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4 March, 2014  ▪  Hanna Trehub

Volodymyr Vasylenko: “Government bodies were first and foremost responsible for a civilized regulation and solution of the conflict”

The Ukrainian Week speaks to Volodymyr Vasylenko, expert in international law and former Ambassador of Ukraine, about Viktor Yanukovych’s responsibility for crimes against Ukrainian people, grounds for prosecution by the International Criminal Court in Hague and actual assistance the West can provide to Ukraine today

UW: Apart from statements of concern, how else could the international community actually help Ukraine preserve the remaining peace in Ukraine and facilitate democracy?

The international community could help by abandoning their declarations and declarative statements that put protesters and the government on an equal scale. The West should have taken into account the fact that the Party of Regions led by Viktor Yanukovych was not a political party but an organized criminal group that did not speak the language of law or justice but exercised the right to force and arbitrariness. That government focused on force and fraud. Appealing to both sides of the conflict to stay away from the use of force and to hold fair elections manifested complete lack of understanding of the situation in Ukraine.  

If they were actually willing to help Ukraine, Western states should have imposed targeted sanctions against members of Yanukovych’s team who are responsible and were engaged in crimes against humanity. If the West wants to help ensure fair elections in Ukraine, the Venice Commission must demand Ukrainian legislature to upgrade the Law on Presidential Elections to European standards. In its current version, the law has loopholes to rig election results.

READ ALSO: Public Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations: Anti-constitutional and authoritarian regime resorted to large-scale war against the Ukrainian people

Whenever elections take place in Ukraine, Western observers normally come two days before the voting takes place. They do not go far into details and do not know the overall situation well enough. Then, they report of fair elections in Ukraine while having no idea of the massive rigging during the counting. If Western states actually want to help Ukraine have fair and transparent elections, they must send numerous groups of qualified observers to stay here throughout election campaigns. That would allow them to actually contribute to preventing falsifications.

Law enforcers and Berkut riot police must realize that crimes against humanity have no statute of limitations. Sooner or later, they will have to answer for what they have done. Ukraine has laws that entail punishment for tortures and intentional infliction of serious injuries, murder and the like. The government needs political will to launch the mechanism of justice and to hold the guilty liable. However, we have seen an opposite situation. Berkut troops that took part in the violent dispersal of the peaceful rally on November 30 was awarded, not punished. Not a single Berkut officer or interior troop was held liable; they did not face criminal charges. However, it will all come. They have not faced charges under the Ukrainian Criminal Code, nor the norms entailed by the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This Statute entails imprisonment for up to 30 years for crimes against humanity and lifelong terms for grave crimes against humanity.

READ ALSO: CoE Human Rights Commissioner Nils Muižnieks: Civil activists should organize to provide regular information about what it is going on in their regions to the international community

UW: Who stood behind the massive bloodshed and the blocked capital of Ukraine on February 18-19?

The regime led by Viktor Yanukovych is directly responsible for the unprecedented violation of human rights. He was manipulated by the chekist Kremlin administration. The illegitimacy of the force operation of the authorities against the Maidan was a tool of intimidation for the entire Ukrainian society.

If we speak about closing down of three metro lines in Kyiv and huge traffic jams resulting from the actions of the Kyiv City Administration Head or the administration of the Kyiv metro, the effective Criminal Code has provisions on abuse of office. This was done arbitrarily, in excess of powers and intentionally to not just cause discomfort for passengers, but to prevent people from going to the Maidan, to prevent freedom at a critical moment. Therefore, the administration of the Kyiv City Administration and Kyiv metro should qualify as people involved in the crimes against Maidan activists and Ukrainian society.

UW: The US made a clear point that the entire responsibility for what happened during the most violent clashes is personally on Viktor Yanukovych. A statement was made that he should be held accountable at the international court. What would take him there?

Ukraine has not ratified the Rome Statute, so its jurisdiction does not cover crimes against humanity committed on Ukrainian territory. In practice, people who committed international crimes on the territory of Ukraine, such as Yanukovych, can only be removed from power.

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