HRW calls for restraint in Ukraine by 'both sides'

Ahram Online , Thursday 12 Dec 2013

Pro-European integration protesters in Kiev
Pro-European integration protesters hold up their mobile phones during a demonstration in support of the EU integration at Independence Square in Kiev. (Image:Reuters)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) called the Ukrainian government to respect the right to peaceful protest in a statement published on its website on Thursday amid the ongoing unrest taking place in the country.

“The police seem to have shown restraint yesterday for the most part, but last week’s police brutality is still fresh in everyone’s mind, both sides should exercise restraint – the police should respect the right to peaceful protest and the protesters should reject violence", Yulia Gorbunova, Ukrainian HRW researcher said.  

Authorities should no longer use excessive force against Ukrainian protesters, while protesters themselves should refrain from violent actions, Gorbunova stated in the report.

HRW said that the barricades that the protestors built in order to block the streets that lead to Independence square and governmental buildings "were dismantled" by the police on 11 December.

According to the international rights organisation, protestors had yet tried to prevent the police from dismantling the barricades and from entering the city hall, which was occupied by the demonstrators for a week-long period.

HRW brought reference to reported injuries on both sides during the clashes.

Witnesses informed Human Rights Watch that around 1:30 am the police arrived at Independence Square and read aloud a "court ruling" obliging the protesters to remove anything that is blocking pedestrian walks and roads.  

"More riot police and internal troops arrived and moved in on the protesters . Clashes with police at Independence Square and adjacent streets continued for most of the night" one of the witnesses stated.

The UN Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms stipulate that the police are likely to use "discretion in crowd control tactics to ensure a proportionate response to any threat of violence, and to avoid exacerbating the situation", the report noted.

"The rights to peaceful assembly and expression are protected under human rights treaties by which Ukraine is bound, including the European Convention on Human Rights and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights', it asserted.

HRW argued that large peaceful marches and rallies took place in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities on the 21st of November, when tens of thousands of Ukrainians protested in the streets of Kiev following the government's sudden and shocking decision to suspend preparations for a European Union-Ukraine Association Agreement.

"The political and trade deal was considered an important step toward Ukraine’s integration with the EU", the rights body claimed.

The Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov said that police had not used "any force" against the demonstrators after the 11 December clashes and assured that the government has no intentions in doing so to disperse the protests, HRW pointed out.

Gorbunova concluded by saying that it is essential for police and protesters to abide by restraint principal "as more and more people join the protest in Kiev." 

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