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.


An illegitimate mayor “chosen” in bandit style

On 18 June 2007 the territorial electoral commission (TEC) totally under the control of Oleh Bondar and headed by Olha Oliynych (Bondar’s authorized representative at the last elections, who registered in Irpin two days prior to becoming head of the TEC) flagrantly rigged the outcome of the elections in Irpin. Nor did members of Bondar’s team conceal before the day of the voting that they knew who would “win”.

I’ve seen many forms of vote-rigging however it is possible Ukraine has not yet experienced such sophisticated and cynical lawlessness. According to the exit polls taken, I was well in the lead in the majority of polling stations. In the afternoon worried observers began ringing and saying that there was a wide discrepancy between the number of voters who had voted at a certain time according to their calculations and according to the figures from the district electoral commission (DEC).

What is interesting is that there were virtually no observers from Bondar’s side. He didn’t need them since most of the members of all the electoral commissions were working for him.

The voter lists were rigged. Some found strangers registered in their flats, while many simply didn’t find their names of the lists and so could not vote, these even including people who had been brought invitations to the voting. This particularly applied to people who had given their signatures in support of my candidacy for mayor (I submitted over 700 signatures to the TEC)., who were known to favour other popular candidates, or those who during the so called “survey” which the Bondar carried out before the elections, going around flats, had said that they would not be voting for Bondar.

The territorial electoral commission passed a resolution unprecedented for Ukraine in its cynicism, that observers should not be closer than two metres away from members of the commission during both the voting and the vote count. I filed a civil suit and the court prohibited implementation of this resolution however it was scarcely heeded. Young people of rather suspect appearance began turning up at the polling stations. The members of the commission, looking around, gave them ballot papers however from two metres away it was impossible to see whether they really were “voters”, on the lists and whether they were actually registered in Irpin or neighbouring settlements at all.

A lot of people were paid 50 UAH (around 10 USD) for showing a ballot paper photographed in the polling booth with a mobile phone proving that the person had voted for Bondar. This was particularly the case in the Tax Academy where students in groups with mobile telephones went to vote and then charged off to the Tax Police Faculty.

The deputies from the Irpin City Council who had voted for my dismissal were permitted by the TEC to be present at the polling booths, and they divided them among themselves so as to make sure that the candidate they wanted won. According to the Law, the deputies had no right to be there, and this was confirmed by the court ruling. Yet most deputies remained at the stations as “Cerberus-style” - supervisors (the majority of the DEC members are State sector workers dependent on the council or students).

Near some polling stations in Kotsubinsky, some young thugs were openly telling young people they knew to vote for Bondar. Nikolai Chernyavsky, Bondar’s chief assistant, accompanied by these young people, threatened representatives of the press. One bandit brigade was sitting in "Zaire", the other was in Vorzel. They had a car with a Verkhovna Rada registration number.

There were a lot of ballot papers among those the commission deemed invalid where it was clear that the people had voted for me. However, the same papers for Oleh Bondar were not placed in question. This was also recorded by a journalist from the newspaper "Vechernie Vesti”. If there were at least 12 such ballot papers on average at each of the 26 stations, then that comes to more than 293 votes, the number which, according to the TEC, separated my result from Bondar’s.

Yet, that is nothing compared to what happened at station No. 5. Obviously, because of vigilant observers and journalists the commission members were unable to fulfil their task, so they simply refused (!) to take the ballots out of the boxes and register the votes.

The figures given by the commission and by observers as to the number of ballot papers cast differ radically.  And I am sure they couldn’t have simply thrown into the ballot boxes the ballot papers that had been signed off on the voter lists.

For two hours 14 members of the commission couldn’t perform the simple school task: of counting with a calculator the total number of voters registered on the lists, and those who had signed for their ballot papers. When observers tried to come up and check the process, the DEC members leaned over the voters’ lists so that they couldn’t be seen. Usual comments and references to the norms of the Law were interpreted by the commission members as meddling in their work, although, as one of the journalists present there noted, he couldn’t see any work at all, with the commission members just sitting around and waiting for something, occasionally threatening to eject observers and journalists. And those, who came closer than two metres received official warnings (after two such warnings they would be removed from the polling station).

Late at night members of the territorial electoral commission arrived together with Oleh Bondar’s team who were more reminiscent a gangster film characters. We followed them in and asked the TEC members to try to get the counting finally started. But it was like talking to a deaf person and no one did anything.

Instead, Oleh Bondar burst in and the head of the district commission Alla Babenko delivered to the TEC via him, for some reasons, rather than the TEC members a statement alleging that the observers were obstructing the vote count. And at 8:00 a.m. the fruitful cooperation of district election commission No. 5, O. Bondar and the TEK resulted in the illegal resolution by the TEC to declare the voting at district polling station No. 5 invalid.  This resolution was also delivered, not by a member of TEC, but by an assistant of Bondar, resident of Boyarki Nikolay Chernyavsky, who with foul language pushed his way through the people standing near the entrance.

The territorial electoral commission was so eager to declare Bondar Mayor that on the night of 18 June they announced the outcome of the election without counting the votes cast at polling station No. 5 of 840 Irpin residents. In so doing the TEC flagrantly violated the right to express their electoral will. And not just violated! The gap in votes even according to the Bondar-linked TEC was only 293 votes. This difference could be covered at polling station No. 5 which could fully change the result of the election. So as to decide what to do and which polling stations guaranteed Bondar’s victory, an exit poll was carried out.

Maybe out of these very considerations, they made a farce of your time, your opinions, your choice. Including those voters, who voted for Bondar. "Don’t you understand? All this is scrap paper!”, was how TEC member Oleksandr Karpenko described the ballot papers you filled in.

The Committee of Voters of Ukraine has publicly spoken of a number of violations committed during the Irpin Mayoral elections. Its conclusion states:   "Bearing in mind the insignificant difference in the number of votes received by the two leading candidates (less than 300), the Committee of Voters of Ukraine believes that these violations could affect the outcome of the elections for Mayor of Irpin.  We therefore demand a thorough investigation into all reported violations. ….In addition, the early elections for Mayor should be questioned since the decision to hold this election was approved by the Verkhovna Rada on 5 April after the Presidential Decree had dissolved parliament. While the laws adopted during this period have since been voted on again, this is not the case with the Verkhovna Rada Resolutions which can also invalidate this election.”

Volodymyr Stretovich, prominent lawyer and longstanding National Deputy gave the following assessment:  "The election was dirty, illegitimate and brazen.  This is also confirmed in the way the TEC hastily declared the winner the next morning, before the votes had all been counted. People, who had openly expressed their support for Myroslava Svystovych, were deleted from the voter lists - they arrived but found their names not on the list. Paradoxical situations were observed: a wife was on the list, but her husband wasn’t since he had openly expressed his support for one of the candidates".

Stretovych is adamant: "In this situation, it is impossible to recognize the outcome announced by the TEC, nor can it be called a democratic election. Not when 840 voters have been openly told that they are nobody, and that their voices don’t count.  Who needs this sort of democracy?”

However, despite the 840 votes from station No. 5 not counted, regardless of the fact that I appealed against the election results in court, on 18 June the TEC declared Bondar Mayor. In the early morning on 19 June a special issue of the newspaper "Irpin Vistnyk” was printed and circulated free of charge, in which this decision of the TEC was published. On that same morning, deputies gathered at a special session where Bondar took the oath of office.

