war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Politics and human rights

The reasons for the political crisis and the threat it poses to society

Nikolai Kozyrev:  The reasons for the political crisis and the threat it poses to society

We publish an address given by human rights defender Nikolay Kozyrev to the Civic Regional Assembly Forum in Luhansk on 23 June. Those attending from all over the Luhansk region engaged in animated and critical discussion of the pre-election political situation and the activities of politicians of all levels. The general feeling was that it’s not only the stables which need a clean up, but their owners. The elections should provide such a clean up, but will they?  

My topic is as many-layered as a Napoleon cake. I will try to avoid theory and stay with those layers which are closest to the surface. Maybe it will be possible to gain a deeper view.

I would like to consider here how this political crisis is affecting human lives. If by crisis we concentrate only on the events we see on television, all the scuffles in parliament and arguments, the coalition-opposition reshuffling and so on, we can lose sight of the real issue.

I would begin with one fundamental point which is that political crises do not just appear. They are always an indicator of crisis in the economic, business and social-cultural spheres, in the way of life.  And one more thing: it is more important right now to correctly pose questions than to provide hasty answers.

Let’s begin by considering some victims of the crisis and try to find the common denominator.

Last week in the village of Makartetino, the Novopskovskovsk district, a 50-year-old man hanged himself. This village has excellent black-earth fields, and in Soviet times there was a cattle-breeding industry with 3,500 head of cattle. The latter has now, of course, been plundered. The fields are not sown, because the previous “grain grower” from among the rural "new Ukrainians" whom agricultural reformers were pinning their hopes on, took 5 million in loads, never returned them, transferred all assets to another business and bankrupted the village. Now another "economic party" has appeared, has begun to prepare the land for sowing, but has hired only four people from the entire village.

The deceased was trying to get a job in Russia, but only 19 out of the 70 hopefuls were chosen. There seemed no way out and he hanged himself. The village is plunged into the darkness of total disintegration, with the collapse being not only of the former production facilities, but of the traditional rural culture of work, destruction of the century-old institution of solid peasant household as an oasis of life. Now the only distraction in the village is hard drinking. Or death.

Another example: I recently spoke with a businessman from Krasny Luch who is, by local standards, successful. He said that for three years he’s been trying to get a permit to process coal remnants in Antratsyt. He’s spent huge amounts of money on all kinds of technical and economic justification and assessments, and he’ll need a further 25 thousand dollars to get a licence from the government. There is no other way, and the outcome is unpredictable. If the project proves interesting to, say, Klyuev’s people, they could intercept the initiative at the last stage. And all the money, years of work and project documentation will turn out to have been for nothing. This businessman says bitterly that in China such questions are settled within 10 days.

And as a third example of the crisis, I would mention the situation in Krasnodon where at the Barakov Mine the output per worker has risen because the coal production plan is increasing year by year, and earnings are decreasing. The coal miners are up in arms and the independent trade union has initiated a labour dispute. The General Director of "Krasnodon Coal" was invited to a meeting with the men but arrogantly ignored the invitation. So he miners didn’t go down the mine but made their way to the Director themselves and it all almost ended in a fight. The Director’s response – “If need be, I replace all of them”.

These examples seem typical to me since through them you can try to understand what is happening in the country, just in the sense of understanding the "political crisis" as a reflection of the inability of the country to develop in the socio-economic sphere. So what is happening? What kind of life do we have? And what’s the essence of the crisis?

This kind of social structure is called feudal-monopolistic.

Let’s pose two simple questions. What are the conditions under which the country will be able to fit at least onto the periphery of the post-industrial world, the global economy? And the second – what is stopping us being there now?

It is not too difficult to answer the first question – our economy has to be competitive, based on modern scientific and information technology. And it’s not. So why not? 

It is not competitive because the economy doesn’t need slaves or hirelings, but free, highly-skilled and highly paid workers, whose knowledge and skills are the most important part of the capital. And accumulation of financial wealth in a post-industrial world is impossible without social and cultural capital.

Where are such professionals trained? They probably don’t emerge from institutes where students have more interest in drinking and pay money to pass their exams. Incidentally, in the 19th century Japan began its move into the modern world by sending students in large numbers to German universities.

Our industrial base is outmoded and decrepit in an age of post-modern technology. And in the areas where it’s still working (Krasnodon, Alchevsk), it’s based on the low price of the final product (metal) which makes it sellable abroad. And the cheapness is provided by the exploitation of labour.

These days it is countries which export modern technology that are developing. Malaysia, for instance, earns much more on the export of information technology than Ukraine on the export of metal and other products.

What does this situation mean for a Ukrainian worker?  Let’s look at the buying capacity of Ukrainian workers, as compared with their American, Polish, Russian and Belarusian counterparts. Specialists calculated how long they’d have to work to buy 35 basic commodities, from toothpaste and shoes to a flat of 60 square meters in the capital, an airplane ticket for an international flight of 1000 km of and a Ford (car).  The results:

- an American – 8 years 11 months,

- a Pole – 14 years 10 months,

- a Russian – 27 years,

- a Belarusian – 33 years,

- a Ukrainian – 55 years.

