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 dazzle and squalor of the constitutional process in Ukraine

During 2007 there was a great deal of talk about the need for constitutional reform.  Presidential Decree №1294/2007 from 27 December envisaged the creation of a National Constitutional Council [NCC] which would include academics, politicians, regional representatives delegated by bodies of local self-government and civic figures. The President would head the Council and approve its makeup. The Council would discuss the concept for a new draft Constitution and prepare this draft.

What should the role of the NCC be?  It is a consultative and advisory body under the President and it can, in my opinion, be viewed only as a convenient tool for preparing decent draft amendments and additions to the current Constitution or a draft new version of the Constitution. The NCC has no authority to review draft laws or approve any decisions, this being the prerogative of a representative body – either the Verkhovna Rada or a Constitutional Assembly especially elected for this purpose. There should also be wide public discussion of changes to the Constitution. The draft needs to be printed in large numbers and sufficient time given to ensure that all those interested have the opportunity to read it and make their comments.

The Constitution is an act of civic society and it cannot be passed solely by professional politicians who will certainly not manage to avoid the temptation of adapting the Constitution to serve their own selfish interests, or will sabotage its creation altogether. A decent draft can only be drawn up with the participation of well-known public leaders and lawyers who have people’s trust. And there was a possibility of creating a National Constitutional Council reflecting the diversity and different views of Ukrainian society: many civic associations put forward their proposals for well-known public figures to be included in the NCC. However the makeup of the NCC approved on 18 February by Presidential Decree № 139/2008, is a downright disappointment. Of 97 of its members, 40 are National Deputies [MPs] with 12 from the Party of the Regions; 11 from Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence; 9 from BYuT – Yulia Tymoshenko’s bloc; 5 from the Lytvyn Bloc; and 3 from the Communist Party. There are 9 employees of the Presidential Secretariat, 4 from parliamentary institutions; 2 civil servants; and 6 heads of regional councils.  In a word, we see the entire political beau monde. There are only 13 specialists in law, including 5 retired judges of the Supreme and Constitutional Courts; 13 representatives of the National Academy of Sciences and higher institutes. There are 9 members of civic organizations, the vast majority of which are extensions of the same authorities.

What could this choice by the President’s Secretariat indicate?  I would hazard a guess that this makeup of the National Constitutional Council is a difficult compromise which was achieved in order to get a public constitutional process starting and to legitimize the Council. It would seem that no political forces, aside from Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence, consider changing the Constitution to be of priority, while without the participation of all parliamentary factions the Council will have no legitimacy. Yet will it be able to work with such a makeup, and could it not turn the preparation of changes to the Constitution into pure political squabbling? I would be glad to be proved wrong however it is difficult to believe that such a Council has any chance of succeeding. This was confirmed by the Council’s first meeting.

The meeting took place on 20 February. At first the President briefly spoke of the need to write a new Constitution and gave his views about the changes needed. He was supported by the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada who called on all political forces to work together on the draft. However when the discussion turned to organizing the Council’s work, the various political factions’ entirely different attitudes became apparent. The Council Secretary Marina Stavniychuk suggesting dividing the Council up into five committees: on the fundamental principles of the constitutional order and the rule of the people; on human and civil rights and liberties; parliament, the Head of State and. the Cabinet of Ministers; the justice system; the territorial organization of power and bodies of local self-government, as well as choosing 15 members of a working group to prepare a draft Constitution. However this didn’t suit the politicians. Viktor Yanukovych said that first a concept for constitutional changes needed to be prepared by a working group and discussed, and only then should the committees be formed since it wasn’t clear how many and which there should be. Mykola Tomenko then stated that BYuT was against the creation of a new version altogether and supported only amendments and additions. It was therefore unnecessary to form a working group, and the five committees mentioned should work towards improving and optimizing the relevant sections of the Constitution.  Petro Symonenko said that before any working bodies of the Council were created, there needed to be discussion of the concept for constitutional changes and he proposed beginning that discussion immediately. In short, it was all extremely reminiscent of the Verkhovna Rada. Mykola Onyschuk explained that the working group and committees should work together, passing on what they had prepared and making both the concept and the actual changes more specific.  The President interrupted this discussion, saying that the makeup of the working bodies had been approved, that they would begin work the following Tuesday and ended the first meeting.

