war crimes in Ukraine

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Politics and human rights

Open letter to the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Nina Karpachova

The mass media reported that you had announced you were moving to the opposition. My concern, elicited by your appointment to the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson, was not without foundation. In appointing you, parliament showed disregard for the principle that the holder of this office must be outside politics. According to the Constitution, the opposition is a part – the smaller part – of representative power and it is concentrated in the representative bodies. The Human Rights Ombudsperson is, on the other hand, an intermediary between the authorities, including the opposition, and the individual. His or her function lies not in doubling up on the role of defence lawyers, nor in carrying out political orders, but in exercising influence on legislation in order to introduce European norms of human rights and in creating real opportunities for every person, even the poorest, to defend their rights, including to the help of a lawyer. The Human Rights Ombudsperson should exert influence on functionaries of the executive, encouraging them to respect human rights and dignity. Human rights defence is not the product of the Nomenklatura. The idea was initiated and upheld by dissidents who paid for this with their own freedom, and at times – with their life. The Nomenklatura countered human rights defence with the force of their repressive machine. The Nomenklatura began introducing it – or more accurately pretending to introduce it after Ukraine took on the commitments which follow from membership of the Council of Europe. However, remaining true to their Soviet traditions, the Nomenklatura monopolized the position of Human Rights Ombudsperson. And in the role of Trojan Horse of human rights defence, Nina Ivanivna, they chose you. Since the immanent function of the State in human rights defence is politicized by the Nomenklatura, this noble cause has again, as under the Soviet regime, fallen on the shoulders of civic human rights defenders. Now we are not only without the support of the State, but in overcoming the incredible resistance of the Nomenklatura, we are forced to undertake the work for which taxpayers pay you enormous amounts of money. I won’t speak about morality. I ask only one thing: that you sincerely and publicly explain your behaviour. You have moved over to the opposition, because there will soon be early elections, at which you hope to get into parliament on the candidate list of Nasha Ukraina or BYuT? And if so, why don’t you resign? Hryhory Prykhodko 12 February 2007

Address to the Ukraine – 2007 Conference in the European Parliament

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am sincerely grateful for your invitation to this conference. I must however first note two things.
I confess, first of all, to having been surprised by your invitation. My honoured Ukrainian colleagues have through their own efforts to a large extent ensured the acknowledged status in Ukraine of free European literature, free European publicist writings, and to a certain extent even free European press. I, on the other hand, by education and legend a lawyer, have certainly not ensured the rule of law and a law-based society in Ukraine. I will speak here not, in the main, about legal material, but about civic society in Ukraine and its relations with the State.
My second warning would be that in speaking about civic action, I may be subjective and biased, since I am representing a Ukrainian organization of civic action. I hope therefore that in any such case my colleagues will supplement what I say, and perhaps add their adjustments.

As far as I can understand, the European legal and state-forming tradition, its viability, even life –asserting quality is safeguarded by respect for procedure, the inviolability of this procedure. In such circumstances an alien body which finds its way into the wheel of the mechanism is either rejected or reprocessed to comply with the established legal system.
In the State of Ukraine it is all somewhat different. The system is based on a Byzantine-Muscovite understanding of power not as a means for resolving publicly important issues, but as a commodity which can be bought or sold. This system functions, not in accordance with procedure, but based on personal or clan expediency, and is highly resistant to external irritants. It either refuses to admit anything not infected by the same Byzantine elements, or fairly effectively neutralizes (denigrates) it..
Therefore, in speaking of human rights in Ukraine, one needs to understand two things.
Firstly, there is a fairly decent Constitution, as far as the section on human rights is concerned. Article 3 of this, for example, states: “Human rights and freedoms and their guarantees determine the essence and orientation of the activity of the State. The State is answerable to the individual for its activity. To affirm and ensure human rights and freedoms is the main duty of the State”.
Secondly, all of this interests the “powers that be” only in so far as using it with the appropriate rhetorical ballast can help get, retain or increase power according to the near-Marxist “Money – Power – Money” – “Power – Money – Power” … a vicious cycle.
The system is in no way interested in safeguarding human and civil rights and liberties. Or rather, it is interested precisely to the extent needed to con Europe. And if it was possible to successfully and comfortably run a “natural state” within the borders of Ukraine, the powers that be (the self-designated “elite”) would be delighted to distance themselves from Europe and forget about all those trifles and conditions.
I could therefore, undoubtedly, give you a lot of specific detail about human rights abuses in Ukraine.
Take, for example, the fact that quite recently in Penal Colony NO. 31 in Izyaslav, Khmelnytsky region, prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment merely for going on hunger strike to demand better conditions and the dismissal of the head of the administration.
Or about the fact that mortality in remand centres [SIZO] in 2005 was 4.3 per thousand inmates, while in penal institutions, it was 1.9 per 1,000. Over the same period there were 473 complaints alleging unlawful acts by employees of the penal institutions. However, according to official statistics, not one complaint was deemed to be justified.
Or about the fact that the Ministry of Internal Affairs received 4,026 complaints from members of the public in 2005, alleging unlawful acts by its employees. For the first 6 months of 2006 the figure was 1,546. Only 61 officers were charged with disciplinary (not criminal) offences for unlawful acts.
Or about the fact that out of several hundred cases when we sent formal requests for information to the central authorities, the requirement set down in the Law “On information” [- to respond within a month – translator] was only complied with in one case.
Or about the fact that when I approached the court with regard to this, the same judge over a space of just two days handed down two substantively contradictory judgments in absolutely identical situations.
Or about the fact that in another Kyiv court during a hearing into a case the judges, without trying to conceal this, do crosswords.
Or about the strange understanding of the Kyiv authorities as to the right of peaceful assembly.
Or about the fact that one fine day the communal charges in the capital were tripled purely because it so suited our blessed Mayor, having pulled the figures out of the air, without any economic justification or consultation with the public.
Or about the fact that with a simple, regular, but not publicly announced, change of one digit in the account numbers for paying state duty, the State puts an obstacle in the way of exercising ones right to judicial protection.
However is it worth concentrating on isolated symptoms if the illness as a whole needs to be treated?
Can one expect effective defence of the rights of specific individuals by a state which by definition is not law-based?
A state where at the foundations of the legal system constitutional reforms (the so-called “political reform”) were introduced, having been illegitimately passed with infringements of procedure and against the wishes of the people at the presidential elections.
Where the legislative body regularly, consistently, openly, stupidly and demonstratively violates the Constitution.
Where the right of citizens, guaranteed by the Constitution, to appeal against the decisions, acts or omissions of the authorities remains on paper.

