Article 27 of the 1991 Constitution of Ukraine guarantees everyone the "inalienable right to life". The state has a duty to protect life. Article 28 prohibits torture, or other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Article 39 provides that citizens have a right to attend peacefully, without a weapon, and to hold meetings and demonstrations, where the organs of executive power or of local self-government are notified in advance.
Article 17 refers to the law enforcement authorities of the state, whose organization and activities are "determined by law".
|1966 Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)||State Party|
|ICCPR Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1984 Convention against Torture (CAT)||State Party|
|Competence of CAT Committee to receive individual complaints||Yes|
|CAT Optional Protocol 1||State Party|
|1998 Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court||Signatory|
|1950 European Convention on Human Rights||State Party|
Police Use of Force
According to Ukraine, the National Police "was re-established in 2015 based on the new principles of accountability, transparency, professionalism and respect for human rights". The 2015 Law of Ukraine on the National Police governs the use of force, stipulating that a "selected police measure shall be legitimate, necessary, proportionate and efficient".
Under Article 45(2) of the Law, police batons may be used for:
a) repulsing the attack on a police officer, other person and/or protected object;
b) detention of a perpetrator who has committed offence and offering severe disobedience to a lawful demand of the police officer;
c) stopping massive or group public disorders.
According to Article 45(3) chemical irritants may be used for:
a) repulsing an attack on a police officer, other person and/or object under protection;
b) stopping massive or group public disorders.
Tasers or other electroshock weapons may be used for:
a) repulsing an attack on a person, police officer and/or protected facility;
b) repulsing the attack of an animal which threatens life and health of the police officer and other people.
Article 46 governs the use of firearms, described as "the most severe coercive measure" under the Law. Firearms may only be used where necessary under paragraph 7. According to paragraph 4:
A police officer may use firearms in exceptional cases:
1) to repulse an attack on a police officer or his family in case it threatens their life and health;
2) to protect people from an attack threatening their life and health;
3) to release hostages or people illegally deprived of their freedom;
4) to repulse an attack on protected facilities, convoys, residential and non-residential premises, and to release the above in case of seizure;
5) to detain a person caught when committing a grave or an especially grave crime and attempting to escape;
6) to detain a person who is making armed resistance, attempting to escape from custody, or an armed person who is threatening to use weapons and other items that threaten life and health of people and/or police;
7) to stop a vehicle through damage to such vehicle, if the driver’s action threaten life and health of people and/or police.
This is more permissive than international law allows.
In late 2018, Ukraine formally established an independent police complaints mechanism, the State Bureau of Investigation.
The Law of Ukraine 2337 of 15 March 2018 “On the Disciplinary Statute of National Police of Ukraine” provides that police officers will be suspended from their duties if official investigations are being conducted into them.
International Criminal Court
Although Ukraine is not a state party to the ICC, in 2014 it deposited a declaration giving the Court jurisdiction over alleged crimes against humanity committed in the context of the "Maidan" protests which took place in Kyiv and other regions of Ukraine between 21 November 2013 and 22 February 2014, including murder; torture and/or other inhumane acts. The jurisdiction was subsequently expanded to cover both the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine. In late 2018, the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC declared that it expected to finalise its analysis of subject matter jurisdiction in relation to both the situation in Crimea and eastern Ukraine "in the near future".
Views and Concluding Observations of United Nations Treaty Bodies
In its 2014 Concluding Observations on Ukraine, the Committee against Torture was concerned
at allegations of excessive use of force by government special and riot police and other personnel, in connection with the popular protests throughout Ukraine, and in particular in the dispersal of protesters in Kyiv on 30 November 2013, as well as events in December 2013 and the reported killings of protesters between 19 and 21 January 2014 and 18 and 20 February 2014. The incidents in February 2014 were accompanied by so-called sniper killings by unknown assailants and other injuries of protesters, as well as of police and law enforcement officers.
The Committee was also concerned
at other crimes reportedly committed by law enforcement officers during the Maidan protests, including alleged beatings of medical staff seeking to attend the wounded. Events in Odessa (2 May 2014) and Mariupol (9 May 2014) have also evoked concern over the loss of life and allegations of excessive use of force.
In his 2016 report on a mission to Ukraine, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions similarly noted that, in December 2013 to February 2014, 123 people had lost their lives as a result of violence during the protests in Maidan Square in Kyiv, including 106 persons — most of them protesters — and 17 officers of the internal affairs/police. He raised concerns that at least 77 persons had been killed as a result of the firing of live ammunition, allegedly by special police force and other law enforcement officers.