The gangster style of Mr. Bondar and his team was demonstrated at the very beginning of the election when the head of the TEC Olha Oliynych, together with a computer assistant, decided to eject my authorized representative, a quiet civilized woman simply because she put questions and photographed the process of work of the commission. While the assistant held the woman’s arm, Oliynych grabbed the camera in order to take out and destroy the film in it. My representative ended up with got numerous bodily injuries and a broken finger.

One can only imagine what awaits Irpin with such a Mayor and mayoral team. Indeed, at the elections which were at least under some external scrutiny, they kept to some bounds of decency (in their opinion, of course!). And what will they do when they gain total power?  What methods will they choose, and what will be the upshot for Irpin?

I know both Oleh Bondar and those behind him well. The coming to power in Irpin of this pack would be a tragedy for the city and surrounding villages. Even the time under Skarzhinskiy who supported Bondar at these elections would seem a dream in comparison.

I therefore appeal not only to those, who voted for me, but to everybody, independently of whom you would like to see as Mayor, not to recognize the illegal power of Bondar and Co.

I will fight to the last and not hand our Irpin over into the hands of bandits. And I look forward to your support. Who except us should clean up our common home?

Yours sincerely,

 Myroslava Svystovych

Here we go again?

While attention has been focused on Kyiv over the last few months, democracy would seem to have been under siege not so far away.  A mayoral election in a Kyiv regional town would not of course normally draw in television cameras, however some very disturbing echoes of 2004 would, in fact, suggest that attention may be warranted.

In March 2006, Myroslava Svystovych was voted in as Mayor of the small city of Irpin. Her victory can hardly be termed landslide with only 20 percent of the votes. On the other hand, this was more than any of the other candidates and she was duly elected.  Not all found such elements of democratic choice to their taste. The deputies in the Council were outraged by her election and spent just over a year doing all they could to eject her.  She can boast, in fact, of having crossed the party lines in terms of unpopularity, with deputies of various factions up in arms. 

Should this mixture of popular support and deputy antagonism seem surprising, it might be worth considering Irpin’s very attractive location. Not only is it close to the capital, but it is surrounded by forest land.  There is admittedly, ever less of the latter which has been systematically carved up and portioned out to various speculators. Myroslava Svystovych’s predecessor was notorious amongst Irpin residents for selling land to outsiders, while finding excuses for not allocating land to longstanding residents of the city.  She, on the other hand, took a very strong line against such wheeling and dealing, and was elected Mayor ….

And then came April 2007, with President Yushchenko’s Decree dissolving parliament.  The connection may not hit one in the eye but it is undoubtedly there.  On 3 April (the day after the Decree), a two-thirds majority in the Irpin City Council voted for Ms Svystovych’s dismissal and sent a letter to the Committee on State construction, regional policy and local self-government on 4 April. Within a day, on 5 April, the Head of this Committee (from the Party of the Regions) felt sufficiently up on the situation to put forward a motion to the (dissolved!) Verkhovna Rada to have new elections set for Mayor of Irpin.  And lo and behold, on 5 April, two days after the vote of no confidence in Ms Svystovych and three days after the President’s Decree dissolving parliament, new elections were indeed set for 17 June 2007.

It is worth mentioning, incidentally, that laws passed by this dissolved and therefore hardly legislative body have needed to be voted on again (after the Decree was revoked) to ensure their legitimacy. Should other questions not have arisen over the somewhat hurried movements in early April, then surely one must at least place a question mark over the legitimacy of the Verkhovna Rada Resolution calling for new elections which was voted on only that once.

The elections took place on 17 June with the main candidates being Myroslava Svystovych and Oleh Bondar.

Members of the nationwide and authoritative Committee of Voters of Ukraine (CVU) were among the observers of the voting and vote count. They report a number of infringements of electoral legislation. These include money for votes being offered students from the Tax Academy (with them using cameras on mobile telephones to record their actual vote in the voting cubicle), excessive obstruction to observers, as well as an inexplicable situation at polling station No. 5 where the vote count was disrupted, leaving 800 votes uncounted.

Given that the gap between the two candidates was just over 300, the fact that a “winner” was announced on 19 June already, although at least 800 votes remained unrecorded, raises even more questions.

It would be more than galling if the loudest question proved to be where democracy vanished.

Politics and human rights

Resolution of the Civic Assembly of Ukraine

The Civic Assembly of Ukraine, representing around 350 civic associations, is convinced that the 2007 political crisis was inevitable, given a number of political, legal, social and cultural factors.

This crisis did not begin on 31 March 2007 nor will it end with the holding of new elections on 30 September. The present crisis is not merely the failure of the constitutional amendments with their questionable legitimacy, the collapse of constitutional court proceedings, political corruption, the dissolving of parliament and early elections. These are all merely the result of a process of creating a State without firm footing in civic society and without taking into consideration the political, economic and social interests of a large percentage of the population. The crisis comes as the consequence of the inability of the political elite to formulate a clear strategy for Ukraine’s development in a competitive and rapidly globalizing world. It is a legacy of the Soviet form of Ukrainian statehood, the outcome of a failure to understand that their own interests cannot be separated from national interests, as well as of a disregard by the government of the primary importance of ensuring human rights and the rights of their citizens. These are all the roots of the present crisis which is a challenge not only to the political power structure, but to all Ukrainian society. It is in the first instance a challenge for us and the hundreds of civic organizations we represent.

The main danger of the present political crisis is the lack of rules of play shared by all citizens and observed by all politicians. At the central level of power the legal boundaries and, accordingly, the legal body of the State which is the Constitution have effectively been destroyed. Those in power have become entirely distanced from the people and power has become a commodity.

We, therefore, members of Ukraine’s Civic Assembly, aware of our responsibility before all Ukrainian citizens of the historic moment approaching with the early parliamentary elections and of the need to review Ukraine’s Constitution, affirm:

The Constitution provides the fundamental rules which are approved and observed by society and on the basis of which the nation develops. Ukraine needs a new Constitution – not a compromise from the political elite or clans, but a truly new social contract.

The new Constitution should meet the demand of citizens for the formation and development of a Ukrainian nation. It should therefore not be prepared by the President’s Secretariat, and not be adopted by the Verkhovna Rada or through a manipulative referendum, but exclusively through a Constitutional Assembly, a constituent body which will effectively found a new republic, a nation of citizens.

We demand from the President, other government figures and leading political forces:

1.  An honest, transparent and democratic election campaign on the basis of competing political programmes, and not speculative or manipulative political technology, still less tactics aimed at dividing society.

  To enable voters to assess how realistic the pre-election promises are, and whether the factions are offering detailed programmes for the country’s development, the Civic Assembly is instructing its organizing committee to carry out surveys of parties to the electoral process. They will be making a comparative analysis and informing the public of their results.

We would ask the mass media to help us in making the results widely known.

2.   The adoption of amendments to the Constitution which will allow for the calling together of a Constitutional Assembly in order to develop a new Constitution.  The delegates to this Assembly will not have the right to stand for any public office over the next 10 years, and will be therefore adopting the Main Law of the country not for themselves, or for their parties, but for the country’s citizens.

