NHC condemns violence against peaceful protesters in Kiev
The Norwegian Helsinki Committee follows with great concern the dramatic developments in the streets of Kiev where at least 350 000 protesters gathered this weekend demanding the resignation of President Yanukovich.
In the early morning of 30 November some 500 riot police dispersed by excessive and indiscriminate violence the approximately 1000 peaceful protesters who had decided to stay overnight in the city's Maidan Square. Eyewitnesses have described how old, young, women and men indiscriminately were beaten by police batons to disperse the demonstration. Clashes between a small group of demonstrators and police took place yesterday December 1, following which riot police beat and injured several journalists on the scene, both local and foreign. Violence against journalists covering the events is a particularly worrisome development. Several police officers were also injured during the clashes. Although Yanukovich claims he did not order the attacks, the use of violence has probably only led to further support for the protesters and the opposition’s call for his resignation.
-We call on the government of Ukraine to respect the freedom of assembly and expression for the Ukrainian people and to make sure no violence is used against protesters. Protesters should also contribute by making sure the demonstrations are carried out peacefully in order to avoid further bloodshed in Kiev, says Bjørn Engesland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
The protests against Yanukovich' refusal to sign an agreement on closer integration with the European Union, have been named Euromaidan and are the biggest protests in Ukraine since the Orange revolution the fall of 2004. Protesters have now barricaded the symbolic Maidan Square in central Kiev and the situation in the city is tense.
Norwegian Helsinki Committee's Regional Central Asia representative Ivar Dale is currently in Kiev at a human rights defenders' conference, and is following the developments closely.
The Platform has published a Kiev declaration on torture, where the members urge the OSCE to make combating torture a priority. Read the Kiev declaration on torture here
Olga Shamshur Flydal, Project Coordinator in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has written a feature article in the Norwegian daily Dagbladet. You can read it here
We have also supported a mutual NGO statement through the Human Rights House Network which can be found here.