A Brief Introduction to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (KhPG)
KHPG has been registered as a legal entity since 10 November 1992, although it had existed as the human rights protection wing of the Kharkiv office of ‘Memorial’ from 1988, and some members of the group had been active in the human rights movement from the 1960s through to the 1980s. The Group is active in three main areas:
– providing assistance to individuals whose rights have been infringed, and carrying out investigations into cases of human rights violation;
– developing human rights education and promoting legal awareness through public actions, educational events and publications as well as collection and dissemination of information on human rights;
– providing and improving monitoring and analysis of the human rights situation in Ukraine (in particular with regard to political and civil rights).
In 1998 the Group received the EU/USA ‘Award for Democracy and Civil Society’.
At the present time, the organization has more than fifty members – journalists, historians, linguists, lawyers, mathematicians, physicists, programmers, teachers, engineers, students. Twenty-two people are employed at the center, while others work for us part-time or on a voluntary basis.
Some details about the results of projects undertaken by the Group:
1. Defense of individuals whose rights have been violated by state bodies and their officials.
From 1988 – 1990, in large part as a result of efforts by members of the Group, persecution of individuals for using national symbols and distributing democratic press publications was stopped. The Group gave moral, legal and financial assistance to people convicted for political reasons in the Soviet times. Since 1993, work on complaints about human rights abuses has become an organized part of our role. A public reception office (PRO) was created to provide assistance to victims of such violations. Between 1993 and 1996, PRO received around 160 written complaints and a huge number of verbal complaints about rights violations per year. In 1997, we received 248 written complaints, from 1998-1999 – approximately 300, in 2000 – 360, in 2001 – 430, in 2002 – 760, in 2003 – 927, in 2004 – 989, in 2005 – more than 1000, in 2006 – 1345, in 2007 – 1642, in 2008- 2010 – about 2000, in 2011-2013 – about 3000, in 2014-2016 – more than 4500 written complaints. Also, PRO staff provides many oral consultations on different legal matters in cases where rights of an applicant have not been violated. In each case of human rights violation PRO staff provides moral, legal and other aid involving, if necessary, highly qualified legal experts and advocates. Legal aid is free. It covers such issues as information and legal consultations, assistance in preparation of judicial procedural documents, particularly statements of claim to the court, representation of clients’ interests in courts and other state bodies, preparation of applications to the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR). In 2007-2013 PRO lawyers won in the national courts in average 15 cases per year, in 2014-2016 – 60 cases.
2. Human rights defense through KHPG Strategic Litigation Centers (SLC), since 2003.
SLC was created within the framework of campaign against torture and cruel treatment in 2003. In 2009-2016 it rendered free legal aid to more than 200 victims per a year: assistance in judicial procedures and legal representation. Legal aid is rendered not only in Ukrainian courts but also in ECtHR and other international bodies. KHPG has expanded the SLC mandate to include more issues related to torture and to rendering aid to applicants in ECtHR on the stage of communication with states. Besides, SLC mandate has included rendering aid to victims of criminal prosecution based on political motives and special type of victims (minors, asylum seekers, people with HIV/AID, prisoners of war, missing persons etc.). Since 2003 SLC lawyers have won in ECtHR more than 120 cases concerning right to life, torture and ill-treatment, illegal detentions, extraditions, violations of a right to a fair trial in torture context, right to privacy etc. Also, SLC advocates won in average 30 cases per year in the national courts in 2014-2016.
3. Developing human rights awareness, disseminating information and understanding of human rights issues among state executive bodies and bodies of local self-government, non-governmental organizations and interested individuals (since 1993)
Since 1993 the Group has been involved in human rights education: it has founded a center for preparing publications about human rights, and established contact with the UN Institute of Human Rights (Geneva, Switzerland). Thirty brochures of the UN series Human Rights. Fact Sheets, issued by this Institute, have been translated into Ukrainian and published twice. In addition, 25 International agreements on human rights, indexed by the UN and conventions of the Council of Europe, have been translated into Ukrainian and prepared for distribution. This material is sent by post on request to teachers, students at institutes and schools, to members of grassroots organizations, and also distributed at seminars. Between 1995 and 1996, the Group played an active role in organizing and running 28 educational seminars on human rights issues in seven Ukrainian cities, as part of the project ‘Developing a civic society in the CIS’. All participants in the seminar, including military officers, police officers, employees of the courts, procurator’s offices, journalists and members of grassroots organizations, received a pack with seminar information. Members of the Group have participated and given lectures at several seminars organized by the Council of Europe. The Group has also organized and run 14 international human rights conferences on key topics of human rights issues, each conference was devoted to national law and practice in comparison with the international standards of human rights, in particular, ECtHR case law (in 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012). KHPG paid a lot of attention to translating the ECtHR case law into Ukrainian. Before 2005 all ECtHR judgments and decisions concerning Ukraine had been translated and published. Selected ECtHR judgments for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010 (two volumes), 2011 (two volumes), 2012 (two volumes) were translated, published and disseminated. Furthermore, four volumes of ECtHR judgments in cases supported by the KHPG’s SLC and translations of ECtHR judgments on access to information as well as translations all ECtHR judgments concerning Ukraine on prisoners’ rights were published.
