Ukraine’s security forces used “excessive and indiscriminate” force in the 2014 Maidan protests, but are not guilty of crimes against humanity, the International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor said on Thursday (12 November).
Fatou Bensouda has opened a tentative investigation into Ukraine’s conflict, sparked by a November 2013 uprising at Kiev’s Maidan Square that eventually toppled the pro-Russian government of former president Viktor Yanukovych.
“While these considerations tend to indicate that alleged crimes do not amount to crimes against humanity, the Office notes that serious human rights abuses did occur” at Maidan, the Hague-based Bensouda said in a newly-released report.
“Ukrainian security forces frequently used excessive and indiscriminate force against protesters and other individuals, such as journalists covering the event,” she said.
The demonstrations that turned the square into a battleground began after 21 November 2013, when Yanukovych sank a political deal with the European Union, turning instead to the Kremlin for support.
Pro-Western demonstrations gathered pace throughout the winter, reaching a climax around mid-February last year with a failed crackdown by authorities leading to the death of more than 100 protesters.
Bensouda said although the attacks on the protesters constituted an “attack directed against a civilian population” there was “limited information… to support a conclusion that… it was either widespread or systematic.”
Crimes against humanity — one of the world’s most serious and investigated by the Hague-based ICC — had to conform to this criteria, Bensouda said in the 65-page report.
She said the ICC’s preliminary probe elsewhere in the country also continued, including in the Crimea and the war-ravaged east, where Ukranian armed forces had been battling pro-Moscow separatists.
Bensouda added she was “closely following the progress and findings” of investigations into the downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 over eastern Ukraine last year.
Some 298 passengers and crew died when the jetliner was shot down with a BUK surface-to-air missile in mid-July 2014 while on a routine flight between Amsterdam and Kuala Lumpur.
Ukraine is not a state party to the ICC’s founding Rome Statute, but its parliament has accepted the court’s jurisdiction to probe crimes committed on its territory from November 2013 onwards.