Open appeal of the Institute “Respublika” to MPs of Ukraine
On 23 March 2004 the President of Ukraine presented to the Supreme Rada the draft of the Law of Ukraine «On assemblies, meetings, street marches and demonstrations» (Draft No. 5242-2). The draft was defined as urgent; the profile committee – the Committee in charge of the questions of human rights, national minorities and international relations. Item 2 of the final provisions of this draft orders to the Cabinet of Ministers «in two months after the publication of this Law: to create and present for the consideration of the Supreme Rada the propositions on bringing the legal acts of Ukraine in correspondence with this Law; to provide reconsideration and cancellation by ministries and other central organs of executive power of their normative legal acts that contradict this Law». According to the text of the law draft, the first legal act, which must be «brought in correspondence, reconsidered and cancelled», is the Constitution of Ukraine, in particular, Article 39.
In order to understand that, one should only compare the law draft with the Constitution. Article 39 of the Basic Law states: «Citizens have the right to gather peacefully, without arms, and to conduct assemblies, meetings, street marches and demonstrations, about which the organs of executive power or organs of local self-government must be informed beforehand. This right may be restricted only by court, only in accordance with law and only in the interests of national safety and public order – for prevention of disorders or crimes, for protection of health of population or for protection of rights and freedoms of other people», and does not envisage any direct restrictions of this right concerning either the place of mass actions, or time, or duration, or organizers, or schedule of these actions. The Presidents draft, in its turn, establishes rigid restrictions of the right of citizens for peaceful assemblies and free expression of their opinions. The draft permits such restrictions without any court resolution, but only by the decision of law-enforcing organs, organs of state executive power and local self-government.
For instance, Article 9 of the law draft introduces the restriction concerning the places of conduction of «public actions» (a term from the draft) – not closer than 50 meters from the Presidents residence, buildings of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine, Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, Constitutional Court of Ukraine, Supreme Court of Ukraine, General Prosecutors office of Ukraine, diplomatic representatives of foreign countries and missions of international organizations, that is the places, which more frequently become the objects of picketing and addressees of protest actions.
Article 10 of the law draft, contrary to Article 39 of the Constitution, establishes the restrictions on time and duration of mass actions: «A public action may be started not earlier than 9 a.m. and must be finished not later than 10 p.m. The maximal duration of a mass action conducted by the same organizer (organizers) may not exceed five hours». The impression appears that this article was written by «theorists» from the Presidential Administration with the purpose to prevent in future the actions similar to students hunger-strike in 1999, the action «Ukraine without Kuchma» and public movements, which became the most important milestones on the way of Ukraine to democracy.
Article 7 of the law draft demands from organizers to present the notification about the conduction of a public action» 10 days before its beginning. On the one hand, the Constitution also demands to inform about mass actions beforehand. Yet, on the other hand, according to the explanation of the Constitutional Court of 19 April 2001, «the term of prior notification about mass actions must be reasonable and must not restrict the right of citizens for assemblies, meetings, street marches and demonstrations, stipulated by Article 39 of the Constitution». The following examples evidence that the term of prior notification equal to 10 days would restrict the right for peaceful assemblies.
The protest meetings against the GKChP, which began in many towns of Ukraine on 20 August 1991, on the next day after the putsch, would be illegal according to the considered draft.
The cases, where, on the eve of election, registration of «improper» candidates is cancelled by decisions of election commissions, are already traditional in Ukraine. It is already impossible to appeal against such decisions to court because of the lack of time, and the only way to express disagreement and try to change the situation before the beginning of voting is mass protest actions. If the Presidents law draft «On assemblies, meetings, street marches and demonstrations» would be approved, then such actions would be illegal! There are many situations, which demand the immediate (on the same or next day) reaction of public, when the events become non-actual after 10 days. And since the moment of the approval of this law draft such public reaction will be prohibited.
A special anxiety is aroused by the provision of the law draft about «law-enforcing organs, organs of executive power and local self-government», which would have the right «to take the decisions about termination or suspension of public actions» (Article 14 of the draft) and «to drive citizens out from the places of conduction of mass actions» (Article 15) without any court decision.
Today the problem with the realization of citizens right for peaceful assemblies becomes especially acute. Along with the problems, which are already usual in Ukraine, another problem has appeared: the election campaign-2004 has begun, and various political forces carry out their mass actions in all regions of Ukraine. One should expect for the burst of political and public activity during the entire 2004, and the realization of citizens right for peaceful assemblies would promote the conduction of honest and open election campaign. That is why we are worried with the presentation by the President of the law draft that restricts the citizens right for peaceful assemblies and which, in fact, is a copy of the notorious Russian law draft that had been recently adopted in the first reading by the State Duma of the Russian Federation.
The Constitution of Ukraine guarantees the right for peaceful assemblies, as well as a number of international documents on human rights. This right is natural and unalienable. This right, together with the freedom of speech, realizes the freedom of expression of citizens. However, contrary to the norms of international right and the Constitution, the Ukrainian power ignores the right of citizens for peaceful assemblies. Systematic violations of citizens rights periodically cause the mass meetings and demonstrations with political, economic and social demands to the power. The organs of state executive power and organs of local self-government, in their turn, try to prevent the conduction of these mass actions or to impede them.
We have already a number of examples of anti-Constitutional impediment to peaceful assemblies: from the dispersal of the tent camp during the action «Ukraine without Kuchma» to the prohibition of the meeting in Mukachevo on 21 April 2004. The Presidents law draft «On assemblies, meetings, street marches and demonstrations» is another attempt to deprive the Ukrainian citizens of their right for assemblies.
In this connection the Institute «Respublika» appeals to the MPs of Ukraine: do not approve the Presidents law draft «On assemblies, meetings, street marches and demonstrations», because it violates the fundamental human rights and freedoms and contradicts Article 39 of the Ukrainian Constitution!