The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, in commenting on the Gongadze case at the end of January said: “today’s Ukraine does not appear in black and white, as before, and there are many changes in political life”. Allow me to disagree – if there have been changes, then only in two things.
Firstly, the population is learning well to differentiate between black and white, and to understand that in modern Ukrainian politics, it is very often grey that dominates.
Secondly, the level of press freedom. However, the increase in the scope of this freedom has not been accompanied by a reduction in manipulation. The public does not generally have reliable information about media owners. Transparency in this issue does not suit those in power and the oligarchs. In fact, this is true of transparency in general. Cockroaches are afraid of the light.
As far as free elections are concerned, given the widespread use of manipulative technology and the unlimited cynicism of politicians, the absence per se of significant violations of electoral legislation in no way ensures the power of the people.
Law theory has the concept “juridical constitution” and “actual constitution”. The first is the constitutional norms actually written down. The second refers to those rules which de facto regulate social relations. In Ukraine there remains a huge divide between the two. Moreover, if under Kuchma, one could speak of the existence of certain regulatory norms, albeit extra-judicial, or rather, on the contrary, half-bandit, now, with the coming to power of the so-called “Anti-Crisis Coalition”, the nature of the functioning of the state mechanism is controlled chaos. Undoubtedly the eternal question "qui prodest?" [“who benefits?”] in this context is highly topical.
If one speaks of the events of two years ago, known as the Orange Revolution, this was not a revolution in the classical sense, there was no social breakdown, dismantling of the system. One can probably also not talk of a completed revolution in public consciousness. Then the critical mass of numbers of changes in individuals’ consciousness gave a new quality to the change in collective consciousness, however this was rather Zen enlightenment, “Satori”, which needs to be relived again and again.
The events of the last two years ever more practically convince (although both slowly and painfully) Ukrainian society of the need to be a civic society, capably of defending itself against any encroachments on its rights and liberties, from whoever these may come. In the first place, from the State. People are coming to understand that Ukraine is our country, but an “alien” state, with none of the content it should enjoy according to the beautiful legend presented in our Constitution. “The regime’s the regime – pure bandits”, as Yury Andrukhovych who is present here today said in one of his poems, without, in my view, any major exaggeration.
At the end of 2005, according to figures from the Ministry of Justice, Ukraine boasted 55,014 NGOs, of which 485 had international status, 1,774 – nationwide status. Practice demonstrates the increased ability of civic society to carry out at a professional level monitoring of the activities of the authorities and lobbying of its own interests. The best example of this was the civic campaign, unprecedented for Ukraine, in support of a civic candidate for the position of Human Rights Ombudsperson, which began with an initiative on the forum of the civic action website “Maidan”.
On 17 December the CE Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammerberg emphasized during an interview in Kyiv: ““Our experience shows that a Human Rights Ombudsperson works effectively only when s/he is independent, and that includes independence from political forces, because s/he has no right to represent a particular part of society”. At the beginning of January the Co-Rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe Ms Severinsen and Ms Volvend addressed a letter to Oleksandr Moroz on the need to appoint a politically independent Human Rights Ombudsperson. On the very next day, the ruling coalition in Soviet style responded with loud bluster directed at Europe over “flagrant violations of generally accepted principles of international law, in particular, state sovereignty and non-intervention in internal affairs”, and even managed to accuse the Co-Rapporterus of “humiliating Ukraine and its people”.
I do not agree with the intention of the ruling coalition to appoint a Human Rights Ombudsperson without any consideration of public opinion. The latter wants to see an Ombudsperson who has not been compromised by the disregard for the law and political engagement of the State Deputy from the Party of the Regions Nina Karpachova, but rather the well-known human rights defender Yevhen Zakharov. Civic society, on the initiative of the “Maidan” Alliance and the civic network OPORA, was able to achieve his official candidacy, through the support of two parliamentary factions [- only parliamentarians may put forward candidates – translator]. At the present time, around 330 civic organizations have declared their support for Yevhen Zakharov. The vote is to take place tomorrow, however regardless of the result (it is difficult to hope for any moment of enlightenment from the communists, highly specific “socialists” and “Soviet capitalists” from the Party of the Regions, but contra spem spero [hope against hope), the very fact that civic society has forced the “political realm” to take it into account, is an unequivocal victory. In addition, it is important that whoever becomes Ombudsperson, a number of civic organizations have formed a coalition to monitor the actions of the Human Rights Ombudsperson which again is unprecedented in Ukrainian society.
Furthermore, among the successes of civic society, one should also mention the growing information and coordination capabilities, primarily thanks to the development of public journalism and network structures of civic activists. One of the most successful examples of this was the creation in 2001 of the website for civic action “Maidan” and the formation around it under the banner “A free person in a free country” the most powerful civic network structure in Ukraine – the “Maidan” Alliance which I have the honour to be representing here today.
I understand that Marek Sivets, Vice President of the European Parliament, recently said: “to be honest, it is unclear who our Ukrainian partners of the EU are, whether among individuals or institutions. It is very difficult to establish dialogue”. I understand him. It is doubtless difficult to attempt dialogue with a political forces whose leader, having declared an annual income of less than 8,000 dollars, with a housewife spouse, and never having devoted a day of his life to business, is now wandering about in a coat from “Brioni” and a “Blankpen” watch. And whose colleague was recently killed in a shooting accident while poaching, with the attempts to save him involving measures which were as if from another world for ordinary Ukrainian mortals, including” beaming in” western doctors and the dubious “voluntary” nature of the giving of blood by cadets. I don’t know if it is easy for Mr Sivek to hold dialogue with his supposed colleagues from the left, the Socialist Party [SPU], when the second person in the party not only decks himself out in similarly expensive clothes, but also in a most un-socialist fashion drives an Aston Martin, which cost minimum quarter of a million dollars. What is the likelihood that such political forces or those state structures which they control will, say, use European money to effectively fight corruption? It is probably also difficult to communicate with the parliamentary opposition which frequently demonstrates an incredible divide between word and deed, with its “flexibility” of strategy course and aversion to openness.
It is difficult not to agree with Hanna Severinsen and Renata Volvend who in their initial report stress that “the new Cabinet of Ministers is full of officials who epitomize the corrupt merger of business interests and the government.”
I would therefore propose resolving the problem, articulated by Mr Sivets, very simply: at least until the next elections, at least in what concerns human rights and liberties, the development of civic society, overcoming corruption, I would recommend that the EU seek Ukrainian partners not among the power institutions and political forces, but among organizations of civic society. The single true opposition to the anti-rule of law system existing in Ukraine is the civic opposition. Politicians have yet to earn the right to be called the opposition.
And it is dependent precisely on whether this civic opposition is able to create a mechanism for identifying, agreeing and efficiently lobbying the public interest, that is, a mechanism for turning the public interest into practical policy, as to whether the European Parliament will in the future have Ukrainian partners at state level.
There is no more immediate task in Ukraine than that on which we are working – the creation of a powerful machine for independent civic assessment of the work of the authorities, for appealing against decisions which run counter to the law, human rights and public interest, for the lobbying of these interests. I assure you that these are Europeans’ interests. ‘
Two years ago in Ukraine citizens beat the system in one particular case. Now they are learning to beat it on an everyday basis, in order to one day overcome once and for all. If the regime is a permanent conspiracy, then it is necessary to counter it with permanent resistance. It is, at the end of the day, only through the constant chase by citizens of those in power and politicians that an effective natural section takes place.
The revolution in Ukrainian lies ahead and this revolution won’t be orange. It will be the struggle of the people for the return of their state. This revolution will be blue and yellow, the colours of the Ukrainian flag. And it is a pleasure to think that these are also the colours of United Europe. We are one in our freedom!
07.02.2007, Brussels

Public control over the work of the Human Rights Ombudsperson!

