17.03.2007 | Halya Coynash

The Fun and games are over


We’ve all seen comedies where some inept impostor or simply chance passer-by suddenly becomes a doctor, director, King or President.  You roar with laughter at the total mismatch and the idiotic situations it leads to.

In life, for some reason, it’s much less amusing. Especially when you’re watching lawmakers who spend an inordinate amount of time playing their inexplicable games and clearly devote little time to either learning about the law or heaven forbid, seeking to adhere to it.

This is a subject so sadly monotonous that it’s hard to say much that is original. It does happen that pig ignorance and indifference to the law make otherwise mediocre politicians more creative, or at least flamboyant, than one might expect.

And if one adds surreal incongruity, a story can be had.

Take for example, the stubborn unwillingness of communist State Deputy and Head of the Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-ethnic Relations to emerge from the dark ages. We will leave Mr Grach’s political views as between him and his maker (-?). However as Head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on HUMAN RIGHTS, one would hardly expect to hear that “the State should protect people from such evil as homosexuality, lesbianism and suchlike”.

How should they protect them, Mr Grach? Would you like the way they “protected” England from Oscar Wilde over a hundred years ago? Or the way the Nazis chose? Or can you find satisfactory options among old and familiar Soviet models?

Mr Grach’s comments have been coming thick and fast over the last few months (cf. for about as much detail as can be stomached in one sitting).

I am prompted to drag this all out of the woodwork by another piquant nuance. A response was received over the last few days to a complaint made to the Verkhovna Rada’s Authorized Human Rights Representative (loosely known as the Human Rights Ombudsperson). The request made was to publicly denounce the xenophobic opinions expressed by Leonid Grach.

The response (see below for the letter in full) states: “Each citizen has the right to express his or her views which may not always be shared by other members of society”.

This may seem laudable in its commitment to freedom of speech however it is not entirely correct, since there are opinions and opinions. Inciting enmity is a crime under the Criminal Code not only of Ukraine.  Mr Grach is also clearly calling for a discriminatory policy against sexual minorities. The Human Rights Ombudsperson is obliged to react to such calls to discrimination, especially from public officials.

Most importantly, Mr Leonid Grach is indeed a citizen however he is also a State Deputy, a representative of the people and, most incredibly, the Head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Human Rights.

Surely some better response could have been expected from a person appointed to defend human rights?

Unfortunately this would seem a tall order from the present “Human Rights Ombudsperson”. In the month since Nina Karpachova returned from her sojourn as State Deputy and Mr Grach’s Coalition colleague, she might as well have been on holiday for all the impact she has made upon human rights.

It would be well worth Ms Karpachova and Mr Grach taking note that civic society is under no misapprehension about a lot of things and does not suffer from their blurred understanding of human rights. We are fully aware that we have the right, first and foremost, to live in a law-based and constitutional republic, and to know that those appointed to represent our interests do precisely that.

And since the said individuals, and many of their colleagues, appear unwilling or unable to understand this, we will be monitoring all of their activities and providing information to the public on every occasion where their interests and rights are being flagrantly ignored. And whether or not the stories have “punch”, they will be told until such time as those in power understand that there is a limit to their voters’ patience.

And let those who are obliged to defend human rights understand that once and for all.


The letter from the Secretariat of the Human Rights Ombudsperson in full.

  Having examined the interview given by L. Grach to the newspaper “Kommersant Ukraina” in which L. Grach expressed his attitude to representatives of the centre which you head, we found no mention of any specific names.  Each citizen has the right to express his or her views which may not always be shared by other members of society. The Human Rights Ombudsperson, in accordance with the Constitution of Ukraine and the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson, exercises parliamentary control over the observance of constitutional human and citizens’ rights and freedoms. The area of his or her activities, as set out in Article 2 of the above-mentioned law “are the relations which arise in exercising human and civil rights and liberties only between the citizen and state bodies, bodies of local self-government, their officials and functionaries”. You are approaching the Human Rights Ombudsperson on behalf of a civic organization with a request to condemn a person for expressing his opinions. Such requests cannot be met since the defence of an organization does not fall within the area of activity of the

Human Rights Ombudsperson”

Yours sincerely,

Adviser I. Tarhulova, on the instructions of the Human Rights Ombudsperson


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