The Right to the Truth: past, present and future
Over the second half of 2006 and the beginning of 2007, the “Maidan” Alliance and the Civic Information and Methodology Centre “Vsesvit” [“Universe”], with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation, carried out a project on “Ensuring the publics right of access to information about the activities of the authorities”
The monitoring focused on sending formal requests for information in accordance with Article 34 of the Constitution and the Law on Information. 24 State authorities were sent in all 292 requests for information regarding their activities, observance of peoples constitutional rights, freedoms and interests. The information received was published on the “Maidan” site, and used by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group in preparing annual reports on human rights in Ukraine.
(For comparison: in 2005 42.03% of information requests were met)
Formal requests for information in 2006:
The information was provided in 45.73% of the cases
The request was met in part 4.78%
Fob offs received 2.73%
Request for information turned down 26.67%
Request ignored 18.09%
A study was made in parallel of the attitude of local authorities and bodies of local self-government in various regions. The highest percentage of requests met (66.67%) was in the Kirovohrad region and the lowest – in the Transcarpathian region (4.25%). The study cannot be considered fully representative since it was only carried out in a third of the countrys regions.
An analysis of the answers received and the contradictions identified in how various State bodies interpreted the same norms of the Constitution and laws gave us ample grounds for making a submission to the Constitutional Court. Unfortunately the Courts Secretariat blocked the submission despite the glaring examples of ambiguity in applying the law.
- The Prosecutor General provided information about the number of investigations launched under some articles of the Criminal Code, while turning down absolutely analogous information requests regarding other articles stating that “the provision of such information is in contravention of the law”;
- The Ministry of Justice, having acknowledged that the use of stamps restricting access to normative acts is unlawful, in other cases refused to declassify acts bearing such stamps;
- One and the same judge of the same Holosiyivsky Court in Kyiv on the very same day in two suits regarding defence of the right to information which we are convinced were identical issued two diametrically opposed rulings;
- The Constitutional Court itself refused to provide information in a situation where other state bodies had provided it;
So our constitutional submission was not accepted. We had considered using legal means of responding to the unlawful actions of the Constitutional Court however, considering recent events around this Court, we are not especially inclined to give the Court, with its present members and given the influence of political factors, much significance.
Instead, thanks to the International Renaissance Foundation and using the “Maidan” Alliances network of civic activists and experience gained, we are beginning a new phase. During this stage we will:
- Determine by studying the opinion of various groups of respondents (State bodies, bodies of local self-government, political parties and regional branches, civic organizations, the media and the visitors to the “Maidan” site) the seven most obstructed constitutional rights and liberties.
- Identify, via expert studies, the range of information whose timely and full provision is vital to ensure the exercising of each of these rights.
- Carry out monitoring [active and passive] of the publics access to this information.
- On the basis of the above, we will be able to draw socially important conclusions regarding the level of real observance by the State as represented by its agencies and officials of the relevant rights and liberties, as well as of the right to information.
We consider these socially important since they will enable us to reach a central conclusion, namely the level of compliance by the State of the fundamental norms of Article 57 § 2 “Everyone is guaranteed the right to know his or her rights and duties” and Article 3 § 2 of the Constitution “Human rights and freedoms and their guarantees determine the essence and orientation of the activity of the State. …To affirm and ensure human rights and freedoms is the main duty of the State”
And then a crucial conclusion as to whether the people - the bearers of sovereignty have grounds for applying to the State authorities, regardless of the political colours of those occupying positions of power, the other norm of Article 3 of the Constitution: “The State is answerable to the individual for its activity”.
State bodies sent information requests included:
The Ministry of Employment and Social Policy of Ukraine
The Security Service [SBU]
The State Committee of Statistics
The State Department for the Execution of Sentences
The State Judicial Administration
The Ministry of Justice
The Ministry of Internal Affairs
The Ministry of Defence
The State Tax Administration
The Prosecutor General of Ukraine
The Ministry of Health