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Amnesty International reports warring sides in eastern Ukraine ‘enjoying impunity’

February 22, 13:03 UTC+3 LONDON

Accorsing to an Amnesty International report, neither the Ukrainian military, nor representatives of the self-proclaimed republics have been punished for crimes committed during the conflict

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Local residents in a house damaged in a night shelling attack in Eastern Ukraine

Local residents in a house damaged in a night shelling attack in Eastern Ukraine

© Mikhail Sokolov/TASS

LONDON, February 22. /TASS/. Neither the Ukrainian military, nor representatives of the self-proclaimed republics have been punished for crimes committed during the course of hostilities, Amnesty International said in a report assessing the 2016 human rights situation.

"Both the Ukrainian and pro-Russian separatist forces continued to enjoy impunity for violations of international humanitarian law, including war crimes, such as torture," says the report published on Wednesday.

No law enforcement officials prosecuted over Maidan events

Amnesty International pointed out that "little progress was made in bringing to justice law enforcement officials responsible for the abusive use of force during EuroMaidan protests in Kiev in 2013-2014." "The investigation was marred by bureaucratic hurdles. On 24 October, the Prosecutor General reduced the staff and the powers of the special department responsible for the EuroMaidan abuses investigations, and created a new unit to investigate only former President Viktor Yanukovich and his close confidants," the report reads.

Amnesty International goes on to say that "the new State Investigation Bureau was formally created in February to investigate crimes committed by law enforcement officials and the military, but the selection of its head, on an open competition basis, was not completed by the end of the year."

Waves of unrest in downtown Kiev touched off in late 2013. Organizers of the protests taking place on Independence Square (or Maidan Nezalezhnosti) accused the then-President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovich of abandoning the idea to sign the Association Agreement with the European Union. Thus began a three-month long confrontation dubbed "EuroMaidan". Violent activists stormed and seized a number of administrative buildings in downtown Kiev and set up so-called "self-defense units" that clashed with law enforcement forces.

On February 20, 2014, unidentified snipers killed 53 people on Kiev’s Institutskaya Street, the government resigned and President Yanukovich left the country while the opposition factions of the Verkhovna Rada (parliament) grabbed control during the power vacuum.

Arbitrary arrests

Amnesty International says that "both the Ukrainian authorities and separatist forces in eastern Ukraine engaged in unlawful detentions in the territory under their respective control." According to the report, "civilians they suspected of sympathizing with the other side were used as currency for prisoner exchanges." The document points out that "those unwanted by the other side remained in detention, often unacknowledged, for months with no legal remedies nor prospect of release."

Media harassment

Amnesty International also addressed the harassment of the media in Ukraine. The report particularly notes that "media outlets perceived as espousing pro-Russian or pro-separatist views, and those particularly critical of the authorities, faced harassment including threats of closure or physical violence." In this connection, the report mentions the Inter TV channel which "was threatened with closure repeatedly by the Interior Minister, and on 4 September around 15 masked men attempted forcefully but unsuccessfully to enter Inter’s premises, accusing it of pro-Russian news coverage."

Besides, the report adds that "popular TV presenter Savik Shuster (who holds Italian and Canadian nationality) had his work permit annulled by the Ukrainian Migration Service, in violation of the existing procedure.".

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