[JURIST] The UN Office of High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Friday called for an investigation [press release] into torture allegations against Ukraine following widespread arrests of protesters, which have since been offered amnesty. Dmytro Bulatov, a leader of the opposition groups, was released after being detained for more than a week showing visible signs of mistreatment, including wounds to his face and hands. In the statement, a spokesperson for the OHCHR renewed calls for further talks between opposition groups and President Viktor Yanukovich [official website; JURIST news archive] while expressing concern over the reported deaths and acts of torture against protesters. Protests, and the government’s response, have intensified throughout this month as protesters continue to call for Yanukovich’s resignation. So far, six protesters have been killed and hundreds injured in clashes between the government and protesters.
The statement comes the day after Yanukovich offered amnesty to protesters [JURIST report] who were arrested and agree to meet certain conditions. The amnesty bill was passed 232-11 late Wednesday night and gave protesters 15 days to comply, but has been rejected by the opposition. Protests began in November after the Ukrainian government abandoned [JURIST report] a proposed trade pact [EU backgrounder] with the EU. Tensions were further exacerbated when Yanukovych signed [JURIST report] a series of laws [materials] earlier this month, which limited the right to protest government actions. Also in January, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon [official website] and the OHCHR issued statements [JURIST report] 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. Earlier this week, in response to the escalating civil unrest in the country, Ukrainian Prime Minister Mykola Azarov resigned from office [JURIST report] as the parliament repealed the harsh anti-protest laws passed earlier this month.