Soon after the start of EuroMaidan the authorities reacted with violence against journalists and protestors, including shocking Ukrainians who joined the demonstration in bigger numbers after the beatings, denouncing grave breaches of human rights principles in the response to the protests, as well as more broadly authoritarianism, corruption, human rights violations and impunity of public officials in the country.
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Being present in Kyiv as part of a conference of the Civic Solidarity Platform in December, I personally got to witness traces of the police violence in the severe wounds and destruction of equipment of a photographer, attacked with his colleagues in total disrespect for journalistic freedoms. The adoption of legislation violating the freedoms of association, assembly and expression was the next blow to democracy that prompted renewed protests. The news of the revocation of this legislation is much welcome, but many more efforts are needed by the Ukrainian authorities to live up to its international human rights commitments in the current situation.
As called for by the international community, the authorities must continue discussions with the opposition in good faith in order to bring about a peaceful resolution of the conflict situation, and this must be done in a context in which the authorities put an end to the excessive use of force against protestors, which it has failed to do so far. The authorities must also carry out a prompt, impartial investigation into all reported cases of ill-treatment, enforced disappearances and killings of civilians with the aim of establishing responsibility and holding police and other perpetrators accountable for abuses. While peaceful civil disobedience is warranted in times of acute human rights crises, together with other NGOs forming part of the Civic Solidarity Platform my organization has called on all sides in Ukraine to refrain from violence.
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The European Union, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and the Council of Europe support have all offered their support in finding a peaceful solution to the current situation. The Ukrainian authorities should accept these offers, agree to international actors becoming guarantors of agreements reached with the opposition and invite and facilitate the participation of competent international experts in an independent investigation into the EuroMaidan events and the violations committed in the context of them. It is also essential that the authorities stop intimidating human rights defenders, who must be entitled to do their legitimate work of monitoring human rights violations and assisting civilian victims at a time when insecurity prevails.
Brigitte Dufour is the Director of International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)