“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2007, #03
Court hearing into the disturbances in Kharkiv on 16 December scheduled for 28 March Political reform in Ukraine and European democratic standards The right to life
Civic organizations call on Yushchenko to withdraw his recent award to Mykhailo Potebenko Judicial investigation begins into the death of Oleh Dunich IFJ Urges Ukraine to Withdraw Honour for Prosecutor Who Botched Investigation of Journalists Murder Freedom of expression
Kharkiv Regional Administration abolishes system of journalist accreditation “The revoking of a Kharkiv correspondents accreditation is persecution for criticism” Interethnic relations
Who is trying to fuel racism and xenophobia in Kharkiv? Court practices
A judge wont stand in judgment on a judge Journalists define Ukraines main problems Law enforcement agencies
Brief report on the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights Civic society
A year after the elections: the challenges to civic society. Can democracy survive? Rivne self-help campaign to improve language skills Victims of political repression
Kharkiv authorities against a memorial to the victims of Holodomor For each months imprisonment, former victims of political repression in Ukraine receive a pittance. This may change
Politics and human rights
Court hearing into the disturbances in Kharkiv on 16 December scheduled for 28 March
The Dzherzhynsky Court in Kharkiv is scheduled to begin a preliminary hearing into the case over the events on 197 Klockivska St. on 16 December last year which resulted in a number of people being beaten up.
Information about this was given today at a briefing from the leader of the civic organization “Misky Dozor” [“City Watch”] Vladyslav Protas. He said that the hearings would be into the charges brought by the police under the article on “hooliganism”.
He expressed surprise that “it only came out by chance on Monday that the hearing was to begin on Wednesday”, and that “neither the victims, nor lawyers, had received court summons”.
Mr Protas expressed indignation that the court case was being considered under the article on hooliganism, and not under that on “mass riots”, as had been originally launched by the SBU [Security Service]. He said that 26 people had suffered from the fracas on Klochkivska St – “they sustained medium and serious bodily injuries, and many are still being treated”. That, he believes, cannot be classified as “mere hooliganism”. He also said that to his knowledge, 50 people are presently being sought by the police for questioning, “they cant find them” and “only 10 of them have been arrested”.
The leader of “City Watch” believes that this all shows that the leadership in Kharkiv, which was present at the rally on 16 December, is trying, as he puts it, to “hush things up”. He suggested that journalists come to the beginning of the court hearing on Wednesday, saying he expected a lot of surprises.
As reported, on 16 December last year after a rally in Kharkiv against the building of a shopping centre mass disturbances broke out in which a number of people (mainly security guards – translator) were beaten up. The SBU launched a criminal investigation under Article 294 § 1 of the Criminal Code (organization of mass riots accompanied by violence against individuals, as well as active participation in mass riots). Soon afterwards the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutors Office initiated a criminal investigation over professional negligence by police officers of the central department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (CD MIA) in the region
On 24 January this year the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor Vasyl Synchuk stated that the prosecutors office had terminated the investigation into the case under the article on mass riots, launched by the SBU, in the absence of elements of that crime.
Later the Verkhovna Rada was unable to create a Temporary Investigative Committee to look into the events of 16 December. Another draft resolution is presently awaiting review in the Verkhovna Rada seeking an investigation into the events.
Political reform in Ukraine and European democratic standards
A well-known definition of democracy was given by Lech Walęsa: Democracy is a war waged by everybody against everybody under the control of the law. We certainly notice the war of all against all, however we have not seen any control over it for more than a year now, with the Constitutional Court effectively not working.
Ukraine cannot be considered a law-based state since the law is exercised specifically through the Constitutional Court.
All decisions taken in the absence of a functioning Constitutional Court are basically illegitimate and we need to be aware that they could be revoked.
The blocking of the Constitutional Courts work was one of the most flagrant examples of a steadily growing trend to abuse of the law.
Ukrainian politicians are prepared to carry out any actions which they deem politically expedient regardless of whether these violate the Constitution or laws, or the principles of the rule of law.
For example, the former Speaker of Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn deliberately put off swearing in new Constitutional Court judges, claiming that this was in order to ensure «order» and «stability» in the State.
The former Head of the Supreme Court Vasyl Malyarenko resigned for the period of the parliamentary election campaign – formally – due to his inclusion among the first five names on the candidate list for State Deputy of Volodymyr Lytvyns bloc.
In so doing, the former Head of the Supreme Court not only violated special legislation regarding the judiciary and political parties, prohibiting judges from any political activity, but also made his (mandatory) official appearance at the swearing in of the Constitutional Court judges impossible.
We can conclude that parliament during that period from October 2005 to April 2006 was trying to assume for itself the role of some kind of «main power» in the State.
It not only failed to appoint the specified number of judges according to its quota, but also prevented the judges already appointed from commencing their duties.
However severe this may sound, the actions of the Ukrainian parliament in this situation must be qualified as a dangerous encroachment on the principle of constitutional legality, and the political strategies used by former Speaker Lytvyn and former Head of the Supreme Court Malyarenko as politically motivated and a direct abuse of their official positions.
And when now Volodymyr Lytvyn sharply criticizes the «political reform» [the constitutional changes from December 2004] and says that there should have been parliamentary elections at the beginning of 2005, this only demonstrates his insincerity as a politician.
The insincerity, dishonesty and reluctance shown by Ukrainian politicians to call things by their own names, their disregard for procedure, lack of respect for the court and failure to implement its rulings result in neglect of the rule of law.
Another example of the same ilk is provided by the participation in the electoral campaign of the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada (the Human Rights Ombudsperson), Nina Karpachova.
The prohibition in law on holding representative office means that the Human Rights Ombudsperson has no legal right to carry out any activities aimed at taking office in the direct future.
After all, participation in an election campaign as a candidate for State Deputy is a nationwide demonstration of political views and clear party preferences.
We should also consider the fact that Nina Karpachova effectively occupied the second place in the candidate list, after the leader of the party. All of this indicates that the image, authority and force of the office of Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsperson were consciously used to advance the interests of a specific political force.
In addition, if the aim indicated in the law is manifestly unlawful, so too are any specific and deliberate steps towards achieving this. Otherwise, we would have to accept an effective carte blanche for overt speculation on legislative norms, for abuse of formal law which is obvious to the public, and for disregard for legislative guarantees for the impartiality of the Ombudsperson.
Unfortunately Nina Karpachova resorted to open, if not cynical, abuse of the law during the parliamentary election campaign. Later, having been elected to the Verkhovna Rada, she did not resign of her own will from the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson, this violating the provisions of the law prohibiting the combining of this office with a Deputys work.
One could go on and on citing examples of abuse of the law. This abuse is seen not only in the form of actions, but also as inaction.
For example, the President was simply obliged to approach the Constitutional Court with regard to the conformity with the Constitution of the procedure for voting for changes to the Constitution as part of a «package vote», together with changes to ordinary laws. However political deals proved more important for him than his duties as Guarantor of the Constitution and human rights.
