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28.07.2015 | Halya Coynash

Communist party ban will be slammed in Strasbourg, along with original decommunization law

   

Ukraine’s Justice Ministry has used a law likely to be condemned by the European Court of Human Rights as justification for another decision which is certain to be “struck down” by that same court. Justice Minister Pavlo Petrenko announced on Friday that he has signed the order to strip Ukraine’s Communist Party and two other linked parties of their registration, and therefore their right to take part in the coming local elections. Ukrainian political parties have thus effectively been banned without any court ruling. 

What Petrenko called “a day of historic justice” was viewed very differently by human rights lawyers.  Volodymyr Yavorsky, a Ukrainian human rights activist, believes that the decision, if not overturned in Ukraine, will be found unlawful by the European Court of Human Rights.  It may be in compliance with the relevant ‘decommunization law’, but it is manifestly in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.  He warns that the case will seriously damage Ukraine’s reputation.  It will effectively demonstrate that the new government is infringing the rights of opposition political parties.

Bill Bowring, Professor of Law at Birkbeck College, University of London, says that he is “100% sure that the Ukrainian ban would be struck down at Strasbourg - but of course only after several years. The policy is stupid and dangerous.”

Ongoing battle

The press briefing on July 24 was also attended by Oleksandr Turchynov, now head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defence Council.  Exactly one year earlier but as Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, Turchynov formally announced the dissolution of the Communist Party faction in parliament.  That move was on a formal pretext, after a law was signed making it possible to dissolve factions that had become smaller than the minimum number required.  Earlier in July 2014, Petrenko had  announced that he had applied to the District Administrative Court for a ban on the Communist Party [CPU].  He asserted that the move was taken on the basis of considerable evidence provided by the SBU or Security Service and Prosecutor General’s Office of the CPU’s active support and financing of separatists. He added that their evidence was extremely strong, with more than 129 pages and a number of videos, and promised that the court case would be as public as possible.

The court case is ongoing or, depending how you look at it, going nowhere.  In May 2015, when consideration of the case was yet again stymied, Petrenko openly asserted that this was because of the corruption of the judicial system and judges’ unwillingness to take responsibility for decisions of importance for the country.

Now on July 24, 2015, without having obtained a court ban, the Justice Ministry has nonetheless stripped the Communist Party of the right to take part in political or electoral processes.   At the press briefing given on July 24, the move was explained as being in compliance with the Law on condemning communist and National-Socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and on prohibiting propaganda of its symbols”.  The Justice Minister asserted that an independent commission had been formed as soon as the law came into effect, with this including representatives not only of the Ministry, but of civil society  The commission allegedly worked for a month and presented conclusions on the basis of which the Minister signed his decrees which state that the activities, names, symbols, charters and programmes of the three parties are against the law.

There is no indication on the Ministry’s website as to who was on this commission and how “representatives of civil society” were chosen.

The law in question does indeed ban the activities of any party that uses communist (or Nazi) symbols in their name or has propaganda of communist (or Nazi) totalitarian regimes and their symbols in their founding documents.

In his damning assessment of the law, Yavorsky pointed out that the European Court of Human Rights is quite unequivocal with respect to dissolution of a political party. This must be on the basis of the party’s activities, not on its name or symbols.

Proven activities

Turchynov spoke of the decision being an “act of historical judgement”, since “the communist party whose ideology is effectively equivalent to Nazi ideology bears responsibility for the torture of the Ukrainian people, for mass repression and Holodomor”comm [the manmade Famine of 1932/33]. 

Turchynov did not only cite the past, but asserted that from the first days of Russian aggression, the Communist Party had acted like a fifth column and had supported and abetted Russia’s occupation of Crimea and the invasion of Russian forces in the east of Ukraine.  He claimed that material “confirming the criminal activities of the Communist Party against its own country” had been collected and passed to the court.  However, he continued, the court, “as you know”, needs radical reform and 100-percent renewal, and the court case is dragging on.

If the activities mentioned are criminal offences, then criminal proceedings must be brought against those individuals believed responsible. This is within the jurisdiction of the Security Service.  It is in this manner that the level of complicity of the Communist Party in violations of Ukraine’s territorial integrity should be demonstrated, not through populist rhetoric.

Turchynov claimed that the decrees were demonstrating “responsibility before those who are buried at Bykivnya (where the NKVD buried victims of the Terror in mass graves – HC), those whose graves lie in Siberia, in other places where Ukrainian patriots were tortured and murdered”.  This was suspiciously similar to the argument used by President Petro Poroshenko soon after signing into force the highly contentious ‘decommunization’ laws.  On the third Sunday in May, when Ukrainians remember the Victims of Political Repression, Poroshenko “called on all those who opposed decommunization to come to Bykivnya and feel what the victims of communist terror are calling for.”

His words were deeply offensive to many, the author included, who have every reason to condemn the communist regime yet still opposed the ‘decommunization’ laws.  It is dishonest to cite the memory of victims of a monstrous regime as justification for bad laws.  If political parties and their members have abetted Russia in its war against Ukraine, let them answer before the law – for their deeds, not their political symbols.  Unlike Russia, Ukraine is not questioning its obligations under European and international law and should not be taking decisions and passing laws which move it away from democratic standards and which will be slated by the European Court of Human Rights.

 

Image from uapress.info

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