By the way, in 1990 our worker would have had to spend only 14 years of work for that.  So how can we explain this devastating “achievement”?  Looking back in history, we see:

1. The Soviet legacy. Investments in the oil and gas industry in the 1980s (300 billion dollars) stifled high-technology industries and these became degraded first after the collapse of the state.

2. Kuchma’s era saw the destruction of the state. It was a time of forays and robberies by both mobile and settled bandits, who robbed and killed first, and then privatized the industrial sector of the economy as well as, incidentally, government institutions, courts, prosecutor’s office and police. The result was the formation of an oligarchy as political regime, based on monopolization of resources and power. Corruption is a product of this monopolization.

3. The era of Yushchenko.  There were attempts to resist the criminalization of power. But in vain: the President soon realized that all economic power was in the hands of the mafia, and that you needed to find a way of talking to them, negotiating. And the hard-line tactics of Tymoshenko’s government with its review of privatization deals in order to overcome the monopoly of the oligarchy and anti-corruption strategy ended with the scandalous dismissal of the Cabinet, the Memorandum and to a new coalition in the Verkhovna Rada. Then a new task emerged being to provide the political legalization of power of the oligarchs and turn the Ukrainian state into a Ukraine-corporation.

However such an economy and political system channels all assets offshore. And even if we see some investments in basic capital, for example at AMC (Alchevsk), this will only last while the price of metal is high and that of labour low. If the price drops, so will investments. And, importantly, the economy is not able to finance social programs. We remember how the budget-2007 was compiled.

We thus have exploitation of property and labour, and we see the consequences:

communal tariffs;


capital leaving Ukraine and external loans;

the exodus of a disfranchised workforce;

exhaustion of soil and degradation of rural areas;

degradation of social structure.

Raider seizure of property, non-return of VAT, all old "azarovschina" [the methods under Azarov, Minister of Finance in Yanukovych’s government (the plant "Intersplav" is one of the victims of the system. It’s owed 23 million in VAT which they’re brazenly refusing to pay it: “Klyuev’s people" need its bankruptcy).

If one looks at the situation realistically, we must acknowledge that our society is far from liberal democracy and civic society. Ukrainian society, despite the assiduous “Westernization” initiatives of those at the top sometimes moves in the direction of the western model of democracy, and sometimes backs towards the restoration of the Soviet state paternalism, where people were totally dependent on the state.

Now, to each attempt at reform according to western recipes, our society generates new type of paternalism to replace that destroyed. So it was in Soviet times, when the collective farms replaced communities, shattered by Stolypin’s reform, and the old Brezhnev paternalism simply takes on new forms, under the grey flag of Kuchma’s oligarchy or under the quasi-party coloured flags of financial-industrial groups.

The only difference is that now, instead of state paternalism we have private paternalism. These days a money-bag (a feudal lord) has his own clients. Today’s hired employee is not a freelancer, who sells his work for a competitive market price. He works for his bit, for which he must be grateful, and not complain or protest.

Quasi-parties and quasi- trade unions are headquarters for mobilizing clients dependent on the master’s caprice. Today they must work, tomorrow - build a house or seize property of a competitive company, then go to Maidan in support the master-exploiter.

So do we have a civic society and the legal, social state? Well, that’s what the Constitution says.

Where do we look for a way out? Perhaps the answers can be different. But from the standpoint of representatives of civil society, now, before the election, there is a need to seek consent and consolidation not on the basis of "agreements" between political wheeler-dealers, but on the basis of the priorities of national development.

A new social contract between influential groups: government, business, trade unions and political parties, is necessary. Here is the minimal list of these priorities:

1. Approval of laws on the separation of business from power.

2. Revision of the results of privatization on the principle of "pay and own" for minimizing the shadow economy and encouraging the capital inflow.

3. Only on this basis will it be possible to create a project of modernization of the country, which, in turn, will become the basis for social peace.

4. Political democracy in the country must be based on economic democracy – on access of employees to property of companies and members of communities to communal property.

5. The State should intervene in business with only one purpose – for overcoming the limited size of the domestic market by increasing household incomes and involvement of all country property in market turnover, as well as for levelling branch profit norms.

6. The main task of officials of power organs is efficient management of state and municipal property, social security of citizens. The number of officials depends on the size of the property, and the size of their salaries – on efficiency of its capitalization.

7. Decriminalization and de-corruption of courts, prosecutor’s office, police, the Security Service [SBU]

8. Freedom of expression and independence of mass media are the fundamental precondition for effectiveness of power, establishment and functioning of social and cultural capital.

9. Considerable part of the GDP must provide the services of public organizations. In America this part makes 8%, in Holland - 16. No one has counted it in our country, but there is nothing to boast of.

If we do not struggle for this, the miners of Krasnodon will remain slaves to Akhmetov’s capital, the businessman from Krasny Luch will leave for China, and the death of a farm worker from the village of Makartetino will be not only his tragedy, but our curse.

Slightly abridged

Against torture and ill-treatment

Council of Europe Anti-Torture Committee publishes report on Ukraine

On 21 June the Council of Europe’s Committee for the prevention of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (CPT) published its report on its visit to Ukraine in 2005, together with the response of the Ukrainian Government. These documents have been made public at the request of the Ukrainian authorities.

