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09.12.2000 | E. Solovyev, Kharkiv

Once more about propiska

   

A lot of paper is wasted about the notorious propiska (a residence permit) that we inherited from the Soviet times. Yet, Ukraine, an independent state, that does its best to blend with Europe, has managed to do nothing in order to realize its loud declaration and cancel propiska. As well as half a century ago we write a humble application to the passport department of our militia: ‘I ask you to permit me a propiska…’. One may ask a proud question, which right they have to permit or not permit residence at this or that place to a free citizen? Do they know Article 33 of the Constitution of Ukraine, which guarantees the freedom of choice of residence? I decided to find the answer to these questions from the scratch that is from the moment of getting a new passport of a citizen of Ukraine. The problems began from the procedure of getting the passport. When I applied to give me a new passport, I wanted to drop the record that I reside in a hostel (where actually I did not live for several years). The militia clerk explained to me that the record will be dropped if I get a permit for propiska in the new place. I was puzzled: ‘And if I go to another town?’. — ‘Then I will cross out your old propiska’. — ‘And can you tell me, which law contains all these rules?’. She could not answer my question. Then she said: ‘This is the order of my boss’. It was absolutely useless to discuss the question about the Constitution: clearly, her boss’s order had a higher priority. So I handed in my old passport and wrote an application that I want to move to the village Russkaya Lozovaya, situated at ten kilometers from Kharkiv. Three months later (instead of one, according to the law) I was given a new passport with a record of loosing the propiska in Kharkiv. I decided to get a new propiska in Kharkiv, for which I turned to a passport clerk in the place where I actually resided for several years. She explained to me in all details which documents I should gather, what questionnaires I should fill in, after which the authorities may give me the permission for the propiska in this place. The cumbersome procedure of getting necessary documents I regarded as extra and the permission for the propiska looked doubtful in the light of the Constitution. So I asked: ‘What are the reasons that you demand all this? Are there any laws about it?’. — ‘Oh, I know nothing for sure, but so they tell me in the passport department’. Later I diligently read all the normative acts of the Supreme Rada, but I have not come across with a word ‘propiska’. Meanwhile, in the law on the passport of a Ukrainian citizen it is said that, first, a record on the residence is made in the passport (but not about propiska), and, secondly, other records, not stipulated by this normative act and operating laws, are not admitted. So the norm says nothing about propiska. So what the devil I must think about putting the stamp about propiska in my passport? About a year passed. During this time I had several unpleasant encounters with militiamen, who tried to fine me for the absence of the mentioned stamp. Every time I demanded to describe my felony in writing and give me a receipt for the fine; I also promised to complain to their superiors up the prosecutor and court about their illegal actions. After this they let me go unpunished. At last during the presidential election I was not admitted to vote, and the refusal of my voting rights was confirmed on all levels from the district court to the Supreme Court. At last in this April I send an application to the district passport department, in which I wrote that I, a citizen of Ukraine on the base of Article 33 of the Constitution of Ukraine chose a place of residence, at which I ask to register my address. If I must append auxiliary documents, I ask to in-form me about this referring to the operating laws. Soon I was invited to give explanations. The conversation with the officer in charge was monotonous: she permanently tried to list my practical actions without any references: ‘You must fill in such and such from, you must bring such and such documents, and then, if there is enough square meters, we shall give you the propiska’. – ‘But what is the legal basis on which I must do all of this?’. – ’Well, we give a propiska on the base of the Residence Code’. Namely this phrase was used in this conversation and in the written answer which I later received, although in the Residence Code there is no mention of either a propiska or of its obtainment. ‘Do you know that the Residence Code, as any other law, operates unless it is not contrary to the Constitution? In particular, if it is not in conflict with the citizen’s right to choose his place of residence. Besides, according to the Instruction on the passport of a citizen of Ukraine, I ask you not about a propiska, but about the registration of my place of residence, and no document confirms that the propiska and the registration is the same’. – ‘I do not know, go to my boss and discuss it’. By the way, the head of the passport department was very polite. He told me that all the matters with propiska are ruled on the base of a special instruction on propiska (registration), confirmed by Order of the Ministry of Interior No. 66-док of 3 February 1992. However, since this order is clas-sified (‘For service use only’), citizens have no right to read it. ‘And do you know that normative acts concerning rights and duties of citizens, and the given order certainly does it, are (according to Article 57 of the Constitution) null and void, if they are not published?’. – ‘My administration orders me this and that, and I have no opportunity to dodge the order’. – ‘So, if I understood you correctly, your administration makes you to abuse human rights being ruled by the anti-constitutional documents?’. – ‘???… Well, you see, I do not decide such questions. I advise you to turn to Kyiv, to the Supreme Rada’. Fancy, what would happen in a normal country, say, in the United States of America, if some civil servant declared that he disregarded the Constitution

