The Regime must not stop reforms in the field of human rights


After the inauguration of the new President of Ukraine, human rights activists called upon the Ukrainian President and his Government to carry out immediate reforms aimed at affirming human rights and fundamental freedoms and at ensuring that these are fully exercised. ( It should be noted that the new regime has demonstrated the political will to improve the present situation and has made efforts to achieve the implementation of some rights and freedoms. However, certain fundamental rights and freedoms remain a myth for Ukrainians. Moreover, the principle of the rule of law is not in evidence either in the decisions of the President of Ukraine (for example, the systematic violation of procedures for appointing officials and other constitutional norms) or of the Cabinet of Ministers (one can take the cases concerning re-privatization as an example).

We consider that, in order to ensure the continuation of democratic development and to guarantee the implementation of fundamental rights and freedoms, the present regime must now, even before the elections, take real steps towards achieving fundamental changes, in particular the following:
1. It is crucial that investigations are immediately begun into the activity of the organizers of mass violations of human rights which took place in the past, especially those during the elections. Despite the fact that a large number of those who carried out the activities have been punished (with over 700 criminal investigations launched against over 6 thousand people), as of today not one case against the organizers of the vote rigging of the presidential elections has ended in a court conviction. Nor have those who ordered other notorious crimes, in particular, the murder of Georgy Gongardze, been uncovered. It is similarly important before the next elections to complete the investigation into past economic crimes and to direct each such case to the court in order to eliminate speculation as to the existence of political repression in the country. Moreover, law enforcement bodies should not make selective use of criminal legislation.
2. There should be immediate declassification of illegally classified legal acts of the President of the Ukraine, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, the General Prosecutor and other executive bodies which are hidden under the illegal and unconstitutional stamps “Not to be printed”, “Not to be published” and “For official use only”. (OU)”. Since the new regime came to power, 43 Decrees have been issued by the President of Ukraine with the illegal stamp “Not to be printed”, while there have been 16 decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine either with the stamp “OU” (3 decisions) or “Not to be published” (13 decisions). In the past such acts concealed misuses of power and “buying favours” in the form of various supplementary benefits to State officials from whom the taking of this or that decision was expected at a later stage.

3. It would be expedient to reassess the amendments adopted to the Constitution since these, in our view, are contradictory, jeopardize the effective functioning of power and reduce the safeguarding of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Unfortunately, the conclusions of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine have not resolved this problem.
4. Amendments are urgently needed to the Law of Ukraine “On the Constitutional Court of Ukraine” in order to provide citizens with the right to make individual complaints about the unconstitutionality of legal acts of executive bodies, this being a basic safeguard of the observance of constitutional rights and freedoms in democratic countries. It should be noted that the regime is even avoiding discussing this issue.

5. New Draft versions of a Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine and of a Penal Code of Ukraine are required based on constitutional guarantees and international standards of protection of human rights, as well as on positive international practice. The versions of these codes presently in force provide unlimited powers to law enforcement bodies, limit the right to protection, the right to a fair court review and other rights and freedoms. The changes made in certain posts in the law enforcement bodies have not stopped and will not stop their systemic abuse, the latter continuing at present, albeit on a smaller scale.

6 It is vital to begin real public control over the activity of law enforcement bodies of Ukraine, as well as public monitoring of places of deprivation of liberty. We welcome the efforts of the Minister of Internal Affairs with regard to beginning to resolve the issue of preventing torture and cruel treatment in police units, in particular, through the creation of mobile groups for monitoring the situation. However, we would note that in this direction efforts need to be increased. Unfortunately, we must note that the new people who have taken over managerial positions in the State Penal Department are taking steps which only worsen the situation and distance the public from the reform process of the penitentiary system.

7. It would be expedient for the President and the Verkhovna Rada to resolve the issue concerning the creation of public television and radio broadcasting in Ukraine on the principles of State ownership and public control. Unfortunately, up to now all efforts by the public to introduce this institution have met with a lack of understanding of the issue by certain executive bodies (the President, the Council of National Security and Defence, the State Committee for Television and Radio, etc) and State officials who often, moreover, manipulate information about the role of State television in Europe.

8. The Part of Order № 122 of the State Committee for Communications from 17 June 2002 which imposes the obligation upon Internet providers to install equipment for surveillance over Internet users, including providing access to their electronic mail should be immediately cancelled. On the basis of this, a system of unaccountable and illegal surveillance of individuals by the Security Service of Ukraine has been introduced. All criminal cases involving wire tapping of prominent politicians and businesspeople should also be brought to completion. It should be noted that Ukraine remains a leader in the number of permits for wire tapping issued.

We would also note that human rights activists are baffled by such initiatives from the regime which are unacceptable in democratic countries as the following: the introduction of new plastic passports where under one number it will be possible to collect and receive all information about an individual this establishing a mechanism for total control over each individual which is typical of totalitarian countries;
the attempt of executive bodies to control the Internet by trying to introduce registration of information resources and establishment of control over the domain .ua;
the ban on journalists and the mass media commenting on the public appearances and actions of politicians during election campaign which will, according to the new law, be treated as political advertising.

„Dekuchmization”, the aim of which was to avoid the “slipping back” which takes place after every revolution has not become a reality. Impassioned reporting from journalists has not dislodged the old habits of the majority of bureaucrats of the regime and it would seem that the new regime in certain aspects is turning into the successor of the Kuchma era in all its shameful practice. For this reason, the regime must continue the fundamental reforms begun even before the parliamentary elections.

Yevhen Zaharov
Chairperson of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Volodymyr Yavorsky
Program Director

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