On the proposed amendments to the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression
As reported already, on 9 February the Verkhovna Rada passed as base a draft law, submitted by the President, on amendments to the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression (regarding the status of people who suffered in childhood from political repression). The National Society of Former Political Prisoners and Victims of Repression estimates the number of people who suffered in childhood as the result of political repression at 14.5 thousand.
The draft law (reg. №5040 ) proposes adding provisions which define the legal status of people who in childhood suffered from repression (as children of victims of repression) and guarantees of their social defence.
According to the draft law, victim of political repression status would be given to people born of women who were at the time serving terms of imprisonment or held against their will in medical establishments and later rehabilitated; those who up to the age of 18 were together with their parents, one of whom was serving a term of imprisonment, exile, resettlement or in a special settlement, and later rehabilitated; or who had before the age of 18 been left without parental care, where one or both parents had been repressed and later rehabilitated in accordance with the law.
The draft law also proposes extending the list of benefits envisaged by the Law “On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression in Ukraine” for those rehabilitated to people recognized as having suffered political repression. These include housing benefits, the opportunity to receive concessionary trips to sanatoriums for those who are disabled or pensioners, free use of public transport and some medical benefits, including a 50 % discount on prescription drugs.
The draft law was opposed by representative of the Communists in parliament, Adam Martynyuk whose justification for his faction’s opposition was that “yet more benefits were being introduced for those who in the past were punished by the Soviet regime for committing crimes.” The worth of such arguments, especially given that it was the children of victims that were in question, was well-challenged by National Deputies from other factions.
The draft law received 228 votes. Neither the Communists nor the Party of the Regions voted for it.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Group has on a number of occasions approached the Verkhovna Rada with an analysis of the flaws in the Law on the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Repression.
Unlike Russia where more or less the same problems arose but were dealt with by introducing the appropriate amendments, in Ukraine the Law from 17.04.91 has never been reviewed, although no less than 10 versions of amendments or new versions of the Law were submitted to parliament from various organizations or individuals.
There would seem some hope of improvement now, however in our view the draft law needs some clarification and amendments. It only establishes status of victim of political repression with regard to the children of victims of repression. This is illogical and unjust in relation to their parents, mainly their mothers, who suffered enormously because of their arrested spouse, being driven out of their work, homes, and prevented from providing for those children whom the law would protect. According to the logic of this draft law, for example, the son of former dissident and political prisoner Viacheslav Chornovil Taras Chornovil would gain victim status, while his mother Atena Pashko would not.
We are also convinced that people born in places of deprivation of liberty or who were held them when under 18, together with their parents, should be recognized as victims of political repression.
We would also note that the draft law should entitle benefits to all victims regardless of the grounds for the unlawful repression, whether this be articles of the Criminal Code, administrative forced resettlement, forced treatment, etc.
There are ever fewer victims remaining from the repressions and it is vital that they live to receive justice and acknowledgement of the State’s debt to them.
Over recent years in Kharkiv there has been a programme to protect retirement age members of families – widows and children of victims of political repression, who were rehabilitated in accordance with this law. In Kharkiv with its population of 1.5 million there are around 300 people who receive a 25% discount in communal charges, which together with benefits for children of the War (and almost all of the 300 fall into this category), this constitutes a 50% concession on such communal charges.