The 2005 visit revealed a slight reduction as regards the scale of the phenomenon of ill-treatment. Nevertheless, the report concludes that persons detained by the police continue to run a significant risk of being subject to ill-treatment, in particular during the phase of initial questioning by operational officers. The CPT has recommended that a clear message of “zero tolerance” of torture and other forms of ill-treatment be delivered from the highest level and at regular intervals to all Internal Affairs staff. Other recommendations made in the report aim at strengthening the fundamental safeguards against ill-treatment (in particular, the rights of notification of custody, access to a lawyer and access to a doctor). The CPT has also called upon the Ukrainian authorities to put an end to the practice of holding persons in district police stations for periods exceeding a few hours.

Particular attention was paid during the visit to the situation of foreign nationals detained under aliens legislation. A significant number of them complained about ill-treatment by Border Guard staff. Conditions at the Pavshino Temporary Holding Centre for men were so inadequate that the CPT’s delegation had requested its closure and the setting up of new facilities. In their response, the Ukrainian authorities indicate that two new holding centres for foreign nationals are being built in the Volyn and Chernigiv regions; in the meantime, steps are being taken to improve conditions of detention at the Pavshino Centre.

No allegations of recent physical ill-treatment of prisoners by staff were heard, except at Colony No.100 for men in Temnivka (Kharkiv region), where a number of inmates alleged having been beaten when transferred to the disciplinary and isolation section. Material conditions of detention in Colony No. 65 for women in Bozhkivske (Poltava region) and Colony No. 100 were the best ever seen by a CPT delegation in Ukraine. However, at Colony No. 65, the delegation observed a general state of physical and mental exhaustion among the women, as a result of the work-rate imposed upon them.

During the 2005 visit, close attention was also given to the situation of prisoners sentenced to life imprisonment. No improvements were observed as regards the treatment of life-sentenced men, despite previous recommendations by the CPT. The Committee has called upon the Ukrainian authorities to take a number of steps in this area, including to stop the systematic handcuffing of such prisoners when taken out of the cells and to increase substantially their entitlement to visits.

The CPT’s visit report and the response of the Ukrainian authorities are available on the Committee’s website (

Does the public have any control in Ukraine?

An important element of civic society is the level of public control over the authorities, including the law enforcement agencies. It has become a banal truism to say that there is effectively no control over the law enforcement agencies in Ukraine. On the other hand there has been no review of the reasons for this which makes it difficult to take effective measures to improve the situation. As a result, it would seem logical to assert that to a large extent the fact that the public for various reasons do not control these agencies, human rights violations committed by these bodies continue in Ukraine: torture and violations are not punished.

Representatives of the authorities in their turn often maintain that there is public control and cite as evidence legislative provisions regulating such public control.

To analyze this situation more closely, we will consider public control over the penal system.

Article 25 of the Penal Code [Kryminalno-vykonavchy kodeks] empowers specially created supervisory commissions with such control. They are supposed to be half made up of representatives of civic organizations. Incidentally, it is specifically this fact that makes the Head of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences feel justified in asserting the existence of public control. There is also the Law “On democratic civil control over the Military organization and law enforcement agencies of the country” which is seldom mentioned, but which also, in Article 19, entitles members of the public in exercising such control to turn to the authorities, “via civic organizations which they belong to, deputies of the representative bodies of power or as individuals”.

One should not forget to add to all of this the Verkhovna Rada Authorized Representative on Human Rights [the Human Rights Ombudsperson] who monitors or more accurately, is supposed to monitor the law enforcement authorities, institutions and agencies of the penal system.

Yet for some reason human rights violations in the country continue, no progress is observed and the number of incidents in penal institutions has increased, with prisoners going on hunger strike, trying to slash their wrists, and so forth.

So where does the problem lie?

We will try to establish how representatives of NGOs view public control, and how such control is understood by the authorities. I would like to briefly share my perception of this.

Considering the first question, one can loosely divide nongovernmental organizations into two categories.

The first are organizations who don’t wish, and often are not in a position to concern themselves with issues of public control. They cooperate with penal institutions, carry out projects, training courses for prisoners and help where they can, while avoiding any hint of a controlling function. This is because they are convinced that as soon as they begin “controlling” observance of human rights in the institutions, the doors to the latter will close before them.

The second group of NGOs wishes to exercise such control and often does so.  They however are not allowed into the penal institutions to achieve this objective. Nor do they become members of the supervisory commissions and therefore they have no lawful opportunities for exercising such public control.  The refusal by the management of the system’s agencies or by the administration of penal institutions to allow them to carry out such monitoring is supposedly not an infringement of the law. In some cases where members of such organizations have nonetheless managed to become members of supervisory commissions, the management has still refused to allow them access to the institutions, as was the case in the Volyn region.  Clearly the fear of some civic organizations to become involved in monitoring, and the lack of such opportunities or levers of influence on the human rights situation in the institutions by others considerably narrows the real scope of public control.

So how do the authorities, staff and heads of the penal system view public control?

