Ukraine’s Parliament may restrict the right to hold meetings
The Verkhovna Rada may pass in its second reading and as a whole a draft law which threatens to significantly restrict freedom of peaceful assembly in Ukraine. According to the Verkhovna Rada schedule, draft law No. 2450 “On the procedure for organizing and holding peaceful gatherings” could be voted on between 1-4 June.
According to Mykhailo Lebed from the Foundation of Regional Initiatives, the draft law, in breach of the Constitution and Ukraine’s international commitments, contains a number of restrictions on the rights of individuals and civic organizations. He mentions the following:
- Proposed restrictions on the places where meetings can be held;
- Timeframes established for holding protest actions;
- Proposed increase in the powers of the police and civic servants in obstructing the expression of will of citizens.
He adds that the adoption of this draft law would lead to an effective ban on spontaneous peaceful gatherings. “Such anti-democratic laws are already in force, for example, in Kazakhstan and Belarus, where they are systematically applied against civic activists and also ordinary members of the public.”
It should be stressed that the repressive norms contained in this draft law are already de facto in force in some Ukrainian cities. As reported already, on 15 May the Kharkiv police prevented activists from holding a peaceful protest march against dirt on the city’s streets. Two activists from the Democratic Alliance were even detained. This was without any court order, at the decision of a body of local self-government.
In Kharkiv in the last few days, another charitable action “Heart to Heart”, which activists from the Foundation of Regional Initiatives was to take part in, was banned.
These actions by the city authorities are categorically in breach of current legislation. The City Executive Committee had been informed of both events, as is required by Article 39 of the Constitution, and there were no court bans in either case. There are at present no other requirements or permits needed from the authorities.
“These actions demonstrate that the authorities have a clear and consistent plan for encroaching upon civil liberties. There is, therefore, a fairly strong likelihood that this draft law which seriously restricts freedom of peaceful assembly in Ukraine will be passed,” Mykailo Lebed believes.
Last week the Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylev said that he would like to set aside a place on the outskirts of Kyiv for political rallies (see http://www.khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1273661610 ). Such an idea is expressed in Draft Law No. 2450.
A comprehensive – and damning – analysis of the draft law in danger of being adopted can be found at: http://helsinki.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1253615544