The fatal consequences of the so-called «political reform» demand its review.
Since December 2004 human rights organizations have on many occasions publicly spoken about the dangers inherent in these changes. It is galling to observe today how all our predictions are coming true. Its implementation has led to competition between legitimate and real centres of power – the President and Prime Minister – within one executive branch of power with this leading to the country becoming ungovernable. It has created a rift in the unity of foreign and domestic policy, introduced principles of the worst political collectivism, transforming Members of Parliament into voting machines, totally dependent on the will of their leaders, or I would even say, owners of their factions.
The changes have substantially increased the influence of the selfish interests of powerful financial and industrial groups on parliament, reducing at the same time peoples access to power.
There is also another aspect of the «political reform». It is nothing more than a conspiracy of the rich against the poor. John Rawls principle of «inequality of benefit to everyone» does not work in Ukraine, and the constitutional changes are clearly hampering its implementation.
And what kind of democracy and rule of law in Ukraine can we seriously speak of when an unemployed former parliamentarian has gained the right to receive on a monthly basis approximately four times the salary of a current member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, or approximately 6 times the salary of a professor in a Ukrainian university (Fourth, i.e. highest, category)? One current Deputy costs the Ukrainian State as much as eight members of the Academy, or 12 professors, or 26 surgeons, or 40 teachers in secondary schools. The pension of a former State Deputy wavers between 80-90% of that which s/he received when in office.
The wage differential for all those working in state-funding institutions is equivalent to 1:40. This data is concealed in documents on limited access not available to the public. For comparison, in the Western Europe the ratio is 1:4, in the USA – 1:5 and these figures are open and stipulated by law.
The experience of the past months have demonstrated conclusively that Ukraine cannot presently function as a parliamentary republic.
Our young democracy has simply not matured sufficiently for this. Our political parties are only able to divide people into their own and others, and the totalitarian thinking of Ukrainian politicians is not capable of encompassing parliamentary democracy.
Our politicians are not able to make agreements, reach compromises. They seem able only to coerce their opponent, insult and try to overcome them.
We need to understand that the amendments introduced into the Constitution create objective reasons for political confrontation in society. It is therefore necessary to review the principles of Ukrainian politics set down in the Constitution.
I dont know how this will be done – through the Constitutional Court or by introducing new amendments to the Constitution but it must be done.
Chamberlain once wrote in a work entitled «Ukraine – a subjugated nation» that the Ukrainian political elite constantly betrayed its own people.
However he wrote those words about times of political lack of freedom, whereas now we are observing the moral betrayal of the Ukrainian people by the elite under conditions of State sovereignty.
The old opposition of «them and us», which had slightly receded over the last two years, is again coming to the forefront.
I saw this telling text just yesterday in a letter from one of the rank and file members of the «Batkivshchyna» [«Motherland»] Party:
«Theyve» taken all our national riches from us, and theyre now concentrated in the hands of several hundred families.
«Theyve» taken from us the right to elect worthy people to the Verkhovna Rada. We are forced to vote for «their» party lists.
«Theyve» taken from us the right to have impact on the policy of the country via the President, having taken away his powers.
«Theyve» taken from us the local councils, and now, after introducing the Law «On the imperative mandate», they are overtly making them subordinate. Farewell to local self-government! The fate of any territorial community will now depend only on the will of the «party curator» of the given territory.
«They» want new elections to finally get rid of all others.
The recent political reforms have brought the political elite and the people into conflict.
At an intuitive level I feel that this conflict cannot last very long, it must in some way be resolved. Society in its present state cannot coexist with authorities organized in such a way.
I think that we will soon see how that takes place. For this reason, I would like to mention two fundamental points.
Firstly, the Ukrainian national idea emerged from the idea of freedom. The vast majority of the participants in the biggest uprisings in Stalins GULAG – at the Kengirsk and Norilsk camps – were Ukrainians.
The «virus of rebellion», the thirst for freedom, the will to freely determine their own fate were so intense specifically among Ukrainians. It was they who inspired people to rise up albeit in the face of inevitable death.
This was what inspired the Shestydesyatnyky, [the Sixties Activists] who went to the camps for the right to call things by their own names, it was this that inspired people during the autumn of 2004.
I would advise Ukrainian politicians to remember this.
Secondly, all modern history demonstrates that a political regime which violates human rights and the rule of law ever more overtly is sooner or later doomed.
The right to life
Civic organizations call on Yushchenko to withdraw his recent award to Mykhailo Potebenko
14 Ukrainian and international organizations have addressed an open letter to President Yushchenko calling on him to withdraw the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise to adviser to the Prosecutor Generals Office Mykhailo Potebenko.
The letter is signed by the International Federation of Journalists, the Institute for Mass Information, the Gongadze Foundation, the publication founded by Georgy Gongadze – Ukrainska Pravda, the National Union of Journalists (UK and Ireland), the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and a number of prominent Ukrainian civic organizations.
The letter states that “it was specifically to Mr Potebenko as Prosecutor General that Georgy Gongadze turned for protection when he realized that he was being followed. At that time the Prosecutor General failed to respond and take measures to protect the journalists life, this enabling Gongadzes later abduction and murder by law enforcement officers.
Since it is the direct duty of the Prosecutor Generals office to protect the right to life of Ukrainian citizens and not to deprive them of this right, Prosecutor Potebenko bears some of the blame for the tragic death of Georgy”.
The letter points out that “the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights had been violated, and thus recognized that Ukrainian State and police officials had deliberately taken the journalists life by subjecting him to torture. The lack of an adequate investigation by the Prosecutor Generals office during the first two years, these being under Mr Potebenkos leadership, was recognized by the Court as a breach of the rights of his family and relatives”.
The organizations demand an investigation into the tampering with the case and the withdrawal of the honour to Mr Potebenko since “such an award given the sham investigation into the Gongadze murder is an insult to those people who really are attempting to build democracy and a law-based state in Ukraine and inflicts pain on Georgys family and relatives. Such unwarranted awards, furthermore, damage Ukraines reputation in democratic countries and hamper its prospects for European integration.”
Judicial investigation begins into the death of Oleh Dunich
Oleh Dunich died in December 2005 in an emergency care hospital after allegedly being beaten by officers of the Chervonozavodsky District Police Station in Kharkiv.
Much of what happened on the night between 7 and 8 December 2005 involving first one, and then three police officers and resulting in the death of Oleh Dunich remains unclear.