As a rule the first thing that they point to is the existence of a huge number of controlling organizations. They then add that there is control since the Penal Code states that there must be supervisory commissions. One sometimes even hears the question: since the prosecutor’s office already monitors the human rights situation in penal institutions, then why double up (or even “substitute” their work?  The overall conclusion of such positions is that there’s nothing much to worry about: there is control and it’s working.

It is worth defining what exactly “control” is.

Without aspiring to an exact and full definition, one can say that “control” is a means of checking whether the penal institutions and their personnel are working properly, whether they comply with international standards in this sphere, as well as whether they help eradicate violations uncovered and find ways and measures for preventing their recurrence.

“Public control” differs from other forms of control by being exercised by representatives of civic society, not by the authorities but rather by nongovernmental agencies. A further important aspect of such control is the fact that the public is informed of its outcome. Control becomes “public” not when a representative of the public finds out about certain violations, but when s/he makes this information available to the public.

And finally, an integral part of control which can make it effective, and not merely declarative, is the reaction of the authorities to violations uncovered, their elimination and prevention in the future.

I would also like to stress that control must envisage constructive partnership between the authorities and the public, aimed at identifying infringements and their causes, and at looking at ways to rectify the situation. It is not just about criticism but should be as constructive as possible. The punishment of those guilty of infringements should not be its main objective although such punishment must be inevitable.

Those who are familiar with the work of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture [CPT] can say that I am simply repeating the principles of that Committee’s work, and this is quite true.

I would however stress one other specific feature of control which is seldom mentioned at all, especially by the nongovernmental organizations themselves. I am referring to the competence and professional skills of the “controllers”.

Any check carried out by the CPT is the work of specialists only. When the prosecutor’s office makes such a check, it also does this (or at least should) in a professional manner. Any control, including public, must ensure that those who are exercising the control have sufficient understanding of the structures which they are checking and the latter’s problems.

Bearing this in mind, if we turn our gaze to the supervisory commissions as controlling bodies, it is not difficult to see that in 99.9% of the cases there are no specialists with knowledge of how penal institutions work. They are, in the main, employees of district state administrations or bodies of local self-government.

The appointment of the chairperson of a supervisory commission, as a rule the deputy head of a local authority depends on the outcome of the latest local authority elections and the position is now subject to change. Almost all members of supervisory commissions are far removed from the field that they are now supposed to supervise and lack the appropriate knowledge. There have been ineffectual attempts to properly “train” members of such commissions, provide them with an awareness of the fundamentals of penal legislation. No attention was paid to the fact that, as a rule, these commission members have other professions and work in entirely different fields in which they earn their living. Nor that they can at any moment change their place of work which will not stop them being a professional in their field in another job, while a new person will join the commission.  Are people capable, giving such a mechanism for ending up on the supervisory commission, of not simply mechanically signing consent to applications from the penal administration to early conditional release, but also professionally supervising the work of penal institutions and checking their observance of human rights?   The situation is made still more piquant by the fact that almost all members of the commissions are representatives of the authorities, i.e. of the source of violations of human rights. It is also worth bearing in mind that a public official has to carry out this responsible work without remuneration. Can such control be considered public?

The answer is clearly no.

Who has a vested interest in retaining the present state of affairs, effectively an imitation of control by the public?  The answer is obviously those alone who are due to be “controlled”, that being the penal system and its management. It is not, therefore, surprising that not in one public address made by high-level officials of the Department over recent times have we heard even the slightest hint that the work (or very often, in fact, lack of any activity) of the supervisory commissions may be ineffective.

The quality of work of these commissions could be improved by representatives of civic organizations which, according to the Regulations on supervisory commissions should make up no less than half the composition of such commissions. In fact, however, the percentage scarcely reaches 5-7%, and quite often there is not one single representative. Yet the question arises – are representatives of NGOs at a sufficiently professional level to exercise such public control? One must acknowledge that there are few such organizations in Ukraine. Incidentally, it is precisely members of these few organizations that the management of the Department likes to keep out of the control process. If one assumes that the main motivation and priority for the management is not to observe human rights in penal institutions, but rather to keep their posts, then such actions are understandable.

The main conclusion must be that supervisory commissions in the mechanism for their creation, the principles of formation and selection of members to exercise public control are at present inadequate, and only imitate such control.  Such commissions can be quite good instruments of the post-penitentiary system in the country, providing help to those released from imprisonment. The actual makeup of the commissions suits such a profile , while controlling functions are to a large extent artificial, and therefore also secondary.

At the same time civic organizations which could be the main agents of public control often lack sufficient competence and professional skills for this. On the other hand, training their members, in contrast to training representatives of the authorities, is justified, since people usually work a lot longer in civic organizations than on a supervisory commission, and the nature of their activities are, as a rule, much closer to “public control”.

In the context of creation of national preventive mechanisms against torture in penal institutions, one can note that at the present time the responsibility for this work is placed with the Human Rights Ombudsperson. Yet it would be impossible for that office alone to encompass all the controlling activities over all institutions of the penal system.  Bearing in mind the style and level of information which the Human Rights Ombudsperson has provided society with over recent years, as well as her achievements in uncovering human rights violations, one cannot feel confident that this institution will be able to singly fulfil the tasks set down by the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). Nor can we feel assured that the public will be informed sufficiently and in timely fashion about the human rights situation in penal institutions. While any public control without regular information to the public about its results can only very loosely be considered public.

