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Human Rights in Ukraine. Website of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
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04.06.2020 | Yevgeniy Zakharov
Point of view

The Easing of Morals

   

It is just as important… to have: a general easing of morals and the spread of beliefs about the equality of all people.

A.F. Kostyakovsky, 1867

The other day I gave an interview with journalist. He suddenly asked, what must be done in order to overcome our difficult situation? I answered, but now I wanted to emphasize the main point: the condition that is necessary to achieve change for the better is an easing of morals.

The “easing of morals” was repeatedly covered by all Russian classical literature of the 19th century. We are well aware of the fiasco of the attempts to translate this concept in the Russian empire.

In 1939, the 22 year old future war hero and 35th President of the U.S. John Kennedy visited the USSR and was amazed at the rudeness and cruelty that he saw there.

After the end of the Second World War, regardless of the colossal casualties, the morals in these territories practically did not change. People continued to be instruments for the fulfilment of state objectives, while their lives, health and interests were neglected by officials.

In 1991, the Soviet world collapsed, and Ukraine became independent. It was written in the Constitution, that the life and health, honour and dignity, sanctity and safety of a person are the highest social values, and the assertion and maintenance of the rights and freedom of a person are the main duties of the state. However, already 29 years of independence have passed, and reality proves daily that the constitutional order is a false hypocrisy. No, in accordance with the Soviet anecdote that “all in the name of man, all thanks to man, and the Chukchi even saw the man himself!”, we are well aware of the fact that the state cares about lives, health … and further only a small section of the population, while the rest of it is interested only in the context of the “correct” vote during the next election race. How many presidents, parliaments and governments have changed, while their relationship with the people remains harsh and cruel, and people perceive this as a norm; it doesn’t even occur to them that it should and could be otherwise?

Here are some literal recent examples from this week.

