OSCE Should Immediately React to the Human Dimension Crisis in Ukraine

We, participants of the OSCE Civil Society Parallel Conference in Kiev, representing non-governmental organisations from many countries of Europe, Asia and North America, express our grave concern regarding the brutal dispersal of peaceful demonstrations in Kiev, beatings of activists and journalists in various cities of Ukraine and mass violations of human rights by the law enforcement personnel. We consider the situation in Ukraine to be a major human rights and human dimension crisis and call on the OSCE decision-making bodies and participating States to react immediately.

The brutal dispersal of a peaceful demonstration on Independence Square on November 30 not only violated Ukraine’s Constitution but also Ukraine’s international obligations and OSCE commitments related to freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and prohibition of torture and other cruel treatment.

Violence, threats, beatings of activists and journalists causing serious bodily injury, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances and court restraining orders that forbid peaceful assemblies without prospects of appeal – these form only a partial list of what we have witnessed in recent days, not only in Kiev but in other Ukrainian cities as well.

During these days representatives of civil society, including groups that are members of the international Civic Solidarity Platform, have been conducting observation of events surrounding the mass protest actions and have been providing consultations to the detained, the beaten and their relatives. In our judgment, most of the protests have had a completely peaceful character, whereas the actions of Ukrainian riot police were unwarrantedly harsh, evidently disproportionate and indiscriminate. In some cases, regular police officers had to protect demonstrators from the riot police. At the same time, we express our concern about the use of violence by a small group of protesters.

The situation in complicated by the fact that in 2013 Ukraine holds the Chairmanship of the OSCE. The Chairmanship country should be a leader in demonstrating the political will of the country’s leadership to fulfill its OSCE commitments and the guarantor of a rapid OSCE response to extraordinary and crisis situations on all OSCE 57 countries, including in the human dimension.

The developing situation in Ukraine bears all the marks of a major human dimension crisis.  But the OSCE’s ability to respond to this situation is paralyzed by the fact that the country which violates its commitments and where the severe crisis in the human dimension is developing, is chairing the Organization.

All of this is taking place on the eve of the annual OSCE Ministerial Council meeting, which will sum up the developments of 2013, the year of Ukraine’s Chairmanship.

We call on the government of Ukraine to make all necessary efforts to resolve the crisis and to ensure swift, unbiased and thorough investigation of all instances of the use of force against participants of peaceful demonstrations and journalists, bring perpetrators to justice and prevent recurrence of such events in the future, as well as to fully observe its international human dimension commitments. We also call on Ukraine to open the country to international observation, including observation by the OSCE.

We also call on the OSCE participating States, whose delegations are on the way to Kiev, to:

  • demand a truthful and detailed report on the situation from the Ukrainian government;
  • recognize the situation as a severe human dimension crisis and immediately deploy a group of OSCE observers to Ukraine, including representatives of delegations, the OSCE Secretariat, ODIHR experts and civil society organizations. In the longer term, the OSCE should create a group of experts to evaluate the events taking place in Ukraine;
  • to use all diplomatic means to persuade Ukraine to open the country to international observation;
  • not lower the level of participation of delegations in the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting and adopt at the meeting a firm position in regard to the human dimension crisis taking place in Ukraine. The presence of delegations from the OSCE participating States in Kiev should be used for meetings with Ukrainian civil society, including those who have been observing the demonstrations, assessment of the situation on the ground and the adoption of immediate decisions on the OSCE’s response to the crisis and .

We call on the other countries of the OSCE Troika – Ireland and Switzerland – to demonstrate political will and take all necessary steps to restore OSCE’s ability to react effectively to this ongoing crisis and prevent escalation of human rights violations in Ukraine.