Sunday, 6 May 2012
Euro Fans Face 'Criminal' Police
Football fans traveling to Ukraine for this summer's European Championships have been warned they will face a "criminal" police force mired in so many abuse scandals that their behavior threatens to ruin the showpiece tournament. The Amnesty International report "Ukraine: Euro 2012 jeopardised by criminal police force" details how Ukraine's security forces have been implicated in numerous cases of torture and extortion in cities due to host matches. According to the report, one recent case in the western city of Lviv -- where Germany, Portugal and Denmark will play -- details how two men were beaten, robbed and then imprisoned by six police officers after a disagreement in a bar. Prosecutors originally refused to open a criminal case until CCTV footage emerged of the incident after one of the men's lawyers gave an interview to a local TV station. "The Ukrainian government must take action now to stop widespread police criminality," said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's director for Europe and Central Asia. "Failure to do so will encourage them to continue acting as a law unto themselves and put Euro 2012 fans in danger from a force that is out of control." Tens of thousands of fans from across Europe are expected to arrive in Ukraine next month when the tournament -- which is being co-hosted with neighboring Poland -- begins on June 8. Despite huge investment in the country's transport infrastructure, Ukraine has struggled in the run up to the tournament. Stadium delays had initially put the country's hosting of the tournament in jeopardy but now new problems have emerged. Hotel prices during the tournament have risen so sharply due to profiteering that Michel Platini, head of European football's governing body UEFA, was unusually critical when visiting Ukraine last month for the opening of a new airport terminal. "It's annoying to have made a lot of investment and then say to people that they can't come because there are bandits and crooks who want to make a lot of money during this Euro," he told the assembled press in Lviv. Security concerns were raised when multiple bombs exploded in the city of Dnipropetrovsk, close to Donetsk where England will be playing some of their matches. More than 20 people were injured in the blasts. The authorities have so far blamed criminal gangs rather than terrorists for the attack. And the tournament received more bad publicity when several European leaders suggested they might boycott the event in protest at the treatment of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko, the face of the Orange Revolution that swept Ukraine in 2004 and 2005, has been in prison since last year on charges that she abused her powers while in office. Her supporters believe the charges are politically motivated. The current Ukrainian president is Viktor Yanukovych who lost power during the Orange Revolution. Tymoshenko would have been a potent foe in next October's parliamentary elections. The government deny that there is any political motivation in her jailing but the former prime minister has alleged that she has been beaten whilst in prison and has gone on hunger strike to secure what she says is urgent medical care. Herman Van Rompuy, president of the European Union, Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission, and the governments of Austria and Belgium have all said they will not be attending any matches in Ukraine in protest.