“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2006, #10
Yushchenko will push the Verkhovna Rada to recognize soldiers of the OUN-UPA Politics and human rights
Who is corruption good for? Save the office of Human Rights Ombudsperson! The right to life
Baby girl born in a police station Privacy
Diagnosis not to be given on medical certificates at the request of the patient Freedom of expression
THE TARAS ZELENYAK CASE: AN ATTEMPT AT ANALYSIS The right to health care
“On a doctors liability, and not only..” Point of view
The word must strive towards truth Dissidents and their time
Thirtieth Anniversary of the Founding of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group
Yushchenko will push the Verkhovna Rada to recognize soldiers of the OUN-UPA
The President will seek review as soon as possible by the Verkhovna Rada of a draft law on giving official status to soldiers of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and Ukrainian Resistance Army [Ukrainska Povstanska Armia] in World War II. This is outlined in the Presidential Decree “On all-sided forgiveness and the objective presentation of the actions of the Ukrainian liberation movement and promotion of national reconciliation” signed on Saturday 14 October.
“As President I do not determine this status however I can encourage the government and parliament to consider this issue and to make the appropriate decisions. This is the objective of the Decree I signed this morning”, Viktor Yushchenko stated to journalists in the Sumy region.
The Presidents press service reported that in speaking about the historical reconciliation of soldiers of OUN-UPA and the Soviet Army, the President once again stressed that this conflict is based on a distorted knowledge of the period of history, and said that the conflict needs to be resolved as soon as possible. “We must provide a response to the issue of historical justice, and pay tribute to each person who fought for this land”, the President said.
He added that any procrastination in resolving this conflict could only add to discord in society.
The Head of State mentioned that a year ago he instructed the government to create a commission to make a thorough study of the role and place of OUN-UPA. The commission completed its work around four months ago, and it is now necessary that on the basis of this study a legislative initiative be tabled in parliament establishing the status of fighters in the Resistance Army.
Through this Decree, the President calls on the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, in cooperation with the Ukrainian National Academy of Sciences, to draw up a range of measures for 2006 and 2007 aimed at studying and bringing to light he participation of Ukrainians in the Second World War and in other military conflicts in the twentieth century. These measures should include carrying out fundamental research; holding conferences, international seminars, roundtables; publishing historical and broader-level literature on these issues; organizing the making and showing of wider-audience information films and documentary publicist programs, as well as carrying out the appropriate explanatory and educational work, including in the mass media
The Cabinet of Ministers, together with the National Academy of Sciences, should also prepare a draft law on the Ukrainian liberation movement of the 1920s to 1950s, the status and social protection of those who took part in it, which would, for example, envisage recognizing the activity of organizations which fought for a Ukrainian independent united state during those decades as the Ukrainian liberation movement.
Yushchenko also instructed the Ministry of Education and Science to work together with the National Academy of Sciences in ensuring, through the use of scholarly studies on the subject, the objective coverage in education of issues regarding the participation of Ukrainians in the Second World War and in the Ukrainian liberation movement, including the role of the Ukrainian Resistance Army, the Ukrainian Liberation Organization, the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists and the Ukrainian Central Liberation Council,.
The Ministry of Culture and Tourism of Ukraine, the Council of Ministers of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, the regional, as well as Kyiv and Sevastopol city state administrations have been instructed to update their museum exhibits on events connected with the Ukrainian liberation movement. There are also instructions to the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting of Ukraine to ensure coverage in the mass media of measures aimed at consolidating Ukrainian society, studying the role and significance of the Ukrainian liberation movement and establishing historical and social justice.
Politics and human rights
Who is corruption good for?
Over the 15 years of independence, corruption has become an ever more system-creating factor of the state. From time to time campaigns fighting corruption have been initiated, these confined to punishing school heads or chief doctors who wasted small amounts of available funds on the needs of their institutions. At the same time, practice regarded throughout the world as corrupt, has not been deemed such in Ukraine. Ukraine has become one of the most corrupt countries in the world. This is confirmed by authoritative international and domestic studies. It is also very clear to each Ukrainian.
During the Orange Revolution and the parliamentary elections the rallying cries about overcoming corruption were among the most popular. Yet when real steps are proposed for overcoming this phenomenon, the brakes are put on.
So what is going on? In September President Yushchenko approved a Strategy Plan for fighting corruption in Ukraine and submitted the appropriate package with six draft laws to parliament.
Three of these concern ratification of international agreements – the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption, the Additional Protocol to this Convention, as well as the UN Convention against Corruption. The others deal with establishing general principles for countering and preventing corruption (№2113), introduce amendments to criminal and administrative legislation (№2112), as well as regulating liability of legal entities for corruption offences (№2114).
Even a cursory glance at these documents give grounds for asserting that the authors of the draft laws 2112, 2113, 2114 have moved on substantially in their understanding of this difficult social phenomenon and are suggesting serious changes in legislation, aimed at creating conditions which will if not prevent, then reduce to a minimum, corrupt activities. Ukraines joining the international agreements will bring the country to a state where international institutions can have a real impact.
And what? Representatives of all parliamentary factions declared their support for the Presidents initiatives, as reported by the media. The Verkhovna Rada actively set to considering the draft laws and the profile parliamentary committees supported ratifying the international anti-corruption conventions.
Then at the beginning of October deputies began discussing the draft laws in substance. On Tuesday 3 October there was a meeting of the Committee on fighting organized crime and corruption. According to the deputies present, the discussion was fairly lively and constructive. Most spoke out in favour of the draft laws. The few emotional outbursts «against» were rather indicative of the lack of knowledge of those who made them than of actual problems in the draft laws.
Yet by the very next day against a background of political confrontation, the enthusiasm on issues involving fighting corruption among the deputies had unexpectedly vanished. (For reference: most of the members, as well as the Chair of the Committee on fighting organized crime and corruption are from the Party of the Regions).
The result was an opposite decision to reject the draft laws and to cancel the decision to support the ratification of international anti-corruption conventions. The Committee was unable to give one legal or social argument in support of this decision. Nor did the deputies come up with arguments regarding conceptual miscalculations in the draft laws, and they confined themselves to referring to the opinion of the Verkhovna Rada central scientific expert department.
The number of comments on the three draft laws in this opinion came to 127. Presumably such a number made a serious impression on the members of the Committee. They even failed to find out what they were about. Had they taken the trouble, they would have discovered that only about a dozen pertained to the actual legal content of the draft. The opinions moreover recommended that the draft laws be passed at the first reading «as a basis».
The lack of consistency of the authors of the opinion is startling. The central scientific expert department (who the profile committee then repeats) considers «that a fair number of the provisions of these draft laws have serious substantive flaws and arouse serious objections». Furthermore «the adoption of the draft laws could create a threat to justice and the principle of the rule of law, infringe the rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of particular individuals and legal entities».
If the draft laws really contain such a threat to democratic values, then why in the opinion are there no comments to this effect, confirming such a serious statement by its authors? The comments given in the opinion are of a purely technical nature, or are in general debatable or wrong. The conceptual provisions (the approach) of the draft anti-corruption laws are virtually not disputed by the authors of the opinion.
