Observance of the right for peaceful assemblies in Ukraine
Recently the institute “Respublika” has prepared the report on the observance in Ukraine of the right for peaceful assemblies in May-August of the current year. The first part of this report can be found on the site of the Internet-edition “ZMINA”. According to the report, the greatest number of violations of this constitutional right of citizens by law-enforcing organs was fixed during the conduction of mass actions of social character.
On 15 May the Kyiv militia applied force for dispersal of a picket of the action “SOS”, which was held near the building of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine. Participants of the action “SOS”, the parents of the illegally (in their opinion) condemned, informed, within the proper terms, the authorities about the action, and the action was not prohibited by court. However, the picket – several scores of elderly men and women – was dispersed. Participants of the picket got various traumas, which were confirmed by medical establishments, but the Pecherskiy district prosecutors office of Kyiv refused to institute the criminal case after the fact of beating of these people.
The greatest quantity of court prohibitions, application of force by militia and persecutions of the participants was connected with protest actions of students of Sumy universities, directed against integration of several local higher education establishments and appointment of MP O. Tsarenko to the post of the rector of the united university.
On 25 August several thousands of tradesmen of the Kyiv market “Troeshchina” protested against closure of this market and blocked the movement of transport across the Moskovskiy bridge. Militia did not interfere in the events, even when collisions arose among the participants of the meeting and drivers. However, on the next day several tens of the participants of this action (mainly the citizens of Eastern countries) were brought to administrative responsibility and incarcerated for 15 days.
The protest actions of tradesmen of the Kharkov Central market in May were held without any excesses.
In any case the participants of mass actions did not commit violent deeds either against law-enforcers or against other citizens.
It is strange, but none of the political meetings (including the meetings connected with the election campaign) was dispersed by militia.
There are no data about quantity of such meetings in the official sources. The most mass meetings were the demonstration organized on 1 May by parties of different political orientation and the gatherings conducted on 4 July in Kyiv (nomination of candidate V. Yushchenko) and in Zaporozhye (nomination of candidate V. Yanukovich). By the estimation of “Respublika”, more than a thousand of such meetings were conducted in different towns of Ukraine, about 200 thousand citizens took part in these actions. In many cases courts of the first instance prohibited such meetings after the appeals of the organs of local self-government. Most often they prohibited the meetings of opposition parties, but sometimes (for instance, in Lviv) – meetings of the pro-power SDPU (u). The greatest number of court prohibitions concerned the meetings on 1 May (Kyiv, Lviv, Mulachevo, etc.), but such prohibitions were valid also after this day.
For example, the Ordzhonikidzevskiy district court of Zaporozhye prohibited the action of oppositional “Our Ukraine” on 15 May; the Suvorovskiy district court of Kherson satisfied the appeal of the Kherson town executive committee about the restriction of the right of the Kherson organization of the Ukrainian Peoples party and other organizations for the conduction of a meeting on 17 June; the Gorodnianskiy district court of the Chernigiv oblast prohibited the Chernigiv organization of the Socialist party of Ukraine and the Chernigiv union of entrepreneurs to organize the tent camp in the village of Senkivka on 26-27 June during the international festival “Friendship-2004”.
“Respublika” fixed only two cases, where courts of the first instance did not satisfy the appeals of the organs of local self-government about “the restriction of the right for peaceful assemblies” (usually the term “restriction” used in court decisions means “prohibition”): on 19 May the Lutsk town court refused to satisfy the appeal of the Lutsk town executive committee, and on 9 June the Leninskiy district court of Kirovograd did not satisfy the appeal of the Kirovograd town executive committee. In both cases the local authorities tried to prohibit the actions of “Our Ukraine”.
In the majority of cases political organizations did not execute court decisions, since they believed that these decisions violated Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees the right for peaceful assemblies, and militia, for its turn, did not apply force methods against them. At the same time, a number of the participants of oppositional actions experienced persecutions after the end of the actions. So, on 5 May two activists of “Our Ukraine”, Ivan Varchenko and Evhen Zolotariov, were condemned by the Kyivskiy district court of Kharkov to 10 and 15 days of administrative arrest in accordance with Article 185 of the Code on Administrative Offences of Ukraine (for “illegal march” during the action “The last shirt for Yanukovich” conducted by them on 1 May). Later, according to the resolution of V. Pletniov, a judge of the Kyivskiy district court of Kharkov, the term of administrative arrest of Varchenko and Zolotariov was shortened to 3 days. On 22 May Konstantin Sidorenko, who had taken part in protest actions, was detained in Mukachevo. On 25 May the Mukachevo town and district court condemned him after Article 185 of the Administrative Code (“resistance to law-enforcers”) to 5 days of arrest.
The meeting in Simferopol devoted to the 60th anniversary of deportation of Crimean Tatars (by estimate of law-enforcers, about 25 thousand persons took part in it) and series of meetings against the war in Iraq, which were held in May-June (in Kyiv, Sumy, Khmelnitskiy and other towns) and were organized by public and political (communist and socialist parties of Ukraine) organizations may be singled out into a separate category. There were no excesses during these meetings, and the power did not persecute the participants.
By the data of the PR Department of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine, during the period from 1 May to 1 September more than 10 thousand mass actions were held in Ukraine on the days of state holidays; more than 7 million citizens took part in these actions. All these actions took place practically without excesses (except the detention of several soccer fans after the match “Shakhtar” – “Dnipro” and several drunk persons).
During May-September more than 40 sittings of courts of the first instance were carried out, which considered the claims of the organs of local self-government (town executive committees) and local organs of state executive power (oblast state administrations) on restriction of the right of citizens, public and political organizations for peaceful assemblies. Almost in all cases, except two (in Lutsk and Kirovograd), the courts satisfied the claims of the local power organs. In all cases, which were analyzed by the institute “Respublika”, these decisions were groundless. These facts vividly evidence about the dependence of courts of the first instance on the local power organs. In several cases (Mukachevo, Sumy) organizers of the actions handed the complaints to the Appeal courts with the assistance of the institute “Respublika”.
The Appeal courts, as a rule, abrogated (in case of prohibition of meetings) or softened (in cases of administrative arrest of participants of the meetings) the decisions of district and town-district courts, which again confirmed the groundlessness of these decisions. In the majority of cases the courts of the first instance violated a number of procedural norms. For example, the Romny town-district court held its sitting in presence of only one side – a representative of the Sumy oblast state administration and in absence of representatives of students. So, the court listened only to arguments of the power, thus abusing the principles of impartiality and competitiveness. In many cases the courts ignored the presumption of innocence. Court decisions restricted citizens rights, that is the citizens were punished not for real violations, but for “probability” of such violations (in opinion of the claimants and courts), in other words, for the violations that were not committed.
Court resolutions on prohibition of peaceful assemblies are based on non-constitutional grounds, in particular, on the Decree of the Supreme Council of the USSR of 28 July 1988 “On the order of organization and conduction of meetings, rallies, street marches and demonstrations in the USSR”, which contradicts Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine, and the decisions of local councils on organization and conduction of mass actions on the territory of corresponding communities, which decisions, according to the Constitution, may not determine rights and freedoms of citizens.Secretariat of the Council of human rights protecting organiza