This is what the reference note from 11 December 2005, signed by the deputy head of the Kharkiv City Department of Internal Affairs for the Kharkiv region, Police Colonel S.A. Onopriyenko, says:
“On 7.12.2005 between 23.00 and 24.00 operational officers of the Chervonozavodsky District Station of the Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine for the Kharkiv region, Police Captain K.H. Mykhailov, Senior Police Lieutenant A.V. Padalka and Police Lieutenant S.M. Kolyadin were in the club “E-2” on S. Hrytsevets Street in Kharkiv. At 24.00 S.M. Kolyadin walked out onto the street to hail a taxi, while K.H. Mykhailov and A.V. Padalka remained inside the café. After leaving the café, S.M. Kolyadin was approached by two men unknown to him who began to demand that he hand over anything valuable which S.M. Kolyadin refused to do, after which one of the men, tall and with long hair, punched him in the region of the thorax. S.M. Kolyadin told the men that he was a police officer, however one of the men took out an air pistol and aimed several shots at him , then proceeding to hit him with the handle of the pistol on his head, as a result of which S.M. Kolyadin fell to the ground and began calling for help. At that moment, K.H. Mykhailov and A.V. Padalka ran up to him, and the unidentified individuals began running, however one of the assailants fell. After this, two men walked up and said that they had witnessed S.M. Kolyadin being beaten, and offered their assistance. It was later established that their names were S.V. Zhyla and S.V. Morsky. S.V. Zhyla drove S.M. Kolyadin, K.H. Mykhailov and A.V. Padalka, as well S.V. Morsky, in his car to the Chervonozavodsky District Station, from where S.M. Kolyadin was hospitalized by an ambulance team in the 4th Hospital with an injury to the parietal region …K.H. Mykhailov, together with A.V. Padalka and S.V. Zhyla, returned to the place of the incident to carry out operational investigation measures, in the course of which at the market on S. Hrytsevets Street they detained O.M. Dunich, whom S.V. Zhyla identified as the man who had delivered blows to the head with his pistol to S.M. Kolyadin. O.M. Dunich was taken to the Chervonozavodsky District Station, and entered into the visitors book of the station on 08.12.2005 at 04.00. During a body search of O.M. Dunich, an air pistol was discovered and removed. An operational officer of the Chervonozavodsky District Station, Senior Police Lieutenant H.S. Snurnikov prepared a protocol on confiscation of the pistol which O.M. Dunich, in the presence of witnesses S.V. Zhyla and S.V. Morsky, categorically refused to sign. O.M. Dunich also refused to give any explanation.
Due to the fact that O.M. Dunich complained of his state of health, on 08.12.2005 in the premises of the district station, a forensic medical examination was carried out which found numerous haemotomas and haemorrhaging which were classified as minor bodily injuries and which had been incurred at least three days before the examination (act № 4414С from 09.12.2005). Since O.M. Dunichs health deteriorated, an ambulance was called which took him to the 4th Hospital, where at 12.00 on 09.12.2005 he died.
If we look at act № 4414С from the forensic medical examination on Oleh Mykhailovych Dunich, born 1975, who was “delivered on 08.12.2005 to the Chervonozavodsky District Station with bodily injuries due to a crime”, the medical expert Y.O.Danylenko presents the circumstances of the case and the conclusions from the forensic medical examination as follows:
„The individual under examination refused to say where his bodily injuries were from. However he stated that he had previously had surgical intervention in connection with trepanation of the skull. He mentioned headaches, giddiness, seeing spots. Psychological or physiological methods were not applied.
It should be noted that when in contact with the individual under examination, there was a smell of alcohol, and he also mentioned that he had previously fallen more than once.
The individual under examination stated that he had been brought to the Chervonozavodsky District Station at around 04.00 by police officers on suspicion of having committed a crime.
...I have reached the following conclusion that he has suffered bruising on the face, body and limbs”.
Only on 12 December did the Head of Branch No. 1 of the Kharkiv Regional Office for Forensic Medical Examinations write to the head of the Department of Internal Security in the Kharkiv region, Police Colonel A. Barkov. :
“In response to your verbal request I can state that on 08.12. 2005, at 8:40 a.m., Mr. Oleg
Mykhailovych Dunich was taken by ambulance MSP-315 from the Chervonozavodsky District Station on Gagarin Avenue to the emergency care hospital with the diagnosis: closed brain injury, brain haemorrhage, cerebral oedema, coma, blunt thoracic trauma, fracture of ribs on the left, blunt stomach injury, asphyxiation and blockage of the respiratory tract due to vomiting. Despite the measures taken, the patients condition remained extremely serious and at 11.30 his pulse effectively stopped. Attempts to resuscitate him were not successful. At 12.00 he was pronounced dead with a diagnosis of severe brain injury, subdural haematoma of the left hemisphere, contusion and fracture of the basiliar areas of the left temporal lobe, cerebral oedemic dislocation, as well as multiple injuries to the head, face, thorax and limbs. No alcohol was found in O.M. Dunichs organism on his admission to the emergency hospital.
The preliminary results of the autopsy on O.M. Dunich showed severe brain injury causing death, multiple bruising on the trunk and limbs, fracture of the thyroid cartilage, direct fractures of several ribs on the left, and pulmonary contusion.
The cause of O.M. Dunichs death was a severe closed brain injury”.
It has now transpired that the forensic expert was forced to write the first forensic medical examination (saying that he had received the medium seriousness injuries three days earlier) under threat that they would get even with her if she didnt. This report said that the injuries were of medium severity and had been received three days earlier.
After Dunichs death, his relatives questioned the forensic report.
There was a lot of publicity about Dunichs death and the police officers resigned “of their own free will”. Dunichs relatives approached the city prosecutors office. A criminal investigation was launched, but the trial only began nearly a year and a half later.
The city prosecutors office considers that Dunich was beaten to death by the three former police officers. Last week the Kyivsky District Court on the application of the prosecutors office remanded the men in custody. They are presently in a SIZO [pre-trial detention centre] however the preventive measure may be changed*. They are charged under Articles 365 – exceeding their powers, 121 § 2 – inflicting serious bodily injuries leading to death, and face sentences if convicted of up to 12 years.
* The Appeal Court did in fact uphold the decision to remand the men on the grounds that they could abscond or endeavour to influence other parties, as had allegedly already been the case.
IFJ Urges Ukraine to Withdraw Honour for Prosecutor Who Botched Investigation of Journalists Murder
We pass on the IFJs letter. See the link below for Myroslava Gongadzes reaction to the award.
President Victor Yushchenko
Fax: +380 44 255 75 71
22 March 2007
Dear Mr. President,
The International Federation of Journalists, representing over 500,000 journalists all over the world, is writing to urge you to withdraw your recent decree awarding the Order of Prince Yaroslav the Wise to Mykhaylo Potebenko, one of the people responsible for the shoddy investigation into the death of the journalist Georgy Gongadze.
On February 17, 2007 you signed a decree awarding the prize to Mr. Potebenko, an adviser to the Prosecutor Generals Office of Ukraine. As you know, he was the head of the General Prosecutor Office of Ukraine from 1998 to 2002. During that time, our colleague Georgy appealed to the office for help because he thought he was being followed. The Prosecutor General failed to reply to the journalists request much less provide any kind of protection for him. Soon after he was kidnapped and murdered, allegedly by law enforcement officers. Three of his attackers are now on trial, as you know.