At the same time a number of the comments suggest that the opinions authors lack an understanding of the modern anti-corruption ideology proposed in the draft laws and that they have no wish to move away from an outdated and repressive approach to ways of fighting corruption.
For example, the concept of «corruption» offered by the central scientific expert department contains serious fundamental errors.
The definition proposed for corruption is «the granting of advantages to a relevant person in order to persuade him/her to use his/her offices and the opportunities connected therewith unlawfully».
Yet what about such an extended situation where officials use hints to indicate that they want or would not object to unlawfully receiving benefits for carrying out, or not carrying out, actions using their offices and the opportunities connected therewith?
Or when they out and out demand such benefits? Under these circumstances providing unlawful advantages, according to the Criminal Code, constitutes giving a bribe. So why omit these practices from the definition of corruption?
The following is another example. A lot of paper in the opinion is wasted on the efforts of the authors, providing references to international documents, to prove that the object of corruption cannot be non-material benefits. This position in actual fact is in keeping with Soviet criminal law from the middle of the last century. Whereas on the contrary, the Explanatory Report on the Council of Europe Criminal Law Convention on Corruption states that non-material advantages are a form of corruption, and even give specific examples. The same can be found in the Recommendations on implementing the UN Convention
against trans-national organized crime. These documents are freely available on the websites of the relevant international organizations. If Ukraine wishes to move in the direction of world and European legal practice in recognizing anti-corruption standards, then these standards must also be recognized at the domestic level.
The proposal of the Verkhovna Rada central scientific expert department that a special state body be created on fighting corruption also arouses scepticism. Why yet another state body? International conventions do not demand this.
It is also startling that the experts of the department, providing an opinion on draft anti-corruption laws, are sometimes guided by ideas about the scale and forms (manifestations) of corruption in Ukraine which stray far from reality. For example, they ask how one can be engaged in scientific or creative work or medical practice via intermediaries or dummies.. Here you dont have to look far for an answer. Ukrainian society has long been concerned by this issue. It has recently been considered in a number of publications and television programs where well-known scholars, public figures and journalists have often discussed the issue of scientific works and lectures in universities being undertaken by hired stand-ins (one person writes, and the other signs his or her name – so-called scientific and creative slaves).
The anti-corruption package of draft laws is scheduled for consideration at the Verkhovna Rada session on 18 October. Then we shall see whether the deputies can rise above their narrow political interests and will have an answer to the question in the title of this article.
Save the office of Human Rights Ombudsperson!
The fleet of “unsinkable” politicians of todays Ukraine, and one could gather a whole army of them, can quite confidently be joined by deputy from the Party of the Regions Nina Karpachova. Her resume is an incredible and convincing illustration of the devaluation of the moral principles of the present power elite, of the double standards with which the so-called “democratic” leaders try to measure the most fundamental concept for civilized nations of “human rights”. No, more, the legislator Nina Karpachova, like at the end of the day legions of her colleagues, can serve as a model of banal selective use of the law when one is speaking of the needs of the moment and so-called political expediency. Karpachova in her position as Human Rights Ombudsperson (the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada) was used as a tool when they needed to protect the imprisoned Boris Kolesnikov from the “Orange Marat” Yury Lutsenko (I would direct those readers with short memories to the writing of Viktor Yanukovych entitled “A year in opposition” which had a mere thousand copy print run). Then for some reason nobody noticed that the “first defender of human rights” was for some reason in second position on the candidate list of the “Donetsk party”.
With regard to the principled position of the Human Rights Ombudsperson, one need only look at the number of contradictory statements she gave to the regulation committee of the Verkhovna Rada when she was elected to parliament. The first document concerned her intention to reject her deputy powers and devote herself entirely to the human rights realm (in which, clearly, her steed was not just lying about). Then the committee received yet another submission from Nina Karpachova, this time on her wish to remain in the deputy rows.
There is talk that it was then that the doubting Human Rights Ombudsperson or simply “capricious woman” saw the prospect of holding the office of vice-speaker of parliament dangle before her. However when the party bosses decided that there were worthier and more deserving candidates from the ranks of the “Regionals”, Ms Karpachova wrote her third epistle to the effect that it was Gods will that she be a defender of human rights.
Such political manoeuvres from the Human Rights Ombudsperson who, by definition, must be a person of firm principles, places in question the unambiguous stance of the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson. I would quote certain extracts, for example, from Article 8: “The Human Rights Ombudsperson may not hold a representatives mandate or occupy any other office in state bodies of power. S/he may not be a member of any political party…. If within the stipulated period the Human Rights Ombudsperson does not comply with the established requirements, her / his powers shall be suspended and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine shall be bound to dismiss her / him from office”.
The prominent human rights activist and Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Yevhen Zakharov, in my opinion very clearly stated the reason allowing for such actions by high-ranking state officials which are entirely inappropriate for a law-based state. “The subjectivism of Ukrainian politicians, the impression they have that they can do what they like in order to achieve their ends is extremely dangerous for the country”, he writes in his article ““It will all come true tomorrow” – “It is this that the political forces of all shades, as well as all branches of power, especially legislative and executive are guilty of”. Only the totally lethargic among those in power do not grab at the opportunity to “do what they feel like” with disregard for laws, and sometimes also for commonsense. Total corruption has changed the state mechanism into a terrifying, all-consuming octopus whose tentacles reach into all nooks and crannies. Attempts to neutralize this hideous monstrosity after Maidan (remember “Criminals to prison!”) proved useless, not least because of such “Ombudspersons” like Ms Karphachova,
And how many crimes which the police solved have disappeared into the recesses of prosecutors office desks! I will not say for ever since Ukrainian society has already had occasion not once and not twice to feel assured that forgotten folders with compromising material from time to time emerge during entirely predictable waves – before the elections or when the hero of such manuscripts has got out of control or is undertaking the “creation of his/her own political image”.
The case of Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova must become the test not only of the first steps in opposition of “Nasha Ukraina” – if it does in fact want to earn the status of a constructive opposition. The case of the Ombudsperson will be the litmus test of the maturity of the civic society, since this office is that of the most authoritative defender of human rights. That at least is what it should be.
The right to life
Baby girl born in a police station
On 26 October the Kyivsky district court in Kharkiv handed down its verdict on Olga R., finding her guilty and sentencing her to 4 years deprivation of liberty, however using Article 75 of the Criminal Code (deferment of the sentence) released her in the courtroom. Seemingly a routine matter. However what was established during the hearing into the case could not leave even the severe court unmoved. On 19 August 2006 Olga R. was detained by officers of the Kyivsky district police station in Kharkiv and taken to the station, and on 20 August placed in a cell. Olga gave birth to her baby in the absence of any medical assistance. The duty officers twice called an ambulance, however the medical team found no grounds for hospitalizing Olga.
According to Olga the baby suffered a head injury during labour. Fortunately both mother and child are alive, yet who can guarantee the future health of the baby (who was also in the courtroom, accompanied by a member of the medical staff of the SIZO [remand prison]?
What seems incredible in this case is that remand in custody should have been applied as the preventive measure for Olga, despite the fact that as well as the newly-born infant, Olga also has a child born in 2002. Olga also alleged that the police had applied physical and psychological pressure on her. She claims that she was beaten despite being in the eighth month of pregnancy.
