Zero Tolerance for Political Persecution in Ukraine
Open Appeal to the President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych (email address for endorsing the appeal below)
We call on you as Head of State and Guarantor of the Constitution to put an end to the increasing number of flagrant violations of the right to a fair trial.
Of deep concern are the arrest, court trial and sentencing of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko; the detention and prosecution of former Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko; and of the former Acting Defence Minister Valery Ivashchenko.
Failure to react to clear evidence that the judiciary and enforcement agencies are being used for political ends can only confirm well-founded suspicions that these are reprisals against political opponents aimed also at preventing them from taking part in next year’s parliamentary elections.
These violations of fundamental principles of democracy have already led to the effective breakdown in the crucial process of European integration and will have catastrophic consequences for the country. The ever more overt muffling of information and propaganda on television cannot conceal the deterioration in the human rights situation in the country, nor the disastrous impact on Ukraine’s reputation and its attractiveness for foreign investors.
The unwarranted arrests and continuing detention of Yury Lutsenko and Valery Ivashchenko demonstrate abuse of remand in custody. The arrest on absolutely nonsensical grounds of Yulia Tymoshenko in August this year was unanimously condemned by the international community. We have every reason to assume that in the near future the European Court of Human Rights will find that there is political persecution in Ukraine and that there has been violation of the right to a fair trial and to liberty with respect to these opposition figures. The consequences both for the country and for its President cannot be overstated.
All the former government officials have been charged either with a political decision (over the 2009 gas accords with Russia), or with acts identical to those carried out with impunity by members of the current government.
Witnesses in the Lutsenko trial have also spoken of being interrogated after the investigation was completed; of their testimony having been distorted; of having been told what they should write by the investigator. These are extremely serious accusations yet both the Prosecutor General and the judge have refused to investigate.
In view of such infringements of the right to a fair trial, the assertion that the President cannot interfere in the work of the courts is not credible. Nor can such arguments be considered convincing when the first trial of Yulia Tymoshenko was adjourned for a month due to the Yalta European Strategy Conference, and the appeal hearings were suddenly postponed until the day after the EU-Ukraine Summit in Kyiv on 19 December.
Each citizen has the right to a fair trial, to freedom from lawlessness and arbitrary rule. Each is entitled to expect the President and Guarantor of the Constitution to defend these rights and intervene when they are being violated.
As elected President, you took on the responsibility for defending citizens’ constitutional rights and building a law-based democracy. You must also bear the responsibility for a retreat from democracy and the demoralization of the country’s people.
We express our categorical protest against this political persecution and demand that you put a stop to it.
Olha Zaretska and Family
Please add your voice to our appeal by writing to
Any assistance in circulating this appeal, including via social networks, would be enormously appreciated. Thank you!