In order to carry out comprehensive research into the human rights situation in a country, as a rule, human rights organizations use a form of annual report about the observation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. The compilation of such a report is a traditional way of informing the public, both at home and abroad, about violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms with the aim of eliminating such violations and improving the overall situation.
These reports provide a tool for public control over the authorities, and they should, above all, determine the priorities and objectives of the work both of human rights organizations and of such state authorities.
In Ukraine, regrettably, such annual reports, which, on behalf of civic society, could systematically and professionally describe the human rights situation, were never produced before, and this absence of professional reporting was detrimental to the human rights movement. The only previous examples one could mention were two annual reports, as well as two special reports, prepared by the Ombudsperson (the Verkhovna Radas Representative on Human Rights).
A number of special reports are also produced, which address how either one crucial right or a group of interconnected rights have being observed in the last year or over a longer period. These reports may, for example, be in the form of commentaries to periodic governmental reports on the implementation of provisions stipulated in the UN Conventions on human rights, which are sent once every 2, 4, or 5 years to the UN Convention Committees, or analytical reports on adjusting the legislation and case-law concerning some civil or political right, a relevant article of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the case-law of the European Court of Human Rights, or a relevant article of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
In this book, the reader will find the first report on the human rights situation in Ukraine in 2004 prepared by the following human rights organizations: the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (hereafter - UHHRU), Kharkiv, Vinnitsa, and Sevastopol Human Rights Groups (hereafter KHRG, VHRG and SHRG, respectively), the Chernihiv Civic Committee for Human Rights (hereafter - CPCH), the Ukrainian Association “Green World,” Kharkiv Organization “Zhinocha Gromada” (Womens Society), Kharkiv Center for Women Studies, Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk Regional Unions of Soldiers Mothers, and other human rights organizations. We considered different approaches before preparing this report.
There are various types of annual report. “Russias White Book”, for example, is compiled as a commentary to each article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, with a review of the situation with regard to each of these rights within the Russian Federation. The All-Ukrainian Committee for the Protection of Children has compiled a report on violations of childrens rights as commentary to the official report by the State on its compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has prepared reports on torture and cruel treatment in Ukraine as commentary to the Third and Fourth Periodical Reports by the State on its adherence to the provisions in the UN Convention against Torture. The Helsinki committees of different countries prepare their annual reports as comments on periodic reports regarding the implementation of the UN international covenants on human, political, social, economic, and cultural rights.
Annual reports on the observation of human rights in the Russian Federation during 1993 and 1994, which were prepared under the supervision of a well-known Russian human rights activist and the first Russian Ombudsperson, Sergei Kovalyov, were a compilation of different sections, each of which covered the situation with regard to the observation of a specific category of rights (for example, socio-economic rights), or the rights of various social groups (military personnel, prisoners), or violations of human rights during certain events (violations of human rights during the events in Moscow in October 1993, violations of human rights during the military conflict in Chechnya). In 1998, 1999, and 2000, the Russian human rights community prepared reports on the situation regarding human rights during those years in the Russian Federation as a whole, as well as within its individual regions, with the latter covering all 89 administrative units of the Russian Federation. The Russian experience in preparing such reports is very important for Ukraine and should be closely studied. The structure of these reports (sections “Respect for the integrity of the person,” “Respect for civil liberties,” “Respect for political rights,” “Right to ecological security,” “The situation regarding specific particularly vulnerable groups and violations of their rights,” “Respect for socio-economic rights”) is, to a great extent, borrowed from the annual reports of the US State Department.
The US approach towards preparing annual reports is of great interest for Ukrainian human rights organizations. The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor of the US State Department prepares and publishes an extensive compilation of human rights reports in a two-volume edition, which contains reports on the human rights practice of virtually every country in the world. These reports are prepared by the US Embassies in the respective countries and are structured uniformly, as follows:
Section 1. “Respect for the Integrity of the Person,” including sub-sections entitled “Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life,” “Disappearances,” “Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment,” “Arbitrary Arrest or Detention,” “Denial of Fair Public Trial,” “Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence”;
Section 2. “Respect for Civil Liberties” which covers freedom of speech and the press, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, freedom of religion, and freedom of movement within the country, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation;
Section 3. “Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to change their government”;
Section 4. “Government Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights”;
Section 5. “Discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, disability, language or social status”, which considers the situation with regard to observance of the rights of women, children, the Disabled, religious and ethnic minorities;
Section 6. “Workers Rights” (the right to trade unions, the right to organize and bargain collectively, prohibition of forced labor, child labor and the minimum age for employment, acceptable conditions of work).
What is noticeable here is a clear hierarchy of human rights and freedoms, which starts with the protection of individual human rights from the arbitrariness of the state, before moving on to civil and political liberties, protection against discrimination, and concluding with just a short list of worker rights. The American tradition of human rights is free from paternalism, according to which the state is obliged to provide a person with a “good life” (even though the level of social assistance to those who really deserve it is fairly high!); here, the individual freedom and opportunity to freely manage his or her personal affairs are considered to be of the greatest value. This is why the Americans find it difficult to understand our problems in respect of the rights to work, housing, and a sufficient standard of living.
In our opinion, the following structure for an annual report most adequately reflects the Ukrainian reality:
1. Introduction (a general assessment of the situation regarding human rights in Ukraine during 2004, as compared with 1991-2002, and the Soviet period).
2. The observation of fundamental rights and freedoms (the right to life, protection from torture and cruel treatment, freedom and integrity of the person, fair trial, right to privacy, freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to marriage and creation of family, right to protection from discrimination, right to free elections, right to apply to state and local authorities, right to property, right to education, freedom of movement, and freedom of creative work).
3. The observation of social, economic and cultural rights (sub-sections in accordance with Article 42 to 49 of the Constitution of Ukraine).
4. Human rights in “closed” communities (military personnel, prisoners, psychiatric patients).
5. Collective rights (the rights of the child, the rights of women, the rights of ethnic and linguistic minorities, the rights of some social minorities: disabled persons, pensioners, families with many children, refugees, and stateless persons, drug addicts, HIV-positive patients, and the rights of sexual minorities.)
6. The observation of ecological rights.
7. Conclusions and Recommendations.
The report is based on material produced by human rights organizations and information from the media, as well as material presented by the authorities. International standards in each area of human rights, as well as compliance with Ukrainian legislation and the latters adherence to international standards served throughout as our criteria.
The course of the recent election campaign, and the massive scale and number of human rights violations that it involved, required that we adequately response. We could not, as a result of the demands placed on our resources by the election, fulfill all of our plans for a comprehensive human rights report but were able to prepare the present document. It has, understandably, a number of shortcomings, and we would be grateful for any comments, additions, and proposals which could help us to improve future issues of the report.
I would like to thank all my colleagues, who participated in this work, as well as the Fund for supporting Democracy of the Embassy of the USA, and the International Renaissance Foundation, whose assistance made this work possible.
Co-Chairman of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, member of the Board of the International Society “Memorial”