20.03.2014 | Halya Coynash

Anti-separatist repressive law a gift to Russia


In situations of crisis, most people respond inadequately, but Ukraine’s MPs demonstrate exceptional inability to avoid legislative minefields. Two MPs - Oleh Medunitsya and Ivan Stoiko - have just tabled a draft bill which would allow a person to be detained for up to 30 days if somebody believed there to be grounds for suspecting him or her of planning or carrying out certain illegal acts. 

The authors cite in justification the "mounting escalation in the country of extremism and separatism which endangers the national interests of the state and society, as well as Ukraine’s territorial integrity".  Article 1 of the draft law states that "temporary procedure for preventive detention of people is carried out by the authorized state bodies in order to prevent or stop crimes against the foundations of Ukraine’s national security, public safety and order; against the authority of state bodies of power, bodies of local self-government and civic associations, as well as other crimes which undermine the integrity and sovereignty of the state".

The draft law excludes certain people, such as pregnant women, from its scope and does attempt some deference to rule of law.  Written justification of a detention order must be provided, for example, within 24 hours of the actual detention.  Such an order can be appealed and the appeal must be considered within 3 days.

Even if we assume that "Ukraine’s Prosecutor General; the prosecutors of the Crimea; oblasts; Kyiv and Sevastopol, equivalent prosecutors and their deputies, as well as city and district prosecutors" can be trusted to not abuse such power, we cannot assume that they are capable of determining who could potentially jeopardize national security.  We have just as little justification in believing that judges asked to consider appeals against such detention will be able to assess the grounds.  Or that they will have the motivation to do so given the power wielded by the prosecutor’s office.

There are no grounds for assuming any of the above, and the draft law proposes a grave infringement of people’s rights.  Article 5 is particularly alarming.  "In the event of armed conflict or a real threat to the country’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, the prosecutor is entitled to extend the detention period to 6 months"   

Since the puppet government in the Crimea is now claiming that the peninsula is under Russian jurisdiction, this law could not serve as justification for detaining people for up to 6 months.  The self-proclaimed government and its pro-Russian vigilantes have not, in any case, shown much interest in the law. 

Any such legislative moves would, however, be a gift to Russia which would be able to shout, this time with justification, about persecution both of its nationals, and others.

Ukraine is facing a grave threat to its national security due to Russia’s aggression and flagrant breach of international law.  This is not the moment for Ukraine to follow suit through heavy-handed repressive measures. 

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