The lack of public control at the present time is largely determined by Ukraine’s failure to adhere to international standards on monitoring by independent agencies of the Department, and its management sometimes simply obstructs initiatives put forward by civic organizations. The heads of the Department often refer to the opinion of experts of the Council of Europe  however avoid taking any action to carry out their recommendations. For example, Item 93.1 of the European Penitentiary Rules states:

93.1 The conditions of detention and the treatment of prisoners shall be monitored by an independent body or bodies whose findings shall be made public.

In Item 5.19 of their Report, the Council of Europe states:

“We would recommend:

-  creating as soon as resources permit an inspection body which would be coordinated from the central level, would be independent and have at its disposal regional groups containing experienced staff of the penitentiary system, representatives of other public organizations, including nongovernmental organizations;

-  removing, after the creation if an independent inspection body, the inspection functions of the prosecutor’s office;

-  carrying out a full inspection of each institution at least once a year;

-  providing a written report on each inspection to the relevant minister;

-  publishing reports on each inspection together with the minister’s response, with the exception of appendices containing confidential information;

-  that the heads of the inspection body once every two years provide parliament with a written report about the work carried out and facts established (see European Prison Rules No. 4 and Item 4 of the Explanatory report)»

In the 9 years that the Department has existed, no inspection body has been created.

Furthermore, OPCAT is not talking of one inspection mechanism, but of mechanisms in the plural, and therefore to count only on the activity of the Human Rights Ombudsperson would not be wise nor justified. Implementation of the functions set down in the Protocol by one institution alone would effectively mean a continuation of the policy of distancing human rights organizations from the work which is in fact one of their main functions. On the other hand, involving them in any way in this work within the framework of the Protocol will help increase their level of competence and professional skills, and also their level of responsibility for their work.

Given the need to create independent preventive mechanisms against torture,

Bearing in mind that inspection visits to any penal institution should be made at least once a year;

Considering public participation in the work of such a mechanism to be its duty;

The following is suggested as one, although by no means the only, variant for implementing the Provisions of the Protocol.

In order to carry out monitoring visits of penal institutions as part of OPCAT, 8-12 monitoring groups should be created in the country, each having from 5-8 members.  They should include representatives of the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Health, the most experienced members of supervisory commissions from among civic organizations and scientists. Each such group should make 4-5 visits throughout the year, each lasting a week to a week and a half.  During each visit, 3-5 penal institutions would be visited. During the subsequent month to six weeks a report would be prepared and made public.

What would be gained?

This arrangement would make it possible over the year to cover all penal institutions. The public would be involved in the national control mechanism via knowledgeable representatives of civic organizations, to a large extent thanks to their participation in the work of supervisory commission. That means that the commissions would become a kind of structure for preparing an expert resource for the preventive mechanisms. A considerable and important part of the work of these groups should be the publication each year and circulation of a collection of reports on such visits, with an analysis of the information and facts gathered by the monitoring groups during their visits and recommendations on how to improve the human rights situation in penal institutions.

It is considered that analogous work would be carried out by the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsperson and the supervisory commission, i.e. the mechanism would run in parallel to their work. the conclusions and results of those institutions and comparison of them would make it possible to evaluate the objectivity of the results received and prevented any biased approach from one of the institutions. It would basically help in significantly increasing the level of independence of the checking structures.

The professional level, competence and independence of members of the monitoring groups would be achieved through the fact that some of the members would gain experience working in the supervisory commissions. A rotation system should be devised for membership of these groups and also training and regular opportunities to share experience.

This approach to the organization of a preventive mechanism against torture would comply with the requirements of the European Penitentiary Rules and the recommendations of the Council of Europe experts.

I would invite discussion of this suggestion, objections and comments, preferably with arguments provided.

The Legal Aid Centre for Victims of Ill-treatment is expanding

The Legal Aid Centre for Victims of Ill-treatment created by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group with the support of the Open Society Institute (Budapest) is expanding its work.

We are willing to consider applications from victims of ill-treatment and other violations outlined below.

We also invite defence lawyers and human rights defenders to work with us on a long-term basis.

As well as providing consultations, the Centre has the possibility of offering financial assistance where victims are not themselves in a position to pay for lawyers or other specialists.

Particular areas which the Centre will be focusing on include:

  • The use of torture in police stations or other closed institutions;
  • Unwarranted force applied by law enforcement officers when detaining a person;
  • Unexplained death while being held in custody or in a closed institution;
  • Inhuman and degrading treatment in closed institutions;
  • Bad conditions in closed institutions, including inadequate medical care or the lack of such;
  • Unjustified disciplinary measures in closed institutions;
  • Extradition and deportation to countries where there a person’s life may be at risk, or where s/he could be subjected to torture and ill-treatment;
  • Unlawful detention during a criminal investigation;
  • Unlawful administrative detention;
  • Arbitrary imposition of administrative arrest as a punishment;
  • An unwarrantedly long amount of time before being brought before a judge in cases of detention on suspicion of having committed a crime;
  • Infringement of procedural guarantees when considering whether to deprive a person of his/her liberty;
  • The lack of compensation for unlawful deprivation of liberty;
  • Infringement of the right to inviolability of ones home and personal life;
  • Interception of communications;
  • Being refused the right to defence at various stages of proceedings;
  • Inadequate possibility for defence;
  • Flagrant infringements of procedure when examining criminal charges in court, in particular:

-  the use by the court of evidence gained through the use of torture;

-  being refused the right to call a witness;

-  the lack of access to an independent medical examination;

-  obstructing access to documents;

-  unlawful changes in the territorial jurisdiction of a court;

-  impeding access to a lawyer and refusing to grant free legal aid to people from vulnerable groups and others;

Regardless of whether they fall into the above categories, we are also willing to help in representing the interests of people whose cases the European Court is communicating over with the Government.

The work of the Legal Aid Centre for victims of Ill-treatment continues the work of the Centre for Professional Aid to Victims of Torture which was set up within the framework of the Campaign against torture and ill-treatment (2003-2006) with the financial support of the European Commission, the Open Society Institute and a number of other organizations.

The Fund financed the work of lawyers, experts and other professionals involved in strategic litigations.

The Fund provided professional aid to more than 100 victims or their representatives who had approached us alleging torture and ill-treatment. Our lawyers helped victims in the course of various procedures in law enforcement agencies and in domestic courts.

More than 40 cases have also been taken to the European Court of Human Rights. The case of Afanasyev v. Ukraine was won in the European Court. In its decision the Court found that the claimant had suffered ill-treatment while being held in a district police station and that his complaints had not been investigated properly.

The Court is in communication with the Ukrainian Government over 13 cases.

The European Court has also applied interim procedure measures under Article 39 of the Statute of the Court, with four of these cases being to suspend extradition. In one case, the European Court appointed delegates to investigate the case on location.

In order to develop the work of the Centre in the regions, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has begun a training programme for lawyers on strategic litigations with the use of international mechanisms. It is also developing cooperation with other organizations in the area of legal work to defend public interests.

More information can be obtained by writing to: Е-почта: [email protected]


Access to information

The twilight zones of Ukrainian regional authorities

The regional authorities least forthcoming with information are those of Kyiv and the eastern regions of Ukraine. The situation, in fact, in the West is not a great deal better. The reasons, however, for the secrecy would appear to differ widely depending on the region.

Such a conclusion can be made on the results of the first stage of a project being undertaken by a group of 23 environmental organizations. They sent formal requests for information to the regional State administrations, appellate courts and State Judicial Administration offices in all regions of Ukraine, except the Kirovohrad region, as well as in Kyiv (including the City State Administration) and the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea (including the Council of Ministers).

The project is being carried out with the financial support of the International Renaissance Foundation.

The appellate courts were asked for information about reviews on appeal of administrative cases. This information is part of reporting and is included in the mandatory government statistics form 22-A.

The request for information from the State Judicial Administration offices was analogous, but concerned examination of administrative cases in local courts (in accordance with statistics form 2-A).

The court statistics were needed to achieve one of the objectives of the project, this being to prepare an independent (of government agencies) expert conclusion on the effectiveness of the administrative justice system in Ukraine as a means of protecting human rights, including environmental rights. This was of course based on regions.

The regional State administrations were asked for generalized data about applications from members of the public received in 2006, grouped according to the subject matter. This is also reporting information and must be available.

It is planned, on the basis of this information, to prepare an analysis of the overall number of conflicts arising in today’s Ukraine which pertain to environmental and other human rights.

The information requests asked for responses by post or email. In the latter case, it was guaranteed that the government authority would receive written confirmation that the information requested had been provided.

The information requests sent to the different regional authorities were all identical and the fact that the responses were different only demonstrates different attitudes to Ukrainian laws from high-level regional officials.

74 information requests were sent in all.

Responses containing the information were received to 44 of them (59.5%). In 41 cases copies were received (either by normal post or email) of the relevant statistical forms or their compilation and in two cases there were references to the official websites where the requested data could be found.

The Luhansk Regional State Administration telephoned and dictated the data regarding applications from members of the public.

In 7 responses (9.5%) only some of the information requested was provided. Or other information than that requested was given. This made it impossible to use them for the expert analysis. A unique response was received from an appellate court in the Donetsk region:: statistical form 22-A specially changed by removing some of the information from it. The missing information was specifically the number of judges whose rulings had been revoked by the appellate court.  The organization asking for the information was informed that it had been removed in a covering letter.

6 responses (8%) were also received in which the information requests were turned down, with different reasons being given. All such responses came from appellate courts. And finally, in 17 cases government officials used the most standard technique among bureaucrats – they didn’t respond at all.

This latter method was most favoured by Kyiv regional and city officials who in total prepared one single substantive response to the six information requests, with the others being ignored. The Chair of the Kyiv Regional Appeal Court did admittedly telephone the organization which had asked for the information (the information centre of the Ukrainian Environmental Association “Zeleny svit” [“Green world”] and told them frankly: “Don’t expect a response”.