In 10 Ukrainian cities on 5 February, roundtables are being held under the title: “Public control over the work of Human Rights Ombudsperson – guarantee for effective human rights protection in Ukraine”.

Analogous roundtables were held on Sunday in Sevastopol and Odessa.

Civic organizations and activists who have come out in support of Yevhen Zakharov’s candidacy for the position of Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Human Rights Ombudsperson) will be discussing a plan for future practical actions aimed at improving the work of the office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson and bringing this into line with Ukraine’s Constitution, laws and international commitments.

The participants in the roundtables will pass resolutions with appeals to Ukraine’s State Deputies at the beginning of the session of the Verkhovna Rada which is scheduled to consider the appointment of a new Human Rights Ombudsperson.

The roundtables are taking place in Zhytomyr, Kalush, Kharkiv, Kamyanets-Podilsky, Kherson, Vinnytsa, Poltava, Lviv, Mykolaiv and Donetsk.

The campaign “Zakharov as Human Rights Ombudsperson”

The campaign began in November 2006 after the Verkhovna Rada suspended ahead of term Nina Karpachova’s position as Human Rights Ombudsperson, due to her combining this post with the mandate of State Deputy, which is prohibited by law.

It should be noted that Ms Karpachova had joined the candidate’s list for the Party of the Regions in autumn 2005, and was elected to the Verkhovna Rada in March 2006. She ignored repeated calls from civic organizations and many public figures to resign from the post of Ombudsperson.

The campaign is aimed at drawing the attention of State Deputies and the public to human rights protection issues and to ways of improving the work of the office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson.

For the first time in Ukraine’s history, several hundred leading civic and human rights organizations have put forward a candidate for this vital post and have succeeded in attaining the official candidacy of the Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and human rights defender, well-known both in Ukraine and in the international community, Yevhen Zakharov,

In December and January press conferences, roundtables and various events were held throughout Ukraine, at which Yevhen Zakharov’s program for the work of the office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson was presented for and discussed.

A vital achievement of our campaign has been in raising the profile and awareness of the problems and shortcomings in the work of the Human Rights Ombudsperson.

These problems – and especially the serious conflict of interests in the candidacy (again!) of Nina Karpachova – have been noted with concern by a number of representatives of international institutions such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe.  (cf.

The campaign provides a valuable example of the ability of civic and human rights associations to unite their efforts in building civic society in Ukraine.

Bolshevik rebuff to Ms Severinsen and Ms Volvend

Bolshevik rebuff to Ms Severinsen and Ms Volvend

The “anti-crisis coalition’s” highly interesting letter to the PACE could be seen as the howls of people who have slept through the last twenty years of history, or as the strategy of a skunk which uses its smell to push outsiders away from its “privatized” zone.

It happened on 12 January 2007, by chance of that same day when, 35 years ago, “the empire of evil” gave its Bolshevik repulse to Ukrainian dissidents for their “insolent” demand for dialogue with the authorities. We were stopped short with the help of convoys and labour camps from which many never returned.

During those 35 years the world has changed. However our communists and ex-communists from the “anti-crisis coalition” have not changed in the least. They retain the same language and style. They don’t like dialogue and with outrage reject the letter from the co-rapporteurs of the Monitoring Committee. Why?

The question forces me to go back in time half a century to the “ideological struggle between two systems”.

What was behind it?

We took the propagandistic formula at its face value. In fact there was only one ideological system. The West was not an ideological system. It offered democratic values, a common language and the law which needed to be observed for the sake of security in Europe.

The West organized the League of Nations, the Declaration of Human Rights, the Final Act of the Helsinki Accords. The Bolsheviks accepted such proposals only as far as they suited them.  That means, they signed the agreements, but then rejected the requirements which they were supposed to meet and called them “interference in the internal affairs of our country.”  They did this, moreover, not so much shamelessly, as superciliously, with pride and a Bolshevik hint of contempt.

These agreements were reported in Soviet newspapers. With scant detail, but reported. The “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”, signed by the Leader, was removed during searches of dissidents’ homes, as a semi-prohibited document.

And for the demand that a document ratified by the USSR be honoured, we were arrested as “especially dangerous state criminals”.

If you look at the question from a conceptual point of view, then the West was called an “ideological” and “hostile” system in essence because it demanded adherence to laws equal for all.

Propaganda, of course, presented western “imperialists” as “stirring up a new war”, although the Kremlin never feared the “aggressive West”. The Kremlin armed itself, and over 70% of industry worked for the military. Yet all understood that this was to be a war “for the liberation of mankind”.

What the USSR regarded as especially hostile was “interference in our internal affairs”, that is, the demand that laws be obeyed.

Over 35 years the weapon arsenals have turned into unneeded and dangerous stocks. The ideological system has rotted, with the exception of granite monuments of Lenin. And the ideological stereotypes and demons of intolerance live on in the hearts of yesterday’s Leninists who haven’t forgotten anything and have learned nothing.

We know that the main thing for communists was to seize power. Now, of course, there are no guarantees that the power will be for long. However a communist won’t allow anyone else to have power. Law which limits that power is their enemy. Justice for communists is when the prosecutor, judges, the Human Rights Ombudsperson all depend on their party and act in the interests of their party.

In Brezhnev’s time human rights protection was the Achilles’ heel of the regime. After the collapse of censorship, total control over the individual was also lost. It seemed as though now they would have to reconcile themselves and keep quiet about their phantom pain.

On 20 January a letter from the co-rapporteurs of the PACE Monitoring Committee Hanne Severinsen and Renata Volvend regarding the election of the Human Rights Ombudsperson was addressed to the Speaker of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada. The letter says that Oleksandr Moroz knows himself that the present Ombudsperson, a State Deputy from the Party of the Regions is politically engaged, whereas it is envisaged by the norms that this human rights defender be politically neutral. They could have answered “We know that”. They could have said thank you.  They will, all the same, have to work with the Council of Europe and reckon with the fact that the Monitoring Committee exists in order to help different countries act in accordance with accepted principles and laws. And of course thank the people who are asserting the authority of the law and rights in the interests of our country.

These simple truths are incomprehensible to Leninists, whether they be from the Communist Party or the Socialist Party, or the Party of the Regions. Instead they plan together to give an “angry rebuff” and accuse people with standing in post-communist countries also of “flagrant infringements”, “attempts to compromise”, “to impose their point of view”, and to “express a vote of no confidence in the legislative steps of people’s representatives”.

The shamelessness and lack of ceremony of this statement signed by I. Bokiy, P. Symonenko and R. Bohatyryova, force me to write this explanation. I would respectfully ask Ms Severinsen and Ms П. Volvend, as well as the readers of this document, to accept this explanation as an apology for such tactlessness from Ukrainians.

