UHHRU On the events before and on 18 May
Over the last week the media has buzzed with reports of how in Luhansk, Zaporizhya, Dnipropetrovsk and other Ukrainian cities, the police and transport service have obstructed people from freely travelling to Kyiv.
There have also been detentions en masse; searches; people obstructed from getting onto trains, coaches and planes. The actions are “justified” as being because of supposedly incorrect transport documentation; suspicion of there being an explosive substance; or even totally absurd claims that a person is under the influence of drugs.
All of these large-scale and unlawful actions arranged in advance by the police and transport workers had only one aim – to impede the opposition protest “Rise Ukraine!” scheduled for 18 May in Kyiv and not banned by any court.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union points out that all these fragrant restrictions by the authorities of freedom of movement and of peaceful assembly, guaranteed by Ukraine’s Constitution for each person legally present on Ukrainian territory had no grounds in law and were pure lawlessness. The country effectively found itself during those days in an undeclared state of emergency with wide-scale repression against the political opposition.
These unlawful actions by the authorities were continued through the escalation of lawlessness and violation during the actual protest in Kyiv, with fights and assaults on journalists. The police units present did not protect people’s right to peaceful assembly and to safety.
It is indicative that during that same period there were so-called “antifascist” rallies in the country organized by the authorities with public sector workers pulled in to attend and primitive manipulation of public opinion. Here too the principle of freedom of peaceful assembly was infringed. The mass inclusion of students during their studies in these rallies was a direct infringement of the Law on Education.
In assessing these cases we cannot confine ourselves to only a formal statement regarding the violation of civil rights and liberties. The law does not exist in a vacuum. We cannot close our eyes to the fact that all these violations; the use of force instead of law; are merely a symptom of an extremely dangerous trend in the internal policy of the country, this being the wish of those in power to retain the existing economic and political order with the help of force and repression.
This trend reflects a serious crisis in the basic and interdependent institutions of the State – politics, economics and law. We would point out to the leaders of the country and its citizens that the source of this crisis is the fundamental contradiction which has emerged over recent years between a constitutional, political structure in the political sphere and the lack of any democracy in the economical life of the country. Monopolization of control over material resources in the hands of a small privileged group; restriction of freedom of business enterprise dictates the logic of monopolization and political institutions in the hands of one party, controlled by their people.
We observe that the Party of the Regions has already turned into a “ruling party” unforeseen by Ukraine’s Constitution. This party is copying the structure and functions of the Soviet Communist Party, just with ideology replaced by a grabbing institution and with all the consequences which follow: transformation of the elections into a farce; destruction of the people’s representation in parliament; reinstatement of the new-old nomenclatura as ruling class with its uncontrolled corruption, with increasing social inequality and public apathy.
We see on the other hand the determined efforts of those in power to marginalize the opposition using hate speech and “auxiliary” criminal elements as head-bangers for carrying out political and economic tasks.
In these conditions law-based institutions are rapidly corroded. The courts and law enforcement bodies have effectively turned into an obsequious service for the “ruling party”.
We turn to the leadership of the country; to all political and civic forces; and warn that the trends outlined above are extremely dangerous for the country. They are incompatible with Ukraine’s declared course towards European integration.
Political will and unity are needed for urgent dismantling of this short-sighted policy which is incompatible with Europe’s democratic values. The first step in this direction should be the immediate dismissal of the Interior Minister Vitaly Zakharchenko and Infrastructure Minister Volodymyr Kozak who are compromising the country.
Yevhen Zakharov, Head of the UHHRU Board
Arkady Bushchenko, UHHRU Executive Director