Tolerance needed not only on paper
The Justice Ministry has presented a draft strategy for fighting discrimination for public discussion. Critics say that measures to counter discrimination will remain words unless the authorities change their attitude to the public.
The strategy was drawn up as part of the Action Plan on Liberalization of the Visa Arrangements between Ukraine and the European Union. According to the Ministry’s explanation, the document proposed would define the essence of State policy on countering manifestations of racism, incitement to religious and ethnic enmity, encroachments of people’s rights and freedoms. The strategy envisages that clear definitions would be introduced into legislation for discrimination, with a list of its manifestations, direct and indirect discrimination, discriminatory attitude, etc. The document also envisages stipulating the State bodies which would fight discrimination; the introduction of regular monitoring of the situation and increased liability for such infringements.
The Ministry asserts that the strategy will make it possible to reduce the number of offences based on intolerance. Its authors state that the norms of the strategy will not have direct force and will therefore not require specific funding.
According to Andriy Didenko from the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, believes that we will not be able to speak of any State strategy on fighting discrimination until the attitude of the authorities changes. At present, he says, this is based on political persecution, abuse of remand in custody, police violence, restrictions on access to penal institutions and so forth.
While doubtless the strategy is a good plan, he adds, in the present climate it seems purely decorative, like many other documents – a form of reporting to international institutions. How can you hope for the development of tolerance in society if the State machine is intolerant to its own citizens? Didenko says that civic organizations are not seeing real steps from the authorities towards cooperation.
The draft strategy will be discussed over the next month, until 20 September. It will be adopted by Presidential Decree.