UKRAINE: EBCO shocked by the continuation ofprosecution and attacksagainstRuslan KotsabaCriticism of the military is not a crime! Violence is a crime!

The retrial of Ukrainian journalist, pacifist and conscientious objector Ruslan Kotsaba started yesterday, and what is more, he was attacked by a far-right mob and sprayed with a fire extinguisher with the mob chanting “Death to the enemies! Ukraine above all!”

Following EBCO’s open letter to the Ukrainian authorities on December 8th 2020, calling for the dropping of all charges against Ruslan Kotsaba, we were shocked to see that not only his prosecution continues, but also his life is under threat”, Alexia Tsouni, EBCO President stated today. “The European Bureau for Conscientious Objection calls for the immediate and unconditional end of the criminal prosecution against Ruslan Kotsaba, and demands that inciters of hatred and violence are held accountable. Criticism of the military is not a crime! Violence is a crime!”, she added.

During the trial yesterday, ten of the prosecution's witnesses testified. Next hearings are scheduled on 18 March 2021. Ruslan Kotsaba is prosecuted simply because he publicly expressed his pacifist views. EBCO considers his case a clear politically motivated persecution, in violation of his rights to freedom of expression and freedom of thought, conscience and religion, guaranteed under Articles 18 and 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Articles 9 and 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

EBCO expresses solidarity with Ruslan Kotsaba, who has stated “I'd rather go to jail than to civil war”, and urges the Ukrainian authorities to safeguard that all pacifists in Ukraine, including the activists of EBCO’s member organisation Ukrainian Pacifist Movement, are able to freely express their opinions and continue their non-violent activity. EBCO also urges the Ukrainian authorities to safeguard the right to conscientious objection to military service, according to the European and international standards, amongst others the standards set by the European Court of Human Rights.

*** Press contact: Alexia Tsouni, tsounialexia@gmail.com, +306974461210