However the prosecutors office of the Kyivsky district in Kharkiv found no grounds for her complaint nor signs of a crime in the actions of the police officers. The judge passed a separate resolution in which he informed the Kharkiv regional prosecutors office and the head of the department of health of the Kharkiv region about the facts established during the court hearing. This resolution must be considered within the month.
We await the response of the prosecutors office and the health bodies.
Diagnosis not to be given on medical certificates at the request of the patient
The Ministry of Healths press service announced on 25 October that following the ruling of the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv, the Ministry has issued a resolution instructing medical establishments, at the written application of the patient, to not enter the medical diagnosis on medical certificates. The press service said that the existing medical certificate forms would not be changed.
If a person does not wish the information to be provided (in accordance with their constitutional rights), the medical establishment is obliged to comply with this.
The establishment must however give the diagnosis and the code of their illness according to the International Classification of Diseases on the persons medical records.
The press service stated that the Ministry of Health had wished to print a new medical certificate form without diagnosis at all, but the Social Insurance Fund for Temporary disability had opposed this considering that it would interfere with the rights and duties of the insured person.
As reported here, this decision follows the successful civil suit brought by Vinnytsa doctor Svitlana Poberezhets against the infringement of her constitutional right to privacy and confidentiality of medical records.
Freedom of expression
THE TARAS ZELENYAK CASE: AN ATTEMPT AT ANALYSIS
A person is being tried in Russia for insulting Russians on the forum of a Ukrainian website. This news sent shockwaves through the Russian and Ukrainian Internet, sparked off a huge number of commentaries and animated discussions on forums of Ukrainian and Russian websites, as well as publications in the Ukrainian and Russian press. We will endeavour here to understand what in fact happened and what prompted such heated arguments. Unfortunately what follows can be based only on publications. I have no access as yet to the prosecutions conclusion and other material of the case. Many details remain unclear meaning that it would be difficult to make any definite assertion. Nonetheless even where information is incomplete certain conclusions can be made.
36-year-old resident of Novosibirsk, Taras Zelenyak, an ethnic Ukrainian and son of the well-known scientist Tadyei Zelenyak, originally from Lviv, is charged with committing a crime punishable under Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation “Inciting ethnic, racial or religious enmity”. The sentence which Zelenyak could face is deprivation of liberty for a maximum of two years. The chosen preventive measure is a signed undertaking to not leave the area. The first hearing took place on 11 September in the Sovyetsky District Court in Novosibirsk, however a second was set for 4 October because witnesses for the prosecution had not appeared.
According to the prosecution, Taras Zelenyak commented on various events in social and political life in Russia and Ukraine on the forum of the Ukrainian website www.proua.com under the username novosibirsk-2. The prosecutor considers that these commentaries propagate hatred towards Russians, assert “the superiority of the Ukrainian nation over the Russian”, and are also full of the offensive terms “moskal” and “katsap” . As the prosecutions conclusion states, the accused used words, expressions, comparisons and assessments of a provocative nature, not allowing any ambiguity in interpretation, and aimed at offending the national sensitivities of Russian people”.
What exactly were the expressions which the prosecutor is accusing Zelenyak of? It is difficult to give an exact answer to that question without seeing the case material. However all the reports which quote the prosecution conclusion (for example: http://rg.ru/2006/09/12/zelenyak.html – “Well resettle all the ruskies [katsapy] on new land, and Id even be ready to give them a kick up the arse on their way”.http://kommersant.ru/region/novosibirsk/page.htm?year=2006&issue=169&id=177948§ion=3712 – “Who will tolerate Russian swinishness in a Muslim republic?” and others) are basically quotes from a discussion about the conflict in Chechnya on the Ukrainian forum www.proua.com. This discussion began on 26 January 2005 (the topic “And once again about the Republic of Ichkeria”). It lasted four days, was dynamic, occupied six pages on the forum and almost immediately turned into an exchange of insults from Russian and Chechen supporters. The emotions provoked by the discussion were anything but mild, as the six pages on the Internet (in Russian) show:
By 1 February already on the Novosibirsk Akademgorodok forum, a person with the username ringo, outraged by Zelenyaks texts on the ProUA forum suggests finding the author (“Please look into the identity of the person going by the username novosibirsk-2”). Ringo copied the IR address of novosibirsk-2 and established that one of the users of the Novosibirsk provider “First Mile” had the same IR address. He directly quotes this IR-address and the email address of novosibirsk-2 from the Novosibirsk provider. With this information its now quite simple to find the owner of the computer. The network details for novosibirsk-2 stood on the Akademgorodok forum for just under an hour before being removed by the moderator as being against the rules of the forum to disclose network details of users.
Criminal proceedings against Zelenyak were launched only a year later. According to numerous publications, the director of the company “First Mile” allegedly approached the department of the Federal Security Service [FSB] for the Novosibirsk region (sic!) with a complaint about the comments of one of its clients, and the prosecutor launched a criminal investigation under paragraph one of Article 282 of the RF Criminal Code. Zelenyaks computer was removed and all novosibirsk-2s forum commentaries were found. A linguistic assessment confirmed that the expressions allegedly used by Zelenyak demonstrate a contemptuous attitude to Russians, although there are virtually no obscene words. In addition the accused was given a psychiatric examination which found him sane, but experiencing “a permanent feeling of being isolated and his desire to show how original he was”.
Who is the author?
At the first court hearing on 11 September Taras Zelenyak denied having written the texts he is charged with and said that he would prove his innocence during the court investigation. His defence lawyer asserted that the question of who wrote the texts could only be established by removing the server of the proUA portal however the court refused to allow this application.
And yet in fact it is no easy matter to prove that Zelenyak was the author. There have been no official appeals from Russia to the administration of the Ukrainian site. It will be interesting to see what evidence the prosecution produces.
One may attempt to fathom the prosecutions logic as follows. The IR-address of novosibirsk-2 on the Ukrainian website forum and the IR-address of Zelenyaks computer registered by the provider “First Mile” are the same (this can be confirmed by the user “ringo” and a representative of the provider summoned as witnesses). All commentaries under the username novosibirsk-2 were found on the hard disk of Zelenyaks computer, therefore Zelenyak was also the writer of the commentaries. However this logic is faulty! In order to assert that he was the author of a message on a forum, one needs to compare the outgoing information of his provider with the incoming data on the forum, and the investigators have not done this.
In fact a completely different person could have written on the proUA forum under the username novosibirsk-2. Before registration on the forum, the IR address is open and can be used by anybody in order to write supposedly as novosibirsk-2 using his IR-address. After registration the last three digits of the IR-address are confidential and can only be discovered by the forum administration. Nonetheless, through a simple operation – studying the open incoming data in the messages of novosibirsk-2 – one obtains a staggering result: at least two people wrote under this username – the registered user and someone not registered!
Incidentally Zelenyak back at the end of 2004 complained on the forum that somebody had nicked his name (i.e. registered under his username). If one compares the early messages of the unregistered user “Novosibirsk-2” with the later messages of the registered user, a difference in style can be observed. Here the messages of specifically the registered user which are quoted in all publications, in particular, those from the discussion on Chechnya, were deemed to be Zelenyaks.