  If this demand is not met, we will be initiating a referendum of direct action in accordance with Article 72 of the Constitution on amendments to Article 155 and 156 of the Constitution to enable the introduction of the Constitutional Assembly.

3.   Public debate on the concept for and on drafts of the Constitution; on the preparation of this new Constitution as a new social contract between citizens of Ukraine; on an effective model for State governance which will be capable of ensuring the successful self-development of Ukrainian society and a competitive economy

4.   Introduction of amendments to legislation which will allow for:

  • the creation of effective mechanisms for public influence and control over the authorities and their actions, as well as those of their officials, for example, by passing a new version of the Law “On civic associations”;
  •  the restoration of citizens’ right to direct participation in the elections without having to go through a particular party;
  • the introduction of a system of open regional candidate lists or the partial return of the majority electoral system (in the first instance when forming bodies of local self-government) and the abolition of party imperative mandate;
  • the creation of effective mechanisms ensuring liability of representatives of the authorities for not fulfilling or not keeping pre-election programme commitments, including stripping them of their post or mandate;
  • reform of the system of public administration, the development of a system of independent legal proceedings; safeguarding the independence of special bodies of power called upon to ensure the exercise of citizens’ rights; freedom of speech and balance between the government and opposition.

As activists from Ukrainian civic organizations we will be:

*  carrying out awareness-raising measures on a wide scale to inform the Ukrainian public about the threats before us and suggestions for overcoming them;

*  running civic lobbying campaigns to ensure that the amendments to legislation mentioned above are passed; that a Constitutional Assembly is called, and in order to create and implement a development strategy for the country;

*  seeking to increase public participation in social life and in the governance of the community, region and of the country as a whole;

*  initiating partnership between different institutions and proposing effective models for resolving local, regional and national problems, including through specific draft laws and legislative proposals;

*  monitoring the actions of the authorities and political forces;

*  defending the rights of Ukrainian citizens at all levels.

Fellow Citizens! 

It is our concern, active participation and steadfastness that will ensure success in raising Ukraine from this crisis and building a prosperous Ukrainian State based on the interests of civic society.


24 July 2007, Kyiv


On civic society, the political crisis, freedom of speech and more

On 24 July the Ukrainian Civic Assembly in Kyiv drew delegates from over 300 Ukrainian civic organizations. This Forum was preceded by active discussion throughout the regions as to the reasons for the political crisis which has engulfed the central authorities.  The delegates to the Assembly passed a resolution addressed to those in power with a number of very specific demands, including a call for review of the Ukrainian Constitution. Member of the Organizing Committee, Yevhen Zakharov hopes that their call will be heeded, however he sees the main achievement of the Forum in the fact that civic organizations in Ukraine feel that they have become a united community.

Would you say that the civic sector has become stronger in Ukraine since the Orange Revolution?

I think so, yes, and so, therefore, has civic society. You can in fact give fairly convincing arguments both for an affirmative and negative answer, but this is normal for any post-totalitarian society. I think that civic society is a reasonably strong force which politicians must take into account, however it has not become strong enough to force political factions to heed its demands. The process however is continuing. For example, I quite often speak at various public hearings and roundtables. Almost everything proposed there soon gets taken on board by ministers, the President or his Secretariat. So they do listen to us and pay attention to public opinion. Democracy has a selective, rather than creative function, making it possible to choose what is most acceptable. And it’s not always the best option that is seen as the most acceptable.

Should the strengthening of civic society come from the regions or from the centre?

It all depends what the organizations are like. A British scholar who studied civic movements in different countries came to the conclusion that 80% of the organizations which claim to be representing public interests are in fact created by business, the government, etc. That leaves only 20% who are effectively doing what they claim to do. This classification fits Ukraine. For example, you’ve got some “grant-eaters” for whom the money they receive is unfortunately much more important than the work they do. They can refuse to do something just because they think they won’t get anything for it.

What is civic society?  It’s a society which affirms such values as solidarity, mutual assistance, mutual trust, individualism, the right to privacy etc.

Civic organizations who hold to these values do not work because somebody is forcing them to do it, but because they want to remain true to themselves.

- What, in your opinion, needs to be done to protect freedom of speech which according to some politicians blossomed after the Orange Revolution?

- Freedom of speech did indeed gain strength following the Orange Revolution. External pressure on the media from the authorities ceased, however that from the owners of the media outlets has remained. Here it all depends on the individual owners, how civilized they are, and whether they understand that they should not put pressure on journalists.

There have not been institutional changes, for example there has been no law on public broadcasting and privatization of State-owned and municipal media has not been put through. To my amazement, however, journalists, instead of demanding the abolition of perks for journalists from State-owned media, have begun demanding the same for themselves.

In honesty, I think that journalists are to a large extent themselves to blame when they don’t properly support an ethical position and decent mutual relations, and when they lack solidarity. Some behave in such a way that I fear they won’t be able to withstand a worsening in the situation with freedom of speech. The number of journalists who are capable of withstanding pressure is very small. Some even want the old days back when material was ordered and they got paid for it. That is, there haven’t been changes at an institutional level, in terms of legislation, nor in the mentality of some journalists.

There should have been a totally new Law “On information”. Our one was completely ready, and there were others too. However now the new Deputy Minister of Justice Inna Bohoslovska is preparing yet another draft instead of using material already prepared which has been discussed a number of times.

You just mentioned material to order. How can we fight this?

While there is no general attitude that writing material for money is something contemptible, they’ll remain, there’s no getting away from them.

How often do people turn to you as a human rights defender because of violations of freedom of speech and pressure on the media?

Recently hardly at all. That’s if we compare it with the end of the 1990s and beginning of the 2000s. During the Kuchma period people often turned to us to defend themselves against defamation, slander, persecution, not being able to print their publications when all printing presses turned them down. Following the Orange Revolution the number of such cases dropped radically however we get a lot of appeals regarding access to information. We will soon be publishing a large book with an overview of material collected from nationwide projects monitoring access to information both at central and regional levels. For example, information requests were sent to various central and regional authorities with the same questions. It was then easy to check how the authorities adhere to legislation on access to information. You can also identify the ones who are most open and those least forthcoming with information. The project has been working for the last three years. We now have a lot of specific material linked with the reasons why information requests are turned down. It’s interesting to see how the public authorities and bodies of local self-government attempt to get around giving information. The material helped us to prepare our draft Law “On information”.

What can you tell us about pressure on the local media?

Over the last year this pressure has increased and it’s seen in all regions of the country. This is also linked with the primitive level in political life. Since the owners (founders) of local media outlets are closely linked with regional politics, they want the media outlets to write only good things about them and when journalists or editors refuse, they begin to put pressure on them. During the last year the situation has worsened. We’ve written about this in the annual report just released Human Rights in Ukraine – 2006, in both the sections on freedom of speech and on access to information. All delegates and guests to the Civic Assembly received copies of the report.

Tell us about the main objective of the Ukrainian Civic Assembly

I would say that the main aim was to provide civic society activists the opportunity to express their views publicly on the political crisis and its causes, the threats and challenges it poses, as well as possible ways for overcoming it. Those present formulated their demands to politicians who must finally stop their destructive behaviour, since it could lead to pretty serious consequences which will become even larger-scale the longer they continue.