Lutsenko and Verbytskyy v. Ukraine (2021)
The case concerned the so-called “Euromaidan” or “Maidan” protests in Ukraine between November 2013 and February 2014 in response to the suspension of the Ukraine-European Union Association Agreement. The protests led to the ousting of the President of Ukraine and a series of political and constitutional changes. Initially the protesters numbered up to 100,000 people, rising to up to 800,000 people. Special police forces were mobilised to disperse the protests which led to clashes. The authorities also used non-State agents aligned with the police (titushky -- private individuals, including those with a criminal background), who are alleged to have carried out numerous assaults, kidnappings and murders of protesters. Reportedly there were over 100 deaths (including 70 by gunfire) and thousands injured between both the protestors and the police.
The European Court found violations of the right to life, to freedom from inhumane treatment, and to peaceful assembly on account of the abductions, ill-treatment and persecution of the first applicant and the torture and death of the second applicant’s brother as a result of their implication in the Maidan protests. Both individuals had clearly been subjected to ill-treatment. That was done in order to obtain information relating to their involvement in the Maidan protests and/or to intimidate and/or punish them in that connection. Having been subjected to torture, Mr Y. Verbytskyy had been left in a remote location by the suspects who had been hired by law-enforcement officials, in weather conditions which had been particularly harsh, where he had been unlikely to survive for long if left unattended. The responsibility for his death therefore rested with the Ukrainian authorities.
Nina Kutsenko v. Ukraine (2017)
This case concerned the alleged enforced disappearance and unlawful police killijng of the applicant’s son, V.K., who had a long history of chronic alcoholism and opium addiction. On 13 August 2003, V.K. left home and never returned. On 22 August 2003 V.K. left hospital without authorisation. Shortly after midnight on 25 August 2003 he was found injured and unconscious at Fastiv railway station. Several people who had been detained in the police unit at Fastiv railway station on the evening of 22 August 2003 stated that they had witnessed the following events. At about 8 p.m. two police officers had brought in an apparently drunk man (subsequently recognised as V.K.) and placed him in a cell. As V.K. had protested loudly against his detention, one of the officers, who already was at the police station when V.K. had arrived, entered his cell and hit him in the face with a rubber truncheon. V.K. had fallen down and his nose had started bleeding. K.M. had then kicked him twice, on the head and torso. The two officers who had apprehended V.K. joined officer K.M. From that moment the other inmates chose not to watch the beating but heard it going on. At about 6 a.m. on 23 August 2003, after the other detainees had been taken out for various procedural acts, V.K. had remained in the police unit, lying motionless on the floor. By noon that day he was no longer seen there.
In its judgment, the European Court of Human Rights noted that not all of the applicant’s allegations were sufficiently corroborated. The Court, though, that it has been established that the applicant’s son died as a result of the force applied to him by the police during his unacknowledged detention. His resistance to the police was limited to verbal expressions of dissatisfaction about being detained. That was, however, enough to provoke officer K.M. to enter the cell and hit V.K. in the face with a rubber truncheon, breaking his nose and causing him to collapse. Although the applicant’s son was lying helpless on the floor, with a bleeding nose, two other police officers joined in beating him, which continued for an unspecified period of time. As eventually established by the domestic investigation, he sustained at least eight blows to the face and head.
It is not known what happened to V.K. after the night of 22 to 23 August 2003, before he was discovered unconscious at Fastiv railway station shortly after midnight on 25 August 2003.... Having regard to his injuries, it is unlikely that he arrived there on his own. The only factual inference that can be made in the circumstances is that following his severe beating on 22 August 2003 V.K. remained under the control of the police, without any medical assistance, which undoubtedly contributed to aggravating his health condition. The Court deplored
the utter arbitrariness of the police officers’ actions and their unwarranted violence against V.K. It notes that a year and a half before the incident, in February 2002, he had already complained to the prosecution authorities of continued physical ill-treatment and psychological pressure from officers at the Fastiv railway station police unit.... Their behaviour in August 2003 suggests that his complaint had not received due attention and that they had nothing to fear.
The Court also noted other case file material
indicating that the way in which the police officers treated the applicant’s son was quite habitual for them. It transpires from two uncontested witness statements that K.M. punched an elderly man in the face in December 2003 and hit a pregnant woman in October 2005, without any negative consequences for his career....
The Court concluded that V.K. had received fatal injuries while being at the hands of the police.