One has the impression that after Zelenyaks username was appropriated, Zelenyak did not write at all on the proUA forum. However messages appeared on the forum both from the registered, and an unregistered user. As can easily be verified, this third “Novosibirsk-2” was a client of a Moscow provider!
It would thus seem that Taras Zelenyak was not the author of the texts attributed to him.. The court could resolve this issue by approaching the administration of the proUA site and organizing an expert author analysis in order to establish whether the texts placed on the proUA forum under the username novosibirsk-2 were all written by one author. I believe that the results of this analysis would prove Zelenyaks innocence.
The problem of jurisdiction
Let us leave the question of authorship and pose another question: is criminal prosecution in this case of a citizen of the Russian Federation for opinions expressed on the forum of a Ukrainian website lawful? Russian criminal law applies a principle of citizenship which makes citizens of the Russian Federation criminally liable for crimes committed beyond its territory. (Article 12 § 1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR). The action must though be recognized as a crime in the country where it was committed. Yet in Ukraine nobody considers Zelenyaks remarks to constitute a crime (just as there is no crime in citizens of Ukraine making offensive remarks about Ukrainians on the forums of any Russian or Ukrainian websites). Why then were criminal proceedings launched? Evidently because in Russia they consider the place of the crime to have been Zelenyaks flat where he allegedly typed the texts deemed by the prosecution to be offensive on the keyboard of his computer.
I would note that this is a controversial question which is not regulated by the law. Since we are speaking about the circulation of offensive texts than it would be natural to consider the place where the crime was committed to be precisely that place where the texts were circulated. However the forum of a Ukrainian website is open for all users, Russian and Ukrainian. If one draws an analogy with defamation suits, then one should after all regard Ukraine as the place where the crime was committed, after all suits in defence of honour and dignity against journalists and the media are always lodged according to the legal address of the editorial office (or owner) of the media outlet. Yet the Russian law enforcement agencies have not approached either the owners or the administration of the proUA site at all.
In world practice there is no unambiguous solution to the issue of jurisdiction. It is known that the USA assert that their legislation takes precedence over the laws of any other country. Thus the Supreme Court of New York State, where gambling is prohibited, at the end of July 1999 delivered its verdict in the case of “The People v. World Interactive Gaming Corp. The respondent, registered in the State of Delaware, organized an Internet casino on servers located in Antigua, where it also licensed its gambling activities. Nonetheless, the ruling was passed in favour of the claimant. The Court noted in its ruling that for the case in point the fact that the respondent had not violated the local laws of Antigua where such activities are permitted was not of importance. What was important was that the actual participation in the gambling was occurring in New York State and that work with the servers in Antigua was being carried out from the sovereign territory of the State. Yet in the case of the Canadian company Braintech Inc., which carried out its activities in the State of Texas, versus John Kostyuk, the Canadian appeal court involved in spring of 1999 refused to recognize a court ruling from the State of Texas in a defamation suit, and declared that US jurisdiction did not cover Canadas information realm where the resource of the respondent was organized.
It is therefore impossible to unambiguously state that the jurisdiction defined by the Russian law enforcement agencies is correct. Yet can one consider that criminal prosecution is well-founded? In other words,
Is Article 282 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code applicable in this case?
This is by no means an idle question. Pursuant to Article 282 § 1:
“Actions aimed at inciting ethnic, racial or religious enmity, denigrating national dignity, or propagating ideas of uniqueness, superiority or inferiority of citizens on the grounds of sex, race, nationality, language, origin, attitude to religion, as well as affiliation to any social group, if these acts have been committed in public or with the use of mass media,
– shall be punishable by a fine from 100 to 300 times the minimum wage, or in the amount of the wage or salary, or any other income of the convicted person for a period of one to two years, or by deprivation of the right to hold specified offices or to engage in specified activities for a term of up to three years, or by compulsory works for a term of up to 180 hours, or by corrective work for a term of up to one year, or by deprivation of liberty for a term of up to two years”
In criminal law actions may be considered to be aimed at achieving a criminal objective only where there was direct intent. Thus the author of the texts who identified himself as novosibirsk-2 had to be aware of committing the actions identified in Article 282 and wish to do so. He needed to have the aim of denigrating the national dignity of the Russian people. If this direct intent and conscious purpose are lacking, then liability may be linked to the result which followed.
I would like to see how the prosecution will try to prove the direct intent and purpose of the author of the texts, whoever he may be. I fail to see either purpose or direct intent, let alone consequences of the circulation via the forum of the texts which the defendant stands accused of having written. Therefore, in my opinion, Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the RF is not applicable.
From the point of view of human rights
This case is a typical example of the clash between freedom of expression and the struggle of the state against hate speech. The clash has been resolved in an obvious fashion in favour of the struggle against hate speech, and through means of criminal prosecution. Such prosecution is a serious restriction of the constitutional right to freedom of expression. Is the intervention of the state in the given case that which is “necessary in a democratic society” and “proportional”? In my opinion, it is not, meaning that it represents a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. One of the fundamental principles which forms the basis for judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on Article 10 of the Convention and which has on many occasions been reiterated by the Court is as follows.
Freedom of expression is one of the inalienable principles of a democratic society and one of the basic conditions for its progress and the self-fulfilment of each individual. It is not only information or ideas which are received favourably, or considered harmless, or perceived neutrally that are acceptable, but also those which offend, shock and irritate. These are the demands of pluralism, tolerance and broadmindedness without which there can be no democratic society.
If all the Russian judicial bodies find Zelenyak guilty, and he chooses to appeal to the European Court, in my opinion he will have a very good chance of winning his case.
I am not even talking of Voltaires “I disapprove of what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Unfortunately in todays Russia these words are being forgotten.
I personally find the Russophobic texts of novosibirsk-2 distasteful, although I can see that they were written in the heat of a discussion in response to no less aggressive and insulting remarks (the prosecution, it would seem, is entirely disregarding this). However I understand quite clearly that one cannot be prosecuted for angry words. The judge of the US Supreme Court who had learned much from experience Judge Blake said that the best remedy against abuse of freedom of speech was even more freedom of speech. I believe that he was correct.
The Taras Zelenyak case is extraordinarily reminiscent of the dissident cases under Article 190 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR where “for disseminating untrue stories which defame the Soviet State and social order”, as well as for preparing and disseminating works with such content”, people usually got sentences of three years deprivation of liberty. The KGB found untrue stories defaming the system in samizdat and tamizdat [works written in the USSR, but published abroad] – in books and articles which the assessment labelled as anti-Soviet. I am not aware of a single case where the fact of defamation, that is, of a deliberate lie was proven. During the period of perestroika all these books ceased to be “anti-Soviet” and were published.
If one remembers that the Internet is the modern equivalent to samizdat and replaces “the Russian nation” for “the Soviet State and social order”, then what we have is a case which is painfully familiar.
The same denunciation from someone outraged by a compatriots anti-state behaviour, the same expert assessment, the same disregard by the prosecutor for details in the evidence regarding the fact of circulation, the same … one would like to be wrong and not have to write “the same trial”.