3.1. Human rights education for various social and professional groups (since 1993)
In 1993 an international conference on human rights education was held, and since then members of the Group have run optional human rights courses in schools. The brochure ABC ‘Teaching Human rights’, issued by the UN, has been translated from English and distributed among teachers. Since February 1999, one of the three issues of the bulletin ‘Prava Ludyny’ has become specialized, with a specific slant for specialists working in the field of civic and human rights education. This new publication is titled: ‘Human Rights. Civic Education’. It contains method plans for teaching human rights in schools, discusses issues of civic education and civic awareness. Several manuals on human rights education, created by the Center for Civic Education in Calabasasis, CA, USA, have been translated from English and two of these have been published. Other works, including a bibliographical review of publications on human rights education, have also been published. In 2015 KHPG created special site for civil educations http://osvita.khpg.org (3345 books and articles) and in 2016 special site for answering practical questions on human rights http://help.khpg.org (87 articles). Three national conferences for teachers on human rights issues have been held (1999, 2000, 2001), with each participant receiving a pack with information and publications on teaching human rights. About 80 educational events for law-enforcing officers, judges, prosecutors, penitentiary personnel, lawyers, journalists, human rights activists during 2002-2016 were held.
3.2. Support for citizens’ advice centers and open-access libraries have been a part of our role (since 1995). At the end of 1995, a public library was established with the open access, where individuals have the opportunity to find information about ways of protecting human rights, to familiarize themselves with relevant documents and to gain legal advice. In this library, there are a considerable number of rare books which are used by historians, political scientists, lawyers and others. Consultations are also provided for non-governmental organizations and specialists. The library today has over than 16 000 publications in Ukrainian, Russian, English, Polish and other languages. Furthermore, in 2005 KHPG opened electronic library on human rights http://library.khpg.org. Now 1841 books and other editions are placed into the electronic library in the form of pdf-files.
3.3. The creation and upkeep of the portal ‘Human Rights in Ukraine’ (since 1999) A portal http://khpg.org, and service for sending information about changes on the site with short annotations to Ukrainian-, English- and Russian-reading users. In 2014-2016 there were in average about 3000 visits per day. To date, the portal includes 16806 texts in Ukrainian and Russian and 12701 texts in English).
3.4. An annual national competition for school and higher education students for the best essays on human rights themes (in conjunction with the International Society for Human Rights, since 1996) Seven competitions were held (with 217, 679, 907, 1002, 1818, 1365 and 1256 entries, respectively, received).
4. Analysis of the human rights situation in Ukraine (since 1995)
In 1995, the Group began monitoring key human rights. Several analytical reports have been prepared and published: an analysis of how Ukrainian legislation and law-implementation practice compare with norms of the first section of the European Convention on Human Rights; observance of the UN Convention against Torture in Ukraine; a draft of the Law of Ukraine ‘On the Ombudsman’; a draft of the Law of Ukraine ‘On civic organizations’; Procedure for making appeals to the European Commission for Human Rights; Freedom of access to official information in Ukraine; A study of specific psychological traits of human rights activists, and others. All such information is distributed by the Group in the form of special issues of the bulletin ‘Human Rights’ as separate report or a book. In 1995-2005, 80 special issues have so far been published, of these 38 in book form. In 2006-2016 KHPG published and disseminated more than 80 books with results of monitoring and analysis. In 2004 KHPG initiated preparation of the joint annual reports prepared by human rights NGOs. From 2004 to 2014 10 annual reports were published in Ukrainian and English (2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009-2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014).
