Call for a Human Rights Ombudsperson from Civil Society
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has addressed an open letter to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Volodymyr Lytvyn regarding the imminent election of a new Human Rights Ombudsperson.
The appeal explains that the term of office of the current Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova ends on 7 February and parliament must elect a new Ombudsperson.
The letter stresses the importance of the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson with close attention to the choice of candidate being paid both by the Ukrainian public and the European community. The latter has outlined requirements for holders of this post in the PACE Recommendations No. 1615 (2003) on the Institution of Ombudsman and the 1990 Paris Principles (Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions).
The crucial requirements which the Verkhovna Rada should be guided by in electing a new Ombudsperson are impartiality, independence, competence, pluralism and accountability.
Impartiality includes the lack of any party affiliation. The person must have a good reputation, high moral standing and not be involved in political activities.
Independence entails the ability to carry out ones own investigations into human rights violations and not base conclusions on the investigation of other state bodies.
A person is needed with considerable experience of defending and reinstating rights which have been infringed by the authorities. Competence also includes authority among NGOs, and especially human rights organizations, enabling the person to cooperate with such organizations and benefit from the entire potential of civil society.
A commitment to pluralism is vital since the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat must reflect and respond to the entire spectre of views and interests of society, various social, ethnic, religious and other groups. For this too, close cooperation with nongovernmental organizations is vital.
The Ombudsperson’s accountability should be reflected in preparation, publication and wide discussion of annual reports on their work and on issues in the country. The Ombudsperson’s work must be open to public scrutiny and this too entails the election of a person with proven ability to work in conditions of openness.
“We consider that these requirements cannot be met if the post of Ombudsperson is filled by a person closely linked with one or other political public, or a civil servant who has made his or her career in bodies which are typical violators of human rights – the police, the Prosecutor’s Office, the Security Service. Such a choice would be viewed by the Ukrainian public and European community as a travesty of the idea of human rights defence with an attempt being made by the authorities to place the activities of the Ombudsperson. The very aim of the Ombudsperson is to ensure control over the authorities.
We are convinced that the Human Rights Ombudsperson should be a representative of civic society, a person who is active, tolerant, free from party influence, who has enormous experience of human rights activity and standing among nongovernmental organizations.
We believe the Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Yevhen Zakharov to be a worthy candidate for this post.”
The open letter is signed by the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and its Executive Director, Arkady Bushchenko and calls on Volodymyr Lytvyn to put forward and support Yevhen Zakharov’s candidacy. The letter is open for endorsement on the UHHRU website at: http://www.helsinki.org.ua/index.php?id=1327750631