The General Prosecutors Office is responsible for protecting Ukrainian citizens and by failing to react to Georgys request, Mr. Potebenko is culpable for our colleagues tragic death. After Georgy went missing, Mr. Potebenko ran the failed investigation into his murder.
The failure of the Ukrainian prosecutors to make a full investigation into this murder has contributed to an atmosphere where the significant improvements in media freedom established in the immediate aftermath of the 2004 Presidential election are being eroded.
In a case brought before the European Court of Human Rights by Georgys widow, judges ruled that Articles 2 and 3 of European Convention of Human Rights were broken by the Ukrainian government in respect of Georgys death. The court said that Mr. Potebenkos failure to proceed with a full and honest investigation into Georgys murder was a breach of the human rights of our colleagues close friends and family.
The ruling should have prompted Ukraine to start an official internal investigation to call to account the people responsible for the sham investigation of the Gongadze case. But instead the government has awarded an honour to one of the key figures in the botched investigation.
The IFJ believes that the disregard for Georgys plea for protection as well as the botched investigation into his death are an outrage to those working for democracy, the rule of law and media freedom in Ukraine. We, along with numerous Ukrainian journalists and press freedom organizations, ask you, Mr. President, to withdraw this honour for Mykhaylo Potebenko to show the country and the world that you are committed to a free press and protecting journalists.
International Federation of Journalists
Freedom of expression
Kharkiv Regional Administration abolishes system of journalist accreditation
The Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration Arcen Avakov has instructed the department in charge of liaising with the press and with the public to no longer demand journalist accreditation within the Administration.
It was announced at a press conference, that from now on all journalists and media technicians would be able to get into the Administration premises and to all events by simply showing their media identification cards.
Mr Avakov explained that these measures were aimed at safeguarding the legitimate rights of journalists and the public to free, unimpeded and timely information about the activities of the state authorities and ensuring their transparency.
“In a democratic state legislation and moral norms require that journalists be able to have all information except that constituting a state secret”.
“This means”, Mr Avakov stressed, “that there will be no restrictions for members of the media in working with the Regional Administration.”
According to the press services figures, there are presently around 220 members of the media with accreditation for the Kharkiv Regional Administration
“The revoking of a Kharkiv correspondents accreditation is persecution for criticism”
The Commission of Journalist Ethics considers the revoking by the press service of the Kharkiv City Council of Maria Spaleks 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.
Who is trying to fuel racism and xenophobia in Kharkiv?
On the evening of 18 March a torch procession was held in the student area on Alekseyevka by an organization calling itself “Patriots of Ukraine”. Young people in military-style clothes demanded that the hostels for Ukrainian students be better than those for foreigners. The law enforcement officers raise no objections to the march however human rights defenders are sceptical about its peaceful nature.
The torch procession was organized in accordance with all the rules, with notification in the district executive committee and police station. The participants get into a column, light torches and march to the student area. As they themselves put it – to show the foreign students whos boss: They chant: “One race! One nation! One homeland! Ukraine!”, “Kharkiv belongs to us!”,” the best hostels for Ukrainians” The organizers claim that there is “racial discrimination” in Kharkiv with the heads of institutes concerned first about foreign students and not Ukrainian State-funded students.
The leaders of African students have told those new to Kharkiv who dont know the language well to be particularly carefully after such actions.
Ludovic Muanda: “We advise them to try not to go out by themselves, but in twos or threes or fours. And try to get things done before 6 because in winter its dark by them and they could be attacked.”
A year ago Ludovic saw a student from his country killed by skinheads in St Petersburg. He has lived in Kharkiv for more than 10 years and says that he already advised people up to now to come to study in Ukraine.
Andrei Beletsky leader of “Patriots of Ukraine” claims that everything is done for foreign students and that they move people out so as to let them have a room intended for 3-4 people with only one other, or even if they want by themselves. He asserts that this is at the expense of Ukrainian students.
The march is around the perimeter of the student “city”, with most of the foreign students living in the centre. The aim is to enlist supporters from among Ukrainian students. They claim to have around 100 members in the organization.
Such public actions by the self-styled nationalists only began about half a year ago. This was the third such torch procession. As mentioned, the police have no complaints against the ultra-right “patriots”.
Valery Lyuty, head of the police for public safety: “Police officers control the situation. They speak directly to the leaders and warn them not to disrupt the peace”.
Human rights defender Yevhen Zakharov calls the organization fascist and has doubts about its peaceful nature. In Russia fascists are already killing foreigners. He believes that in Kharkiv the ultra-right extremists are at the first stage of a terror campaign against foreigners, this involving psychological pressure.
Yevhen Zakharov: Foreign students are intimidated and frightened to complain to the police. And without such complaints, no investigation can be carried out. At the same time, they complain of violence and threats of violence. The police went around the hostels before such processions and advised students not to go out. They even put notices to that effect in the entrances. And not for nothing: the students say that after the processions, when its already quite dark, the demonstrators split up in groups around the student area and look for foreign students to beat up. And if theyve found them, theyve been badly beaten. Theyve also been other cases involving beatings, abuse, threats etc.
I have written testimony from students about this however it was given on condition that names would not be revealed, because theyre afraid. They say that theyre experiencing real psychological terror and are thinking of returning home.
Many talked about two people having been killed. I have looked into this very thoroughly with the help of the regional department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs. It turns out that no foreign students have in fact been killed. Yet the fact that people independently all tell the same story, about how somebody was stabbed several times and died in hospital suggests that the rumour has been spread deliberately in order to frighten foreign students.
At the same time when the administration of the National Pharmaceutical Academy approached the police in connection with the beating up of a student who ended up in hospital, the offender was arrested and is now awaiting trial. As for the three torch processions, I find it extremely strange that there should be “patriots” prepared to come out on weekend evenings to have a demonstration. I think theyve simply been paid to do it. Somebody really wants to create the impression that Kharkiv residents are racists and xenophobic. The police need to get information from foreign students and take incidents of racism and xenophobia more seriously. The number of such cases has risen significantly. Incidentally the embassies of at least two countries – the USA and France – officially warn their nationals of danger from racist violence in Ukraine. Who wants this reputation?
A judge wont stand in judgment on a judge
Who would you say is the most immune and virtually untouchable in this country? if you thought politicians, think again – its judges.
The story here began on 21 February 2006, just before the parliamentary and local elections. That day Judge Natalya Viktorovna Hrydyna of the Suvorovsky District Court in Kherson was hearing a case between the Kherson branch of the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists and the regional electoral commission over registration of candidates for deputies of the Regional Council.
No journalists at my hearing!
The Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] carries out independent monitoring of the legality of electoral processes, this including gathering information about court cases. Oleksandr Shapovalov, a legal consultant for the Kherson CVU and a journalist from the newspaper “Free choice” was sent by the chief editor to the above-mentioned court hearing. Yet as soon as he walked into the Judges office and introduced himself, Ms Hrydyna leapt to her feet and angrily demanded that he “get out”, saying that the journalist would by his presence interfere with her hearing the case (he didnt have a video recorder, camera or dictaphone with him, these often “disturbing” our judges).