We’re viewing a very gloomy landscape after the battle with almost all institutions of power compromised and some with their reputation totally destroyed.  This cannot continue.

At regional meetings of the Civic Assembly which had delegates from 318 organizations, three issues were discussed: the threats and challenges posed by the political crisis; demands to politicians; and the task for civic organizations in overcoming the crisis. There are reports presenting the results of these discussions. The analysis is quite thorough and convincing. One sees that a trend is developing towards abuse of the law which is becoming positively endemic, and demonstrates the entrenchment of a primitive political culture where all gets decided by a few leaders of factions, while all the rest are just the supporting cast. And we are also seeing the inculcation of an effectively passive electoral law when the right to stand for office has been removed. To get onto the parliamentary or local candidate lists, you need to be a member of the party or cow tow to party leaders who very often show a far from adequate understanding of the problems in society. Political life is thus becoming primitive. All the present parties are like the Communist Party of Ukraine since they’re all based on democratic centralism.

All of this could have disastrous consequences. In addition, the amendments to the Constitution of 2004 are in fact the cause of the present systemic crisis. At the Assembly the main results were discussed: the creation of two centres of decision-making within one executive branch of power; a rift in the unity of foreign and domestic policy; corruption of the courts altogether, and of the Constitutional Court in particular, and so forth. It was also noted that the elections in themselves would not resolve the problem that fundamental elements of Ukrainian politics needed to change. It would be better to write a fundamentally new Constitution, and this should not be done by politicians or deputies, but by a special body – a Constitutional Assembly whose members will not have the right to stand for office as deputies of any levels for 10 years after the passing of the Constitution. They will then create a Constitution not for themselves alone, but for all citizens of Ukraine.

What results would you most hope for following the Civic Assembly?-

- Most of all I hope that civic organizations feel that they are not alone, that we have some goal to move towards, to grow and develop. For me that is the main thing. I think politicians will in fact listen to our opinions, but for the moment civic society is not capable of dictating anything to them. We will call for changes to legislation which will envisage the creation of effective levers of influence of members of the public on the authorities and control over their activities and those of their officials. We will seek restoration of the right of individuals to take direct part in the elections without needing to go through parties; the introduction of a system of open regional candidate lists or partial return to the majority electoral system (in the first instance when forming bodies of local self-government) and the creation of effective mechanisms for liability of representatives of the authorities elected by the public. So that people can demand that a deputy resign or be stripped of their mandate for non fulfilling or keeping to their pre-elections programmes.

So not the main thing that politicians hear you?

- The main thing is that society as a whole hears us, including politicians, and that the organizations who take part in the Forum feel themselves to be a community. Such forums can make a great contribution to general progress.

Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group was speaking with Svitlana Ostapa from “Telekritika” on 26 July 2007 

(very slightly abridged)

Worsening human rights situation while the Ombudsperson tends to her image?

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union reports a deterioration in the human rights situation in 2006

Yevhen Zakharov, Head of the UHHRU Board, concludes: “The situation last year if compared with 2005 had deteriorated”.  Ample corroboration of his words is provided by the annual report produced by human rights organizations “Human Rights in Ukraine – 2006”  just released.

Yevhen Zakharov stressed that there had been a serious worsening in the situation as regards political rights. He mentioned that factions were only interested in having members of their own clan on the candidate lists.

He also pointed out the right to personal data protection was being flagrantly violated. One example is provided by the new passports recently introduced with chips giving absolutely all information about Ukrainian citizens. This information can be used by any person with access to the database.

President of the Women’s Human Rights Centre “La Strada – Ukraine”, Kateryna Levchenko mentioned that human rights groups were concerned by a rise in the level of violence over recent years.

She sees one reason for this being political confrontation leading to the will to find enemies. She also mentioned the fact that the use of torture remains an issue in Ukraine, with cases of torture and ill-treatment in the law enforcement agencies, military units and in closed medical institutions.

She also pointed out that the problem of domestic violence in Ukraine was also not being tackled.

The human rights defenders were critical in their assessment of the work of Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova.

“Virtually immediately after she was appointed Human Rights Ombudsperson*, monitoring of her work was begun. According to the results of this monitoring, one unfortunately still sees a great deal of self-advertising and political statements”, Mr Zakharov commented.

He also said that it was appalling that the Secretariat of the Human Rights Ombudsperson was sending complaints received by individuals to those organization or institutions which the complaints were about (for example, prisoners’ complaints were being sent to the State Department for the Execution of Sentences – translator).

He mentioned however that Karpachova “had intervened in fairly serious cases, and her influence had been positive”.

Very slightly adapted from a report by Interfax-Ukraine

The report “Human Rights in Ukraine – 2006” covers the whole spectre of human rights, with in-depth analysis given of legislative moves and / or shortcomings which can have impact on observance of these rights, as well as detailed accounts of the main events and trends in 2006 and the first months of 2007.  We would perhaps highlight one section of the report – that on the Chernobyl Disaster.  Looking back at the year which marked the twentieth anniversary of the tragedy, the author focuses on the right to information and to the truth about an accident which impinged upon so many people’s lives, and about those Ukrainian and international institutions who have stubbornly attempted to downplay the disaster.

The English version is to be published this month.

* Ms Karpachova was re-elected Human Rights Ombudsperson after a major civic campaign in Ukraine sought to have another candidate chosen given Ms Karpachova’s seven months as National Deputy of the Verkhovna Rada from the Party of the Regions.  In the run-up to the voting in the Verkhovna Rada, a number of international institutions and organizations stressed the desirability of a candidate without known political affiliations.  Ms Karpachova was already Human Rights Ombudsperson when she stood for office in March 2006. [translator]


New structure needed to truly reform the Constitution

Civic organizations are demanding that the new version of the Constitution be drawn up not by the President’s Secretariat or the Verkhovna Rada, but by a newly-created body – a Constitutional Assembly. This is the message of the Resolution passed on Tuesday 24 July by the Civic Assembly of Ukraine.

The Resolution affirms: “The new Constitution must meet the demand of citizens for the formation and development of the Ukrainian State. It should therefore not be prepared by the President’s Secretariat, and not be adopted by the Verkhovna Rada or through a manipulative referendum, but exclusively through a Constitutional Assembly”.

If their proposal is not accepted, the participants in the Civic Assembly have stated that they will initiate a Referendum of Direct Action on amendments to the Constitution for the introduction of a Constitutional Assembly.

The members of the Assembly are convinced that the political crisis in Ukraine will not be resolved by the elections of 30 September.

According to the organizing committee, the Civic Assembly represents around 350 civic organizations.

Civic organizations propose amendments to the Constitution

At the All-Ukrainian Civic Assembly over 350 civic organizations are planning to call for changes to the Constitution which would prevent politicians misusing the Main Law of the country.  Yevhen Zakharov, Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union discussed the need for this with a correspondent from the Ukrainian Service of Deutsche Welle.

The civic organizations are convinced that one of the main reasons for the political crisis in Ukraine was the hasty adoption of amendments to the Constitution*.  This means that early elections alone cannot solve the problems. Yevhen Zakharov believes that a new draft Constitution should be drawn up by the public, and not by politicians. 

He expects this to be one of the main resolutions resulting from the All-Ukrainian Civic Assembly.

