Freedom House Denounces Arrest and Continued Harassment of Yulia Tymoshenko
Freedom House today expresses its outrage at the arrest of former Ukrainian prime minister and opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko and calls for her immediate release. This action, which lacks any credibility in the eyes of the international community or among many Ukrainians, is the latest round in the government’s relentless persecution of Tymoshenko and other leading political opponents.
On August 5, prosecutor Lilya Frolova submitted an application to the Ukrainian court, where Tymoshenko is currently on trial for abuse of office, claiming the former prime minister had acted unruly while interrogating current prime minister, Mykola Azarov, whom she accused of corruption. The court upheld this application, citing “systematic violations by [Tymoshenko], including impeding the questioning of witnesses.” The trial itself has been marred by serious breaches of procedure. The court denied Tymoshenko legal representation on two occasions and held proceedings without her or her legal counsel present. Moreover, Ukrainian law does not allow for such petitions to be submitted while a witness is being interrogated.
“We have always been of the opinion that the legal campaign against Tymoshenko represents a misuse of legal proceedings to put pressure on opposition politicians, ” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. “This latest development has moved this situation from the absurd to the outrageous and reinforces the perception that the current administration is selectively prosecuting Tymoshenko as a means to silence her. For the United States and the European Union to view Ukraine as a viable partner, Ukraine must do more to show its commitment to rule of law and put an end to such spurious proceedings.”
In addition to Tymoshenko, former minister of the interior, Yuriy Lutsenko is also on trial, for misappropriation of funds. In its report “Sounding the Alarm: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine, ” Freedom House cites selective prosecutions as one of the impediments to democratic development in Ukraine and calls on officials to halt such proceedings while maintaining a credible campaign to root out corruption. While the current administration points to over 400 current officials who are currently on trial, none of them is directed at individuals of comparable status and importance as Tymoshenko or Lutsenko.
Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2011, Freedom House’s survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press.