Oleksandr refused to comply with this clearly unlawful demand, knowing that any person has the right to be present at an open court hearing (with closed hearings possible only in order to prevent the disclosure of state or other secrets, protection of person or family life and in some other cases). At that point, Natalya Viktorovna interrupted the hearing, through everybody out of her office, called the court guards, positioned them at the doors and again led the parties to the court hearing in – all except the journalist.
To court against a judge
Oleksandr Shapovalov was not prepared to accept this infringement of his rights and the public interest in receiving objective information. He therefore put together a report on the event and had this witnessed by those individuals present in the court. The next day he lodged an official request for information in the office of the court, demanding written explanations and copies of the decisions taken with regard to him.
A week later he received answers from Ms Hrydyna and the Secretary of the Court Kolesnychenko that “no procedural documents were made with regard to you … the provision of information in response to your request is not envisaged by current legislation”. And, as Judge Hrydyna considers, the Law on Information does not apply to the courts. Even though Article 32 of this Law clearly states: “a request for written or oral information shall be understood as a statement requesting oral or written information relating to the activities of legislative, executive, and judicial authorities of Ukraine, as well as officials thereof with regard to certain matters”.
Not wanting to stop halfway, Oleksandr decided to appeal against the decision of the judge in court. The suit was filed on 2 March 2006. That was just the beginning.
How judges examine civil lawsuits from holiday ..
The Regional Court decided that for the sake of impartiality the case should be heard in the Dniprovsky District Court in Kherson. The case took a month to reach the court. According to Article 107 of the Code of Administrative Justice (CAJ), the decision whether or not to begin proceedings must be made no later than the day after a claim is lodged. Yet as it transpired a month later, the claim was submitted for consideration to Judge Volodymyr Polyvyany who had just gone on holiday! Subsequent events are even more interesting.
“The case was closed due to the non-appearance of the respondent”
Polyvyany, having returned to work, repeatedly postponed the hearing due to the non-appearance of the respondent Ms Hrydyna, the need to call witnesses, to receive explanations from the court guards, etc. Then suddenly in July it turned out that the case had been closed, and a month earlier at that! The grounds for this decision were the “repeated non-appearance of the claimant at the court hearing without good reason” (Article 155 of the CAJ). Perhaps Oleksandr became disillusioned and “let things run their own course”, or was subjected to “pressure” and got scared? No, its all very simple: he was not informed about the last two court hearings neither verbally, nor in writing (although he should have received notification at least 7 days before the hearing). But thats not all: in Polyvyanys judgment a “small” error appeared which changed the thing radically. Instead of “the repeated non-appearance of the claimant”, the judge wrote “the non-appearance of the respondent”, i.e. Hrydyna. The situation proved unprecedented: you take somebody to court, they dont turn up and so they close the case – you dont know whether to laugh or cry.
“Tightening of discipline, raising the cultural level and responsibility of employees of the court service”
Oleksandr Shapovalov filed an appeal and also sent complaints to the Regional State Judicial Administration and the Regional Judicial Council about the unsatisfactory organization of the work of the courts. He received the following reaction.
The Judicial Administration notified him that it had asked the Secretary of the Dniprovsky District Court Ryabova to look into all the facts in the complaint and asserted that the secretaries of all local courts in the region had been advised to “discuss at an operations meeting issue regarding tightening discipline, raising the cultural level and responsibility of employees of the court service”. Well, thank you for that at least! (although a copy of the said letter could only be received after several months and having complained to the State Judicial Administration of Ukraine).
The Judicial Council simply handed the complaint to the same Ms Ryabova who did not even try to look into the situation, confining herself to a registration card and referring to the absence of a case in the district court. It proved interesting. On 24 July, the Secretary of the Court Council signed that the complaint was being sent to the district court, while the secretary of the district court later answered that the case had been sent on 2 August to the regional court together with the appeal (arriving on the 6th). They missed each other by chance?
The judge mixed up the procedural codes
Meanwhile a month passed, and Oleksandr received yet another document for his personal collection of gems of “court idiocy” (theres no other way to put it). The judge of the regional court I.A. Kapitan ruled that the appeal not be considered because the time limit for its submission had been exceeded. Having predicted something similar, Oleksandr specially indicated in his appeal that in accordance with Article 188 of the CAJ a person not summoned to a hearing may appeal the court ruling within 5 days from the date when the copy of the judgment was received (which, pursuant to Article 167 must be sent immediately, and not a month later when visiting the court). However the judge not only didnt notice this “hint”, but actually muddled the codes! The judgment had been based on the Civil Procedure Code and not on CAJ (by accident?) Well, its hard for judges these days – so many codes have appeared. 5 whole codes (with the Criminal, Economic and Code of Administrative Offences). You can muddle them, were all human.
“It is not possible to examine the case since there is none …”
Appalled by such a level of legal iliteracy among judges Oleksandr turned to the Higher Administrative Court, and also made another complaint to the local Judicial Administration and Judicial Council. And this had an effect: the rejection of the case by Judge Kapitan was declared mistaken and the appeal was accepted for consideration. And it was only at the hearing that it turned out that the case … was missing! It transpired that the suit with the attachments had been returned to Shapovalov, then submitted by him again to be added to the appeal, however the office of the district court had “forgotten” to pass it onto the regional court.
This “court error” was soon rectified and the panel of judges of the regional court established that the “court had examined the case in the absence of the claimant, not having properly informed the latter of the time and place of the court hearing”. The case was therefore returned to Judge Polyvyany to be continued. But it only proved possible to get a copy of the ruling of the appeal court three months later, after a complaint to the regional Judicial Council.
The case is closed – the respondent has gone away
However, as soon as the case reached the Dniprovsky District Court, Polyvyany issued the following judgment: “At the present time Judge N.V. Hrydynf is a judge of the Odessa Regional Appeal Court. Therefore this court is not competent to consider the claim and it should be returned to the claimant…” As you see, everything in our country is upside down.
The next appeal was submitted. And again the ruling issued by Judge Polyvyany was declared unlawful, and the case returned to him for “the consideration of the merits to be continued” (with the journey from the regional court to the district court taking an entire month).
So is it worth taking judges to court?
And the continuation? Half a year has passed, nothing has moved, only lots of paperwork (1 claim, 2 appeals, 1 cassation appeal, 10 complaints). Maybe it wasnt worth starting such a hopeless venture? However Oleksandr Shapovalov thinks differently:
“Why in our country has the lawlessness of officials flourished and still continues to flourish now? After all over 15 years of independence parliamentarians have reformed most of the Ukrainian Soviet legislation. However laws are not obeyed and the inspectorates, administrations, police and prosecutors office often do nothing. The last hope is the court, but here also we dont find justice. Whats to be done? If each person makes their contribution to public control over the judiciary, this will help to clean up the judiciary and enforcement bodies and get rid of “criminals in court gowns and uniforms”. These bodies in turn will safeguard a proper justice system and real control over other officials”.