5. Monitoring and defense of freedom of expression and of the right to privacy (since 1996) Cases involving the infringement of the rights to freedom of speech, to information and to privacy are monitored. Civil investigations of violations are undertaken, a number of investigations have had considerable success. In 2001-2006 there was a successful public campaign against usage of the unlawful labels for restriction of access «not for publishing» and «not for printing». These labels were prohibited by the Ministry of Justice and great part of governmental documents with the stamp «not for printing» were disclosed. Relevant legislation is also scrutinized. We publish a quarterly journal ‘Freedom of Expression and Privacy’. Three conferences on issues of privacy and access to information as well as ten seminars on access to public information have been held. Several suggestions from the Group with regard to amendments to normative legislation have been accepted. We translated from English into Ukrainian and published many materials as well as prepared several draft laws in question.
6. Monitoring and defense of the right to freedom from torture and ill-treatment (since 1996) Cases involving the use of torture are monitored and revealed through various publications and the Internet. Four independent reports to the UN Committee against torture regarding Ukraine’s adherence to the UN Convention against torture were issued (in 1997, 2001, 2007, 2013), and the majority of recommendations of the Committee, based on our reports, have already been followed up by state bodies. A book titled ‘Against torture’ was published in 1997, and an international conference in conjunction with the Council of Europe was held. The latter significantly raised public awareness of the existence of the problem. Between 1998 and 2001 14 seminars were run in regional centers to make officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA), the State Security Service (SSU) and the Procurator aware of international standards for avoiding torture and cruel treatment. In 2003-2006 and 2009-2011 two 3-year project – ‘Campaign against torture and inhumane treatment in Ukraine’ – was undertaken with the support of the European Commission, OSI, NED and other donors. Also, there were three 2-year projects in question. SLC with its own fund was also established to defend victims of torture. We prepared and published many books devoted to prevention of torture. Since 2005, members of KHPG, and members of its several regional partners, have been participating in mobile groups organized by the MIA. The groups carry out spot inspections of district police stations to check the observation of human rights of detainees.
7. Security Services in a constitutional democracy (since 1996).
Members of the Group are involved in analyzing legislation on the State Security Service and implementation of these laws. In the framework of the international project «Oversight and Accountability of Security Services in a Constitutional Democracies» (1996-2000) eight analytical reports have thus far been prepared, as well as the book “Wiretapping in the international law and in the legislation of the 11 European countries” and two bulletins. Two international conferences have been held. Amendments to normative legislation acts have been made on the KHPG recommendations.
8. A study into problems of discrimination and inequality as well as monitoring hate speech and hate crime, fight against racism and xenophobia in Ukraine (since 2002).
KHPG was taking part in the Council of Europe project to protect the rights of ethnic, language, religious and other minorities. A ‘Non-discrimination review’ was prepared for the year 2003. KHPG is holding fight against racism and xenophobia in Ukraine: monitoring and defending victims of hate crimes and hate speech, analysis of legislation, preparation of draft laws in question. KHPG prepared and published results of the monitoring of hate crimes in Ukraine in view of annual reviews in 2007 – 2016.
9. Studies of the history of the dissident movement in Ukraine.
A ‘Who’s Who’ of Dissidents has been created as well as a list of individuals repressed for political reasons between 1953 and 1988 (begun in 1989). In the framework of the international project “Time of Dissident” (1996-2000) KHPG was responsible for the Ukrainian section of the biographical reference work, with 120 brief biographical texts with photographs, a description and chronological account of the dissident movement, as well as a bibliography. In 2000-2006 KHPG workers prepared additionally more than biographies references of the Ukrainian dissidents and published 3-volumes collection of 312 biographies. Members of the Group compile archive material about the history of the dissident movement, interview ex-dissidents (252 people were interviewed filling 708 cassettes). A database is being created of dissidents in Ukraine, and a huge photo archive has been established.
10. Preparation and publication of historical memory series devoted to resistance to the totalitarian regime of the USSR (began in 1992). From 1992 to 1996 the Group helped to prepare a series ‘The History of Dissidence in the USSR’ (in conjunction with Moscow ‘Memorial’ and the publishing house ‘Vest’. Seven books were published. Since 1998, we have been preparing our own series, of which 25 volumes have been published. To mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, we published ‘The Ukrainian Helsinki Group – Documents and Materials’ in four volumes. This was awarded third prize in the category ‘Encyclopedia’ in the nationwide ‘2001 Book of the Year’ competition. A conference to mark the anniversary was also held in Kiev under the banner ‘Human Rights in Ukraine: now and then’. The Group had previously also published Mikhail Heifets’ works in three volumes, and the reminiscences of Dina Kaminska. A series of memoirs dedicated to the history of political repression under the heading ‘Memories’ has been created and more than 80 books have already been published. Lectures and seminars are held for school teachers, with one topic focusing on the history of the dissident movement in Ukraine. Special site http://archive.khpg.org has been created.