Since 20 February the NCC has not met at all. As far as I am aware, 5 of its commissions have similarly not begun work. A draft Constitution, prepared by the working group, which was subjected to devastating criticism was posted on the website “Glavred”. The specialists named on the site as the authors of the draft confirmed that it was one of the variants which the working group considered, however not yet the final one. It looks as though the President’s Secretariat is waiting and deciding what to do next.

Predictions for the fate of this National Constitutional Council and the constitutional process as a whole are fairly pessimistic. In this there is consensus between constitutional specialists and politicians. On the other hand, the Constitution which was destroyed in 2004 has become a source of systematic political confrontation and as a consequence of the destruction of the State. Without changes to the Constitution, there can be no end to this destruction. Those political figures who appreciate the burden of this responsibility simply must try to continue the constitutional process. For that reason, although at first glance the Council and its members would seem unable to function and have already effectively not been working for a month and a half, the situation forces us to seek a solution.

In my opinion, the main weakness in the position of the stage managers of the constitutional process lies in the lack of public access and trust in society.  The stage managers are constantly trying to find shadow, behind the scenes, means for conquering their political opponents.  While, I believe it’s necessary to make the constitutional process as public and open as possible. Ukrainian civic society should state its position. A public constitutional council could be created, with this proposing its draft Constitution and demand its discussion and consideration.

What are the possible scenarios for the constitutional process? Hopes for the introduction of amendments and additions to the current Constitution under the present procedure are as I see it unwarranted, since parliament is not capable of this. I think that those politicians who are calling for this variant of constitutional reform are simply not sincere. The appearance of a new draft Constitution which the President will try to put to a referendum is possible. However even a decent draft must be discussed by society, the NCC and in the representative body, otherwise it is doomed. Ukrainians don’t put up with attempts to force them. I think that there should only be talk of a referendum when all other possible paths have been lost.

We should note that if a decent draft Constitution appears which people like, the question of the legitimacy of its adoption becomes secondary. In 1956, De Gaulle, having received parliament’s consent to make some amendments and additions to the current Constitution, proposed for referendum an entirely new draft which was passed. This was termed a “constitutional revolution”, yet France received one of the best constitutions in the world, which competes with the American Constitution and is a source of pride to the French.

Be that as it may, we are presently only at the beginning. The constitutional process will still bring many surprises. The difficulty lies in the fact that not a lot of time has been put aside for this, while it is impossible to neglect all the vital components each of which requires a lot of time. It remains to be seen whether we will be able to reach a compromise.

The Ukrainian Human Rights Ombudsperson’s “extensive work”

According to the Ombudsperson’s press service, the Ambassador for Norway gains his knowledge of the “extensive work” done by the Ombudsperson from her official website.

Over the last two weeks the monitoring group gathered more than 50 human rights-related reports. Most were pretty negative: about the AIDS epidemic in Ukraine being the worst in countries of Europe and Central Asia; about those authorities heightening tension in the Crimea and many others.  Most of the upbeat stories were about plans for the future.

There were a couple of cheering exceptions with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s appeal over the young lad Ivan Keivan finally achieving some results (  See also “Congratulations, you’re not in the running” ( ). 

Only five of the items concerned the work of the Ombudsperson. Three meetings held with the management of the SBU [Security Service}, a meeting with the Serbian Ambassador, a submission to the President on creating a State Migration Service, and a statement about temporarily suspending action on lodging a submission with the Constitutional Court on unconstitutional norms in legislation on tender procurement. This is what the Ombudsperson’s website reports over the last two weeks.