President of the Ukrainian PEN club, Yevhen Sverstyuk

22 January 2007



Yevhen Sverstyuk, prominent Ukrainian writer, philosopher and former political prisoner, was born on 13 December 1928, the seventh child in the family of Oleksandr and Yevhenia Sverstyuk in the village of Siltse, Horokhivsky district, Volyn region.   He has written many books and numerous essays and articles on literature, psychology, philosophy, and religion, as well as translations from German, English and Russian. He is a laureate of the Shevchenko State Prise, and the International UNESCO Award. In Ukraine and in the West he has been known since the 1960s as a participant in the national liberation movement, and was one of the organizers of Ukrainian “samvydav” [samizdat].  He spent 12 years in the Soviet labour camps and in exile for his literary works, in particular for his book “Sobor u ryshtovanni” [“The cathedral under scaffolding”] (Paris, 1970).  He is presently editor of the National newspaper “Nasha Vira” [“Our Faith”], and is also the President of the Ukrainian PEN-Club, and a co-organizer of the civic organization “Hromadyanska pozitsiya” [“Civic Stand”]. 

Please see  for more details about Yevhen Sverstyuk’s life


“In Ukrainian” must not descend into primitivism

“Gazeta po-ukrainsky” [“Newspaper in Ukrainian”] has been one of the decent new media outlets which was cheering. Cheering, that is, until recently, until the obviously coordinated anti-Semitic publications in some parts of the media about the purely spontaneous, civic and nationwide, campaign proposing Yevhen Zakharov as candidate for the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson. The publications are totally in the primitive style of those on Russian anti-Semitic websites.

My first reaction was that “gpu” [the website of “Gazeta po-ukrainsky”] had also been influenced by this descent into anti-Semitism.  That led to a first heated and not quite correct reaction, specifically because of the fear of such a descent. Today I studied the material in “gpu” more carefully and saw that what there is does not yet constitute such sliding into anti-Semitism. The public danger of this remains, however, when you see how the virus is attacking even old acquaintances. The question therefore arises: why over the last decade has the virus of people – hatred become so active?

The blame can clearly be attributed to our disregard for the deterioration in the moral level in society. And to the impunity with which over several years cynically overt and vile anti-Semitic provocations have been perpetrated by the notorious “three-faced” Janus in its Ukrainian cloned version (“Personnel” – MAUP [= the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management] – the “Ukrainian Conservative Party”]. Nor has this been without the support of certain individuals in power who, for their own self-aggrandizement, still continue to at very least allow the incitement of xenophobia in Ukraine so as to hamper the development of civic society. This “Janus” is presently formally working within an anti-Semitism “in Ukrainian” mode, although it began at the outset of Ukrainian independence with an overtly anti-Ukrainian policy. Then the latter became ineffective, and the new – old regime succeeded in changing the model of country – society – state to a state – regime model, with the regime presented as the sole representative of the new state. At that stage the old pro-empire anti-Ukrainian policy became camouflaged as “Ukrainian patriotism”, and specifically in the shame of anti-Semitism.

Every form of xenophobia inevitably destroys the moral foundations of society. This, however, is especially true of anti-Semitism since the Jews are linked with the vital Moral Covenant between Abraham “as father of many peoples” and God which established the spiritual foundations for our mighty European civilization. Anti-Semitism destroys the moral foundations of any society which allows it to develop. It destroys the moral and legal foundations of any state even when the latter is guilty only of looking the other way. And however much the Soviet regime may once have tried to link its anti-Semitism with Ukrainian identity, it undermined first of all the foundations of the Soviet state itself, becoming one of the decisive factors in its collapse.

It is strange that in such a naïve way young journalists, even from the new media outlets, can so light-heartedly join the ranks of anti-Semites.  And this is often under the deceptive banner of “thinking in a Ukrainian way”! Not in a European, modern, morally responsible way, not using commonsense, but specifically “in Ukrainian”. And that, in fact, means that you can do it somehow or other, or even simply badly.

Once, forty, thirty or twenty years ago, and not only in the political labour camps, acting “in a Ukrainian way” meant something quite different. At that time also the imperial regime constantly stirred up xenophobia reactions. However at that time, being consciously Ukrainian and acting in a Ukrainian way meant showing solidarity and all-sided support for others, feeling responsible for all those next to you. Including for Jews – both those who wanted to leave Ukraine, and those who wanted to stay there as equal citizens.  For this reflected the deep awareness of the undying force and the immediate significance of the historical rallying cry “For your freedom and ours”.

Then, acting as a Ukrainian meant showing solidarity with all people in Ukraine: with Russians, Jews, Poles, Armenians, Georgians and Crimean Tatars. It was thanks to this that a spirit of solidarity then reigned in Ukrainian society and the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine was able to pass a decree that marked an epoch for post-imperial mentality.  This was the decree abolishing the notorious Fifth point [“nationality” in Soviet passports – translator] which only Soviet imperial hypocrisy could have devised.

The sense of civic solidarity was then indeed dominant. It exists in society now also, however those “new Ukrainians” who are foisting the “model of the cool guy” on society are not very attuned to moral thinking, and consider it sufficient to proclaim themselves and their actions to be in keeping with their understanding of what “in Ukrainian” means.. They fail to realize that their understanding of all of this “in Ukrainian manner” is really the understanding of “in primitive mode”. Do they not notice that each anti-Semitic “in Ukrainian” will inevitably turn into “in anti-Ukrainian”?

The media outlets which have become caught up in this anti-Semitic campaign will deny elements in their material about Yevhen Zakharov written not only with anti-Ukrainian intent, but with anti-Semitic, claiming that they have the right to “another point of view”, and specifically such a view regarding the candidacy for the Human Rights Ombudsperson. However if those people presenting such excuses have even a modicum of decency and culture, they will not be able to ignore, the elements of if not downright primitivism, then at least lack of intelligence in such an approach to Zakharov and to any socially important issue. Even if they really don’t, for some reason, like a person’s “too prominent nose”.

I have known Yevhen Zakharov since 1992, from the initial period of discussion on the extremely important issue for post-Soviet society of creating effective civic human rights structures and of uniting them at grassroots level into a democratically coordinated network which would be closely linked with the public.

I well remember, from the very first steps, the whole difficult road and incredible level of commitment in carrying out that ambitious and purely civic goal. And not even a professional anti-Semite could deny the crucial role which Yevhen Zakharov played in bringing these plans to fruition. Nor could they deny his truly monumental practical experience in human rights defence gained over those years.

This experience has in no way destroyed a remarkable level of personal tolerance and goodwill towards others. Towards friends and opponents.  Nor his innate capacity to think analytically and responsibly.

Yevhen Zakharov’s huge experience of human rights work and his profound understanding of the specific issues of human rights defence in Ukraine are highly valued not only in civic human rights organizations in Ukraine, but also in Europe, Russia and North America, as well as in international European institutions for human rights.

In my view, the situation around the entirely civic initiative to put forward Yevhen Zakharov as candidate for Human Rights Ombudsperson is entirely clear.

In actual fact, the point is not that some media outlets infected with anti-Semitism don’t want to see as Human Rights Ombudsperson somebody proposed not by political forces or parties, but by that real civic society which since Maidan (the Orange Revolution) has become a moral worldview phenomenon.

