During the period from April to August 2015 some positive trends regarding the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly were reversed, and now the total number of instances of repression of protests is higher than during the term of Viktor Yanukovych. This is according to the results of monitoring of protests, repressions and concessions conducted by the Center for Social and Labor Research.
Even if we exclude from the calculation the repression of protests in support of the ideas of federalism or separation, which involve separatist “militia”, illegal armed formations and self-proclaimed separatist authorities – the level of repressions has increased from 21 repressions per 100 protests in 2014 to 36 per 100 protests in April-August 2015. Completely excluding the repression of any protests in support of the ideas of federalism or separation, the level of repression has increased from 16 repressions per 100 protests in 2014 to 19 per 100 protests in 2015. This is almost the same as in the last year of the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, when there were 20 repressions per 100 protests.
Moreover, the frequency of repression doubled against certain categories of protests that usually have a low level of violence. Above all, this applies to protests that exclusively raise the issue of civil rights. The frequency of repression of civil rights protests increased from 12 repressions per 100 protests in 2014 to 25 per 100 in April-August 2015. This is even more than in the last year of Yanukovych, when there were 17 repressions per 100 of civil rights protests. The frequency of repressions against protests raising only social and economic issues also increased from 9 repressions per 100 protests in 2014 to 15 per 100 in April-August 2015. This is, again, more than recorded during the pre-Maidan period of Yanukovych, when there were 11 repressions per 100 of these protests.
At the same time, the level of violence in the previously mentioned categories of protests remains relatively low. For example, exclusively ideological protests, one third of which turn violent, are repressed as often as civil rights protests, although the level of violence in the latter case in April-August 2015 was only 8%. Anti-communist protests, almost 60% of which turn violent (although directed mainly against property), met with negative reactions with the same frequency. This indicates a selective attitude to repression of protests – ignoring of violence in the ideological protests, and restrictions on the right to freedom of peaceful assembly for participants of non-violent protests.
Another fact which indicates selectivity of repressions is that the frequency of repressions increases if protesters bring up political issues during protests. Thus, if the participants of peaceful socio-economic protests raise political issues – criticize local or central government, demand lustration of officials – the probability of incurring reprisals for them doubles (from 11 per 100 protests in 2014 to 22 per 100 in April-August 2015) .
The overall high level of repressions against protests is also a cause for concern. Considering the systematic problems of Ukrainian law enforcement and judicial systems, repressions can often be “mistakes”, whose victims may be innocent citizens. After all, a significant part of personnel as well as the systemic problems of corruption and abuses remained inherited from the previous government.
The most common forms of negative reactions in April-August 2015 were criminal cases and arrests. In the third place was pressure on activists and protesters. Injunctions, popular during the reign of Yanukovych, were less common. However, the frequency or imprisonments and searches increased. The number of physical attempts to influence the protesters, such as confrontations, attacks and beatings, also increased slightly in April-August 2015.
If the first year of the new government`s term in office could be described as a slight improvement regarding the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, recent trends indicate a deterioration, which is characterized by higher chances of repression for some categories of protests even compared to the previous government. Another matter of concern is the selectivity of repressions – ignoring of ideological violence during protests, and the increase of repressions for protests which bring up political issues. Such trends might increase the possibility of political and ideological violent crackdowns and the political instrumentalization of violence.
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Protests, repressions and concessions monitoring has been conducted since October 2009. It is a unique project for the systematic data collection about all (regardless of the issue or size) protests as well as negative and positive reactions to the protests taking place in real time all over Ukraine based on the monitoring of more than 190 national, local and activist web-media.
The goal of the present project, conducted by the Center for Social and Labor Research and supported by the National Endowment for Democracy foundation, is the objective study of protest activity and social movements in Ukraine and providing this information to the general public aiming to defend the right of peaceful assembly and to draw attention to grassroots socioeconomic protest initiatives.
Center for Social and Labor Research was founded in 2013 as an independent non-profit center for analysis of socioeconomic problems, collective protests, labor relations and conflicts.
050-701-98-71 – Oksana Dutchak, the project of monitoring protests, repression and concessions;
050-739-11-67 – Sergei Pernykoza, coordinator of the monitoring campaign “Police under control”.