To this modest list, we would add one response from the Ombudsperson’s Secretariat to an information request from the “Maidan” legal advisor, Oleksandr Severyn.  The response is negative, with the refusal to provide information about the work of the Ombudsperson being justified on the grounds that the law does not bind the Ombudsperson to reply to information requests and prohibits the public from interfering in the Ombudsperson’s work.  Mr Severyn is however advised to acquaint himself with her work on the official website.

Perhaps in response to information in last month’s monitoring report suggesting a lack of transparency in the Ombudsperson’s work, the press service of the Secretariat quotes the Ambassador for Norway as having said that he gains his knowledge of the “extensive work” done by the Ombudsperson from her official website.  Yet It’s sufficient to glance at the website in question to see that it’s updated irregularly and unsystematically. Some of the sections were last updated as far back as 2004.  The site appears to offer latest news in English  however the page which comes up is in only in Ukrainian and Russian. While there are only two formal tables, for 2005 and 2006 on the financial aspect of the Ombudsperson’s activities, there is ample evidence that the financing for this office would certainly cover the cost of translation.

It was not to be expected that the Ombudsperson would feel inclined to report the civil suit brought against her, the Speaker of Parliament and the Verkhovna Rada itself, over infringements to the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson. It is however a shame that the press saw no need to report the extraordinary ruling which effectively states that citizens have no legal redress against such infringements which the judge said did not “directly impinge upon them” (

It is also regrettable that the press did not take note of Ms Karpachova’s meeting with the Serbian Ambassador in Ukraine Goran Aleksiich. Whereas the President and Ministry of Foreign Affairs called for a balanced approach over Kosovo and called for continued negotiations between the Balkans and the international community, Ms Karpachova declared her solidarity for the Serbian position and announced her intention to discuss this issue with President Yushchenko.

Where the Ombudsperson did gain media coverage was over her meetings with the SBU management and the Prosecutor General. Over the last two weeks, of the 6 items concerning Ms Karpachova, 5 dealt with this subject. This is doubtless because of the dramatic statements made by Nina Karpachova following the arrest of Mr Rudkovsky, who held the position of Minister of Transport and Communications in the previous government (in the ruling coalition which Ms Karpachova was also a member of for more than 6 months). She claimed that the SBU had secret prisons.  This claim was immediately taken up by the Party of the Regions which called for the resignation of the SBU leadership.  The assertions were refuted, and no scandal emerged.  The meetings did result in the SBU removing a stamp “For official use only” from documents regulating the status of the department for pre-trial investigations in the SBU. The meetings found consensus over the need for reform of the Law on the Security Service, specifically to remove the function of pre-trial investigation, and ensure social and legal guarantees for employees of the service.

Abridged from the report at

Legal spasms

A surreal court ruling in Kyiv on Friday 29 February could, if not revoked at appeal stage, send many people’s faith in the rule of law into fast fall.  The ruling is a squalid continuation of a thoroughly unseemly tale of political manoeuvring. It involves the judiciary, however, and whatever the judges may say, it concerns every one of us.

In 2006 Human Rights Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova chose to stand for parliament.  She did not step down during the election campaign, although being in second place on the Party of the Regions candidate list her success was hardly in question. She then failed to resign although the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson states clearly that any such conflict of interests must be resolved within 10 days. 7 months later, parliament terminated her powers as Ombudsperson. It was never clearly stated, but Ms Karpachova probably did not get the position in parliament she had hoped for, and decided after all that being a Human Rights Ombudsperson was not such a bad thing. All of this meant that the Speaker put forward Karpachova’s candidacy yet again, but also delayed the vote in parliament.  Despite an unprecedented campaign by Ukrainian civic society to have a politically independent candidate elected, the vote proved entirely faction-based and by 8 February 2007, Ms Karpachova was once again in the office she had held, in breach of the law, for seven months until November 2006.

The story is long, the number of infringements quite overwhelming.  They can be found in the references below, however it is something else which is disturbing now.  The civil suit lodged by two “Maidan” Alliance activists was not rejected because the Ombudsperson, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and that illustrious body itself did not break the law, as alleged, through their decisions, actions and omissions.