“The key idea is to pass a revised Constitution. The second task is to ensure a return to the law. Abuse specifically of the law has become endemic among those in power”.  The proposal will suggest a referendum on whether such constitutional reforms should take place. This is a fundamental issue and the people of the country must be asked their opinion. In order to efficiently implement these ideas, the members of the civic organizations plan to hold a Constitutional Assembly.

*  These amendments were passed in a “package vote” (!) along with amendments to electoral legislation in early December 2004.  The electoral changes were needed to ensure that the re-run of the Presidential elections could pass without vote-rigging.  The constitutional amendments had previously been rejected, and there are serious grounds for questioning the constitutionality of the entire proceedings.

The key changes were a move to almost total proportional representation, to a mixed parliamentary-Presidential system, with the President losing some of his powers, and with an extraordinary situation where two of the ministers in the Cabinet of Ministers are appointed by the President, the others by the Prime Minister.  The amendments came into force in January 2006.  The events since then probably make any comment redundant.  They do, however, make the reason for the present civic campaign extremely clear!  [translator]

Against torture and ill-treatment

Brutal beating of prisoners in the Izyaslav Penal Colony №31 (Preliminary analysis)

This case has held me in its grip for more than six months.  A brief account would be as follows. On 14 January 2007, virtually all prisoners at the Izyaslav Penal Colony No 31 (more than 1,200 men) declared a hunger strike. They were protesting against arbitrary punishments, beatings and degrading treatment by staff, as well as the bad quality of food and medical care. One of the prisoners’ demands was the removal of the head of the colony, his deputy and another member of management. On the same day a commission from the State Department for the Execution of Sentences [hereafter the Department] arrived at the colony, and by evening the hunger strike had been abandoned.

Then on 22 January 2007 a special unit was brought into the colony, with men in masks and military gear. They brutally beat around 40 prisoners who had been specially brought to the headquarters for this – those who had told the commission about the prisoners’ demands. By the time the beating was over, the prisoners had broken ribs, bones, noses, other bodily injuries, teeth knocked out, etc.  Immediately following this they were divided into two groups and taken to the Rivne and Khmelnytsky SIZO [pre-trial detention centres], literally in the clothes they had on, with all their things left in the penal colony. In the SIZO they were again brutally beaten. They were later taken to other penal colonies to continue serving their sentences.

Representatives of the Department deny both the hunger strike and beatings and say that 40 prisoners were moved to other penal colonies because No. 31 was overcrowded. Complaints from the prisoners themselves or their parents to the Prosecutor and other bodies have elicited the response that the actions of the Department’s personnel were legitimate. The following is an attempt to establish what did in fact happen in Colony №31 last January and how the authorities reacted to it.

Coverage of events and sources of information

We should point out that information about the events in the Izyaslav Colony spread through the mass media immediately. The urgent arrival on Sunday, 14 January (the day after the Old New Year) of the First Deputy to the Head of the Department General Mykola Iltyai with several subordinates also suggests that the Department knew that the protest action was being planned. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group [KHPG] also knew of the hunger strike having received several calls from parents of the prisoners worried about the events.  The same parents approached journalists from TV Channel 5 and Channel “1 + 1”.  The same thing happened after the prisoners were beaten. The news spread within a day to the media, while KHPG sent a letter to both the Prosecutor General and to international organizations. Similar appeals were sent by our colleagues from other human rights organizations. Nonetheless, Department personnel tried to give the impression that the hunger strike hadn’t taken place, that there had been no beatings, that the spetsnaz [special purpose unit] had not been deployed in the colony.  This was precisely the line taken on 16 and 29 January during live broadcasts on TSN and “1 + 1” by the Head of the Colony Andriy Bozhko. Over the entirely period which followed, there was a real battle to ensure that the truth did not come out about the events. Since the penal system remains closed to public scrutiny, it was impossible to directly verify the information – it needed to be collected, in smatterings, from various sources. I sent information requests on this subject to the Human Rights Ombudsperson and the Prosecutor General. Together with staff from the Prosecutor General’s office and the Department for the Execution of Sentences I met with five of the forty prisoners moved from the colony on 22 January. I collected videos of all television broadcasts covering the events, from Channel 5, “1 + 1”, ICTV; and was kindly permitted by “1 + 1” to have a copy of a full interview with three men released from No. 31. I received written testimony about the events from four prisoners moved on 22 January from Izyaslav; copies of the complaints which parents of some of the prisoners sent to the Khmelnytsky Regional Prosecutor, the Prosecutor General, the Human Rights Ombudsperson, the Department for the Execution of Sentences, the Ministry of Justice, the President of Ukraine and the Cabinet of Ministers, as well as replies they received. I spoke a lot with the parents of the men who had already had visits to their sons at the new colonies. Putting all of this together, it is possible to reconstruct the events.

The Hunger Strike

Colony No. 31 has a minimum security regime. There are approximately 1,200 prisoners, in the main young men from 18 to 22, divided into 8 units. All are imprisoned for the first time, and for most it is their first conviction.

All the prisoners who gave information about the events cite the following reasons for the hunger strike:

1. Beatings, humiliation. Most of the prisoners were positive about the former Head of the Institution Oleksandr Povoroznyuk, saying that under him there had been no unjustified punishments and prisoners had not been beaten. They said that he had been just and demanded the same from his staff. However when he was removed for some reason, Andriy Bozhko had become Acting Head. That was when the beatings, insults and unwarranted punishments started. For example, Prisoner M. received 7 days in the punishment cell simply for lying down in a different place.  Each person who gave accounts, cited glaring examples of arbitrary and violent behaviour towards them from the management of the colony, middle-level and junior personnel. Many mentioned, for example, having been hit on the backside every day with rubber batons. . 

Infringements of working conditions

All the prisoners complained that only a few had received “otovarka”, i.e. these prisoners, no more than 10% had wages calculated and could buy things in the colony’s shop. The overwhelming majority were not paid anything. The explanation given was that the money earned was being used to pay for food and living expenses. However, as one of the prisoners correctly said, that effectively means that each person who in fact worked but didn’t receive “otavarka”, according to the documents had not worked, and there were all grounds for punishment.

Everyday conditions

On average, each barrack holds around 150 prisoners although the prisoners maintain that the norm is 60-70 places. In the eighth unit barrack for 160 prisoners there were two wash basins in working order, and at dinner there was nowhere to wash your hands. The shop has food items beyond their sell-by date. There were even glass jars with preserves from 1979. The medical unit has out-of-date medicine and medical care was not given promptly. The prisoners remembered one prisoner who lost his eyesight because he got some metal shavings in one eye which got infected. The Inflammation spread to the other eye and they didn’t treat it in time. Another prisoner got frostbite and ended up with both feet amputated because he didn’t get medical help quickly enough. It is difficult to verify these stories since the people themselves were then moved to other institutions.

There was one telephone for all the prisoners, and you had to earn the right to a call.

All the prisoners complained about the bad drinking water.

No possibility of complaining against the behaviour of the administration

The prisoners assert that they tried to send complaints to the Khmelnytsky Regional Division of the Department for the Execution of Sentences, to the Department in Kyiv, to prosecutor’s offices at different levels and other authorities, but that their complaints never left the colony. For example, one prisoner spoke of the following.

