Executive Director of UHHRU demands that the authorities investigate cases of holding hostages

January 24, 2014

To the Minister of Interior of Ukraine

To the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine

To the Prosecutor General of Ukraine




On January 23, 2014, the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine on its official website posted information that about 71 persons are in custody of the state authorities and/or individual representatives of the state. Also, this message implies that the only reason for detaining these people, according to the Prosecutor General, is an intention to use their situation to encourage unknown ‘radical individuals to stop violence, arsons, pogroms, the resistance to the law enforcement, as well as to clear Hrushevsky street.’ (see Annex).

Article 147 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine defines the following actions as a crime:

‘1. Taking or holding a person as hostage to encourage … another person to take or refrain from taking any action as a precondition for releasing the hostage is punishable by imprisonment for five to eight years.

2. The same actions, if committed against an under-aged person or by an organized group, or if combined with a threat to life, or such actions that caused any grave consequences, are punishable by imprisonment for seven to fifteen years.’

The message of the Prosecutor General’s Office makes it clear that in case third parties meet the above conditions, prosecution authorities will ‘petition for alleviate measures of restraint for those who have been arrested, and not to apply pretrial detention as a measure of restraint to those to whom it has not yet been applied’. This implies that the prosecution authorities believe that these people may stay out of prison and there are no legal grounds to hold them in custody other than the desire to encourage some unknown individuals to take or not take any action.

Since hostages taking has occurred  and continues to occur in an organized manner, with distribution of roles within a well-organized group, where one person ensures the physical capture of hostages, while the others use their official authority to ensure holding hostages in custody and preventing their release, these actions fall under the paragraph 2 of the Article 147 of the Criminal Code.

Moreover, since these actions were committed by officials, taking and holding hostages should also be reviewed under the Articles 364, 365 and other legal provisions stipulating responsibility for crimes committed while in public office.

I request to:

1) include information regarding these crimes into the Unified Register of Pretrial Investigations and immediately initiate criminal investigation to identify all victims of the crimes as well as all those involved in taking and holding hostages;

2)  immediately take all necessary steps to release the victims, who so far are still held as hostages;

3)  take all necessary steps to prevent such crimes in the future.

Given the scale of the criminal offense, the fact that it involved state officials and the public response to it, I request to conduct an investigation and ensure public control over it in order to avoid accusations in biased investigation.

In order to avoid delays in the investigation due to possible confusion over the jurisdiction of these crimes, I submit this report of crime to the Minister of Interior, Head of the Security Service of Ukraine and the Prosecutor General of Ukraine.



Arkady Bushchenko, Executive Director, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

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