Riot police used excessive force against peaceful protesters in Kiev

Actions by Ukrainian riot police in Kiev on 30 November and 1 December 2013 resembled “a mass execution rather than a law enforcement measure”, independent report says.

A legal analysis of actions taken by law enforcement officers during the dispersing of peaceful protesters at Maidan Nezalezhnosti on 30 November and during the 1 December confrontation on Bankova Street in Kiev shows the police used excessive and brutal force. The report was released by the Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (UMDPL).

The analysts consider that there were no legal grounds for deploying “Berkut” riot police officers during the peaceful protest in the early morning on 30 November. People on Maidan Nezalezhnosti were of different ages and level of physical fitness and were behaving peacefully, talking together or sleeping. Nobody was committing any offence meaning that the circumstances cannot be seen to have warranted the use of force. The group of people could not be called organized and accustomed to showing resistance through force or attack.

On 1 December outside the president’s administration there were grounds for deploying “Berkut”, however the officers should have stabilized the situation. That could have been achieved by isolating only those people who were breaking the law and, in accordance with the Police Act, ensuring the safety of participants of a peaceful gathering. This was not, however, what took place.

The most shocking aspect was the indiscriminate, wide-scale, brutal and cynical manner in which the “Berkut” officers kicked and beat protesters with rubber truncheons and their fists without paying any consideration to their age, gender or physical condition. The grounds and limits for the use of force and special means are clearly set out in the Police Act, the Patrol Service Charter, and other normative acts. There must be an audible warning before the use of force which should give people the time and opportunity to understand the situation and obey police orders. Instead the use of force and special means coincided with the warning meaning that some people had not even woken up. Force may only be applied without warning where there is a direct threat to the life or health of members of the public or police officers. There was no such threat on 30 November.

Both on 30 November and on Bankova Street on 1 December, the use of force by police officers was more reminiscent of a mass execution, than a law enforcement measure. Some people lying on the ground and showing no resistance were beaten by several officers at the same time.

This is in flagrant breach of the law which stipulates that where force cannot be avoided, it must not exceed the limits needed for carrying out the officers’ duties, and should minimize the harm caused to the offenders or other citizens. Furthermore, in a Soviet resolution still in force on the use of special means for protecting public order, there is a clear ban on beating people with truncheons on the head, neck, collarbone, stomach and genitals. One can however see on numerous videos that blows were delivered indiscriminately and with disregard for any rules and prohibitions. The nature and methods for the use of force by the police suggests that they were used deliberately to inflict severe pain and suffering in order to frighten the protesters, with this being a direct violation of Article 28 of Ukraine’s Constitution which bans torture, cruel or inhuman treatment or punishment.

Stun grenades were used on 1 December on Bankova Street without taking into account how far away from people they have to fall, with this resulting in protesters receiving leg burns and injuries. Both on Nov 30 and Dec 1 the officers breached the Police Act by ignoring the requests of people injured to call an ambulance. Instead they even used force against medical workers who tried to provide first aid to the injured.

UMDPL also notes that the number of journalists who suffered from this violence – over 50 people – was unprecedented in all the years of Ukraine’s independence. As well as the beating, this involved violation of Article 171 of the Criminal Code – obstructing journalists from carrying out their professional activities.

Full text of the report is available here