No, the judges turned down the claim on the grounds that Mr Garbar and Mr Severyn’s interests had not been directly impinged.

At this point a film director would say it all with a moment’s silence. Tempting as it is, I can’t simply fall speechless.  Although I’m blessed if I know what to say!   There is a law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson, a good law, regarding an important and valuable institution for protecting human rights.  The law was infringed by the person then and now holding that undoubtedly important office. It was further breached by the said person’s colleagues in parliament where she had no place to be without resigning. The parliamentarians are also much more than simply honour bound to respect the rule of law.

One can hypothesise situations to “prove” that the claimants’ rights and interests were or could have been seriously infringed.  Proof, however, is entirely redundant and quite inappropriate.

As citizens, the two claimants have every right to demand that the laws of their country are observed.  Any suggestion to the contrary makes a farce of the rule of law. It would be well to consider whether this is a good message to be delivering to the Ukrainian people and to Europe.

Against torture and ill-treatment

Next stop Strasbourg

Torture in Ukraine can be considered a legitimate means of gaining a confession if one considers the judgment handed down on this week by the Supreme Court in the case of Motsny and Nechyporuk

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union called on people to follow this disturbing and unprecedented case.

Two men – Oleksandr Motsny and Ivan Nechyporuk – were identified as suspects by the victim of an attack whose mother was killed trying to protect him.  It was not an eyewitness identification – the victim simply said that it might have been the two because of their height and build. 

The police did the rest.  The main evidence as such was the men’s confessions.  We have reported Ivan Nechyporuk’s father’s account of how this confession was extracted from his son.  He asserts that when they tried to beat a confession out of Ivan with no success, they brought in his heavily pregnant wife, and threatened to torture her.

The police, in fact, ended up with five confessions. During the court hearing, a representative of the Prosecutor General’s office asserted that the five confessions demonstrated the growing competition of the police officers who questioned the men.  They get better and better is presumably the idea. Looking at the material of the case, one does however get the impression that it was less their skill in interrogation, as the means of torture that changed. Some of the methods described could surely compete with those used during the Spanish Inquisition.

The Khmelnytsky Region Inter-District Court acquitted the men on the grounds that the confessions given by Ivan Nechyporuk and Oleksandr Motsny had not been voluntary.

This verdict was appealed, and the Ternopil Regional Court of Appeal convicted the two men of murder, effectively on the basis of those confessions.

The two defendants described the torture that they had been subjected during the Supreme Court hearing, as well as certain other irregularities, such as the fact that no protocol at all was taken of the court hearing in the Court of Appeal.

Yet the Supreme Court chose not to consider this and upheld the convictions and 15-year sentences.

It now remains for the European Court of Human Rights to consider whether 5 confessions are credible proof of the crime or whether a clear violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the prohibition of torture was involved.  Since this Convention is binding upon Ukraine, the Supreme Court’s judgment may well not be the end of the story.

Freedom of expression

Civic monitoring finds authorities conceal information about municipal and State-owned media outlets

At a press conference held on 24 March, the head of the “Equal Opportunities” Committee Oleksandr Chekmyshev stated that 2008 would be a year of monitoring of “jeansa” [commissioned news items in the media], the authorities’ level of transparency, the coverage by the media of constitutional reform and areas of disagreement between different regions of the authorities. 

Mr Chekmyshev also presented the results of their pilot survey of the authorities regarding subsidization of the State-owned and municipal media.  These results indicated a virtually total lack of transparency at all levels of power. “Our experts sent requests for information about the subsidization of the State-owned and municipal media, their editorial policy, and work strategy, their cooperation with official press services attached to the authorities, There were either no answers, or just fob-offs.” He added that the testing had thus indicated the lack of willingness of the authorities at different levels to inform the public about how the taxpayers’ money was being spent on these media outlets.

The Committee will be monitoring commissioned news items on 12 national and network broadcasters throughout the year.  Together with the association “Joint Realm” they will closely follow how the media reacts to natural and artificially created stories, with their attention also being given to the discussions between central bodies of power, for example the Cabinet of Ministers and the President’s Secretariat.