In April 2006 we found out that a Department commission was coming to the colony. We wrote a collective complaint and I personally handed it to the head of the commission.  A bit later I got put in a punishment cell [DIZO], supposedly for infringements of the colony regulations. I got beaten up there, and then taken to the office of the First Deputy Head of the Colony Pysak who was holding our complaint, and told me that I’d been put in DIZO not for infringements, but for my complaint, and that nobody would help me. After that, they banned me from telephoning home and my letters didn’t get to my parents. And when they rang the special unit, they were told, see, what an uncaring son you’ve got.

The mounting grievances finally led the prisoners to call a wide-scale hunger strike. On 14 January the entire colony (barring one prisoner) refused to go to the canteen for their breakfast. The prisoners put forward the following demands: dismiss the Acting Head of the Colony Bozhko, the First Deputy Head Bondarchuk, the Deputy on issues related to the regime rules, Yatskov and some other members of staff; put an end to the beating of prisoners; make the conditions meet human standards; bring in normal food items and medicines, etc.

At the same time a commission from the Department arrived at the colony, headed by the Deputy Head of the Department Major-General Iltyai.  The commission found the out-of-date medicines and jars of food (the prisoners allege that the personnel had hidden the food, but that one of the prisoners told the commission where to find it, and for that he hasn’t been out of different punishment cells [SHIZO – isolation unit, or PKT – cell-like conditions – translator] ever since. Iltyai met with the prisoners (around 30 prisoners were brought to the meeting from each unit), listened to their grievances and promised to rectify the situation. The prisoners abandoned their hunger strike and went to the evening meal. On 15-16 January fresh food and new medicines were brought to the colony. However the insults and threats from the administration staff continued despite the presence of people from central Department headquarters, including the head of the supervisory unit Major Oleksandr Kislov. The Acting Head of the Colony Andriy Bozhko stated in a direct broadcast that there had been no hunger strike, and that some prisoners had simply received good parcels before the holidays (from New Year to after Christmas on 7 January – translator), and hadn’t bothered to go to breakfast. Therefore on 17 January some of the prisoners again declared a hunger strike. They called it off two days later after talking with a representative of the Human Rights Ombudsperson’s Secretariat Serhiy Kudruk who promises to deal with the problems at the colony.

The Department explains the events at No. 31 differently. They say that the young head of the institution Andriy Bozkho was unable to cope with the problems of the colony, and “the informal management of the colony” got out of hand and wanted to determine themselves who would manage the institution and what the rules of behaviour would be. They therefore organized the protest action. Supposedly it was no hunger strike since none of the prisoners wrote a personal statement refusing to eat.  The prisoners had received very good parcels from home coming up to New Year, and could afford to put such pressure on the administration. Such behaviour was a threat to order in the colony and the organizers of the action needed to be punished

The punishment was not long in coming 

22 January


A special anti-terrorist unit was brought into the colony, with men in masks and military gear. They brutally beat more than 40 prisoners and took them away, half-dressed, some of them without even house shoes (all their things were left in the colony), beaten and covered in blood, with broken noses, ribs and bones, and with teeth knocked out, to the Rivne and Khmelnytsky SIZO [pre-trial detention centres] where they were again brutally beaten by SIZO staff.  Here is a fragment from the statement given by Prisoner K:

I was in the medical unit getting treatment, together with three other prisoners. At 9.00 a car arrived. Around 20 people came into the unit, including a representative from Kyiv Kislov, the First Deputy Head of the Khmelnytsky Regional Division of the Department Shutyak, the Head of the operations unit of the Division Shatsky, the Acting Head of No. 31 Bozhko and his First Deputy Bondarchuk. All four of us were called into the office of the head of the medical unit where all those people were.

About 1 or 2 minutes later around 10 people burst into the office in masks. They knocked us to the ground, pulled our hands behind our backs and handcuffed us and began hitting our faces against the floor. Then they dragged us through a line of those people from the Division and the colony who kicked us. The people in masks shoved us into a car on top of each other with our heads down, and for around 20 minutes kicked us on our heads and bodies. When the car arrived at the checkpoint from the work zone to the barracks, they flung us out of it. There was a “live” corridor of ensigns and officers of the colony with batons. When we were flung out, they immediately knocked us to the ground and started beating us with their batons and kicking us.

I lost consciousness (following the beatings, I have a scar on my chin).

I came to in another building during the search. The search was carried out with beating. After that they put handcuffs on behind our backs and dragged us passed the row with batons. I again lost consciousness. I came to in the van. There were already about 20 prisoners there. They were all beaten, covered in blood, a lot without shoes and not dressed. I was in a ripped jersey and lace-up boots.

The car drove up to the exit from the colony and then returned. We were thrown out of the car and pushed past the row (the same people beat us with the same batons). Then they shoved us into a van and took us to the Khmelnytsky SIZO. We were met there by the head in charge of the colony regime regulations of the Khmelnytsky Division of the Department Zlotenko and a swift response unit.

We were pushed down a row several times, getting brutally beaten with batons and then thrown into a transit cell. For a week they took us out individually 3-4 times a day to a SIZO office where the swift response unit brutally beat us. All of this was under the control of Zlotenko. They put wet towels onto our faces so that we couldn’t breathe; they beat us with batons on the heels, palms, buttocks, back, legs and head. I fainted from the beating. Zlotenko threatened that when our parents came for visits, they’d plant drugs on them and that they’d also be complaining from behind bars.

They used physical and moral pressure to get me to make a statement that I had no grievances against the administration of Colony No. 31 or the Khmelnytsky Division of the Department, that nobody had used physical means to influence me.

I ask that the statement I signed during that time is not considered valid.

Another piece of testimony, this time from Prisoner A:

On 22 January around 10 o’clock in the morning I was called to headquarters with one other prisoner.

The Head of the Colony Bozhko ordered us to into a room where there were around 20 other prisoners, sit down and wait.

Later Major Kislov came in and said that all the requests made by prisoners after the hunger strike to the head of the regional department would be carried out.

Straight after that a lieutenant (I don’t know his name) came in and over the telephone gave the order: “Do your work”.

Some special soldiers in masks burst in, put handcuffs on us, flung us on the floor and began beating us with batons and kicking us. After that everybody was shoved into a “voronok” [a closed van for transporting prisoners – translator], when S.P. Tymoshchuk did a name call and then five minutes later, they began pulling us out of the van and people in masks dragged the prisoners into the shower sections of the work zone.

In the shower rooms they took off the handcuffs and ripped off our clothes to search us, then they spread us naked on rope and began beating us with batons and kicking us around the kidneys and liver. Those who screamed from the pain had their mouths covered with sticky tape. Later, not even letting us get dressed properly, they put the handcuffs on again and again dragged us past the special force unit row to the van.

Half an hour later we were again thrown out of the van and they did the name call again and also warned us that if we talk on the way they’ll shoot us and put their dogs on us, and that the President had given them the right to do this.

All of this barbarism continued until 17.00 after which they took us to the Khmelnytsky SIZO.

More than 20 of those beaten were taken to the Rivne SIZO. Prisoner V. talks about events there.

