No time limit on justice
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko intends in the near future to submit a draft law in parliament on recognizing Holodomor [the artificially induced Famine of 1932 – 1933] an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people.
He has said that he plans to do this before 25 November – which will mark 75 years since Holodomor during which, according to some figures, more than 10 million people died.
Holodomor has been recognized as genocide by parliaments in ten countries, yet in Ukraine itself the mass extermination of Ukrainians by the Soviet authorities has still to be recognized in legislation. Will the present Verkhovna Rada vote to recognize Holodomor as genocide, and what legal ramifications will such a law have? The BBC Ukrainian Service put these questions to the Director of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, Ihor Yukhnovsky:
I. Yukhnovsky: First, the law establishes that Holodomor took place. Secondly it makes public denial of Holodomor illegal, and punishable by law. It attests to the criminal nature of the regime in power during Holodomor.
- So that means that people could face punishment. Specifically who?
I. Yukhnovsky: In the first instance those who should be punished are the perpetrators, those who organized the whole thing and those who implemented it.
- Yet those who were directly complicit are long dead. Who then should answer for these crimes?
I. Yukhnovsky: In fact the crime which is connected with Holodomor, in accordance with international conventions, and the UN resolution, does not have any time limit. That means that it will always be deemed a crime and should be punished accordingly. I imagine that the majority of those people who committed the crime have died, and nobody will start looking for them. They will be condemned posthumously.
- The draft law which the President is to present for parliaments consideration says that people who suffered from Holodomor will receive compensation. Is material compensation meant, and if so, for whom?
I. Yukhnovsky: This is undoubtedly about the villages in which the genetic fund was wiped out. The state must understand that villages suffered terrible damage and they need much more investment. This is so that firstly, the countryside can get a psychological lift, that it gets a cultural lift, and so that it can be raised materially. The present state which bears no guilt, must take upon itself compensation for the damage which the former regime inflicted upon the countryside. The new law will facilitate this.
- Does the law envisage opening up all the archives which relate to Holodomor?
I. Yukhnovsky: The SBU [State Security Service] has essentially made public all archives on Holodomor and historians are able to freely visit them. However the Institute of National Remembrance should process and produce the relevant data base of all the archives pertaining to these issues. This was not only Holodomor, but also the deportation and resettlements, and these are under the Ministry of Internal Affairs. These archives should therefore also be joined to the others, and made public. Those archives named all the people who fought against the Soviet Bolshevik regime criminals. The task must be to restore the good name of all those people.
- Will there be another votes at present in the Verkhovna Rada to legislate recognition of Holodomor as genocide?
I. Yukhnovsky: As far as this is concerned, I had a conversation with the head of the Party of the Regions Raisa Bohatyryova. The point is that among those Ukrainians born in the Donbas region, and in eastern Ukraine, there are virtually no families who did not suffer from the persecution. Ms Bohatyryova said that she would enable me to meet with the faction. She thinks that not all of them will come, however a significant number of people from that faction who care about Ukrainian identity will certainly come.
- So you believe that by 25 November, the 75th anniversary of Holodomor, this law may be voted in by the Verkhovna Rada?
I. Yukhnovsky: I would like this very much and really hope so, and will exert every effort in this direction.