The project is run with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy and the international Renaissance Foundation.

Access to information

Fighting phantoms

On how history was rewritten and on one more legacy of Soviet justice – your children and your children’s children shall suffer for the crimes your fathers never committed

The following attempt to differentiate between historical fact and pure fiction is based on archival material held by the Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] and a recent study by a Ukrainian historian*. It is written by a person who feels no particular support for either Roman Shukhevych or the Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA], but whose personal views are of absolutely no relevance.  Shukhevych and the men who formed the Nachtigal Battalion made their choices at a very difficult time which I did not live through and am not entitled to judge..

This approach would not, however, be correct were atrocities and crimes against humanity to have been involved. Since these are the charges frequently bandied about, the need to check their source and validity is paramount.

In 2007 we marked two important centenaries in Ukraine – 100 years since the birth of Petro Grigorenko, defender of the Crimean Tatars, founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group to name but two reasons for honouring his memory, and Roman Shukhevych, Chief Commander of the Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA].  I regard the failure to officially recognize Petro Grigorenko as deeply regrettable. Here, however, the subject must be the adverse response from some quarters to the Hero of Ukraine honour bestowed posthumously upon Roman Shukhevych.


The outrage expressed by Russian official sources and the Russian media contained little new and so many obvious reflex reactions that with the best will in the world it’ would be hard to know what to say in response. There were, however, also accusations from the respected Yad Vashem Memorial Centre in Jerusalem.  As early as February 2007, Josef Lapid, Chair of the Yad Vashem Council told a Ukrainian newspaper that the Nachtigal battalion under the command of General Roman Shukhevych had taken part in pogroms during the summer of 1941. The specific political slant of the Ukrainian newspaper may have led some to ignore the charges, however Mr Lapid repeated his criticism during President Yushchenko’s visit to Israel and then in December on the radio station Deutsche Welle. During that interview he stated that ““We have a whole dossier which shows that Shukhevych was one of those implicated in mass murder. Ukraine has not yet asked us to hand over these documents”.  We will expose the inaccuracy of this claim later. First, however, a brief account of three crucial moments in history.

Summer 1941

Lviv until 1939 had been under Polish rule, but is part of Halychyna in Western Ukraine. Shortly after the Nazis invaded Poland, the Soviets invaded Western Ukraine, with the NKVD rounding up and often murdering those regarded as hostile to Soviet rule. 

The Nazis, with Einsatsgruppe, already experienced in hunting down and murdering Jews and others, entered Lviv on 1 July 1941. Roman Shukhevych also arrived with the Nachtigal battalion formed by the Nazis three months earlier.  One of their standard tactics was to provoke pogroms. In Lviv they used the killing of Ukrainian political prisoners by the NKVD in the wake of the Soviet retreat, as a pretext, linking Jews with the Bolsheviks. 

Given the terrible atrocities committed, it is reasonable to ask where Shukhevych and his men stood. A document found quite recently in the SBU Branch State Archive fortunately casts light on this. The document “From the book of facts” is basically a chronicle of the activities of the OUN from March to September 1941.  It describes the Nazi methods used to incite the population to pogroms and goes on as follows:

“The leaders of the OUN, having learned of this, informed their members that this was German provocation to compromise Ukrainians through pogroms, to provide a pretext for intervening and “establishing order”, and most importantly to deflect the attention and energy of the Ukrainian population from political problems, the struggle for State independence onto the slippery path towards anarchy, crimes and pillage.”

Does this demonstrate that the members of Nachtigal were appalled by the pogroms and murders?  We hope they were, but of course it does not. That however is a matter for each of us and our conscience. What can only be in question is whether they were themselves complicit.  The document is not the only grounds for confidently stating that they were not.