Journalists define Ukraines main problems
An absolute majority (84%) of journalists surveyed consider reform of the judiciary to be one of the highest priorities for society.
This was one of the results of a survey carried out by the “Democratic Initiatives” Centre on commission from the USAID Program “Ukraine: the Rule of Law”. The findings were presented during a roundtable by the “Democratic Initiatives” Centres research director, Iryna Bekeshkina.
Most of the journalists (72%) also believed that in the area of judicial reform, nothing was being done. 91% are convinced that one of the tasks of the press is to provide coverage for the issue of judicial reform.
At the same time, 58% of the journalists surveyed acknowledged that these problems receive little coverage in the Ukrainian media. The main reasons for this were seen as being the lack of understanding of journalists of the issues (65%), the non-commercial nature of such material (40%) and the lack of interest in them from the broader public (31%).
There are most often reports in the press about specific court cases (70%), negative material about judges (35%) and extremely rarely or not at all is there educational material regarding the work of the judiciary and its problems in Ukraine (3%), as well as discussion of the direction needed in reforming the system (6%).
Far more negative material is presented about the judicial system (67%), than positive (6%). In the eyes of members of the media, the Ukrainian court system looks extremely bad. 95% of those surveyed are convinced that members of the public either absolutely or largely distrust the court system and the latter basically deserves this because it has a serious problem – corruption (this was the opinion of 99% of the journalists). The main form of corruption in the courts was deemed by 97% of the journalists to be bribe-taking.
In material on issues around the courts and judiciary, different points of view were very rare or not presented at all (63% of those surveyed). 95% of the journalists think that the judiciary is closed to public scrutiny. Therefore 75% suggest creating at each court a service or appointing a specific person responsible for liaising with journalists and the public. 55% said that relations between judges and journalists were unfriendly.
The main factors which prevent normal relations are, according to the journalists, the corruption of judges (69%), the lack of openness of the courts (58%) and the lack of knowledge among journalists of the issues of court proceedings (46%).
To develop constructive relations between judges and journalists, the respondents believe that the following are needed: more openness of the judiciary (73%),; a rise in the professional development and level of knowledge of journalists about court proceedings (67%), the introduction of a system of press secretaries in courts or appointment of a specific person responsible for liaising with journalists and the public (52%); placing all material pertaining to court cases on court websites (52%). Journalists were honest in rating their own level awareness on issues of reform of the judiciary in Ukraine as inadequate (77%), while 84% believe that this knowledge is needed for their journalist work.
This in the first instance applies to the directions for reform of the judiciary (68%), of civil law (48%), and criminal proceedings (44%).
The survey was carried out between 22 December 2006 and 22 January 2007. 207 journalists working on social and political subjects in different regions were questioned. There was a wide range of journalist status, with chief editors of publications and well-known Ukrainian journalists and members of the media from regional, city and district publications.
Law enforcement agencies
Brief report on the work of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights
The Public Council for the Observance of Human Rights attached to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (hereafter the Public Council) has been functioning for just over a year, having been created at the end of December 2005.
It is a consultative and advisory body aimed at promoting human rights observance in the work of the MIA.
10 working groups have been established, namely groups:
- on complaints alleging unlawful actions by law enforcement officers;
- on protection against torture and the right to liberty and personal security in MIA work;
- MIA and human rights during elections;
- MIA and freedom of peaceful assembly;
- the right to privacy in MIA work;
- the rights of the child and the MIA;
- the rights of refugees and migrants;
- preventing domestic violence and ill-treatment of children, human trafficking and gender issues in the MIA;
- human rights education;
- normative legal and method backup for the work of the Council
Documents regulating the activities of the Council and its membership are away on the Public Councils webpage on the website: www.helsinki.org.ua and also on the MIA website.
The members of civic organizations on the Council engage in this work within their own organizations and use their results in the relevant working groups.
Volodymyr Chemerys and his Institute “Respublica” carry out regular monitoring and protection of freedom of peaceful assembly;
The International Renaissance Foundation, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research, and their representatives on the Council – Roman Romanov, Arkady Bushchenko, Yury Belousov and Yevhen Zakharov run programmes for defending and affirming freedom from torture and ill-treatment, the right to liberty and personal security, the right to free legal aid provided by the State, openness of law enforcement agencies and observance of the right to privacy;
The international human rights centre “La Strada – Ukraina” and its representatives on the Public Council – State Deputy Kateryna Levchenko and Olha Kalashnyk – run programmes on preventing domestic violence, ill-treatment of children, human trafficking and sexual discrimination;
The representative of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine Ihor Popov and the joint Ukrainian-Canadian Project “Building democracy” Andriy Senchenko are running a programme on ensuring that law enforcement safeguard human rights during elections. They have produced a manual under the title: “The competence of the Ukrainian police in protecting human rights and public order during the election process”.
“The Chronicle of violations of the right of peaceful assembly” records violations throughout the country. 12 flagrant cases were recorded in 2006, involving violations by police representatives, the local authorities or courts (as against 42 in 2005).
The working group also prepared its own draft law “On freedom of peaceful assembly” and received positive assessments from OSCE and Venice Commission experts. The draft law has now been tabled for consideration by the Verkhovna Rada.
Members of the working group represent organizers of rallies and demonstrations against whom executive bodies have sought court orders to have them banned.
The working group on freedom from torture and ill-treatment, the right to liberty and personal security has produced digests of Judgments of the European Court of Human Rights on violations of Articles 2, 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights;
It has produced relevant books which it circulates among law enforcement officers, judges and lawyers;
An analysis was carried out of the compliance of Ukrainian legislation and practice with the recommendations of the European Committee against Torture. The results have been published in booklet form.
The group also carried out direct defence of victims of torture or violations of the right to liberty. More than 50 applications have been lodged with the European Court of Human Rights.
11 training seminars on applying international and European standards were held for investigators and various enforcement officers in 11 different regions of the country.
A project for providing free legal aid during detention was introduced. With the support of the International Renaissance Foundation, a pilot office was opened in Kharkiv in the Chervonozavodsky Police Station. Another opened in the town of Bila Tserkva in the Kyiv region.
The Public Council supported and developed work of MIA mobile groups on monitoring the observance of human rights in MIA places of imprisonment, mainly in its temporary holding centres [ITT].
Thus far 102 members of mobile groups have attended special training seminars held with the support of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine for law enforcement officers and human rights organizations.
As a result of these training seminars, a national network has been created, this being a prerequisite for creating a national preventive mechanism against torture and ill-treatment in accordance with the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT).
A booklet has been published providing an overview of the work of such mobile groups.
As a result of these activities, more attention has been paid to the conditions in ITT and there has been an improvement in these. The work of the mobile groups was assessed highly by OSCE and Council of Europe experts.
