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22.05.2000 | Yevhen Zakharov

International Human Rights Day: On observing human rights in Ukraine

   

Maybe for some countries this day is the pretext to sum up successful activities on human rights protection, but for Ukrainians this day is suitable to analyze the sad situation with human rights in the country.

Ukraine ratified 16 from 25 international UNO agreements on human rights. Since November 1995 Ukraine is a member of the Council of Europe and participant of a number of European conventions on human rights. Ukrainian citizens got the right to turn to European Court on human rights if their civilian and political rights are violated. According to Article 3 of the Constitution of Ukraine, observance of human rights is the main obligation of the state. However, the Ukrainian state is unable to fulfil this obligation, mainly because the state itself is the source of abusing human rights, and, since the public control on the activities of the state in many spheres is practically non-existent, the abuses are becoming more massive and more large-scale. In our opinion, the Ukrainian realities give ground for this sad estimation. It is not difficult to observe that in the course of recent years dangerous tendencies of abusing human rights are becoming stronger. First of all, the administrative pressure of the state is growing, people as before are helpless and dependent on the state machine, while those, who try to be economically independent, going for private business, got under the press of a great number of fiscal organs, whose administrative procedures are becoming more and more sophisticated, but less efficient. Nonetheless, they create pernicious conditions for the development of business, thus making hopes on the improvement of economic situation unrealizable. Parallelly, poverty and social inequality are growing. Not less than 15% of the population have the income lower than the survival minimum (Hr 78.7). The difference in income between them and 15% of the richest is growing, and now it is 5 – 6 times greater than in the countries of the Western Europe and the USA. Social and economic rights, declared in international agreements and guaranteed by our Constitution, which stipulate the right for an adequate living standard, the right for social protection and so on, look in our country as mockery.

Political struggle, by and by, turns to suffocating opponents by any methods, including the application of state bodies, in particular, law-enforcing ones. This was well illustrated by the past election campaign, during which the violation of political rights was, in our opinion, the most widely applied during all the years of our independence. The ‘correct choice’ was forced on voters in the most violent way, thus leaving few chances to any other candidate to presidency except Leonid Kuchma.

Another negative tendency has appeared and is growing very fast. It concerns the violation of the freedom of speech. This is control over mass media, especially electronic ones. Authorities cannot stand criticism, and the number of claims of the authorities against newsmen and mass media is growing. The libel claims are unreasonably high, and paying them may ruin mass media. Local mass media are especially helpless, because, as a rule, they greatly depend on the local state bodies. As to the information exchange, secrecy, suppression of some topics, restraining access to the official information are steadily growing. This creates a great danger for human rights since only the well-informed society can fulfil one of its most important functions — to control activities of the state bodies. Unfortunately, the civil society in Ukraine is weak, passive and unable to fulfil its functions.

In spite of the efforts on the side of human rights protection organizations, the right for protection from torture and degrading treatment remains not fulfilled. As before, the application of unlawful methods for making suspects to confess is widely applied. The conditions of the upkeep of convicts in most preliminary prisons and detention blocks are similar to torture. These conditions are practically not improved because of the penitentiary policy as a whole. Verdicts of the court system continue to be repressive; in spite of systematic amnesties Ukraine has 453 convicts for 100 thousand population. In this respect Ukraine is one of the world leaders. Moreover, the number will grow because the new Penal Code, approved in the first reading by the Parliament, is more cruel than the operating one.

As before, the notorious problem of dedovshchinain the armed forces remains actual, although we must mention that recently the interaction between public organization and military units have improved, mainly because of the position of the Ministry of Defense.

One must mention some positive shifts in the work of the Supreme Court, although the court system, as before, is not reformed and remains dependent on the executive power. Independent experts consider that half of verdicts is unfair.

Upon the whole, the situation with human rights has deteriorated. The main reason, in our opinion, is the conservation of our administrative system, which is based on coercion. The result is the social apathy and low spirits of the society.

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