They don’t in fact want to see him in that post precisely because he is a representative of Ukrainian civic society. If he was a member of some political force, all would be well for them, for he would remain in one way or another vulnerable to the influence or pressure of a political force. It is those members of the old – new regime wanting to maintain their monopoly for speaking in the name of the people who don’t want to see Yevhen Zakharov in the role of independent, specifically civic (and not party-affiliated!) representative. And the media implicated in this dirty campaign with their absurd attacks on Yevhen Zakharov, whether consciously or unknowingly, are allowing themselves to be used by those forces, perhaps not even understanding that it will not be so easy to clean themselves of this anti-Semitic mire. Each media outlet and each journalist will gain themselves the reputation of being a primitive anti-Semite.

The main thing is that freedom of choice be adhered to … so that there is nothing that Jews could be blamed for in this stupid personal choice. Since the “folly of each individual must be visible” as Peter the First once commented.

Zinoviy Antonyuk

Society of Former Political Prisoners and Victims of Repression

Freedom of expression

“The revoking of a Kharkiv correspondent’s accreditation is persecution for criticism”

The Commission of Journalist Ethics considers the revoking by the press service of the Kharkiv City Council of Maria Spalek’s accreditation to be an act of persecution for criticism and obstruction of her professional work. The Commission has made an appeal to the Prosecutor General and hopes that the latter will react to this incident.  Their statement, given below, was circulated on Friday 23 February.

Statement from the Commission on Journalist Ethics on unlawful interference in journalists’ activities

The Commission of Journalist Ethics deems the report by the press service of the Kharkiv City Council that it has revoked the accreditation of a journalist from the newspaper “Komersant – Ukraina” to be an act of persecution for criticism and obstruction of journalists’ professional activities. Officials of the said body of local self-government have exceeded the powers vested in them by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine.

The Constitution defines the role of bodies of local self-government as being “to independently resolve issues of local character”, and clearly outlines these issues. The comprehensive list most certainly does not contain issues regarding professional journalist ethics. Instead both the Constitution and laws set down a not exhaustive list of duties of bodies of local self-government on ensuring the right of citizens to information, namely:

  • to provide full and accurate information about its activities and decisions it has taken;
  • to ensure that journalists have free access to information;
  • to create special information services safeguarding access to information;
  • not putting any pressure on journalists nor interfering in their work;
  • providing accreditation for journalists and technical staff of media outlets and providing logistical backup for them to carry out their duties.

The procedure for accreditation and the revoking of such is regulated by a law which gives the only grounds being infringement of the procedure of access of journalists to premises, information and technical means of the authority or bodies of local self-government. An additional guarantee against the arbitrary rule of officials is also given in the fact that decisions on revoking accreditation are taken by the authority or body where the journalist has this accreditation.

Thus instead of carrying out their direct duty to ensure that journalists receive information about its activities and decisions taken by the Kharkiv City Council, instead of  providing logistical backup for journalists to carry out their duties (informing them about important measures and plans of the city council, providing copies of documents, full information about decisions being prepared or passed, safeguarding access of journalists to means of communication and to important sources of information), the press service has resorted to censorship, persecution and recriminations against journalists.

The Commission would welcome efforts by the official  of the press service of the Kharkiv City Council to involve specialists, including journalists, in preparing new regulations on the press service and procedure for accreditation of journalists and technical staff, since the present documents do not comply with either the Constitution and Ukrainian legislation, or international standards.

We are appealing to the Prosecutor General and look forward to hearing his response to the actions of public official of a body of local self-government which, in our view, contain features of the offence defined in Article 171 of the Criminal Code. (obstruction of journalists when carrying out their professional duties – translator)

Press history demonstrates that public officials who accuse journalists of special operations or information wars have grounds for fearing that their activities will be made public, while for a politician the reputation of being an “enemy of the press” spells political death.

Mayor of Kharkiv sticks to his guns over journalists out of favour

At a City Council meeting today, 21 February, Kharkiv’s Mayor Mykailo Dobkin expressed his views about the work of journalists and those publications in the media which, in his opinion, are not objective in the way they cover his activities.

Mr Dobkin stated that he was interested in broad coverage of the activities of the local authorities. He said that he was ready to put up with any constructive criticism, however he was “not ready only for open lies masquerading as freedom of speech”.

At the same time, speaking on behalf of the faction “Nasha Ukraina”, Andriy Rudenko demanded that accreditation be provided for journalists from the publications of the civic movement Misky dozor [City Watch] who have been waiting for this for many months. He also called for the accreditation to be reinstated of journalist from “Komersant – Ukraine” Maria Spalek.

On 19 February, the City Council press service stated that it had revoked Maria Spalek’s accreditation because her publication “has been persistently misinforming people in Ukraine about the reform of housing and communal services in Kharkiv”.. “Several times in material on this subject there has been unverified information and a slanted approach. All such material was written by the Kharkiv correspondent for the newspaper Maria Spalek and her Kyiv colleague Oleh Havrysh, who together disseminated untruthful information”.  The press service cites one article from 19 February as example, and demands that the information is refuted and a public apology given.

Spalek’s article which has led to her loss of accreditation says that on Friday the government committee on the fuel and energy industry spoke out against the new system of paying for electricity, gas and heating which the Kharkiv authorities have developed.

Maria Spalek asserts that she “used facts and official reports and I am prepared to prove this”.

In its turn the City Council’s website contains a statement from the Deputy Prime Minister Andriy Klyuev which refutes the information circulated on 19 February by “Komersant – Ukraina” about the government committee having spoken out against the new system of paying for electricity, gas and heating proposed by the Kharkiv authorities. Mr Klyuev’s press service states that no commentary was provided on the information circulated in the newspaper and that there was no meaning of the said committee on 19 February.

During the City Council meeting, Mayor Dobkin gave the floor to his press secretary Viktoria Marenych who said that she was “amazed and at the same time disappointed by the position taken by Kharkiv journalists”. “It seems that the Kharkiv journalist community is openly supporting overt lies as one of the foundations of today’s local journalism”.

In her opinion “people have come to journalism in Kharkiv without special training, and they are probably therefore not familiar with the principles of journalist work and the Code of Journalist Ethics.”

She added that on the instructions of deputies of the City Council “the press service can take on organizing and running seminars in other places on the principles of journalist activities and ethics involving in this leading journalists in Ukraine and Russia.” The press secretary said that she hoped that “this will help Kharkiv journalists differentiate between fact and lies”.

As already reported, on 20 February a roundtable of journalists took place in Kharkiv where a statement of protest was issued against the actions of the city authorities in revoking Maria Spalek’s accreditation.