The van arrived at the Rivne SIZO. The van doors opened, and there was a command – 4 men come out. You could hear how they were taken out, one at a time, you could hear them being hit. It came to my turn: I jump out of the van onto the ground, get a couple of prophylactic beats, 2 people in civilian clothes grab me and pull me into the building. Already at the entrance I understood – “masks” and not such bad guys. There was a barrage of kicks to the face, the stomach, the groin. Then they drag me further. They fling me on the floor of some office where there are six – eight men. There’s a series of kicks and they let me stand up. They take off my handcuffs, and I see my wrists and panic – they’re all swollen and bruised. The left was like a boxing glove, so swollen, probably broken. Back in No. 31 when they were doing their “personal check”, I used my hands to protect my face against their boots. Then I didn’t realize that they’d broken it. And so, there’s a medical assistant, pushing a piece of paper at me, for my signature that I’m physically healthy and have no complaints against the convoy, the administration of No. 31  or the Rivne SIZO . You sign it, otherwise they’ll kill you. They check your name again, and against the papers on the table and then it starts. A barrage of blows, with everybody in the room hitting you. When they get tired of hitting and kicking, they put you stomach down on the ground, stretch you out in starfish position with one person on each end and two people at the sides, take up batons (with the hands forward), and begin pummelling you on the back, bottom, legs. You lose consciousness;  they give you some water and begin again. And they ask you questions at the same time. Seemingly this procedure is called “gathering investigation information”. Where the skin’s exposed on the legs and buttocks, they also use water. At that moment you want only one thing – to die as quickly as possible. They asked the questions you know the answers to. And they knew that you know. And they got them out of you very conscientiously. They beat and beat and then stop. Well, have you remembered? – No! In that office I understood that no Zhytomyr “Titan” can compare with these officers of the Rivne SIZO.  

After this torture, all the prisoners were forced to sign a pre-prepared paper saying that they had no grievances against the administration of No. 31 or the SIZO. Then also under threat of torture (and if any refused, then with the use of torture), they forced them to write a statement backdated to 21 January asking to be moved to another colony to serve out their sentence The prisoners say that they were urinating blood for some time, and for more than a month, they couldn’t move their wrists properly because of the handcuffs used on them.

Reaction to the events

As already mentioned, KHPG approached both the Prosecutor General and the Human Rights Ombudsperson over these events. The prisoners’ parents and some prisoners themselves also made statements to various public authorities. The following is a summary of the responses.

The State Department for the Execution of Sentences has still not admitted that the prisoners were beaten on 22 January and that their belongings disappeared. All their responses claim that the actions of the Department’s staff were lawful. The Secretariat of the parliamentary Human Rights Ombudsperson sent the complaints received from parents and the prisoners themselves to the prosecutor’s office and to the selfsame Department (!), although personnel from the Secretariat had themselves been in Colony No. 31. In response to my information request asking to see the results of their investigation, the Secretariat replied that the Human Rights Ombudsperson is not obliged to give explanations on the substance of cases which are concluded or presently under investigation. All prosecutor’s offices at different levels have refused to launch a criminal investigation for want of any elements of a crime in the actions of officials. . With regard to the loss of belongings, the prosecutor’s office in the Khmelnytsky region claimed that the belongings had been moved together with the prisoners, that the money in their personal accounts had been handed over and used for the needs of Izyaslav Penal Colony No. 31 on the written authorization of the prisoners themselves.

The Prosecutor General’s response warrants particular consideration. In contrast to the Department, the Prosecutor General’s Office has acknowledged that on 22 January methods of physical influence were applied to prisoners.  One of its investigators met with prisoners on 2 February, already after they had signed documents saying they had no complaints. According to the Prosecutor General’s letter on the same day there was a forensic medical examination of 8 prisoners, with 6 of them being found to have light bodily injuries. However all of these prisoners wrote that they physically resisted the search. And since  but says this was as the result of resistance from the prisoners to a search. The letter further maintains that since not one of the prisoners made a complaint at a personal meeting with their investigator against unlawful behaviour, there were no grounds for launching a criminal investigation.

At the same time, acts recording Prosecutor response to infringements of penal legislation were drawn up over the material and medical and sanitary provisions for prisoners at Izyaslav Colony No. 31. I was told verbally that an application has been submitted to have acting Head of the Colony Andriy Bozhko dismissed. However he is still working in his position.

The Prosecutor General’s letter states that “the need to bring in [special units] was dictated by difficulties in the operational circumstances, the incitement by some individuals with negative leanings of other prisoners to refuse to eat, to show resistance, insolent behaviour and resistance to members of the colony administration”. The motives listed acknowledge the purpose of the actions of these special units having been to intimidate the prisoners.

The events of 22 January were subjected to scrutiny by the UN Committee against Torture which reviewed Ukraine’s Fifth Periodic Report at its 38th session on 8 and 9 May. When asked by one of the Committee’s experts what had happened at Izyaslav, the Government Delegation responded that a special purpose unit had been brought in to quell a riot. This reason has not been given in Ukraine itself. In their “Conclusions and Recommendations” on 18 May, the Committee directly stated that it “is concerned with the reported use of the anti-terrorist unit inside prisons acting with masks (e.g. in the Izyaslav Correctional Colony, in January 2007), resulting in the intimidation and ill-treatment of inmates” and directly stated that the “State party should also ensure that the anti-terrorist unit is not used inside prisons and hence to prevent mistreat and intimidation of inmates.”

Yet on 7 June, according to our information, a special purpose unit of the Department was again deployed, this time at Buchansk Penal Colony No. 85 (Kyiv region) and for over an hour brutally tortured several inmates of the heightened security unit.

It is however impossible to verify this information due to the total secrecy of the Department. The Department’s Head Vasyl Koshchynets recently issued an Order restricting access by civic organizations to the weekends.

The Head of the Department Vasyl Koshchynets often repeats that the Department is a law enforcement body which is in the frontline of the fight against crime. Yet throughout the world the penal system is a civilian service. In Ukraine this system requires radical reform. Conditions must really be created which ensure respect for prisoners’ dignity, minimize the adverse effects of imprisonment, eliminate the enormous divide between life in penal institutions and at liberty, and support and consolidate those ties with relatives and with the outside world which best serve the interests of the prisoners and their families.

I believe that a shocking crime was committed. It remains however unpunished since there is effectively no system of investigating allegations of torture. After all the prosecutor’s office on the one hand only agrees to launch a criminal investigation where there are statements from victims of torture, while on the other, fails to take any effort to ensure those people’s safety. They are thus under the total control of their torturers which simply leaves no chance for complaints. Other mechanisms are therefore needed to prevent torture and to investigate these crimes.

The right to a fair trial

No compensation for 8 months remanded in a SIZO?

The Donetsk Court of Appeal has allowed the Prosecutor to not pay lawyer Serhiy Salov 2 million UAH for 8 months in a SIZO [pre-trial detention centre].  This revoked the ruling by the Voroshilovsky District Court in Donetsk which had order the Prosecutor to pay this amount in compensation for moral damages over the unwarranted detention in custody. The Court of Appeal has sent the case back to the same court for a new examination.

It is not quite clear why the original ruling was revoked – supposedly some mistakes in procedure which Mr Salov believes to be an excuse. He says, however, that he may abandon his suit.  He expressed his outrage as follows:

“I sought rehabilitation for eight years. Am I now to spend just as long trying to get compensation?”