Avoidance as a means of communication with ones fellow citizens remains reasonably popular among officials in western regions also. One in three requests for information received no response at all. On the other hand, of the 16 which were received, 15 provided the full information. More exactly, in all cases copies of the statistical forms were sent, in 5 cases by the simplest means – email. Only the response from the Ternopil Regional Administration was the result of personal creativity, although admittedly the information was not that requested.  On the whole the regional authorities in Western Ukraine are not especially law-abiding in providing members of the public with information about their work with only 63% of the information requests being complied with.

The situation was even worse in the East where out of 15 information requests only 7 substantive responses (47%) were received. And although local bureaucrats only ignored one request (the Kharkiv Regional Administration), in 4 cases the response was a refusal to provide the information (the Luhansk, Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv and Zaporizhya Appeal Courts), while in another 3 cases (the Donetsk and Zaporizhya Regional Administration and the Donetsk Appeal Court) the information provided was not that requested.

We would note that of 25 regional centres, the 5 eastern had 4 of the 6 official refusals to provide information and 3 of the 7 cases where the information provided was not given in full or was not that requested. And given that the reporting data requested is available, preparing responses with incomplete information takes much more time and effort than simply copying and sending off the available statistical forms. This gives grounds for concluding that there is a different type of secrecy over information in the West and the East of Ukraine.

Whereas in the West information on request is not provided as a result of typical bureaucratic slovenliness (as well as of the clear over-use of the right to formal requests for information by organizations in civic society where such requests are only made because of grants awarded), in the East this is a method of “regulating” the flow of information. Representatives of the eastern elite are prepared to waste additional time and resources in order simply that information about their activities either does not reach civic society, or reaches it only in the “needed form”.

The best situation in Ukraine as far as public access to information is concerned was recorded for regions in the South (82% substantive responses and the central regions of Ukraine (67%). Full responses to all three information requests were received from the authorities of the Sumy, Khmelnytsky, Chernivtsi Kherson and Vinnytsa regions, as well as the Crimea. Not one response was received from the Kyiv region.

In the Luhansk region two full responses were received to the information requests from the Severodonetsk branch of “Zeleny svit”. This was not, however, without certain coercion. For example, the Luhansk territorial department of the Judicial Administration at first refused to provide the information and only gave it after the environmentalists complained to Kyiv. The Luhansk Regional Administration provided the information after a week of  telephone calls. The Luhansk Regional Appeal Court refused to give the information, over which civil suits have been filed.


Victims of political repression

Open Letter to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and Maidan on Holodomor

In 1932 to 1933 the Soviet Government organised a huge artificial famine in Ukraine which caused the deaths of between 3.5 and 11 million people. Starved Ukrainian peasants died in the fields and were buried in anonymous mass graves. The evidence from the Security Service of Ukraine’s archives, and

letters between Stalin and Kaganovich, show that the famine was organised deliberately to smash Ukrainian nationalism. During the summer of 1932 Stalin wrote to Kaganovich on numerous occasions expressing concern over what he saw as the potential menace of Ukrainian nationalism and eventually urged Kaganovich to “correct” the situation. In a letter dated 11 August he wrote of his fear of losing Ukraine which he associated with “Petlura supporting” nationalist elements who, he argued, were resisting grain requisitioning. On 23rd November he requested Kaganovich to strike a blow at resistance to Soviet Power in the Republic. On the14 December 1932 a joint resolution of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and the Council of Peoples Commissars of the USSR condemned the process of Ukrainisation and linked it to difficulties collecting grain. During the months that followed Communist Party Activists collected every scrap of food from the Ukrainian countryside. Military Units cordoned off the border of the republic and surrounded starving villages to prevent Peasants from fleeing. On 29th December 1932 an instruction was issued to collect all the available stocks of grain in the republic

within a five to six day period. These instructions are reproduced on the Ukrainian President’s website together with samples of the correspondence between Kaganovich and Stalin:

It is of course impossible to forcibly remove all the food from an area and prevent people from fleeing without causing death on a massive scale. We have the letters from Stalin to Kaganovich showing that he was frightened of loosing control over Ukraine and requesting Kaganovich to destroy resistance in Ukraine. We have the direct instructions to party members and organizations to collect foodstuffs. We

have the subsequent mass killing of people accused of nationalist political conspiracies from 1933 onwards. The evidence that the famine was inflicted on Ukrainians in order to cause loss of life, and followed by other measures to break resistance in Ukraine is conclusive. It is obvious that this act is  a genocide under the UN convention on genocide adopted on 9th December 1948 which states that:

“In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such [including] deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part”.

The British Government, however, refuses to recognise Holodomor as an act of genocide. Geoff

Hoon, a Minister in the UK Government, has written to me claiming that disputes between academics make this impossible for them. There is, however, no serious doubt of the scale of the tragedy or that it was inflicted deliberately on Ukraine. There will always be a number of Holodomor deniers who will argue that, despite the instruction to remove all foodstuffs from a defined ethnic territory, that Stalin was merely trying to reform agriculture. Australia the USA and Canada have had the courage to recognize the Holodomor as an act of genocide and to ignore the small number of cynical academics who attempt to generate publicity for themselves by arguing that a clear act of mass murder was simply an unfortunate accident or a rational policy which went wrong.