The right to health care

The situation with healthcare is critical

The tragic death of the well-known politician and State Deputy from the Party of the Regions Yevhen Kushnaryov immediately raised a number of issues of concern in society. The unclear circumstances of the incident, as well as the vague, confused and varied commentaries from the authorities aroused people’s suspicions. Doubtless, it would be naïve to hope that we will ever gain an even remotely accurate picture of the circumstances. Nonetheless, there are questions which those in power must hear and answer.
Let’s leave politics. Firstly, because one speaks well of the dead or not at all. Like all of us, the Deputy had family and friends and we extend our sincere sympathy.
It transpired unexpectedly that a State Deputy, although seen as living in some “higher realm”, is an ordinary person, and like any other can get ill, have an example, receive serious injuries. And this does not depend on the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, or on the Cabinet of Ministers. The money allocated for treating the so-called “elite” in Feofaniya, the possibility of bringing in doctors from European countries, etc, can all prove futile. In my opinion, the best way of honouring the State Deputy’s memory would not be to rename streets or cities, but, for example, to equip at least one central district hospital, to provide full staffing and constant maintenance – and then name it the Kushnyarov Hospital. Kharkiv residents’ experience testifies that Sumska St has already been called after Karl Libknecht, and Lavrenty Beria, yet it continues on as Sumska and let’s hope that that’s how it stays. And there have also been the names for the city Zinovyevsk and Voroshilovohrad, yet Kharkiv remains Kharkiv.
We must definitely draw certain conclusions from this tragedy.
Some of these conclusions relate to the state of our medicine. Even before the tragedy in Izyum, I had explained to journalists why there is such a pitiful health service in Ukraine. I didn’t mention our deputies’ taste for hunting, but simply said that, considering how much deputies have to travel by car on Ukrainian roads, elected representatives of all political shades would be wise to at least gain an approximate idea about what kind of hospitals they are travelling past, and the conditions they’re in. We are all created in the same way, and in general people are fragile creatures and illnesses can attack anyone in any place. It is high time that deputies concerned themselves with urgent problems, did their real work – legislating reforms of outdated institutions in our society, in the first instance, the health service. If they don’t know how to do it, aren’t able to, then they should call in specialists, even from abroad, who understand something in this area.
I said then that nobody is guaranteed against car accidents when driving, for example, on the roads between Kharkiv and Poltava. And having received injuries which make it impossible to transport them, deputies will be forced to experience the full spectrum of medical services of the same quality that ordinary mortals get. They end up in a central district hospital and then it’s up to fate.
I do not share the view of the Deputy Ministry of Health V. Ivasyuk that Yevhen Kushnaryov was not given adequate medical care. I know enough Kharkiv doctors to get information about the care provided at first hand. You can rest assured that the best doctors and the necessary medicine were all sent from Kharkiv to the patient.
However, I’m sorry. Even a superstar doctor from Germany cannot replace an artificial lung ventilation machine. And no medical genius is a walking dialysis machine. And it’s senseless to ask whether an ordinary district hospital has such equipment. Even in Kharkiv there are not enough such systems. District hospitals are catastrophically short of modern resuscitation equipment and accordingly of resuscitation specialists. In Soviet days there were cases where rich enterprises, like the Izyum optical plant, provided material assistance to hospitals, money to update and maintain the district hospital. Now all those factories can scarcely survive and certainly aren’t able to think about helping hospitals.
This means that those in power, by not concerning themselves with the material condition of our hospitals, are not only failing to care for ordinary citizens, but are hurting themselves. And if we don’t change our attitude to health care and to appropriate funding in this area, we will remain forever in the jungle. We don’t know whether Yevhen Kushnaryov would have survived such serious injuries had he been taken to a properly equipped hospital with modern means of resuscitation. There was at least a chance.
However the fact that most central district hospitals become, to be brutal, morgues or effectively hospices, is clear not from rumours, but from the numerous complaints and some monitoring carried out by KHPG experts, together with the International Society for Human Rights – Ukrainian Section, over several years. This monitoring, although it covers a fairly narrow group of the population – young lads before conscription or conscripts, makes it possible to draw conclusions about the level of equipment and provision of medicine and staff in our district hospitals. The conclusions are not cheering.
According to our information, in the Dvorichansky district, an ambulance team would not be able to get to many settlements – due to the lack of both cars, and roads. So employees of medical assistance [feldsher] and midwifery units [MAMU], if the family of the patient don’t have their own car or can’t pay for petrol, answer urgent call outs either on foot or by bicycle. We’ve heard similar stories from doctors on the Izyum ambulance service. On Channel 5 TV they told all of Ukraine that they had one old car which when it freezes in winter doesn’t start at all. So if an ordinary citizen had ended up in the same situation as Kushnaryov, it turns out that he wouldn’t have even been able to get to the hospital in winter.
And who would have brought blood and plasma from Kharkiv if they’d been needed? And imported medicines with a price not in the hundreds, but in the thousands of UH. And in general would they have called out, if not doctors from Germany, then from Kharkiv? No need to even ask.
And it’s not doctors’ fault that the State over the fifteen years of independence has kept them in such an unenviable position. Responsibility for the life of a VIP even of district level is a normal thing. I’m even surprised that the hospital is brave enough to treat these VIP. But for the ordinary citizen in such a hospital there’s little left. Even when we’re talking about being called up to the army. As we know, if a young man in ill health is accepted for military service, it is first of all the State that incurs incredible costs. The young man needs to be treated in a military hospital, then undergo tests to be released. Unfortunately, however, deputies are unable to either value human life, or calculate state expenditure. They’ve been squabbling for almost a year about who’s most important in the country. And the Mayor of Kharkiv, instead of resolving the city’s problems of which there are a huge number which really jeopardize the health and safety of its residents has plunged into political rowing with the regional administration. Communal charges have almost tripled, the cost of medicines is rising and the notion of a free health service is pure illusion. Nobody is cleaning the streets, and the central square is covered in ice. To replace the ZHEKs [housing departments] which, albeit badly, did maintain communal services, new structures are being created which do not improve the state of affairs, but collect money from the population. For whose benefit? The “Mayor’s” TV channel and newspapers from morning to night talk about how they’ll improve Kharkiv residents’ lives – tomorrow. At the elections they promised: “An improvement in the standard of living already today”. Empty promises.
It’s funny to look at this, one feels sad and bitter for Kharkiv voters who brought to power such party and other (completely non-party) groups who can’t even speak Russian, not to mention Ukrainian. If you watch the meetings of the Kharkiv City Council, it’s impossible to design whether you’re in a doll’s theatre, a den of criminals, or simply a madhouse.
However the main thing is that those who get to power spend all their time thinking up things for themselves, and maybe they imagine that medicine will be found for them. It won’t be found – at some point they’ll definitely be caught out since we all live next to people with tuberculosis, and anybody can end up in difficulties far from Feofaniya or from an airport.
As far as real, and not fabricated, changes are concerned, there are none. For example, in the Kharkiv region around 1 billion UH is envisaged by the 2007 budget for healthcare. According to the head of the permanent commission of the Regional Council on healthcare, Volodymyr Svyatash, this is 163 million UH more than in 2006. If we recall the rules of arithmetic, knowing about the sharp increase (several times higher) of communal charges and rise in prices for medicines, an increase of 20% will simply bring most medical establishments of the region near penury. It’s good that at least the head of the commission understands this, since he’s added to the “optimistic” figure, that not enough has been allocated for buying medicines which have also become more expensive, an 4.95 UH (nearly 1 USD) is allocated per patient per day for food.
The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, in monitoring healthcare services in medical establishments, plans in the next months to establish how transparent in fact the expenditure on central district hospitals is, what modern equipment they have, whether they have ambulance teams and cars and how able they are to send doctors to each populated area, as well as whether they have sufficient supplies of blood.
We will pass on all information we receive in response to questions we have put to the Kharkiv Regional Administration and the Ministry of Health.
It will then be possible to predict what level of healthcare a patient who needs urgent hospital care and cannot be transported to the regional centre can expect.
Now let’s return to our deputies. Over the entire 15 years, with all their shameless infighting, they haven’t been able to pass any contemporary laws to really improve the healthcare situation. All of their pseudo-reforms, like bringing in a system of family doctors, have only led to a breakdown in the system of duty doctors, and the system of family doctors has still not begun functioning. Among the huge number of draft laws on mandatory medical insurance, some have been reasonably sensible. There was one, for example, by a Deputy from the previous session of parliament, Ms Markovska. The draft law was inconvenient for medical bureaucrats, who received considerable profit from issuing licences for private medical practice, especially from cooperation with pharmaceutical companies, this business demanding not only lobbying and ensuring tenders, but also legislative “protection”.
And the political forces in power now are also not bothered by troublesome questions of healthcare. Although Deputies T.D. Bakhteyeva (PR), S.V. Chervonopysky (SPU), P.S. Hryhorovych (NU) and others have submitted a draft law on financing health care and medical insurance, in our view, this is another attempt to con the public and maintain dodgy arrangements in the medical sphere and legitimize payment for medical services outside those which the draft law defines as a “vital level of medical care”.
The main thing that is unclear is how much money the insurance companies have to pay to medical establishments for medical services provided to patients.
We would note that in no other European country are there such non-transparent arrangements for receiving and using funds as those proposed in draft law No. 2192. In European countries the authorities try to make the system of financing and use of medical insurance understandable and transparent to the public. As a rule, there are several competing insurance companies and people have the chance to choose their own company. Insurance premiums also depend to some extent on a person’s income however there is a clearly defined list of free services and subsidies on medicine, especially in countries with high social standards.
Deputies have not proposed anything similar to regulate the draft law mentioned. So either it will simply be a legalized way of collecting more money from people, whereas in cases where medical care is required, people will again pay themselves for treatment, and also directly to the medical staff, or a whole range of other laws will need to be added. Then perhaps the system will somehow function. But then it will be necessary to review and analyze the entirely legislative base for medicine as a whole.
One already feels a certain scepticism in society with regard to this draft law. Journalists write about this, and specialists who provide arguments to show that the law as it stands at present will not bring positive results.
However we well know that if some official or other want a piece of nonsense to become law, it will be passed and the people’s representatives will probably support a law proposed by their socially close bosses.
While Ukrainian citizens remain at best in the same position, while at worst – not only will norms of the Constitution (Article 49) be violated, but also international laws – Article 2 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
Although the norms of the Constitution and of the Convention are norms of direct force, it is virtually impossible to prove in court that in a medical establishment a person’s right to healthcare or right to life was violated. The forensic medical examinations in our country, and this is absurd, are under the control of the Ministry of Health. Therefore it is much simpler even to bring the law enforcement agencies to answer, than irresponsible or unprofessional medical staff. Of the huge number of complaints alleging inadequate medical services which human rights organizations receive, it is possible to prove at least administrative liability in only 3-4 cases a year. In the first instance this is connected with the lack of a clear system of division of responsibility in medicine and related fields.
Who, for example, has analyzed the negative consequences of the Law “On the circulation of narcotic substances and precursors, the introduction of which has led to neurological divisions of some medical research institutions being deprived of the right to prescribe patients whom they continue to treat after hospital care Sibazone? Sometimes this is the only medicine capable of dealing with an epileptic fit. Even pills of Sibazone or Repanium are prescribed on strict register forms. This law first and foremost helps not to fight drug addiction, but to maintain and expand a black market in medicines.
In neighbouring Russia, all whose actions the present government tries to blindly emulate, prescriptions for precursors to elderly people or the disabled are issued for a month and on usual prescription forms.
The black market in medicines is a trap for patients. On the one hand, many patients who are on the registers of psycho-neurological establishments and have the right to free medicine, receive them and immediately take them to people reselling them on the market, and remain themselves without medication. On the other hand, for patients who buy the medicine on the market, there is always a risk that they will buy a fake, or medicine beyond its sell-by date. The law jeopardizes not only people’s health, but their life, since if you don’t stop an epileptic fit, the patient can die.
The Prava Ludyny editorial board will be presenting a number of articles on these issues and would invite human rights colleagues to engage in discussion on them.
We would stress that the medical sphere urgent requires reform, but that this must take into account both world experience and Ukrainian reality.
Otherwise nobody and nothing can help a patient – regardless of social status, if s/he is brought in an emergency to a normal Ukrainian hospital. It would be advisable for our esteemed Deputies to think about this after the tragedy in Izyum.