Just over forty years ago the writers Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel were declared particularly dangerous state criminals and sentenced to 7 and 5 years deprivation of liberty for having published their works abroad under the pseudonyms Abram Terz and Nikolai Arzhak. Is it not all very similar to the story with Zelenyak and novosibirsk-2? After all the texts on the forum are like literary works, their authors in this way express and affirm themselves, and losing themselves play, adopting different roles and personae.
In history what begins as tragedy ends as farce.
“Looking at their ugly face”
Lets leave all juridical and legal arguments and look at the Taras Zelenyak case from the position of simple commonsense. The more you think about it, the more you see that its quite transparent and far-fetched, in fact totally fabricated. One remembers the plot of the film “Remember the poor hussar” – in type this is the same situation.
The selective nature of the case is staggering. The Russian Internet is full of xenophobic texts – anti-Ukrainian, anti-Semitic, anti-Chechen, anti-Muslim, anti-Georgian…. Why did they need to pull out this “hate speech”, and from the forum of a Ukrainian website to boot?” Were the Russian sites not enough?
Anti-Ukrainian texts became particularly common in 2005-2006. Just the titles of articles by Mikhail Leontiev, Mikhail Smolin and Alexei Orlov say it all: “Ukraine was always caked in shit and has stayed so”; “The idea of looking for idiots wholl for some reason save Ukraine is in itself stupid”, “the Ukrainian regime is lolling about on the pavement”; “Ukraine is not Russia. Ukraine is a disease” (cf. www.km.ru). And then there are also the articles of the chief editor of the group of business journals “I.D. Rodionov” Georgy Vovt: “War with khokhly” and “Khokhly as force for progress” (www.gazeta.ru), the article from the regional information agency “New region”: “What is nothing to a Siberian, to a khokhol is death” (www.nr2.ru). The civic organization “Local National-Cultural Autonomy of Ukrainians of the city of Novosibirsk” published an open letter with regard to such displays of anti-Ukrainian chauvinism and violations of journalist ethics, suggesting that a campaign of civic censure be launched. Forget it! Yet it took just one user of the Akademgorodok forum to express indignation over the texts of Novosibirsk-2 on the forum of a Ukrainian website, for the provider “First Mile” to write a complaint to FSB.
The behaviour of the Novosibirsk provider seems strange. If the participants in a forum argue with each other and somebody doesnt like various radical or offensives comments made by their opponents the providers never complain to somebody about it - they deal with it themselves. They can block the clients access to the forum or, at the end of the day, can refuse to provide him or her with Internet services if there are consistent complaints about the person. But to write a complaint to the law enforcement agencies over comments made an outside forum, and to the FSB at that! This strange behaviour of the provider can, I think, be explained in only one way – the initiative came from the FSB which showed an interest in the case.
Yet why did the FSB need this case? What threat to the national security of the Russian Federation can be created by burble on a forum, and on not a Russian site at that, but on a Ukrainian? Why specifically a criminal case, instead of confining themselves to preventive measures? And why only a year later?
I think the answer to these questions lies in the following. Firstly, the direction of this case is entirely in keeping with the logic of the Russian form of “managed democracy”, narrowing the zone of freedom of speech like shagreen leather. Secondly, the FSB is unambiguously demonstrating through this case that it intends to control the Russian Internet and put an end to the present free-for-all (see, for example, the publication on 29 April 2005 at: http://babr.ru/news/print.php?IDE=21420 )
Representative of the FSB Centre for Information Security Dmitry Frolov has stated that the powers of the Russian services controlling communication systems and the Internet need to be widened.
It should be remembered that at the present time Internet providers are already under the partial control of the security services, via the notorious system SORM-2 [System of Operative Investigative Activities].
According to Frolov, the FSB is suggesting that new requirements be drawn up for provider companies “in order to prevent the dissemination via the Internet of extremist ideas, to record illegal network activity and also to have the ability to receive databases and registration of telephone subscriptions with an indication of their Internet address, both static and dynamic.”
In addition, the FSB is proposing to heighten control over operators of mobile communications as regards possibilities of access to the Internet via mobile telephones.
At the same time the FSB representative recognized that in Russia at present there is no legislative base in accordance with which the security service could carry out the entire complex of actions planned.
Thirdly, I see this case as demonstrating the will to heighten an atmosphere of mutual distrust in Russian and Ukrainian society, to fuel still further anti-Russian and anti-Ukrainian sentiments. I am prompted to think this way by the reaction to this case in Russia and in Ukraine. I would be delighted to be proven wrong, but can see no other logical answer.
The Ukrainian response
The news about the Zelenyak case elicited strong reaction in Ukraine. The case has been discussed on the forum pages of all popular websites, numerous letters have been written to international and Ukrainian human rights organizations. The participants in forum discussions do not mince words either.
On the proUA forum participants organized a mass flash-mob to the Russian provider “First mile” (cf. http://phorum.proua.com/list.php?1, the forum participants call it the “Last mile”) for writing a complaint about Taras Zelenyak to the FSB, assuming (in my opinion wrongly) that the provider is illicitly reading the private traffic of its clients. They were supported by many participants of the “Maidan” forum.
On the “Ukrainska Pravda” forum, together with the standard buttons to press (“answer”, “quote”) it was decided to add the button “denunciation to the FSB”. Almost 90% of those voting supported this idea. (http://forum.pravda.com.ua/read.php?2,1350444,page=1).
On the “Maidan” site www.maidan.org.ua  a button was established for “We are collecting signatures for a petition to the Human Rights Ombudsperson of the Russian Federation which redirected people to the electronic petition form (http://petition.org.ua/?action=view&id=21) where they could add their signatures. Hundreds of people signed the petition to V.:L. Lukin.
On 19 September the All-Ukrainian Association “Svoboda” [“Liberty”] held pickets outside the Russian embassy in Kyiv and the RF consulates in Lviv, Odessa, Simferopol and Kharkiv. The picketers demanded the release of Zelenyak (obviously not realizing that he was at liberty on a written undertaking not to abscond), and passed on a letter addressed to the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, in which they described the selective arrest of Zelenyak as evidence of discrimination on ethnic grounds and flagrant acts aimed at further inciting hatred towards Ukrainians which was already unlimited. The letter finished with the following words: “Stop playing doctors curing “xenophobia”. Cure yourselves! Moskali [Ruskies]! Hands off Zelenyak!” The letter was written, in my view, in the same style as the Russian texts which insult Ukrainians.
I do not believe that either Taras Zelenyak or Ukrainians need defence in the form presented by the association “Svoboda”. On the contrary, it is no worthy response to such insults to take part in arguments on the same level. Becoming entangled in discussion with such a tone is merely playing into the hands of the provocateurs who organized all of this,
One must not muddle the Russian state and the Russian people who are, nonetheless, different. There is, after all, another Russia. And such reactions among us to the Zelenyak case as the pickets of Russian embassies by the association “Svoboda” and insulting Russians on forum sites are precisely what those who have ordered this case are counting on. This reaction in fact helps the Russian authorities and works against that other Russia. I cannot resist digressing here and quoting an excellent address given by Sergei Kovalyov on 10 May 2006 at the conference marking the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG), particularly since the speech has not been published.
