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Europe Rights Court Finds Numerous Abuses During Ukraine’s Maidan Protests

The Maidan protests in downtown Kyiv in December 2013.
The Maidan protests in downtown Kyiv in December 2013.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has concluded that Ukrainian authorities committed a series of human rights violations during the pro-European Maidan protests in late 2013 and early 2014 that ousted Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovych.

In a ruling on January 21 on five lawsuits filed by 33 Ukrainian nationals, the ECHR said that during the protests, there were multiple violations of the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. The violations deal with the prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, the right to liberty and security, freedom of assembly and association, the right to life, and the right to respect private and family life.

"The Court observed that it had found multiple violations of several Articles as a result of how the authorities had conducted themselves during the Maidan protests and the absence to date of an independent and effective mechanism within Ukraine for the investigation of crimes committed by law-enforcement officers and non-State agents," the court said in its ruling, adding that "Ukraine was to pay some of the applicants the awards in respect of pecuniary and nonpecuniary damage and costs and expenses set out in the relevant judgments."

The Maidan protests, known as the Euromaidan movement, began in November 2013 when protesters gathered on the Maidan, the central square in the capital, Kyiv, after Yanukovych announced he was postponing plans to sign an Association Agreement with the European Union and would seek closer economic ties with Russia.

Security forces opened fire at unarmed protesters. Ukrainian prosecutors say 104 people were killed and 2,500 injured in the protests.

Shunning a deal backed by the West and Russia to end the standoff, Yanukovych abandoned power and fled Kyiv on February 21, 2014. The former president, who was flown to Russia in secret and remains there, denies ordering police to use their weapons on protesters and claims the violence was a “planned operation” to overthrow his government.

Moscow responded to his downfall by seizing control of Ukraine's Crimean Peninsula in March 2014 and fomenting separatism in Ukraine -- one of the causes of a war that has killed more than 13,200 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

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