Law enforcement agencies

80% of those held in SIZO [remand centres] have confessions beaten out of them

Well-known human rights defender and Director of the Ukrainian-American Human Rights Bureau, Semyon Gluzman, is seeking to ensure that at legislative level “voluntary confessions” are removed from police practice.

Semyon Gluzman spoke about this during a press conference in Rivne. He believes that such practice leads to physical violence against crime suspects.

He stresses that police work needs to be assessed not according to the number of criminal investigations launched, but by the number of crimes solved, since otherwise this leads to unjustified sentences and torture of suspects in the course of a criminal investigation. 160 thousand prisoners in Ukraine, he believes, is not an indicator of a criminogenic society, but evidence that many petty criminals are sentenced, while major corrupt dealers and swindlers escape punishment. Gluzman believes that at present more than 80% of those held in remand centres need the assistance of human rights defenders since in the majority of these cases the police have “beaten confessions” out of them.


Not just cars turned upside down

“One of the individuals used his phone to call a third person with a car which they shoved me into, After that they took me to a forest plantation near the village of Shevchenkivski Hai. They took me out, and on the way the police threatened me with violence. They forced me to dig a pit using my bare hands which they said would be used for the ninth (maybe somebody like me). After 5-7 minutes, the driver, who’d spoken to somebody on the phone told me to stop, wash my hands in the puddle and come with them to the police station. All three took me to the city police station and led me pass the duty officer to Vasyl Ivanovych (I don’t know his surname). On the second floor one of them said to Vasyl Ivanovych that they would catch all of them …”

From a statement given by a 15-year-old student of the Centre for Vocational Training Volodymyr K.

News of the “Ternopil street revolution” at the end of last year appeared on pretty well all national television channels, print and Internet publications.

In the evening of 20 December on Zlukha Street there was a car accident. A new “Audi” at high speed went through a pedestrian crossing hitting two young girls, students at the Ternopil Centre for Vocational Training No. 1, O. Solonyna and I. Mykhailyshyn. The arrogant reaction by the culprit , the driver S.V. Boiko aroused outrage in those who witnessed the event. An ambulance arrived and took the girls to hospital, but the people didn’t move away. Then, either the driver showed some kind of official document, or somebody simply assumed that he was a law enforcement or tax officer, and so “they’ll protect their own”. This was in fact the main reason for the surge of outrage. Passions were not subdued by the arrival of a police patrol car, rather the opposite. Within several minutes at the scene of the accident there was an angry thousand-strong crowd.  The police and driver who soon tried to leave got away with just a fright, but their cars were less lucky, both being turned upside down. The police car was turned over by the enraged protesters and was therefore badly damaged.