In cooperation with a network of human rights organizations, the co-chair of the Council Yevhen Zakharov carried out a study into the level of openness of law enforcement bodies of the MIA, SBU [Security Service] and prosecutors office, as well as of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences.
The survey showed a significant improvement in the level of openness of the MIA which proved the most open of the bodies mentioned.
For example, the number of complaints against unlawful actions by law enforcement officers had increased and came to 3,346 in the first 10 months of 2006, with 386 being found to be justified. This percentage of complaints recognized as valid is typical for the police in countries of the European Union.
If one compares this with the number of complaints received by the State Department for the Execution of Sentences alleging unlawful actions by the latters employees, we find that not one complaint was found to be warranted. The increase in the number of complaints to the MIA does not reflect an increase in violations, but rather in the expectation that complaints will be heard.
The working group on the rights of refugees took part in an internal enquiry into police action in Simferopol over the illegal deportation of 11 Uzbek asylum seekers. This proved that the MIA officers had carried out unlawful orders from the Crimean prosecutors office and SBU, this later being confirmed by the Ministry of Justice.
The working group on protection of privacy looked into the issue of including not only last names, but also name and patronymic, and passport details on railway tickets. During the discussion at a Council session, the members of the civic part of the Council demonstrated that such a step would lead to a violation of the right to privacy and would significantly complicate the work of ticket desks. As a result, the management of the MIA decided not to introduce such amendments and the relevant documents were withdrawn from the Cabinet of Ministers.
The working group on preventing domestic violence, ill-treatment of children, human trafficking and on sexual equality within the MIA drew up and submitted proposals for amendments to the Law on preventing domestic violence. This draft law suggests introducing corrective programmes for people who have committed such acts of violence, forced treatment for alcoholism in cases where this is a factor in domestic violence.
A roundtable was held on 23 November 2006 by the working group, together with the Verkhovna Rada on issues of legislative backup for law enforcement work, on legal means of countering the exploitation of children.
The working group in cooperation with the police department for juvenile offenders and its branches in the Donetsk and Kherson regions, as well as the civic organizations the Donetsk Youth Debating Centre and Successful Woman (Kherson), have introduced a system for monitoring child labour in the Donetsk and Kherson regions. In 2006 they carried out 178 monitoring checks in places where children might be employed.
Experts from the working group on human rights education prepared a programme for a course on “The Police and Human rights” for institutes within the MIA. This involves a manual for lecturers and for students. The course is to be included in higher education programmes. Two week-long seminars on teaching about human rights were prepared for these experts, as well as a secondment to Poland run by the Polish Helsinki Foundation.
Other projects initiated by the Public Council include protecting the rights of police officers; specific aspects of offences caused by racial and ethnic discrimination, and the reaction to these by the law enforcement agencies, etc.
Clearly one Council under the MIA is unable to carry out public control over the observance of human rights within the MIA throughout the whole country. At the very outset, therefore, a decision was taken to create regional public councils. The first was created in Kharkiv in April 2006, and by the end of 2006 councils had been created in almost all 27 regions of Ukraine. Some of these regional councils are already working well, while others are still at the initial stages. Unfortunately the Zaporizhya, Volyn and Dnipropetrovsk Public Councils have virtually ceased functioned.
The first years work of the Council highlighted a large number of problems in the work of MIA bodies which have direct impact on human rights. The year was not easy in conditions of political instability, the election campaign, changes in management within the Ministry. It required movement closer and coordination between the police and human rights organizations, and an understanding of the need for joint work. The main achievement can be considered the fact that the Public Council has come into being and proved its beneficial value for the MIA.
New problems and tests await us. Will the new leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs continue to prioritize issues of human rights observance? Will there be sufficient will to continue cooperation with public human rights organizations? Will civic organizations themselves show initiative and readiness to resolve practical problems? Could the work of regional councils stop? Political will to cooperate and make an effort will be needed by both the MIA and civic organizations to ensure future fruitful work.
I would like to sincerely thank those colleagues from the Council who helped in preparing this report: Yury Belousov, Olha Kalashnyk, Kateryna Levchenko, Oleh Martynenko, Andriy Tolopilo and Volodymyr Chemerys.
6 March 2007
PS On 7 March at a meeting with the Minister of Internal Affairs, Vasyl Tsushko, he assured me that he was interested in developing the Public Councils and would promote this in every way possible. We must hope for constructive cooperation.
A year after the elections: the challenges to civic society. Can democracy survive?
A nationwide conference held on 23 March in Kyiv on the challenges to civic society a year after the parliamentary elections attracted around 100 participants from the mass media, state institutions, donor and civic organizations involved in monitoring and analyzing the activities of elected public officials.
The conference was aimed at developing a strategy for civic society under the present conditions to raise the level of accountability of elected representatives and at assessing their level of openness and whether they have kept their pre-election promises.
In his opening address, the Director of the International Renaissance Foundation Yevhen Bystrytsky said that “dialogue between civic organizations and state executive authorities has been virtually stifled, and the media do not devote attention to this issue. We need on principle to ask sternly: “You promised, so what has been done?” Im afraid that many leaders of the elected authorities would have no answer. However the question must be put”.
Iryna Bekeshkina from the Democratic Initiatives Foundation in her address: “Ukraine at the crossroads: will it choose democracy and civic society?” expressed the view that: “both the government and the opposition suffer from the illness of standing up for economic interests. We have yet to see a strategy for development either from the government or the opposition. Nor is this discussed in society. People dont have the experience of exerting influence on the authorities during the period between elections”. She spoke of a survey of Ukrainian specialists that the Democratic Initiatives Foundation had carried out. 85 political scientists, analysts and journalists were surveyed between 22 February and 6 March 2007. and asked for their assessment of the socio-economic situation in Ukraine and the work of the Ukrainian government on a scale of zero, the worst rating, to a top of 10. The ratings overall were very low, with the average score for the government formed from the ruling coalition in the Verkhovna Rada being 3.2. Positive ratings (higher than 5) were given over for the situation with freedom of speech (5.2) and the level of democracy (5.2).
Natalya Ligachova from “Telekritika” suggested that civic organizations change their focus, concentrating more on establishing links with business, and also “moving towards the people” and supporting local initiatives.
The participants drew up and passed a resolution affirming their commitment to democratic values and their intention to further these in order to achieve social development. “The task we set ourselves during the period up to the next elections is to strengthen influence on the formation of state and local policy in order to create democratic institutions and procedures for direct and representative democracy, involving Ukrainian citizens in decision making by the authorities and bodies of local self-government, as well as in exercising public control over their implementation”.
The conference was organized by a working group which included representatives of UCAN, the International Renaissance Foundation, the Independent Centre for Political Research, the Democratic Initiatives Foundation, the International Centre for Policy Studies, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and others.