The MHG is often associated with certain discoveries. For example, discovering that one needs to record human rights violations and turn to the world community with them. However that is not quite the case. It was the “Khronika tekushchykh sobytiy” [Chronicle of Current Events] which first started systematically recording violations, and Larissa Bogoraz and Pavel Litvinov who first turned to the world community in 1966, then it was the regular practice of the Initiative Group for Human Rights.
So how was the MHG first? It was first in the fact that it first consciously and purposefully began to seek to have political impact on political processes. And the most amazing thing is that in all of this it retained its ideological values which were discovered by legal amateurs – dissidents, human rights activists. That was the main thing that the MHG did.
This achievement of the MHG has been lost. Yesterday at dinner I said something rude, and now self-respect is worth nothing. It was rude, but it was the truth. Earlier for self-respect you had to pay more.
It is for this reason – that self-respect is worth nothing – that our authorities dont need either the GULAG or Glavlit. Theyll decide everything without them.
There can be no equal partnership between the authorities and society. They behave like theyre the head of the household. But its not them who are the heads, but us.
Maintaining a tradition of conscientious opposition to the present authorities must include the following. Yes, we are involved in politics. We are seeking power, but not for ourselves, but for the law. The banner of the rule of law must not be hypocrisy, but must be directly implemented. We have a main political priority – and this lies in making sure that the occupation of the Kremlin by the KGB is stopped. We are ready to talk conscientiously and seriously, and even for a long time, but we are not concealing the fact that our main priority is that you leave. We do not believe your hypocritical assurances that you want democracy, the rule of law and observance of human rights.
In my opinion, there are no elements of a crime in the actions of Taras Zelenyak. There is no convincing proof that he is the author of the texts he is charged with, while on the contrary, there are serious grounds for considering that the author of these texts was another person. Article 282 of the Criminal Code of the RF cannot be applied since the author of the remarks which Zelenyak stands accused of had no direct intent to insult the Russian nation, nor an accordingly conscious purpose. Criminal prosecution for such remarks on the forum of an Internet website are a violation of the constitutional right of freedom of expression and of Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
 Neither of these two words are in themselves especially offensive, one coming from the word for “Moscow”, and the other having historical roots. Both are dismissive terms these days for Russians. [translators note]
 Everything said in the previous footnote applies in equal measure to the word “khokhly”, only this term is a derogatory term used by Russians about Ukrainians (translators note)
 Glavlit - Main Administration for Literary and Publishing Affairs – despite the innocuous title, this was in fact the main body organizing censorship in Soviet times (translators note)
The right to health care
“On a doctors liability, and not only..”
“Each person answers for his or her actions before God and man”
“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required”
Why am I citing these common truths, let alone in relation to medical practice? The fact is that over the last years our country has been swept by a wave of prohibiting or restricting laws, rules, instructions, various acts and norms often running counter not just to commonsense, but also to current legislation. The examples are legion.
A first example: a great deal has been said and written about the existing and constantly toughening restrictions on prescribing strong medicines with sedative effects, as a result of which, in the absence of vitally needed medicine, each day thousands of by no means drug addicts, but really ill people actually suffer (and sometimes die). To get a special prescription requires such a huge number of formalities that doctors quite often confine themselves to giving substances of little effect, such as bromide with valerian.
Second example: the Law on psychiatric care aimed supposedly at better observing human rights is so complicating, contradictory and imperfect that it makes timely hospitalization of even socially dangerous people with psychological disorders extremely difficult to achieve. In much the mythical protection of the rights and freedoms of the psychologically ill fails to take into account the right of relatives, neighbours and simply those around to a peaceful or, at least, safe life.
Third example: Issuing a patient or his / her relatives with many medical certificates is often complicated by the requirement for not only the signature and personal stamp of the doctor treating the person, but also the signatures of the person in charge of the unit and the head doctor. Sometimes also the relevant formal request is also demanded.
Why is this necessary? If the doctor has the relevant qualifications and personal stamp confirming his/her absolute and inalienable right to work as a doctor, then why not give the absolute right to personally answer “for his/her actions” – writing out prescriptions for all medicines required by a specific patient, issuing all documents confirming the corresponding facts (the illness, inability to work, the indicatory factors to suggest sanatorium treatment, transfer to a lighter work regime and so on and so forth). Who needs these additional signatures and consent, generally formalities? After all everyone knows perfectly well that the top management in the vast majority of cases simply “stamps with their signature the signature of their staff, for quite objective reasons not especially delving into the actual cases. Yet in the event of any conflict (over, say, a dodgy certificate) they share responsibility with their subordinate, in the role of the “guardian” of an unthinking diploma-holding child.
Why are psychiatrists with the appropriate training and certificate of specialization unable to singly decide on urgent hospitalization of specific patients? After all a driver at the wheel of a vehicle takes full personal responsibility for all consequences of his or her actions, not laying this, say, on the companys boss. Why is it impossible to trust a doctor with considerably more professional training to answer for his or her own actions? You, controlling bodies, thoroughly check the justification for what has been done and in cases of abuse of their position be severe in asking, punishing, holding to answer those responsible! But dont refuse to trust doctors without any justification, given them the chance to fully treat their patients rather than occupying themselves with filling in masses of papers and running to the management for signatures and stamps.
In the event of real practical need virtually any doctor will not spurn the opportunity to consult with more experienced and qualified colleagues and in complicated situations will try to share the burden of responsibility with senior staff and management.
And this is all for the good of those ill and suffering and not for the sake of senseless circulars written by militant bureaucrats.
I imagine that anyone even remotely familiar with the contemporary situation with medicine here do not require proof that the present state of affairs is a threat to the national security of Ukraine. However for some reason the authorities, unlike the public, show no concern. Sociological surveys carried out by the civic organization “Maidan” Alliance showed that almost all those living in Ukraine regardless of the region – in Donetsk or Lviv – are equally disturbed by the healthcare situation and this is natural. One could draw people together in this one thing, in something natural and immediate to each Ukrainian.
Yet our authorities have not been bothered for the last 15 years. They stubbornly carried out a policy of “happiness is not in life” – but not for citizens. Like in the Soviet days there was sausage “for the population” and “for people”.
Perhaps it is the Soviet remnants which get in the way of reform in general and that of medicine in particular?
Instead of this, and worse so than in Soviet times, we see the lack of liability of doctors increasing, the mortality rate rising and the spread of tuberculosis and other dangerous infectious illnesses. There is an ever narrowing range of medical services available free of charge, even where vitally needed..
If it is plain to everybody that a patient died as the result of a doctors mistake or simple through carelessness, then somebody is reprimanded, and as a rule not at all the person responsible.
Even administrative, let alone criminal, responsibility for those who should answer is the exception.
The medical field, unreformed and almost in ruins, is not able to provide effective medical care to its citizens who have reached a stage in correlation between the birth and death rates which is of danger to the state.
All ministers of health over the last 15 years, coming to power, have at first talked of the need for reform, however very quickly begun doing everything so that such reforms did not take place.
In the Verkhovna Rada from back in during the last session there are laws lying about on compulsory medical insurance, however our politicians, as always, have no time for such laws since they dont get treatment in ordinary hospitals, or even in Ukraine. And the life and health of their citizens is of no concern to them whatsoever. Foolishly not since, for example, tuberculosis or hepatitis can affect a person regardless of their social situation and deputy identity card.