On that same day uniformed and plain clothed officers began looking for those who sparked off the disturbances and who damaged both official and private property. At a press conference on the incident, the head of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [DMIA], Vasyl Pisny, stated emphatically that those guilty of causing the disturbances and damaging the cars would be found and punished, and would have to pay for the damages to the police.

With excessively simple logic they began grabbing students from the Centre for Vocational Training. The idea being that since the girls studied there, it was their college mates who had caused the damage. In fact it should be noted that the photos shown in the local press for several days running established that the cars had been overturned by well-built men, and certainly not 14 or 15-year-old teenagers.

On 20 December the police detained eight students from the Centre for Vocational Training supposedly for having started the riot, however they were released after questioning. On the next day near the Centre’s hostel, another 5 lads were detained. The fact that these boys had been in the police station and had been questioned without relatives or teachers being present was later confirmed by one of the Centre’s teachers, Viktor Saliy. He said that the lads had been held for a long time and taken around different offices. They had been terrified. A few days after this incident, the Director of the Centre told journalists from Ternopil publications that the police were arrogantly infringing children’s rights and questioning underage students from the Centre.

Volodymyr K, the 15-year-old student from the Centre mentioned above was detained in the morning of 21 December by two plain-clothed individuals who forced him into their car. One of Volodymyr’s friends, Petro N. immediately used his mobile and rang the police. He was told to stay where he was, and the police, having arrived, took him to the city police station.

Meanwhile the “plain-clothed strangers” took Volodymyr K to the forest where they intimidated him, demanding that he confess to having taken part in the street disturbances, and even forced him to dig a grave. They then took him to the city police station where he gave his statement to the first deputy head of the Ternopil police station Vasyl Buryk.

No information was provided during the first weeks after the street incident as to who these mysterious people in plain clothes were who had tormented a young lad in the forest near Shevchenkivski Hai.  The head of the public liaison centre of the region’s DMIA, Serhiy Shvornykov, stated to journalists that the police were checking information about the incident on 20 December, and that a criminal investigation had not yet been initiated.  When asked about Volodymyr K’s abduction and his having been taken to a forest, he replied: “that was not done by police officers, but by some individuals in civilian clothes whose identity has not been established.”  The question was left unanswered why these “unidentified individuals” had taken him to the police station.  Incidentally, knowing how strict the pass system is for getting into the police station (the duty officer finds out who you are, telephones the office where you want to go), it is difficult to imagine how “individuals in civilian clothes whose identity has not been established” could get in there.

The next day Volodymyr K. made a statement to the head of the city police station, and on 26 December to a deputy of the Ternopil Regional Council B. Rokochy. His statement says: “Of course I was present together with a thousand other people, but I was a long way away and couldn’t have been anywhere near the place when they overturned the cars.  Although they can accuse me of that.  I’m 15 years old.  I’ve been brought up without my mother who died for 6 years.  Please look at my application and protect me from a possible charge (of a crime) that I didn’t commit. I’m scared the investigation won’t be objective, and I’m scared of physical violence and psychological pressure which they’re already putting on me”.

The Ternopil prosecutor’s office during the last days of last year was not in a hurry to shed light on the circumstances of this highly publicized cases.  Only on 2 January did the press secretary of the regional prosecutor’s office Lesya Dolishna provide information that a criminal investigation had been launched into interference in the work of police officers in order to obstruct them in carrying out their official duties. However nothing was mentioned of any criminal investigation into the actions of the identified detective inquiry officers and their unidentified partners. Therefore, on 4 January 2007, on behalf of the correspondents’ branch of the bulletin “Prava ludyny”, I sent a formal request for information to the Prosecutor for the Ternopil Region, Y.V. Holubo.

I received a reply in the last few days. The Prosecutor has established that  the investigation unit of the DMIA for the region had taken the decision on 2 February 2007 with regard to the accident itself to not launch a criminal investigation against S.V. Boiko due his actions not having elements of a crime in accordance with Article 286 of the Criminal Code. From this one can understand that in the opinion of the investigation unit, at least the driver  S.V. Boiko  did not hit the girls on a pedestrian crossing.

“Furthermore, in the course of checking the appeal made by a student of Ternopil Centre for Vocational Training No. 1, Volodymyr K. regarding the unlawful actions of unidentified individuals and officers of the Ternopil City Police Station, his allegations were not found to be justified. Therefore on 28 December 2006 it was decided not to launch a criminal investigation against S.V. Boiko and V.V. Didushyn on the basis of 6.2 of the Criminal Procedure Code given the lack of elements of the crime set out in Article 146 of the Criminal Code, as well as against officers of the Ternopil City Police Station of the Ternopil Regional DMIA on the basis of 6.2 of the CPC given the lack of elements of the crime set out in Article 365 of the Criminal Code

And from the content of this paragraph, you must agree it’s difficult to understand who the said S.V. Boiko and V.V. Didushyn – police officers, those same “unidentified individuals” or simply relatives of a man who speeds around the city in a cool “Audi”/

The fact that the “allegations were not found to be justified” was an entirely predictable finale, both in content and in form. It is difficult to hope that a fifteen year old student of a vocational school, and an orphan to boot, could oppose the unlawful pressure on him and prove the guilty of those who wronged him. That the prosecutor’s office in such cases takes the unfailing position of non-interference was also fairly predictable.

But would anyone venture to predict whether those students who were so treated by “investigation officers” in uniform and leather jackets will join a crowd on the rampage during the next “street revolution” triggered off by any more or less deserving event?


Penal institutions

13 remand prisoners in Komsomolsk didn’t try to cut their wrists for nothing

On 23 February the Poltava Regional Prosecutor’s Office acknowledged that the conditions in the Komsomolsk temporary holding unit [ITT]* where 13 people tried to cut their wrists two days ago are unsatisfactory.. The Prosecutor, Viktor Voitsyshen told journalists that the prosecutor’s office had carried out an investigation which had identified numerous infringements. For example, in all cells the temperature was lower than the required norm, and the premises were in an unsanitary state. He added that the food received was not sufficient for the norms established in legislation. As a result, relatives of those held in custody, with the consent of the management of the Komsomolsk police station, bring parcels each day, although according to the law people held in custom are entitled to parcels only twice a month.

According to Mr Voitsyshyn, based on the results of the prosecutor’s office check, a report has been submitted to the head of the department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs for the Poltava region demanding that the irregularities identified be rectified, that an internal inquiry be held and those responsible be punished in accordance with the law.

*  ізолятор тимчасового тримання is a temporary holding facility [ITT from the Ukrainian] before charges are laid.  This seems logical since it is attached to a police station, however the initial reports spoke of слідчий ізолятор which is an investigative isolation unit or remand centre [SIZO], where prisoners are remanded in custody pending trial.  The conditions in both are notoriously bad, and not all journalists clearly distinguish, which is presumably the reason for the discrepancy on this occasion [translator]


Follow the links below for the last two days reports on this incident.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2007, #02