Ukraine: Deeply troubling accounts of shootings amid clashes
The shooting of protesters, which is contributing to the spiralling death toll in Kyiv, is deeply troubling and must prompt a swift response to bring all those responsible to justice, Amnesty International urged. According to the Ministry of Health, at least 35 people have been killed as a result of the rapid escalation in violence in the past 48 hours, especially in the area around Kyiv’s Maidan Square. The violence has been carried out by some protesters as well as security forces. The Ministry of Interior has separately reported that 20 police officers have died.
There is growing evidence from across Ukraine of vigilante groups colluding with the police and reports they may have been responsible for some of the shootings. A number of protesters, medical personnel and journalists clearly not posing a threat to riot police, have been fired on from a distance.
“This senseless loss of human life is deeply disturbing. The Ukrainian authorities must take all measures in their power to stop and prevent the unlawful use of force and firearms, both by police officers and any vigilante groups who are colluding with them. All those responsible must be brought to justice,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“With the Minister of Interior just announcing that police would now carry firearms, it is imperative that police restrict their distribution to fully trained firearms officers and use them only as a last resort in self-defence or the defence of others against the imminent threat of death of serious injury.”
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL’S RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE UKRAINIAN AUTHORITIES ON THE USE OF FORCE IN POLICING DEMONSTRATIONS
Amnesty International has documented numerous cases of excessive use of force by law enforcement officers in policing the demonstrations in Ukraine since November 2013 and calls on the authorities to take the following measures:
Ensure that the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies (including police, other security forces and the military) comply fully with international standards as set out in the UN Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials and the UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and thereby respect and protect the right to life, liberty and security of person.
Prohibit the firing of live ammunition and rubber/plastic-coated metal bullets unless it is strictly unavoidable to the minimum extent necessary to protect life, in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury, and only when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve this objective. Such use should be only permitted for fully trained firearms officers under effective regulation, monitoring and control.
Prohibit the discharge of “less lethal” projectiles or baton rounds, such as those made purely from rubber or plastic, and stun grenades unless the projectiles are sufficiently accurate not to cause unwarranted injury and only used by fully trained firearms officers who are subject to effective regulation, monitoring and control as an alternative to the use of lethal force, and only if it is strictly necessary to discharge such projectiles in order to protect life, in self-defense or defense of others against the imminent threat of death or serious injury and, moreover, only permit the discharge of such projectiles in a manner likely to decrease the risk of unnecessary harm when less extreme means are insufficient to achieve this objective.
Establish strict rules and training for the use of hand-held batons by law enforcement officers in order to minimise the use of force and to prevent unwarranted injuries. There should be an express prohibition of baton blows aimed at a person’s head, neck and throat, spine, lower back, solar plexus, knees and ankles.
Ensure that all officers required to carry out law enforcement duties are selected by proper screening procedures, have appropriate moral, psychological and physical qualities for the effective exercise of their functions and receive continuous and thorough professional human rights based training. Their continued fitness to perform these functions should be subject to periodic review.
Prohibit the deployment and use of toxic chemical irritants likely to increase the risk of unnecessary harm or unwarranted injury and death to persons, such as firing a metal cartridge of irritant directly at an individual, using toxic chemicals in very high concentrations, using irritants in a manner likely to have indiscriminate effects such as when sprayed or fired over a wide area or into drinking water or food, launching such chemicals at or near people who are in confined spaces where exits and ventilation points are restricted, or launching the irritants near elderly people, children or others who may have difficulty in moving away to avoid the dangerous effects of toxic chemicals.
Ensure that Ukrainian security forces protect members of the public and their property against violence by others by instructing them to arrest members of the public who commit violent attacks or other serious offences, by carrying out prompt, detailed and thorough investigations of complaints of such violence submitted to them