  1. In Germany, the judges of the Supreme Land Court of Oldenburg refused to extradite to Ukraine a suspect in the creation of a corrupt scheme for the former deputy of Verkhovna Rada (Ukrainian parliament) Alexander Onishenko, since the conditions of detention in Ukrainian pre-trial detention facilities are inhumane and dehumanizing. This news was met with a choir of dissatisfied Ukrainians, who were entirely certain that Onishenko had bribed the German judges – that the German court was corrupt! It turns out that most Ukrainians are entirely incapable of accepting the reality of this position: according to the international standard, the extradition of a person cannot be allowed if they are threatened with torture or inhumane treatment, regardless of the crime they are charged with.
  2. On the 29th of May, more than 800 Ukrainians appealed to the government and ombudsman with a petition to finally solve their problem – it had already been two and a half months since they were unable to return home due to the quarantine. Almost all of them had only winter clothes, many had nowhere to live, many had run out of their livelihood, among them were many sick, including people suffering from cancer, who were in need of urgent care, almost all had been separated from their families, in a word, each of them had their own special circumstances. Some came to care for their sick elderly relatives, some were undergoing treatment, some came for the burial of a close person that had passed away, some were on vacation, some had come for other important reasons. And got stuck. On the 15th of March at 15:30 it was announced that by the 16th of March, the pass through KPVV on the demarcation line will be carried out at the place of registration; at the same time, providing help for IDPs was not at all taken into consideration. There are those who have already lived in the controlled territory for a long time, had jobs, housing, and so on, who cannot return home. And although the government has already brought home, as is reported, 120,000 Ukrainians from abroad, within the country they have created horrible conditions for internally displaced peoples!
  3. Unexpectedly, in Ukraine surrogacy is thriving; due to the quarantine, foreign parents cannot come into Ukraine and take their long-awaited children. Ombudsman Ludmilla Denisova is solving this problem in every detail, making arrangements with all involved state bodies and helping the foreigners. But almost immediately we hear a powerful chorus of voices: “prohibit”, “stop”, and this chorus is even being supported by some national media. This is despite the fact that every fifth married couple in Ukraine is barren; such a ban would deprive them from the possibility of having a child! What could be crueller for a family than this ban?! Not to mention that in this area, Ukraine is one of the top three world leaders along with Israel and the U.S., and they demand to get rid of this obvious positive! This is in place of bringing order and getting rid of shady schemes.
  4. Parents are not allowed into the intensive care units of their tragically dying children. Because … order and safety are more important. The child is dying alone. Does there really exist such cruelty and mortification for both child and parent? As for me, it is difficult to think of anything worse.
  5. The situation with data concerning infection rates of COVID-19 in Ukraine appears to be strange. No, I am not supporting the opinion that the statistics have been falsified, I think that the data from the Ministry of Health, which I follow every day, correspond to reality. The problem, in my view, lies in something else – the tests do not cover everyone who should be covered, and at the same time the number of those infected is significantly greater than the number of laboratory confirmed cases, and, therefore, the scope of the epidemic is significantly larger. Why is this happening even now – it is impossible to understand, since PCR tests are already produced in Ukraine. When in the Donetsk region, one laboratory is in Mariupol, and one in Slavyansk, and no more than 150 tests can be conducted per day – this is understandable. But when in Kharkov, the regional infectious diseases hospital is packed to capacity, while the Ministry of Health’s data on the preparedness of the area for the removal of the quarantine shows that the occupancy rate of hospital beds in the Kharkov region is less than 3% - then there can only be one explanation: the ill are purposefully not being tested. If there are no confirmed diagnoses, then there are no people with COVID-19! And those who are in hospital are suffering from … pneumonia! And are dying of pneumonia, but we don’t have coronavirus! Moreover, how many times have we heard that creating tests is very difficult! At a private laboratory at your own expenses – please, you’re welcome to come; but not at public expense. An ambulance driver, a 38 year old man, got sick, and in place of testing, everyone told him it was a common cold and that he must continue working. He worked another week while ill, and then he was diagnosed with COVID. Now he is lying in hospital, attached to a ventilator, and it is not known whether or not he will survive. Just as it is not known how many people he infected throughout the week.
  6. On the page of the Mission of the UK High Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine, the following can be read: «Places of detention are particularly vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19 due to overcrowding, poor sanitary conditions and limited access to quality health care. As UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet noted, it is vital that governments protect prisoners, penitentiary staff and visitors from COVID-19. With 20 cases of infection detected in penitentiary institutions as of 21 May, this need is becoming increasingly pressing in Ukraine. We welcome the recently developed draft amnesty law which aims to decrease the number of prisoners in the context of the pandemic in Ukraine. If the law is adopted, coordinated efforts by state authorities should be made to provide released prisoners with what they need for re-integration into the community. This should include, at minimum, the timely provision of necessary medical care, including testing of COVID-19, and transport to their home or provision of adequate housing.»  As of May 30, the 21 laboratory confirmed diagnoses were officially revealed – 1 convict, 2 people who were taken under custody (their tests were conducted before they were placed in jail), 2 medical workers and 16 members of staff. There were only 21 cases, beginning from the 24th of April, when the infection was first recognized in prisons. Yet common sense dictates that this simply could not be, considering the ideal conditions for the spread of the virus in jails and correctional facilities! There is only one explanation for this phenomenon: testing was not being conducted there, as it is not being conducted even today. There is no coronavirus in the penal system, because they are not testing the prisoners! Are public workers who are in contact with patients being tested at public expense – we also don’t know. Judging by the message from the Department of Execution of Criminal Penalties, they have covered only 516 people. But is this number even true?

As for the Amnesty Bill (r. no. 3397), submitted to the government on the 27th of April, during this period of time it was only looked at by one parliamentary committee – the human rights committee. There is no real desire to show humanity in relation to convicts of pensioner age, invalids from groups 1 and 2, pregnant women, women with children under 5 years old; these people have no parliamentary majority. Moreover, the mentioned bill does not provide for the release of those who committed acts of serious violence and especially grave crimes, therefore any fear that killers, rapists and other hardened criminals will be unfounded. In addition to this, the amnesty is in no way an exemption from the obligation to compensate for harm, due to the crime that the court found the criminal responsible for. The last amnesties in Ukraine were in 2014 and 2016.

On the question of why the bill is being ignored, the involved persons reply that they haven’t had the chance to accept because … the President is against it; since it is an unpopular measure, which could negatively affect his political ratings. So time should not be spent on it!

So it’s like that! The President is worried about “future landings”, and doesn’t want to release anyone, regardless of the real threat to life from the epidemic. Ratings are more important. It’s an interesting situation: the decision would have been accepted if only the President had wanted it so (!). Just like Stalin, everything turns “inside out”. In the meantime, the deputies calmly swallow it all, as if it must be like this! And I have a question: do they have at least some sort of desire to carry out their professional function?

However, there are enough examples. Sadly, gentlemen! Yet again we have a power that ignores rights, the rights of the people, its political and legal duties, and which, by and large, just spits on the people.

And again I am forced to make the warning, like in 2010-2013, that either the President and his party decisively change their internal politics, or everyone will face a crushing fiasco.


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