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21.04.2010 | Halya Coynash

What time would suit, Mr President?

   

A report on President Yanukovych’s official website yesterday stated that “The President is to meet with human rights activists”.

One can only welcome the President’s intention “to meet with a broad range of human rights activists and discuss issues regarding the human rights situation in Ukraine”. Welcome, and organize the time and place. Human rights activists will be there.

It is quite unclear why Mr Yanukovych did not take a similar opportunity offered a month ago. He did not even respond to the invitation to come to the Civic Forum on 19 March and meet with civic and human rights activists, journalists and others. It was intended as an opportunity for Ukrainians to put their questions to the new President and inform him about the situation in their regions.

Mr Yanukovych did not attend and did not even send a representative of his Administration. Those present had to make do with a cardboard President which is not a lot of good when you have a large number of questions that urgently need answering. One also has the disturbing impression that the President is not too adept at differentiating real human rights defenders from those on paper.

It is a skill worth having and particularly vital following the President’s dissolution of a large number of commissions and advisory bodies, including the National Commission on the Strengthening of Democracy and Affirmation of the Rule of Law.

There would seem a rather specific understanding in the President’s Press Service of what a report should contain. There is exceedingly little information of somewhat questionable accuracy.

We read, for example, that:

“The Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylev informed the President today about his implementation of the President’s instructions with regard to ensuring that police bodies respect human rights”

Now it doesn’t create a wonderfully positive appearance to report on non-implementation of instructions, but facts are facts, and the instructions were not carried out. This, however, the unobservant reader might not notice, since we learn:

This concerned the President’s criticism of the decision to abolish within the Ministry of Internal Affairs the department checking and monitoring human rights observance. Viktor Yanukovych stressed the need to renew such monitoring”.

On 29 March on that same site there was a report stating that the President had called “the part of the MIA structure which deals with human rights” ill-considered, and said that the decision needed to be reviewed. “Steps must be taken to broaden measures to protect human rights, not the opposite.”

            It is not stated whether the President knew which part of the MIA structure deals with human rights, but the course of this briefing does seem to indicate that he’s not too au fait in this subject.

            The Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police has been effectively dissolved, and all Regional Human Rights Assistants to the Minister have been dismissed.

            So everything criticized at the meeting on 29 March has gone ahead to the last letter despite strong opposition from human rights organizations and civic society.

            Later one suspects that the President’s Press Service take us for total idiots. I quote::

            ““The Minister of Internal Affairs in implementation of the President’s instructions has added to the board of the MIA the well-known human rights activist Edward Bagirov. A Public Council on Human Rights attached to the MIA is to be created with him as Chair.”

            There is a great deal which could be said about the more than dubious reputation of this “human rights activist”. Suffice it to note that representatives of European and international structures, including the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner meet with other human rights activists during visits to Ukraine. With those, for example, who to this day chair the entirely functional Public Council on Human Rights attached to the MIA and the councils attached to regional departments of the MIA.

Yet the Minister intends to “create” already existent councils and head them with “well-known human rights activists.”

One is forced to conclude that they have not only refused to back down on closing an effective department which made it possible to efficiently respond to human rights abuse, but have now turned their gaze to the public councils which they will try to fill with pseudo-human rights activists.

And all of this is presented as if in response to the criticism of a President concerned about human rights.

Hardly convincing, gentlemen!  The response from the member of one Regional Council is unequivocal:

“It would be a good idea for the Public Council under the Ministry to remind them that we are not officials to be easily driven out, that we recognize only that regime which recognizes succession of managerial responsibility, and that nobody has yet changed the Council Regulations, drawn up by civic organizations and agreed with the authorities”.

If the President is really being so badly informed, then he really does need to meet with human rights activists. There’s plenty to tell him about.

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