Five years of impunity for the killing of unarmed protesters on Maidan and for the ongoing international crimes

21/02/2019
Press release
en uk

(Paris, Kyiv) Five years ago, on 21 February 2014, a large-scale Euromaidan protest movement in Ukraine resulted in a regime change and hundreds of victims of human rights abuses. Subsequently, violence escalated in now occupied Crimea and an armed conflict broke out in Eastern Ukraine, resulting in at least 10,000 deaths and more than 20,000 people injured, as well as 1.6 million people forcibly displaced. Faced with no genuine and effective domestic investigations and prosecutions into the crimes committed during Euromaidan events and in Eastern Ukraine, our organisations call upon the International Criminal Court (ICC) to proceed with an investigation into the international crimes committed in Ukraine since November 2013.

Protests began on in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) on 21 November 2013, when thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Kyiv angered by the government’s refusal to sign the association agreement between Ukraine and the European Union. Three months of confrontation between Ukrainian citizens and the Russia-supported regime of Yanukovych resulted in over one hundred deaths, with the most heinous acts of violence taking place between 18 and 20 February 2014.

Among the documented crimes committed by the outgoing regime were excessive force employed by the security services that led to the death of over 100 Euromaidan activists (“Heavenly Hundred”), injuries to over 3,000 civilians, and at least several hundred arbitrary arrests. The fate of three missing protest participants is still unknown.

"We are forced to state that the management of special investigations, which serve as a focal point as regards the Maidan, are collapsing due to contradictions in legislation, insufficient financing and conflicts with the leadership of the Prosecutor General’s Office. In this vein, in a number of cases of the Maidan, misconduct on the part of judges is ignored by the High Council of Justice. Despite all of the pathos of high-ranking officials regarding the ‘most resonant case of independent Ukraine’, I must say frankly: without the involvement of the international community, both in the investigation process and in the trial, we will not be able to identify the perpetrators of these crimes and bring them to justice."

Oleksandra Matviychuk, chairman of CCL

The wheels of justice have indeed churned slowly in Ukraine, despite the pressing need for accountability as highlighted by numerous efforts of Ukrainian civil society and its international partners to shed light onto these tragic events. For instance, several communications were submitted by Ukrainian NGOs and international partners including FIDH, to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling for the opening of an investigation into the Euromaidan case and the various forms of persecution of peaceful protesters by the Yanukovych regime. [1]

Despite Ukraine not yet being a State Party to the ICC, the Court has jurisdiction over crimes committed in Ukraine on the basis of two declarations lodged by Ukraine on 17 April 2014 and 8 September 2015, in which Ukraine accepted the jurisdiction of the ICC in relation to crimes committed in the context of the “Maidan” protests from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014, and in relation to international crimes committed in Ukraine since 20 February 2014. On 25 April 2014, the ICC Prosecutor opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Ukraine to determine whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with an investigation.

Less than two weeks after killings of unarmed protesters in Kyiv, Ukraine had to face new challenges: military occupation of Crimea by Russia and an armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine, where armed rebel groups supported by Russia faced off against Ukrainian military forces in regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. A report published in October 2015 by FIDH and its member organisation, the Center for Civil Liberties (CCL), and submitted to the ICC Prosecutor, exposes widespread atrocities perpetrated by the armed forces of the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics against the civilian population throughout the conflict. Some of these crimes could amount to war crimes or crimes against humanity under international law.

More recently, in September 2018, a delegation from FIDH and its Kyiv-based partner organisation, the Eastern Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives (EUCCI), submitted a 134-page confidential communication to the Prosecutor of the ICC on conflict-related sexual crimes committed in illegal detention facilities in Eastern Ukraine, and called upon the ICC to investigate these war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Despite numerous statements by Ukrainian politicians about the importance of effective investigation, in five years limited progress has been made in regard to accountability. On 8 December 2014, the government of Ukraine created a special department as part of the General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate the crimes committed during the Euromaidan events. According to the Office of Special Investigations, by the end of 2018, the investigation identified 442 people involved in crimes against protesters, most of these – public officials. However, out of the 288 cases sent to court, only 52 resulted in judgments, including 45 sentences, and no former law enforcement official was sentenced.

In addition, to the best of our organisations’ knowledge, there have been no genuine efforts by Ukrainian or separatist authorities to investigate and prosecute international crimes, including sexual crimes, committed in Eastern Ukraine.

Read more
communique