Discrimination on language grounds?


The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has expressed disappointment and concern that none of its recommendations were heeded by the Verkhovna Rada which on 5 November passed a Law “On amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine on liability for crimes based on racial, ethnic or religious intolerance”.

The bill, for example, imposes criminal liability for discrimination on the basis of language. UHHRU believes that this could lead to manipulation of the “notorious language issue”. The activities of publications in Ukrainian or Russian could be under threat if, on the basis of the amended law, an author who writes, for example, in Romanian approaches them. “On receiving a refusal to publish the text in the original language, the author could turn to the courts, alleging discrimination on the basis of language. And they will have a chance of proving their case.”

UHHRU notes also that the law clashes with other legislation. “For example, the Administrative Code establishes that the administrative process is conducted in the State language. However a Russian speaker, for example, will be able, on the basis of the Article of the Criminal Code, to demand that the proceedings are in Russian. There is nothing terrible about this but which law are judges to use?”

As reported here, the Law imposes penalties for deliberate acts aimed at inciting ethnic, racial or religious enmity and hatred, denigrating national honour or dignity, or offending the feelings of citizens with regard to their religious convictions, as well as direct or indirect restrict of their rights or establishment of direct or indirect privileges on the basis of race, skin colour, political, religious or other convictions, gender, ethnic or social origin, property, place of residence, language or other grounds


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