However what is strange is that our politicians are able to fill the heads of their citizens with problems of NATO or whether governors from the “wrong camp” should be in power, and to not think about more important problems of health which concern each individual, each family, which will have repercussions for many years to come.
And so we live like in Central Africa and our medical functionaries find that absolutely fine. And according to their usual ritual they make noises about “the people” and “reforms”.
And the price is the impoverishment of the nation, high mortality rate and the reduction in the countrys population.
Point of view
The word must strive towards truth
The Ukrainian information realm in the broad sense is our knowledge of ourselves and our knowledge of our historical calling. Without understanding of this calling – on the border of two worlds – any conversations about a national idea are empty chatter.
In higher Ukrainian individuals the awareness has crystallized of this role. Yet the pettier mass said that this was a mirage, useless from a practical angle.
Ukraines age-long tradition lies in those higher not having strong shoulders to lean on, reliable support from the nation, a spiritual centre, religious communities.
Our first task is to create this nation from those people who not so long ago were considered building material.
How can we awake in each Ukrainian a person with honour and dignity?
This is the first question which faces the media, schools, the Church, the State.
This question should be posed each day by every teacher and journalist.
What is the situation like with the information realm today? Firstly, it is up to its ears in the bog of communist standards, applied by the Russian state to post-communist reality. We are immersed in the mire of entrenched lies and crafty propaganda directed at weakening Ukraine. Ukrainian broadcasting is littered with Russian pop culture, the Ukrainian market is inundated with Russian cheap rubbish.
And this is reflected in the corresponding chaos in peoples minds.
However lets not forget that we have never had such freedom, never had so much world recognition as a state, nor had Ukraine ever been the focus of so much world attention as it was in autumn 2004. Never have our politicians had such a chance to honestly find a place in the nations history. And never have Ukrainian journalists had such a chance to establish a good name for themselves!
And a good name is the main thing in life. Some think that it is position, capital. Yet these are ephemeral moths in comparison with a good name which remains among the people, and in history.
Over the 15 years of Ukraines independence how many have sparkled and then fizzled out! Sometimes it was people who were capable, and had character. Sometimes it was successful ministers like Hryhory Kypra.
What did they lack?
They lacked a high goal and the gift to serve. Had they had this gift of commitment to serving Ukraine, they would now only be attaining their peak in our eyes.
What do the people expect from each of us?
They expect a good example of civic activity, an example of the dignity and stoicism needed at all times.
They are very ready to heed an honest voice.
Of course it is difficult to rise up. Of course we are dependent on circumstances. One person is dependent on the owner of the channel. Another on pressure from the family. A third is influenced by his own weak nature and the temptation of cheap success.
A person is prone to be the same as all the others. However as with all of them, this descends into mediocrity.
The individual begins with the daring effort to rise above mediocrity contingent on circumstances.
History begins with the flight from bondage.
Thinking of our present journalism, it sometimes reminds me of a nervous lady moaning and criticizing all the time.
She moans about bad weather, about the rain, the heat …
She gathers bad rumours and savours them. She has reconciled herself to the feeling of being worth less. A nervous being is ready for any capitulation.
Of course in our information sphere there are clear-headed and sober minds, there are talented individuals.
It would be good if they created their club, their school, their higher circle which would provide a good standard, would create a moral climate.
We badly need the creation of such a core because of the malignant rot of the past which ferments in weak individuals.
We need to develop journalism with influence and authority, like that which developed over centuries in Europe.
We need influential names to stand out from among journalists in political life.
We need people with a high sense of responsibility and intrepidity.
And, very importantly, we need a deep Christian foundation for words with substance.
The word must strive towards truth, towards the rock. And let fickle waves crash against it.
Only such a word has lasting force.
I would especially like to stress the national instinct in our journalism. I avoid the word “nationalism” as too vague. Present-day nationalism descends into rhetoric. And we need a healthy national instinct which will guide us in holding our heads high and at each step affirm our dignity and responsibility.
The national instinct prompts a courteous Frenchman in response to your question in English to reply in French.
The instinct reminds a Pole that wherever he may be, he is a Pole. Admittedly though, all of Poland speaks only in Polish.
The constitutional norms regarding the Ukrainian language will work in Ukraine when they begin to work in each citizen. The Ukrainian language will become dominant when we cease slavishly accommodating ourselves to the street and to individuals who ignore the Constitution.
It is at ourselves, at our weakness that we need to complain.
However the national instinct relates first and foremost to love. It is only love that tells us how to care, and nurture and protect. It is this that is the “national idea”.
If that idea were in the air, we would not have such a “political elite” which builds its political platform on anti-Ukrainian playing cards. That means on civic immaturity. The eastern regions are simply derelict and neglected regions, from the sanitary, cultural and national point of view, where they deported or recruited people from western regions and led them to forget their language and customs. It is they whom Russian political technologists are trying to use.
A kind of rehabilitation is needed there in optimum cultural conditions.
The Ukrainian information provisions should gradually return people to the norms, i.e. transform negative confrontation into natural cooperation based on principles of law.
Unfortunately, we are forced to spell out axioms regarding the defence of national interests, the defence and observance of the law, the dignity of the citizen and the state. And we must explain these axioms to those people who want to govern the Ukrainian state, and also to journalists who want to provide the country with information.
At the same time we have a people who achieved the miracle of Maidan 2004, who did not forget their dream to be freed of lawlessness, their rejection of slavery passed down over generations which was used for a dictatorship of terror.
The people are traumatized and tormented. Yet they free themselves from slavery quicker than the political elite.
I was startled that my improvised address to the roundtable attended by the President received such a lot of attention from the public. After all things were simply called by their real names, and there was the reminder that Gods Law is unchanging and eternal and is for everybody.
This attention shows that the people will already not endure criminality, deception and betrayal. They want an honest and worthy regime.
They want information which is truthful and uplifts the spirit. A healthy spirit spurns falsehood, temerity and all forms of inadequacy.
Faintheartedness sighs that Maidan 2004 has been lost. Commonsense tells us that Maidan showed the end to an age of slavery. We will swallow yet one more wave of shame in the return of the revolting guests to our not yet cleaned house however the period of their return is by now a short farce. And in that short period the state roles will have to be played according to the rules of decency and national tact.
Of course one will have to remind them constantly “you too are people”
“and do not sully Gods image with dirt
Do not try to fool your children that they are here on this earth
Only to be ruled” (Taras Shevchenko)
But in order to be reminded that one needs to hold oneself high.
