Ukrainian human rights organizations present Human Rights in Ukraine 2009 – 2010
The human rights organizations’ report on the human rights situation in the country during 2009 and 2010 was presented at a press conference on 24 February. Over 40 human rights organizations from all regions of Ukraine took part in preparing the report which contains 26 sections.
Problems inherited from the previous regime have become worse
Following the 2010 presidential elections, the President and government inherited systemic problems regarding human rights: wide-scale flagrant violations of the right to a fair trial; to protection from torture and other forms of unlawful violence; wrongful detentions; the poverty of a significant percentage of the population; discrimination against vulnerable groups in society and much more.
The actions of the authorities during 2010 not only failed to address these problems, but actually curtailed the few positive processes which had begun and demonstrated new trends with respect to human rights abuse and disregard for such rights and freedoms.
The human rights organizations point out that there is virtually no response from the authorities and bodies of local self-government to appeals from the public, protests against unlawful actions or reports of human rights violations. These are simply ignored.
At the same time, protest is on the increase. During the first 6 months of 2010 the number of peaceful gatherings was around 30% higher than that for all of 2009. During the second half of 2010 there was a clear increase again. The leaders of the country should therefore understand that using force to put pressure on society will only exacerbate conflict. Unfortunately, however, the regime instead resorted in the second half of 2010 to overtly political prosecutions.
Among politically motivated criminal prosecutions the human rights activists name the criminal proceedings against protesters who took part in the mass protest against the new Tax Code in Kyiv; members of the organizations “Tryzub” and VO “Svoboda”, as well as former high-ranking officials in Yulia Tymoshenko’s government, such as former Minister of Internal Affairs, Yury Lutsenko and former Deputy Minister of Justice, Yevhen Korniychuk.
Virtually all the civic activists who received administrative sentences under Articles 185 or 185-1 of the Code of Administrative Offences (infringement of the rules for organizing peaceful gatherings) can a priori be considered victims of political persecution!
Freedom of Peaceful Assembly (all the following are addressed in detailed in the report)
There were far more infringements of freedom of peaceful assembly in 2010 than during the entire period from 2005 to 2009. The Minister of Internal Affairs even stated that for peaceful gatherings there needed to be “some big field on the outskirts of Kyiv where nobody will disturb anyone else”. Traffic Police officers obstructed people from many regions of the country trying to reach Kyiv for an opposition rally on 11 May (as well as believers from the Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate in late July – translator). Transport companies were warned that they would lose their licence if they took people to the rally. None of the national TV channels, except STB, reported this.
Freedom of Expression
Both Ukrainian and international commentators pointed to a significant deterioration in freedom of expression. There have been a large number of cases where information of public importance was either muffed or distorted in the media. Manipulation of the news and commissioning of pro-government reporting have become common, and the opposition had less access to broadcasting time.
There has been harassment and cases of violence against journalists, trade union, civic and human rights activists. Those guilty of offences have not been held to answer.
The right to a fair trial
After the adoption of the Law on the Judicial System and Status of Judges, the public received swift, but unfair court proceedings from dependent judges. The law passed needs revision in order to ensure fair courts and real independence of the judiciary.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and human rights
There were considerably more violations of human rights during 2010 than in 2009. Reports of torture and other forms of unlawful violence by law enforcement officers, sometimes with lethal consequences, became more common. According to monitoring carried out by the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research and the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, the estimated number of people who had suffered from such unlawful violence from the police during 2010 stood at 780-790 thousand, against 604 thousand in 2009.
There are also infringements of the rights of police officers themselves who are totally dependent on the management and often forced to work 10-14 hours without paid overtime, and earn little. In many district police departments there aren’t even toilets.
The reports Human Rights in Ukraine have been published annually since 2004. Their analysis and assessment of the overall human rights situation in the country are used by Ukrainian and international organizations.