The European Council is heavily criticizing the investigation surrounding the arson attack in Ukrainian Odessa. Police, fire department and the Interior Minister failed to act. More than 40 opposition members died as a result of the attack.
The EU-council said the Ukrainian police was one of the entities responsible for the violent clashes between supporters and adversaries of the newly formed government, which lead to the death of 48 people and several hundred injured in May last year. There is “significant evidence” that proves the culpability of the police during the “tragic events”, a report released on Wednesday reads. The three authors accuse the Ukrainian authorities of massive negligence regarding the investigation.
The work group was headed by former president of the European Court of Justice, Nicolas Bratza. The Briton was supported by former Ukrainian judge of the Strasbourg Court of Justice, Wolodomir Butkevich, and by former prosecutor general of Ukraine, Oleg Anpilogov.
The Investigations were neither independent nor efficient, the lawmen criticized. To this day it hasn’t been established why the police remained more or less passive and did “if at all only little” to intervene between the rival factions, to put an end to the violence. The police did not even react to distress calls at the beginning at all, according to witnesses.
The detention of violent perpetrators among the 2000 demonstrators started with a delay of several hours after the start of the clashes, the authors emphasized in regard to details given by the Ukrainian ombudsman. At that time there were already 41 fatalities. Finally after one year the Ukrainian general prosecutor of Odessa pressed charges against former regional head of police Petro Luzjuk.
42 of the victims were part of the opposition to the pro-Western government in Kiev. The majority lost their lives in the fire that broke out in the Union house where they were entrenched in – a fire which was the result of arson, the investigation revealed. According to the report, a supporter of the government was able to enter the house through the backdoor. The arsonists are not identified to this day. Other victims died of gun shot wounds or Molotov-cocktails.
According to the European Council it took the fire department 40 minutes to arrive, even though they were swiftly informed shortly after the fire broke out and even though the fire department is in the near vicinity of the Union house. The reasons for the delay are also unclear to this day.
The authors criticized that the investigations were not lead by an independent committee but from the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior – the superiors of police and fire department. This was not in accordance to the rules of the European Convention of Human Rights for neutral investigations. “Highly alarming” was the term used for the decision made by a Ukrainian court to close the proceedings in a lawsuit that accused two activists of murder in several cases. Witnesses said that one of the accused was beating people that jumped out of the burning house to escape the flames with a wooden club.
Members of the Ukrainian parliament introduced a proposal for a new law that gives amnesty to pro-government participants of the clashes, according to the report. The draft is referring by name to the two activists accused of murder whose proceedings have been closed and who are accused of murder.
The work group has raised similar accusations in regard to the investigation of the violent clashes on Maidan in February 2014 with about 100 fatalities. The investigations were accused to be inconsistent partly because of “obstruction” through the Ministry of Interior, a report published in March reads.
The representative of the European Council met several counterparts of the government, the prosecution, members of parliament as well as employees of human rights organizations. As in the past they are again criticizing that the Ukrainian Ministry of Interior is not allowing full insight into the investigation file.