Declaration of the Kharkov Group for human rights protection
During last 12 years the social-political situation in Kharkov was comparatively stable and quiet: conflicts were solved through negotiations. Either in the most strenuous periods of the late 80s – early 90s, or during the first meetings of national-democratic forces or at the most acute time in August 1991 there were no brutal actions on the side of militia in Kharkov. The public order, stability and civil agreement in our city was held mainly owing to the reticent behavior of the city authorities and law-enforcing bodies. Yesterday they behaved unreasonably.
On 11 January at 23:45 the militia officers literally smashed down three tents, put up on the Nezalezhnist Square in Kharkov by regional branches of the Socialist party, party Sobor and MP V. Mukhin in the framework of the action Ukraine without Kuchma. Konstantin Masliy, the head of the city directorate of the Ministry of Interior, motivated his decision to remove the tents by the request of the city authorities and the necessity to support public order. In the process of dispersal of the tent camp two socialists got injuries, and three representatives of the UNA-UNSO were detained by militia, although they, having obeyed the order of the court to stop the action, took down their tent as early as in the afternoon and were outside the tent camp, that is they were mere observers. The court that supported the decision of the city authorities to prohibit the picketing and UNA-UNSO meeting took, in our opinion, an juridically incorrect decision, disregarding Articles 34 and 39 and thus brutally violation the freedom of expression and meetings of citizens. At the same time the court violated Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on protection of human rights and basic freedoms. It seems obvious that this picket did not violate or limited rights of other citizens, did not block the traffic of transport and pedestrians and did not violation the public order. This means that there were no legal grounds for the prohibition of the action. The reference of the court and the city authorities to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 28 July 1988 On the order of organizing and holding meetings, street marches or demonstrations in the USSR is illegal, since in this case the Decree contradicts in letter and spirit to Article 39 of the Ukrainian Constitution.
The actions of militiamen were also illegal and violating the citizens rights, because they put down the tents at night, without warning and presenting themselves, and before the court decision was issued, although it was know that the trial had to begin next morning.
During recent three years in Ukraine the wish to press and prohibit – the most disgusting feature of the Soviet system based on coercion and fear -- is demonstrated more and more intensively, the threat to the freedom of expression is felt more and more painfully. The events of 10 January 2001, when in Kharkov and other regions of Ukraine the authorities, like in the Soviet times, forced budget-paid workers and students to come to the meeting in support of L. Kuchma, demonstrates the same tendency. Unfortunately, this general tendency of strengthening the administrative dictate did not skip our city.
We appeal to the city authorities and law-enforcing bodies to obey the Constitution and not to trample the human rights. It is necessary to take a civilized decision about holding public political actions on the local level. This will prevent new conflicts and political scandals in the future, and to preserve civil peace and political stability.
12 January 2001