WASHINGTON – On the eve of the December 5-6 OSCE Ministerial Council taking place in Kyiv, Ukraine, Helsinki Commission Chairman Senator Ben Cardin (MD) issued the following statement:
“As a long-time supporter of the democratic aspirations of the Ukrainian people, I am deeply distressed by the recent violence on the streets of Kyiv. The brutal dispersal of peaceful protests and beatings of dozens of journalists constitute serious violations of Ukraine’s OSCE commitments on freedom of assembly and freedom of expression. I am particularly concerned by reports that the whereabouts of more than a dozen protesters cannot be determined.
In light of these developments, this is not the time to mince words or engage in obfuscation. Ministers should take advantage of this opportunity to act in support of Ukrainian democracy. I urge the representatives of the participating States meeting in Kyiv to address these human rights issues in a clear and unequivocal manner.
I commend the representatives of civil society who have met in advance of the Ministerial. Their voices are critically important for the protection and promotion of human rights and deserve to be heard as part of this meeting.
Ukraine should take immediate steps to fulfill the human rights commitments that all the participating States have freely undertaken by investigating reports of excessive use of force by police and thugs and ensuring that freedom of assembly and association are respected. Ukraine should also implement the standards on the protection of journalists embodied in the draft Ministerial Decision that has been shepherded by the Ukrainian chairmanship.
Finally, I urge the Ukrainian Government to act on the Civil Society Parallel Conference Appeal to establish an international group of experts on these issues and to follow up in the OSCE under next year’s Chair-in-Office, Switzerland. This would be a singular act of leadership in Ukraine’s final days as Chair of the OSCE. It would also be a meaningful step towards addressing the damage to Ukraine’s reputation and restoring confidence in Ukraine’s long-term commitment to human rights and democracy.”