On Human Rights (&more) in Ukraine with Zoryan Kis, Amnesty International Ukraine

On April 28th we had the privilege to visit the office of Amnesty International in Ukraine (AIu in following lines), and we were exchanging with Zoryan Kis, their campaign coordinator. We had an overview to their campaigns (they run 3: one about torture, police impunity and brutality; one to give a response to the present crisis; and one on LGBT rights), and some insights to the situation in Ukraine.

Talking about torture and police allowed us to understand also some things about the political situation in the country. For example, the fact that after EuroMaidan and the political change, still the president of the government keeps not replying to AIu’s letters and requests, even if it is compulsory for the government to do so. Aha, so then is this government really more transparent, more democratic? And then, also the fact that AIu has been accused of being “agents of Putin” for reporting actual police abuses in Ukraine, reveals at least the social tensions, and the challenging situation that the war brings into the democratic process that the EuroMaidan may have started.

Regarding their campaign of response to the present crisis, Zoryan Kis underlined new cases of human rights violations: for example, reported cases of hunger in the country; we spoke about the 1’5 million Internally Displaced People (yes, “IDPs”, but let’s not forget what it means!), about the need to monitor the situation in prisons, and about the rights of children in this conflict. And that in Crimea, Tatar media were shut down after an arbitrary administrative process.

And we spoke of course about several aspects of the war and the conflict behind. For example, that while Ukraine government considers this a war with Russian army, Russian government insists in calling it a “civil war”, not recognising at any moment their role in the war, the presence of their army, militias or military equipment. Or the reality of the “Voluntary batallions”, para-military forces organised to help the Ukrainian army, and that apparenly soon will become part of the official army. Besides the challenges of the existing para-military bodies per se, we spoke that 2 of these batallions are led by extremist, far-right movements: what can be expected of their action; and maybe even worse, what will happen when this war is over, and these groups may return with the aura of “war heroes”, or with post-bellic traumas…? Maybe you can read this article (written before the march) which talks about the position of such groups against the gay pride parade to understand such thread as an already present one; and after that, read also the report by Amnesty on the attacks received by marchers from homophobic and extremists that day.

Finally we were also able to talk about the possible ways that Ukranian and Russian activists find to cooperate, to exchange information, to ensure communication. Yes, challenging but possible. Zoryan Kiss and Amnesty receive and exchange informations (formal, informal) with Russian Amnesty activists and friends. Cooperation exists, even if thin, even if difficult, with so many circumstances against, human rights activists are keeping the flame burning on.

Let’s hope and support that these flows of cooperation become bigger everyday, and they may become seeds for a fair peace, for reconciliation and justice.

Oriol Josa

Find very relevant information published by Amnesty International about Ukraine at: https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/ukraine/

If you read Ukrainian, find AIu’s page here: http://amnesty.org.ua/

Follow AIu in twitter: @amnesty_UA

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