Freedom House Blasts Tymoshenko Ruling
Freedom House denounces the ruling of a Ukrainian court on Tuesday convicting former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko of abuse of power and sentencing her to seven years’ imprisonment. This conviction will have serious consequences for Ukraine’s international standing as well as for its democratic aspirations to greater integration with Europe. In light of the court’s decision, Freedom House urges the European Union to suspend its bilateral negotiations on free trade and association agreements with Ukraine until the Yanukovych government exhibits greater respect for the rule of law.
“This verdict is the culmination of a brazen political persecution that lacked any credibility in the eyes of the international community, ” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House.
To many in the Ukrainian opposition and international community, the case against Tymoshenko, which stems from a 2009 gas deal with Russia, is little more than an attempt by the Yanukovych team to silence and intimidate political opponents. Following the sentencing, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton remarked that "the way the Ukrainian authorities…[treat] universal values and rule of law…risks having profound implications for the EU-Ukraine bilateral relationship, including for the conclusion of the Association Agreement…and our cooperation more broadly.”
“Having warned that there would be consequences if the Tymoshenko case turned out this way, the European Union needs to suspend negotiations on a free trade agreement with Ukraine until Tymoshenko and other unjustly-jailed opposition figures are released and pardoned, ” continued Kramer. “Yanukovych’s trip to Brussels next week should be reconsidered. A Ukraine more firmly anchored in the West will be beneficial to all parties. That is not the Ukraine that we see before us today.”
In addition to serving a prison term, Tymoshenko must pay a fine in the amount of $190 million, the value of state damages that she purportedly caused. Additionally, she is banned from holding political office for three years.
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 as well as implement a credible and unbiased campaign to root out corruption. While the current administration claims that it has also held its own members accountable for corrupt activities, none are of comparable status and importance as Tymoshenko or former minister of internal affairs, Yuriy Lutsenko, who is on trial for misappropriation of funds.
Ukraine is ranked 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 2011.