11. The development of the network of human rights NGOs (1992-2015)
In 1992, we began creating a system for collecting and distributing information about human rights abuses in Ukraine, a network for mutual assistance, exchange of information and experience. The Group information bulletin ‘Human Rights’, which comes out three times a month (since 1999 one for specialists in civic education), is distributed among regional human rights groups and state bodies and is widely used by the mass media. A monthly review is also published in English. Literature with a human rights focus, published by the Group and other organizations, is distributed using the same channels. A system was established to enable joint actions in cases of flagrant violation of human rights. The Group organized and run many seminars for regional human rights groups. In 1999-2017 21 human rights schools were organized, each with 30-50 participants. In 2004-2012 the Group organized five Forums of human rights NGOs together with the UHROU. In addition, KHPG agreed on cooperation and formal coalition with our long-term partners. In January 2017 12 NGOs founded a Coalition «Against Torture» (see the Coalition’s site http://pk.khpg.org (267 articles) and its page in the Facebook
12. KHPG participation in the events 21 November 2013 – 22 February, 2014
Eight KHPG employees took part in the Euromaidan rallies in Kharkiv on a permanent basis; two employees, who constantly live in Kyiv, took part in the Euromaidan there, four KHPG employees went to Kyiv on several occasions to participate in the Euromaidan. KHPG provides legal aid to all the victims of the human rights violations associated with the Kharkiv Euromaidan. In Kharkiv, two persons suffered from the attacks, 8 cars belonging to the Euromaidan participants were burnt, and one extremely dubious criminal case was instituted against a participant. In addition, KHPG lawyers represent the interests of 21 victims of the human rights violations associated with the Euromaidans in other cities of Ukraine (Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Lutsk). We qualify all these cases as political persecutions. The English version of the KHPG website http://khpg.org includes the fullest collection of data on human rights violations associated with all Euromaidans in Ukraine.
KHPG took an active part in organising and conducting of the first Euromaidans’ forum in Kharkiv on January 11-12 (more than 200 participants). The forum was carried out in the extreme conditions. It was impossible to find the hall to hold the forum as we received 8 refusals. As a result, the plenary session took place in a church on Saturday and in KHPG office on Sunday. Both of the halls could house around 50 people. However, there were approximately 150 people presents. 7 workshops of the forum took place in the premises of the NGOs, including 2 of them were conducted in the KHPG premises. The KHPG office was left without electricity and a pro-government rally was arranged exactly in front of the residential block of flats where our office is situated on the first floor. The participants of the forum were repeatedly subjected to attacks by the participants of the pro-Russian organizations wearing the masks or by non-educated delinquents («hopnyky» – in Ukr.) simply hired for payment who threw smoke grenades, broke the glass and book shelves in a book store where one of the workshops took place. They even attacked the church. Owing to the well-established interaction of the KHPG with the police the latter faithfully guarded the forum participants from these attacks. As a result, only one person who protected the book store essentially suffered.
13. Monitoring, investigation and legal proceeding the most serious violations of human rights in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts (since 2014)
The KHPG objective in this direction is to provide monitoring and documenting the most serious violations of human rights and humanitarian law as well as to provide access to legal aid to victims of these violations in Donetsk and Luhansk regions which have been affected by the occupation by armed groups and the hostilities. Victims are provided with legal support and cases which require urgent life-saving intervention can be addressed. There were 32 trips of monitoring groups to the settlements along the line of demarcation. 97 applications on torture of prisoners of war have been prepared and sent to the ECtHR. KHPG initiated more than 150 cases on torture and inhuman treatment with civilians who are held in captivity, deaths and injuries of civilians as a result of shooting during the military conflict, missing persons, prisoners in the so-called DPR and LPR etc. 94 applications to ECtHR have been sent.
Address: 61002, Kharkiv, Svobody St, 27, #4. Postal address 61002, Kharkiv-2, P.O,Box 10430.
Telephone: (057) 714 35 58, fax: (057) 700 67 71