 This roundtable was convened by President Yushchenko to try to end the political stalemate in the Verkhovna Rada, and led to the Universal Memorandum. As well as the leaders of the political factions in parliament, a small number of public figures were also invited (translators note)
Dissidents and their time
Thirtieth Anniversary of the Founding of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group
The Final Act of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (the Helsinki Accords), were signed after much procrastination on 1 August 1975 in Helsinki by all European states (except Albania), the USA and Canada. They were given the force of domestic legislation and therefore presented legal opportunities for legally fighting human rights violations with reference to both internal and international laws. The first to realize this were human rights defenders in Moscow who on 12 May 1976 created the Moscow Public Group on the Assistance of the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords in the USSR (the Moscow Helsinki Group). Soon after, on 9 November 1976 the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (or formally the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords) was formed on the initiative of writer and philosopher Mykola Rudenko, General Petro Grigorenko (Moscow), civic figure Oksana Meshko, science fiction writer Oles Berdnyk, and lawyer Levko Lukyanenko (Chernihiv). Its founding members were also the microbiologist Nina Strokata-Karavanska, the engineer Myroslav Marynovych, the historian Mykola Matusevych, teacher Oleksa Tykhy and the lawyer Ivan Kandyba. It issued a Declaration on its creation and Memorandum No. 1.
The Helsinki movement soon became international, with groups being formed in 1976-77 in Lithuania, Georgia, Armenia. Similar groups were active in Poland (the Committee for the Defence of Workers, later becoming the Committee for Civic Defence) and in Czechoslovakia – Charter 77. A special commission in Congress was created in the USA.
The human rights defenders achieved a revolutionary turn in the awareness of the population which had been terrorised over the previous decades. In an unfree country they began to act like free citizens, with no prior fanfare exercising their constitutional rights (freedom of speech and press, of demonstrations, association, and others), that is, understanding the laws to be what was written. Independent public opinion emerged within society. From then on demagogy about “interference in the internal affairs of the USSR” ceased to be an available option where violations of fundamental human rights were concerned.
In addition, the Ukrainian Helsinki Group, at a time of the collapse of the world colonial system reminded the world of the existence of subjugated Ukraine and raised the issue of its recognition by the world community, first and foremost that Ukraine be represented at future conferences on Security and Co-operation in Europe by a separate delegation.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Group united people with different views and of different nationalities, since the human rights defenders understood that under a system of colonial rule there can be no question of observance of human rights, and independence to all was viewed as the most feasible guarantor of freedoms. It was a step of genius, to place Ukrainian national interests on an international legal basis in the context of the confrontation between the democratic West and the totalitarian USSR. And this aspiration for Ukraine in just a decade and a half became real, with Ukraine becoming independent. In a sense one could say that freedom of speech and truthful information brought down the “empire of evil”.
All that was still vibrant in Ukraine was drawn to the Helsinki Group. This was the first time after decades of repression that the Ukrainian intelligentsia organized itself and spoke to the entire world about the lack of freedom and rights of its people. In this sense the Helsinki movement was much more important for Ukraine than for countries which had their own statehood and it was therefore to be more enduring.
The milieu of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group was fairly broad and heroically steady. It was made up of former political prisoners, their friends and family, still young people, who did not wish to suffocate any longer in the atmosphere of official lying ideology. The Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and its “fighting avant-garde”, the KGB were thrown off track. They wanted, after all, to present a “human face” to the world. They did not however hold out and showed their real features by resorting to the old methods – arrests of the most active, extra-judicial repression of those who supported them, or seemed suspect.
There were in all 41 members of the Group. In 1982 the Group was joined by two foreign members and at the end of 1987 another six hundred people joined. 24 members were sentenced to terms of imprisonment over their membership of the Group. They spent a total of 170 years in labour camps, prisons, psychiatric hospitals and exile. Overall members of the Group sent a total of 550 years in captivity. Five paid with their lives: Mykhailo Melnyk took his own life on 9 March 1979, awaiting inevitable arrest. Four prisoners of the special regime camp VS – 389/36 (the Kuchino Settlement, Chusovsk District of the Perm region) died in the camp: Oleksa Tykhy on 5 May 1984, Yury Lytvyn – 4 September 1984, Valery Marchenko – 7 October 1984 and Vasyl Stus – 4 September 1985.
In spite of incredible pressure, the UHG never folded and its documents were issued from captivity. The External Representation of the UHG published a monthly bulletin Visnyk represiy v Ukraini [Bulletin of repression in Ukraine]. There was a Washington Committee on Helsinki Guarantees for Ukraine, the Ukrainian publishing house “Smoloskyp” (named after Vasyl Symonenko) published the Groups documents in both Ukrainian and English, and all of Ukrainian tried to listen to the jammed broadcasts of Radio Svoboda.
The strength and enormous moral superiority of the Ukrainian human rights defenders over the regime lay in the fact that they did not go underground, but signed all documents with their own names, openly demonstrating commitment to legality, appealing to Soviet law and international legal documents to which the USSR was signatory. They gained the appropriate respect in the world. In 23 September 1981, in a report to the 13th National Congress of the American Association for the promotion of Slavonic studies in the city of Pacific Grove, the well-known researcher into political theory Lysak-Rudnytsky stated: “… the significance of Ukrainian dissidents confirmed by factual information cannot arouse any doubts. The commitment of these courageous men and women testifies to the unbroken spirit of the Ukrainian nation. Their struggle for human and national rights is in full accord with the trend of world universal progress in the spirit of liberty. The Ukrainian dissidents believe that truth and freedom will prevail. Those who are fortunate enough to live in free countries must not believe less.”
As soon as the first Helsinki people were released during the period of perestroika and glasnost [openness], they renewed their human rights activities which swiftly took on a political nature. On 7 July 1988 the Group was transformed into the Ukrainian Helsinki Union which can be seen as the precursor of a political party. It launched the creation of a political system in Ukraine.
The Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords occupies a significant place in the history of the Ukrainian national liberation and human rights movements. Its activities, together with other factors, led Ukraine to independence where the opportunity existed to create a law-based society which would suit the freedom-loving spirit of the Ukrainian people, and the letter of international legal agreements.
To mark the Anniversary in Kyiv a public committee has been created which is planning to hold the following events:
8 November (Wednesday) 12.00 – 13.00 Press Conference in UNIAN press agency
8 November 14.00 Memorial Service at the grave of Patriarch Volodymyr on St Sophia Square. Members of the UHG and their families will visit the graves of members of the UHG Mykola Rudenko, Vasyl Stus, Yury Lytvyn, Oleksiy Tykhy, Oksana Meshko, Viacheslav Chornovil and Nadiya Svitlychna at Baikove Cemetery and Valery Marchenkos grave in the village of Hatne.
8 November Evening dedicated to the memory of Nadiya Svitlychna in the Kyiv City House of the Teacher.
9 November, from 10.00 to 15.00 the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is organizing a seminar on “Human rights: yesterday and today”, dedicated to the thirtieth anniversary of the founding of the UHG. This will be held in the Trade Union Building (Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Indpendence Square]
9 November 17.00 – 20.00 Main event: Formal public evening to mark the thirtieth anniversary of the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords. In the conference hall of the Kyiv City House of the Teacher, Volodymyrska St, 57.
Most of the remaining 20 members of the UHG are expected to attend, as well as representatives of the Helsinki movement of other countries, the President of Ukraine, ambassadors of state signatories to the Helsinki Accords. There will also be a photo exhibition.
On 10 November - an academic conference with the participation of members of the UHG will take place at the “Smoloskyp” publishing house (21 Mezhyhirska St, nearest metro station is “Kontraktova ploshcha”). The conference begins at 10.00.