10.03.2005 | Olena Goliuk, Kyiv

Are there prisoners of consciousness in Ukraine?


Numerous statements of Ukrainian human rights protectors and competent international human rights protection organizations evidence about resumption in Ukraine, during the Presidential election, of the practice of persecution of dissenters and use of law-enforcing organs as a tool for political struggle. Yet, law-enforcing organs continue to disclaim the facts of mass detentions and arrests of the activists, who peacefully distributed informational materials during the election campaign, publicly expressed their political views and realized their constitutional right for freedom of peaceful assemblies.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights (UHUHR) is extremely anxious about such situation in Ukraine. On the eve of the run-off election of the President of Ukraine this organization turned to Head of the Supreme Council Volodymir Litvin. Representatives of the UHUHR expounded the numerous facts of violation of constitutional rights of citizens and asked to use the legal powers of the Head of the Supreme Council and the authority of the supreme legislative organ for cessation of mass violations of constitutional rights of citizens for free expression of political views, for liberty and personal security, for free movement, etc.

In response to the UHUHR appeal Volodymir Litvin turned to prosecutor’s offices of the regions, where the violations had been observed, with the demand to give explanations concerning the considered problem.

It is not surprising that all answers deny, in every possible way, the accusations of violations of citizens’ rights by law-enforcers.

Prosecutors of only three regions (Sumy, Vinnitsa and Chernihiv) acknowledged the fact of detention of the persons, whose rights were violated.

So, in Sumy, according to the UHUHR materials, a district court condemned to 10 days of administrative arrest 6 persons, who demanded to publish the official protocol on the results of voting at an election station, as it was envisaged by the Law “On election of the President of Ukraine”. They were condemned at a closed court sitting, without advocates and relatives. The international human rights protecting organization Amnesty International acknowledged that these six persons were the first prisoners of consciousness during the years of independence of Ukraine.

Prosecutor’s office of the Sumy region stated that at the moment of the UHUHR’s request this case was considered by the appeal court of the Sumy region, and so, “the prosecutor’s office could not check the legality of the decision issued by the judge on this case and the possibility of the protests against the resolution on bringing these persons to administrative responsibility” until the head of the appeal court would issue the decision.

And in Chernihiv a criminal case was instituted against an activist of “PORA!”: he was accused on distribution of counterfeit money. The regional prosecutor’s office did not draw any conclusions, but assured that it controlled the investigation of this case. Yet, we know that this criminal case was closed because of absence of corpus delicti as early as in December. But whether the law-enforcers, who misused their power, would be punished?

In spite of the fact that it is prohibited to keep the persons with documents in special detention centers, such fact was registered by human rights protectors in Vinnitsa: the incident again was connected with “PORA!” members. They came to Vinnitsa with the goal to carry out agitation work – the activists appealed to citizens to check their names in the lists of voters before the run-off election.

In the course of the check, conducted by the demand of Volodymir Litvin on the basis of the UHUHR appeal, the prosecutor’s office of the Vinnitsa region established that the criminal case against six “disobedient” activists was started in connection with the crime stipulated by part 1 of Article 399 of the Criminal Code (falsification of service documents). A deputy of the regional prosecutor, a senior counselor of justice, informed that the pre-trial investigation was carried out by an investigation officer of Vinnitsa town prosecutor’s office and assured that the course of the investigation was under control.

In other cases, during the checks conducted, in particular, by prosecutor’s offices of the Kherson, Mykolayiv and Poltava regions, no facts of detention of activists of youth organizations were disclosed. Such reaction of law-enforcing organs for the umpteenth time gives grounds to say that in most cases the corresponding organs even did not compile protocols about the detentions.

According to words of Evhen Zakharov, the Head of the board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights, such facts clearly evidence that the activities of law-enforcing organs have been aimed at persecution of activists of public organizations, was not based on laws and contradicted the provisions of the International treaty on civil and political rights, as well as the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Today the mass illegal actions against public activists have stopped. However, we may not forget those, who have suffered. And now, when the situation in our country is very unstable yet, it is very important for human rights protectors and other competent organizations to be very careful while controlling the activities of the organs of state power.

13 January 2005

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