“Respublica” Institute speaks of systematic abuse of freedom of assembly
The “Respublica” Institute, a civic organization which monitors observance of freedom of assembly has issued a statement in which it speaks of systematic abuse of the right to freedom of assembly in 2008.
It states that this right, enshrined in Ukraines Constitution and the European Convention on Human Rights, was infringed by representatives of the Presidential Secretariat, the local authorities, the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the courts though unwarranted bans on rallies, pickets and demonstrations, or obstructions to these.
“The most infringements of freedom of assembly this year have been over protests against NATO and the joint Ukraine-NATO military exercise “Sea Breeze”. This, and also the fact that those taking part in an action in support of NATO organized by the pro-Presidents party “Our Ukraine” were not subjected to any constraints by the authorities gives grounds for believing that the repression against members of the anti-NATO meetings to have been politically motivated.”
The executive authorities and courts either banned or obstructed peaceful gatherings:
- protesting against construction work, for example, in Kyiv;
- where people were trying to approach the President to have their problems heard;
- protesting against any suggestion of Ukraine joining NATO and the military exercises “Sea Breeze”.
1) On 18 March the Kyiv Police without the necessary court warrant tried to disperse a rally of civic organizations against commercial construction work on the territory of the Zhovtneva Hospital. A Kyiv journalist A. Manchuk received considerable injuries. It was only after the intervention of an adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs that the protesters were left alone.
On 7 June the Kyiv police detained seven participants in a protest against construction work on Umanska St in Kyiv. The action had not been banned by the court, and among those detained were 5 Russian nationals and a journalist. Having no grounds for detaining them, the police resorted to charges of resisting the Police (Article 185 of the Code of Administrative Offences), although the detentions took place an hour and a half after the picket when the protesters had dispersed. They were released after the intervention of representatives of human rights organizations and the Human Rights Ombudsperson.
2) On 9 May people waiting for President Yushchenko on a road near Kyiv to hand him an appeal on personal issues were detained by the police on the instructions of an employee of the Presidential Secretariat. They were accused of not having given notification of a picket however they did not see their gathering as a picket or political meeting.
During the visits to President Yushchenko of George Bush and then Chancellor Merkel, all pickets outside the Presidential Secretariat were dispersed without any court order.
As already reported here, on 27 June the Uzhhorod City-District Court banned until the end of the summer (until 31 August this year) rallies outside the Transcarpathian Regional Administration.
The court allowed an application from the City Prosecutor Oleksandr Stratyuk who had asked to establish this restriction on the right to hold mass events in Uzhhorod. He referred in his application to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 28 July 1988 «On the procedure for the organization of meetings, political rallies, street events and demonstrations in the USSR»
On 19 June the Ordzhonikidze District Court in Zaporizhya on the basis of that same Decree banned a protest action by the “Our Ukraine” party on Freedom Square.
3) On 3 July the Odessa District Administrative Court banned the Progressive Socialist Party and “all other legal entities” from demonstrating in the district of the region where the joint Ukraine-NATO exercises were being held. The ban was from 3 to 31 July inclusive. “Respublica” states that the Constitution only allows for such restriction in the case of an emergency.
On 7 July, on the basis of the above-mentioned court ruling, a tent city of opponents of NATO was dismantled. Several protesters were injured, with three taken to hospital. Two of the latter were acquitted by the court and released confirmed that they had done nothing against the law.
In the statement two other occasions are noted where the police watched while a group attacked anti-NATO protesters; where border guard officials detained people using rubber boats to protest at the military exercises.
On 22 July members of the SBU [Security Service] together with the local police prevented an anti-NATO protest in the town of Tenichevsk in the Kherson region. Notice had been given of this protest and there had been no court ban. The protest did not take place due to the flagrant interference of the enforcement bodies including the detention of one of the organizers released without charges after intervention from human rights organizations.
The “Respublica” Institute believes that these infringements indicate a regression in observance of freedom of assembly in Ukraine in 2008.