UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official profile] issued statements [UN News Centre report] Tuesday urging Ukrainian protesters to use restraint and calling on both the government and protesters to work towards constructive dialogue to diffuse the rising tension and violence that has gripped the nation. Protests began in November after the Ukrainian government abandoned [JURIST report] a proposed trade pact [EU backgrounder] with the EU. Unrest has increased after President Viktor Yanukovych [official website, JURIST news archive] signed [JURIST report] a series of laws [materials] that limit the right to protest government actions. In her press release [text] Pillay stated her concern the new laws have the potential, "to curtail the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the right to information, the right of civil society to work freely. The laws also have the potential to result in impunity for human rights violations." A spokesperson for Ban issued in his statement last night stating that the Secretary General "reiterates his appeal to all concerned to act with restraint, avoid any further escalation and violence and to uphold the democratic principles of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly." Both UN officials stressed the need for urgent action to ratchet down tensions before increasing violence and unrest makes dialogue more difficult.
Earlier this week the EU issued a statement urging the Ukrainian government to repeal anti-protest laws signed into law by Yanukovich last week. In December Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on [JURIST report] Ukrainian authorities to end intimidation tactics against those allegedly the victim of police violence. After protests first began in November Yanukovich offered amnesty [JURIST report] to those detained while participating in the country's recent anti-government protests. The proposal was made during a roundtable discussion with opposition leaders. In November Ukraine's imprisoned opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] announced [JURIST report] that she would go on a hunger strike to show her support for the demonstrators who have been protesting the decision to abandon the EU trade pact. The pact, signed into law [JURIST report] in September, would have improved prison conditions and taken one step closer to integration with the EU by allowing the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement, a step by the Ukrainian government toward economic and political integration with the EU.