I urge Ukrainians to campaign for a change in the British Government’s attitude by contacting the Embassy either by phone, in writing or via email

Yours faithfully,

Steve Komarnyckyj


British Embassy Website Address:

Please see for more information about the UK campaign  


So who doesn’t want the truth?

The appointments made by the ruling “Anti-Crisis Coalition” over the last year have been so extraordinarily incongruous that one can easily lose sight of the sinister behind grotesque absurdity. As the events around the recently opened Museum of the Soviet Occupation show, this would be most dangerous.

One of the said appointments was of ex-Deputy from the Communist Party Olha Ginsburg to the post of head of the State Archive Committee.  Not perhaps the normal arena for accusations of conflict of interests, but just wait.

On Wednesday, 13 June, Ms Ginsburg publicly spoke of her wish to classify documents about communist repressions, especially those linked with Holodomor [the Famine of 1932-1933] and the 1930s.  She also condemned the Museum of the Soviet Occupation opened by the Kyiv Vasyl Stus Memorial Society.  Olha Ginsburg said, and I quote:

“Who needs this? My generation doesn’t need this. What generation needs to be told about the Soviet occupation?”

It is not considered polite to ask somebody’s age.  On the other hand, when that somebody claims to speak on behalf of an entire generation, then surely some specification is required. Especially when the suspicion is hovering that she and I may have entered this world within the same decade or so.

Which it has to be said is absolutely all that we share. 

We most certainly do not share an assessment of what our generation needs.

Ms Ginsburg asks who needs memory and truth about the past. 

I do, Ms Ginsburg.  I am one of your generation only not one of your people, or your world.  In my world there were victims, and there are questions. And those questions demand answers.

You ask what generation needs to be told about the Soviet occupation. In fact, I use the word “ask” very loosely.  Your kind don’t want questions, they never did.  Such rhetorical utterances in fact mean simply and brutally: do not ask. 

But those days have gone, Ms Ginsburg. It’s time to understand that. And to understand what your communist comrades never could. You can crush people – and your ilk did, millions. 

You can’t quash the questions, because a new generation will come – and deprived of graves, of details about their parents, grandparents, even great grandparents, they will want to know why.

All generations need to know the truth, Ms Ginsburg.

It is their right – and it is their – and our - duty.

For our freedom, and theirs

Another common grave found in Odessa where during the Terror one in ten was repressed

A mass grave of victims of repression has been discovered in Odessa. Odessa’s Mayor Edward Hurvits informed the City Council Executive Committee of the discovery on Thursday 14 June and said that the city authorities would do all that was needed to honour the memory of the victims of the political repression.

The grave was found on the outskirts of the Black Sea city six kilometres out on the “Ovidiopolsk Road”

Three to six thousand victims

The grave may hold the last earthly remains of up to six thousand people from Odessa and the region executed during Stalin’s repressions*. The mass grave lies over an area of approximately 180 times 110 metres, and six metres deep.

It was members of Odessa’s Memorial Society and organizations for former victims of repression who succeeded in establishing that the remains are those of victims of political repression. They gathered testimony from witnesses and studying archival material. According to their information, the mass executions took place in 1937.

During Stalin’s rule, every tenth Odessan was executed or exiled to Siberia. 

“Ovidiopolsk Road” – Road of Death

Compiler of the Odessa Martyrologue, dedicated to the memory of the victims of repression during Soviet rule, Georgy Razumov explains that during the 1930s the “Ovidiopolsk Road” on the outskirts of Odessa became a real “road of death”.  It was along that road that the bodies of those executed were taken out of the city to be buried six kilometres away on the road.

Mayor Hurvits has given instructions that the territory where the mass grave was found is to be under the supervision of the General Director of the international airport “Odessa” Svitlana Kobylyanska, since the human remains were found on the airport land.

The city authorities are presently looking into the possibility of reburying the remains in Odessa’s Western Cemetery. Another option would be, following the completion of the exhumation and necessary procedure,, to erect a memorial complex at the site of the burial

If there is an exhumation, specialists say that this will last up to three months.


*  these figures are from the State Commission on immortalizing the memory of the victims of the War and political repression under the Cabinet of Ministers,

Deported peoples

A further 100 thousand Crimean Tatars may return

Up to 100 thousand Crimean Tatars could return to the Crimea from Central Asia in the near future. This was the prediction expressed at a briefing today, 25 June, in Kyiv given by the acting head of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion Georgy Popov.  He said that this was the estimate given by experts.

At the same time, he mentioned that at the present time between 1 and 1.5 thousand Crimean Tatars return each year. He points out that the number returning will depend on their living conditions in the Central Asian region.

“If there are negative events there, then the flow of migrants will immediately increase”. Mr Popov added that “those who really wanted to have already returned”.

When asked by journalists why the Mejilis of the Crimean Tatars was still not registered in accordance with legislation, Mr Popov said that this was a question for the Ministry of Justice.

At present on the peninsula there are more than 270 thousand Crimean Tatars.

Please see links below, as well as the section on discrimination in Human Rights in Ukraine – 2004 for more information about the repatriation of the Crimean Tatars and the problems they have experienced in the Crimea.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2007, #06