage to living accommodation. This was committed predominantly by unidentified persons; police was reluctant to protect activists and denied facts that such offenses had been committed.

Early in the morning on 7 December 2013 unidentified persons threw stones at buses that were driving protesters to the People’s Viche from Odessa. On 9 December activists of Euromaydan brought two windshields of the minibuses broken during this assault to the building of the oblast state administration, because the police refused to register statements about the incident of the assault of the buses, claiming that no battery complaints were lodged and that there were no witnesses of the assault.

On 21 December 2013 unidentified persons opened gunfire at the car of the coordinator of the Euromaydan in the Crimea Serhiy Kovalskyy. The activist himself was not hurt.

On the night of 27 December 2013 a car of one activists of Euromaydan in Kharkiv was burnt. It happened around 3 am and this was the third car damaged in Kharkiv by unidentified persons. Kharkiv is leading by the number of burnt cars. Six vehicles have been burnt there: four cars of local activists, two minibuses rented to cater for needs of Euromaydan. Overall 30 cars have been burnt in Kharkiv, Odessa, Luhansk, Kyiv, Donetsk, Uzhgorod and other cities.

On the night of 31 December 2013 unidentified assaulters broke simultaneously three windows in the apartment of the leader of the local office of the “Democratic Alliance” Ihor Andriychenko.  On 3 January 2013 the telephone wire was cut at the house where lives the Euromaydan activist and member of the party UDAR Dmytro Belotserkovets and a dead dog was hung at his door. Earlier he received threats.

On the night of 11 January 2014 doors of two Euromaydan activists’ in Zhytomyr, member of the party “Democratic Alliance”and the National Union “Maydan” were knocked out. Police arrived only in half an hour after the call. Previously the activists were assaulted and their cars were pursued.

On 13 January 2014 the movable property (cars) of one Automaydan actisits Serhiy Koba was arrested.

7. Right to fair trial
Since the start of protests by 25 January 2014 criminal investigation with pre-trial preventive measures have been initiated against 54 persons. Some of them are subject to the so called amnesty law – the Law of Ukraine “On elimination of the negative consequences and prevention of prosecution and punishment of persons with regard to events that took place during peaceful assemblies”  and have been released at the moment of preparation of this document.

Court hearings in cases of the persons arrested on the Bankova Street on 1 December 2013 were public, all visitors, including public observer, were allowed at the trial. However, all courts of first instance ordered pre-trial detention of all detainees disregarding questionable circumstances of their arrest, serious injuries, photos and video evidence of their innocence, motions by the members of the parliament etc. Most of the detainees have been released from detention by the courts of appeal.

As a result of persecution of participants of Automaydan, hundreds of administrative and criminal investigation have been initiated based on unsubstantiated accusations of traffic rules violations even and even car thefts. Some of these cases have been submitted to courts and are being heard at the moment. There have been a number of decisions on deprivation of the driving license. Observers and participants of the trials remark tendentiousness of the hearings and lack of equality of arms, particularly with regard to right to submit evidence and its examination by the court.

After the events of Maydan Nezalezhnosti on 30 November 2013 criminal investigations have been initiated upon complaints of the victims – L. Khoptiy, I. Sirenko, I. Kosova, Y. Serdyuk, V. Panchenko, I. Zakharchenko on the crime provided in para. 2 Art. 364 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Claimants and their attorney complain of pressure and threats from the police. Many people revoked their complaints on battery due to such pressure and lost their status of victims, remaining only witnesses of the crime, thus being deprived of their rights in the present situation.

The new wave of arrests due to escalation of the conflict on Hrushevskoho Street and increase of protest activities in regions brought change to the character of court hearings. Attorneys from the regions claim that on the night of 27 January 2014 there was a continuous flow of cases heard by courts, which were virtually closed to observers and media.

It should be mentioned that not all judicial decisions were repressive. For example, on 22 January 2014 a judge of the Obolonsky District court ordered home arrest of the detained students, but the next day she resigned from her office on her own initiative.

8. Smothering the protest potential of the youth
There is record of pressure on students participating in protests and confrontation.

On 10 December2013 there have been reports on pressure on students of the Ukrainian Catholic University. Three students have been warned that criminal investigations would be initiated against them. At the same time parents of many other student received telephone calls with threats.

In January 2014 during the winter exams a new initiative of the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice was implemented – presence of inspectors during the exams in the form of a special commission. These inspectors pressured students and professors unprofessionally interfering during examinations and conducting psychological pressure on participants of the education process: advised professors on student evaluation, suggested changes in the examinations format, e.g. replacing written tests with open questions test or oral tests. Such inspections took place at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, the National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute” and National Pedagogic Dragomanov University.