Then he and his direct bosses up to the minister included would be sacked at once without the right to occupy any state jobs. And have you ever seen a Ukrainian bureaucrat sacked for violating constitutional rights of citizens

There is no doubt that the Constitution is violated not by separate bosses, but by state organzations of all levels. I cannot regard Leonid Kuchma as my President, since I was not admitted to the election. For me, as well as for tens thousands of Ukrainian citizens, who were not admitted to the election by the reasons connected with propiska, he is not our President. I may not consider him a guarantor of the Constitution, since the rights stipulated in this Constitution are permanently and openly abused. Moreover, it looks like President Kuchma guarantees trampling of constitutional rights. Why do I think so

To understand this, it is sufficient to look into the Constitution, to the Part ‘Rights, freedoms and duties of man and citizen’. I recommend the authorities including the Presi-dent to look through this part and think how the laws are obeyed:

•  Article 24. Equality of citizens’ rights, their equality before the law. – Systematic discrimination of citizens concerning propiska.

•  Article 25. A citizen of Ukraine may not be deprived of citizenship. – A new version of the law on citizenship, adopted in 1997, essentially diminishes the set of citizens who had the right of citizenship in 1991. On the basis of this new version bodies of internal affairs deprive of the Ukrainian citizenship those people who resided on the territory of Ukraine at the moment of the appearance of the independent Ukraine, but had no permanent propiska.

•  Article 29. The right for freedom and personal immunity. – This article is not operable, since in transitive instructions it is stipulated that the existing order of arrest, detainment and keep-ing in custody will be preserved during five years. However, the President is not worried by the rightness position of the majority of citizens, he is worried that a few citizens (MPs) still have their personal immunity.

•  Article 30. Guarantee of the sanctity of home. – This article is not operable by the same reason that Article 29.

•  Articles 31, 32. Guarantee of privacy of written correspondence, telephone conversations, etc., non-interference to personal and family life. – The Supreme Rada adopted corrections to the law on ODA that restricted the opportunities of law-enforcing structures to abuse the privacy, but these corrections were twice vetoed by the President (see the rumors on the ‘bad’ Parliament and the ’good’ President).

•  Article 33. Free choice of the place of residence. – The organs of the Ministry of Interior through the institute of propiska directly abuse it. Citizens, who reside not in the place where it is permitted by the authorities, are fined by Article 197 of the Administrative Code.

•  Article 57. Every citizen is guaranteed to know his rights and duties. – Up to now nothing is published about the procedure of getting a propiska (propiska is ruled by secret instructions of the Ministry of Interior which leaves a large margin for arbitrary actions).

This list can be continued – and every item will prove that during four years since adoption of the Constitution practically nothing was done for protecting citizens’ rights. I also cannot recollect a single saying of our President on this topic. It seems that today’s abuse of citizens’ rights suits the President very well. The most shocking is that practically all state officers, with whom I had the honor to communicate, fully ignore the Constitution, referring at best to the obsolete laws, orders and instructions in the worst case they refer to the orders of their bosses. Up to now phrase jingles in my ears, which was pronounced by one zealous law-enforcer: ‘As a citizen of Ukraine I obey the Constitution, but as a state officer I obey orders and instructions from the top’. This atmosphere of universal anti-Constitutional attitude has penetrated all pores of our state, and propiska is only one demonstration. It is possible to say than trampling constitutional rights of citizens for the sake of some top state interests under the present President is made the state routine policy. It is sufficient to take any state agency document and you will find there reference to the ‘state interests’, but almost never to the Constitution. Ask any state officer why the Constitution is ignored, and he will answer that Constitution is a very respected document, but the bosses take you responsible for other, more practical matters. Instead of a democratic, socially oriented rightful state we had got a monster – anti-constitutional state of Ukraine. P.S. I am ready to regard Leonid Kuchma as a guarantor of the Constitution, if his personal efforts will permit me and other citizens of Ukraine to win in the nearest future one of the above-listed constitutional rights, which we have lost by efforts of petty bureaucrats appointed by the President. Let it be, for example, the right of free choice of the place of residence.

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