Rivne self-help campaign to improve language skills
A joint project among civic organizations entitled “Centre for improving language skills” has been launched. In response to an initative from the Rivne Regional Europ-Club, the Rivne Centre for Social Partnership and the Volyn Resource Centre have joined in opening a Centre for Improving Language Skills [CILS] in the city. The aim of the project is to raise the professional level of civic organizations in Rivne.
The Rivne Centre for Social Partnership explains that the objective of CILS is to provide members of civic organizations and young people taking an active part in civic activities with the possibility of improving their language skills in English, German, Polish and French. It is quite often lack of knowledge of even one foreign language that hinders the development of an organization and stands in the way of cooperation with foreign partners or donors, as well as preventing participation in events at an international level.
This particular project began on 1 February this year with names wishing to participate being collected throughout February. The lessons will be held outside working hours in the Volyn Resource Centre. They will be given twice a week for each language. Teachers will include native speakers, as well as participants in the Volunteer Agency of the Rivne Centre for Social Partnership – students from language faculties.
The courses will mainly concentrate on developing speaking skills, although the grammar fundamentals will also be either learned or revised.
The organizers hope that through this project, local civic organizations which are the main contributors to the development of civic society in Ukraine will find new prospects and horizons opening before them.
Victims of political repression
Kharkiv authorities against a memorial to the victims of Holodomor
The Regional Committee on organizing events around the seventy fifth anniversary of Holodomor [the Famine] of 1932-1933 wishes to erect a memorial plaque and to create a museum in honour of the Victims of Holodomor. However the city architectural department asserts that it is not appropriate to erect a monument in the city.
A wooden Cross has stood in memory for fifteen years in the Kharkiv Youth Park. Those who support a memorial say that this was always a temporary memorial.
They approached the architectural and construction departments of the city authorities asking for a site on which to build a large memorial complex. The letter they received reads: “It would be more suitable to establish the monument on the territory of the Kharkiv region which suffered more from this tragedy”.
Human rights defender Yevhen Zakharov states that this is not correct. Kharkiv was the centre of Holodomor and thousands of villagers went there in search of any food and died of starvation having found nothing. He adds that attempts to measure where the amount of suffering was greatest are absurd. “In general this issue of whether Holodomor affected the region or the city more is, I believe, a matter of debate”.
Adviser to the Head of the Kharkiv Regional Administration Ivan Varchenko does not discount the possibility that the decision to turn down the application for a site is politically motivated. The initiative to build the memorial was supported by the Regional Administration which has long been at loggerheads with the Kharkiv city authorities. He says: “I would not exclude the possibility that it was precisely political hysteria and the wish for a political battle that temporarily blinded the officials involved and dulled their understanding of general ethics and moral values.
The Chief City Architect Serhiy Chechelnytsky rejects accusations that his decision was made on political grounds. He continues to insist that Holodomor was a tragedy of the Ukrainian countryside. He is also categorically against placing a memorial in the Youth Park where there was once a cemetery for the victims of the Famine. “If we agreed to have a Youth Park, then lets have one. Here we have the situation where we removed the cemetery, called the place a Youth Park and are now again making it a cemetery”.
Vandalism as a mark of indifference to the past
Acts of vandalism have recently become more frequent in Kharkiv. At the end of December 2006, as reported here, the Memorial to UPA Soldiers in Kharkiv was wrenched from its foundation. The Eurasian Youth Union claimed responsibility for the act. The police have not found those responsible.
In January the Memorial to UPA Soldiers and the Cross in Memory of the Victims of Holodomor again suffered from vandals with black paint being daubed over the signs.
Ivan Varchenko says that one cannot exclude the chance that a new monument will further provoke protests, but this is no reason for not allowing them. “The value of the memorial is not in the stone which they can take away, break or daub in pain. The value is in the spirit and atmosphere. In the understanding that this is part of our history, it is that which must become the foundation for our future.
The last word is with the Prosecutor
The competition to design a Memorial to the Victims of Holodomor has not yet begun. First it needs to be established where it will be. Representatives of the organizing committee have turned to the city prosecutors office, asking the prosecutor to determine whether the officials of the Mayors office are acting in compliance with the Law on Holodomor.
As well as links below to the Law on Holodomor, which we hope the Prosecutor will read most attentively please see also http://khpg.org/en/1169674233 and follow the links there for information about the recent acts of vandalism
For each months imprisonment, former victims of political repression in Ukraine receive a pittance. This may change
The civil suit being heard at present in the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv is at once simple and complicated. The claimant is Yury Shukhevych who has first group disability status as a result of political repression in Soviet times. He is seeking recognition that paragraph one of the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers from 18 April 1996 No. 429 “On procedure for settling with persons rehabilitated” is unlawful or not in compliance with a legal act of higher legal force, that being the Law “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine”,
Yury Shukhevych first addressed an application to the Lviv City Council for compensation for over 35 years unlawful imprisonment since he had thus far received nothing.
The application was on the basis of the Law “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine”, in which Article 6 clearly states that those rehabilitated are entitled to pecuniary compensation equivalent to the minimum (monthly) wage for each month of imprisonment.
In his application, Yury Shukhevych asked that compensation be calculated according to the minimum wage then fixed, this being 400 UH (around 90 USD).
However the Lviv City Council responded by saying that compensation payments to victims of political repression were made in accordance with the Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers from 18 April 1996 No. 429 “On procedure for settling with persons rehabilitated”. The latter stipulates 50% of the minimum wage established by Resolution No. 49 of the Verkhovna Rada from 20 February 1996, this being 7 and a half UH (1.5 USD).
Having resolved to defend his rights to the end, Yury Shukhevych approached the Commission on restoring the rights of those rehabilitated of the Frankivsk district administration of the Lviv City Council. He pointed out that they could not, as public officials, apply the Cabinet of Ministers Resolution since this directly contravened a normative legal act of higher legal force, i.e. the Law “On the rehabilitation of victims of political repression in Ukraine”. However the members of the Commission reiterated that they were obliged to apply Resolution 429 of the Cabinet of Ministers (CMU).
Yury Shukhevych, therefore, decided to appeal against the part of the CMU Resolution which stipulates an amount of compensation which is 50% of the minimum wage established by CMU Resolution No. 49.
If the court allows the appeal lodged by Yury Shukhevych and revokes paragraph one of CMU Resolution No. 429, the pecuniary compensation for one months unlawful imprisonment will not be the pitiful 7 UH 50 kopecks, but 400 UH.
The Cabinet of Ministers against whom the claim has been lodged has not yet stated its position. During the court hearing on 7 March 2007, the respondents representative asked for an adjournment and informed those present that it was likely that the Cabinet of Ministers would meet the demands of the applicant.
A new hearing was set for 5 April 2006 with presiding judge Volodymyr Kuzmenko.
UHHRU will be closely following this case and will provide new information immediately.
Marina Hovorukhina, UHHRU
Please see http://archive.khpg.org/en/index.php?id=1142581158 for more information about Yury Shukhevych