He pointed out to the newspaper “Ostrov” that nobody had been punished for the fact that he had been held illegally in a SIZO for 8 months.

Serhiy Salov’s frustration is easy to understand.  His “case” began 8 years ago, during the Presidential election campaign. After he found a fake special issue of the newspaper “Holos Ukrainy” [“Voice of Ukraine”] which, in an address allegedly from the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada informed of the death of one of the candidates for the Presidency and the then President of Ukraine, Leonid Kuchma.  Mr Salov decided to show it to friends.  On 6 July 2000 the District Court convicted Salov of interfering with the civil right to vote for the purpose of influencing the presidential election results (Article 127 of the “former” Criminal Code of Ukraine). The District Court sentenced the applicant to five years’ imprisonment, which was suspended for a two-year probationary period.

As mentioned, Serhiy Salov spent 8 months remanded in custody.

The European Court of Human Rights issued a judgment over this case in 2005 finding that there had been a violation of Article 5 § 3 (he had not been brought promptly before a judge or other judicial authority in order to have his arrest reviewed), Article 6 § 1 (the right to a fair trial) and Article 10 (freedom of expression – in this case the right to receive and impart information).

On 27 January this year the Supreme Court quashed all the previous rulings from domestic courts handed down in Mr Salov’s case.

Based on information from ECHR and

Freedom of expression

Too much violence on Ukrainian television

The International Women’s Human Rights Centre “La Strada – Ukraine” has released the results of a survey which it commissioned the Ukrainian Institute of Social Research to carry out on violence in the Ukrainian media.

The survey did not focus on particular films or channels, but on the general attitude of Ukrainians to scenes of violence and brutality on their screens and in the press.

The results were released at a meeting attended by psychologists and members of human rights organizations. Representatives of the State Committee on Television and Radio Broadcasting and the Ministry of Culture were invited, but chose not to attend.

The Head of La Strada – Ukraine, Kateryna Levchenko explains: “The survey showed that Ukrainians are most negative about stories which degrade people, as well as films with filthy language. The older the respondents, the less willing they are to view violence on the screen. On average, 20% said that they no longer watched action films or thrillers, while another 43 to 55% said that they would be prepared to give them up. This, unfortunately, does not include young people who would be less inclined to forfeit such viewing”.

Ms Levchenko believes that the majority of modern films encourage violence. Even “heroes” like Schwarzenegger or Seagal resolve their problems with force. The press reported that while a series “Brigade” was running, the number of fights in schools increased, and in the Vinnytsa region a gang even formed their own “brigade” carrying out violent robberies.

Representative of the information and advertising agency “Style S” Oleksy Syrov agreed with the comments. He pointed out that most channels are forced to work to a certain budget, and therefore often show a number of B-grade films.

Those present felt that there was an argument for limiting films with violence and open sex to paying channels.  They had a number of questions to the Ministry of Culture which allows such films to be shown at prime time.

They did however feel that it was not enough to simply ban violent films. Psychologists call for a system of strategic upbringing, and also mentioned that in Japan a child would not be able to turn on such a programme even if there were no adults around.

They suggest that changes need to be made to the Law on protecting public morals, and stress that the problem should not just be left to parents, but that experienced psychologists and teachers should become involved.

Based on information from and La Strada – Ukraine’s website:


Ukrainian Prosecutor General seems to have missed the crime

The Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union is bemused over the statement by Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko who stated on Friday 7 July that the investigators do not have sufficient evidence to prosecute Party of the Regions National Deputy Oleh Kalashnikov.

“The Media Trade Union is aware of a sufficient amount of evidence having been available last summer. There is, for example, the conclusion of the investigators from the Pechersky prosecutor’s office who established that Oleh Kalashnikov was implicated in the assault on journalist Margarita Sytnyk and cameraman Volodymyr Novosad”, Mykhailyna Skoryk, Head of the Trade Union stated.

“Kyiv journalists are outraged by the fact that in a year a simple case involving obstruction of journalists in their work has not reached the court. And this is despite the fact that the assault on the STB team has been established, there are witnesses, the relevant statements from the victims, and Margarita Sytnyk has regularly been going to the Prosecutor General’s office to give testimony.  Due to the clear wish of the investigation unit to stall this case, the Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union is calling on its colleagues to attend a picket on Thursday 12 July at 11.00 outside the Prosecutor General’s office (Riznytsa St, 13/8). We will in this way fittingly mark the anniversary of this attack. The committee of the Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union is also planning to remind the leadership of the Party of the Regions of their promise to expel Kalashnikov from the party. The Trade Union will demand that his name is not included on the Party of the Regions candidate list at the coming elections. The Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union is convinced that this is the only way that the Party of the Regions will manage to prove to society that their claims to entirely support the development of freedom of speech in Ukraine are true.

Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union


Social and economic rights

Constitutional Court cancels norms in the State Budget which had suspended concessions

Ukraine’s Constitutional Court has quashed the norms of the Law on the State Budget which suspended for 2007 the payment of concessions, compensation and guarantees for the population.  A constitutional submission by 48 National Deputies had asked the Court to consider whether a range of Articles of the Law complied with the Constitution.

In its judgment issued on 9 July, the Court concluded that a number of these Articles ran counter to Article 1 of the Constitution which states that Ukraine is a sovereign and independent, democratic, social, law-based state.

The President of the Court Andriy Stryzhak, in reporting the judgment, stressed that according to the Constitution, social rights and guarantees may not be limited and that the State Budget cannot revoke provisions from other laws. The Court had therefore decided that the Verkhovna Rada had not had the authority to stop the force of other laws, including those regarding concessions, guarantees and compensation, when passing the law on the State Budget.

The above-mentioned Articles begun null and void on the day that the Court’s judgment is published.

From information at

News from the CIS countries

Political prisoners must be released, not forgotten

Mikhail Trepashkin remains in solitary confinement, despite a medical condition which according to Russian legislation requires his release from imprisonment.

His lawyer Sergei Kuznetsov told the press that his client’s life was being endangered by the conditions he is being held in. He said that Mr Trepashkin is not provided with the medicine he needs, nor fresh air, natural light and normal food and water.  Mikhail Trepashkin did in fact give written consent to be placed in solitary confinement after the administration argued that this was for his own protection and to prepare for the coming hearing. He was not, however, aware that he would be placed in a cell of 4 square metres without a window. This was a cell where they held those awaiting execution.

A hearing into Mikhail Trepashkin’s cassation appeal against his transfer from a colony settlement to a (harsher) general regime was scheduled for 6 July.  It was postponed for somewhat vague reasons.  One wonders whether the fact that on that same day the Russian Prosecutor General officially turned down the UK Government’s request for the extradition of the main suspect in the murder of Alexander Litvinenko had anything to do with this.  The cases are hardly unrelated.  Litvinenko had directly accused the Russian Security Service of orchestrated the Moscow and Volgodonsk apartment bombings in 1999.

Mikhail Trepashkin is serving a sentence on charges which have been seriously questioned in a PACE report, by Amnesty International and by a number of Russian human rights organizations. Human rights defenders are convinced that the charges, sentence and now the entirely unwarranted transfer to a harsher regime are punitive measures against the former FSB officer and lawyer who was actively involved in trying to uncover the real culprits of the 1999 apartment bombings.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2007, #07