Respublica Institute warns of widespread violations of the right of peaceful assembly

The Respublica Institute which has, since 2004, been carrying out monitoring of observance of the right of peaceful assembly, enshrined in Article 39 of the Constitution and Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights, has issued a statement indicating concern over widespread violations during March and April 2010.

The violations, they say, were most large-scale in Kyiv.

On 14 March the Special Force Berkut unit detained five activists of a peaceful civic action on Lesya Ukrainka Boulevard. A criminal investigation was initiated against one of them, a former National Deputy, Oleksandr Hudyma. Yet the court found no violation of Article 185 of the Code of Administrative Offences [CAO] which involves resisting the police, and they were released. After their released, the activists were examined in medical establishments which confirmed numerous bodily injuries

On 25 March a raid was carried out by police officers in civilian clothing on demonstrators demanding the dismissal of the Minister of Education D. Tabachnyk and their material was illegally removed. One of the protesters, Anatoly Pikul, was detained, though they confined themselves to a “preventive chat”.

As reported here, on 27 March the police carried out a search of the journalist Olena Bilozerska and press photographer Olexiy Furman and removed photo footage with photos of a protest against the policy of the Kyiv City State Administration and against the sale of furs.

On 8 April the police and people in plain clothes, at the instruction of National Deputy from the Party of the Regions, Vadim Kolisnychenko, detained 13 individuals protesting against a rather controversial exhibition entitled “Polish and Jewish Victims of UPA”. Violence was used against a journalist from Novy Kanal who was carrying out his professional duties. The court found no infringements in the activities of those detained.

On 9 April the police unlawfully search activists of a protest against the seizure of the book shop Syaivo. One of them on whom they found a spray paint canister was detained and charged under Article 173 of the CAO (petty offences). The court did not find any violation and the activist was released. In the actions against the protesters, the Berkut unit was enlisted.

On 13 April police officers detained 4 participants in a protest against the unlawful construction work on Honchar St (which has also elicited protest from the Prosecutor’s Office), these including journalist Ihor Lutsenko. One of those detained received bodily injuries. At first the police tried to accuse the detained activists under Article 173 of the CAO, however clearly understanding how feeble this was, confined themselves to getting explanations. The police action led to the breaking up of the protest.

On 25 March the Cabinet of Ministers addressed Instruction No. 14678/1/1-10 to the Kyiv City State Administration “on using comprehensive measures on organizing work with citizens and their organizations, including on preventing and stopping in future the holding of protests near the premises of the President’s Administration and the Cabinet of Ministers”.

The appearance of such a government document, as well as the cases outlined above, point to negative trends emerging in the behaviour of the new regime. These present a threat to the right of citizens to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.

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