Nuremberg, 1946

A Soviet commission was set up immediately after the end of the War to investigate the mass murder of Jews and Poles in Lviv during those first days of the occupation. The main perpetrators were named and a huge amount of archival material, including eye witness testimony, gathered, none of which implicates Nachtigal in any anti-Jewish actions or in the killing of Polish professors.

The results of the Soviet commission’s investigation, were affirmed by the Nuremburg Commission during two sessions on 15 February and 30 August 1946, Nobody questioned these results for the next 13 years.

The Soviet approach to history, 1959

On 24 October 1959 Albert Norden, an East German Professor gave a press conference at which he declared that the mass murders in Lviv had been organized and carried out by Ukrainians fighting in the Nachtigal Batallion.  According to historian V.Vyatrovych, the main target of his charges was in fact Teodor Olerlander who had been the German liaison officer for the Ukrainian battalion. Judging by one of the directives from Moscow, the entire campaign was launched at the request of the East German secret police, the Stasi.

By the end of November, 19 pieces of “proof” of Nachtigal and Oberlander’s alleged involved in Nazi crimes in Lviv had been gathered. Declassified documents found in the SBU archives give a clear impression of the role played by the KGB in this “search”. The first KGB directive indicating the need for evidence arrived from Moscow on 2 October 1959.

Obviously everybody hurtled to find evidence however the first results did anything but satisfy those giving the orders. Either no crimes which could be attributed to Nachtigal, or there was no sign of their present in various regions at all.

The new instruction issued in Moscow spells the task out more clearly: “In preparing the witnesses for interrogation, you should use articles published about the crimes of Nachtigal”.  The order here has that hideously Soviet flavour to it: the testimony being influenced by material written “about” the crime rather than providing the basis for such material.  

Now that was a different matter and the “evidence” was swiftly collected and soon published all around the world in the brochure ““Oberlander’s bloody crimes”

A great deal was said about the “bloody crimes” in the Soviet Union. Judging by numerous statements from some Russian political figures, the words of accusation preceding testimony have stuck in their memory for life. In the GDR, the response was also efficient with Oberlander being found guilty in his absence and sentenced to life imprisonment.

Things did prove more difficult in West Germany where stubborn judges insisted on examining the “evidence” carefully. In no case did they find sufficient proof for any of the alleged crimes attributed to Nachtigal. After German unification in 1990, Teodor Oberlander successfully appealed against the guilty verdict passed by the GDR court.

So how do you grapple with phantoms?

Historians like Volodymyr Vyatrovych quite understandably delve far into the possible motives for this Soviet disinformation campaign. My concern here is however the tangible legacy of phantoms haunting relations in today’s Ukraine and its reputation in the world.  

The uproar last year over the President’s honouring of Shukhevych brought the standard stereotypes not just of the UPA, but of Ukrainians in general, into sharp focus. They are unflattering stereotypes but this is not in itself cause for rejecting them out of hand. On the contrary, any criticism can provide valuable impetus for reflection. 

Fair’s fair, though, and many of the wild accusations from Russia’s leaders of late, based on falsified material from KGB archives, are less than constructive. In the absence of hard evidence to the contrary, we will be charitable and assume they are due to lack of familiarity with the archival material.

We would respectively suggest that following Ukraine’s example in making NKVD and KGB archival material available for study would facilitate the quest for historical truth and contribute to better understanding based on fact, not Soviet disinformation.

The same, in fact, applies to all archives. I don’t know how many other individuals wrote to Yad Vashem following the Deutsche Welle interview in which Mr Lapid spoke of a dossier allegedly proving Shukhevych’s involvement in atrocities, but I wrote three times and did not receive a single answer.  My letters signed from a human rights organization made it entirely clear that I had no interest in concealing the truth whatever it was. More importantly, the Ukrainian State Archive Committee and the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance both wrote to Yad Vashem asking to be shown the alleged dossier. They also received no reply.

In the face of such silence, an official delegation was sent from the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance. It transpired that there was no actual dossier, and the material produced by the Director of the Archives was “testimony” from two people published in the propaganda brochure published in 1960, as well as an account which only speaks vaguely of members of Nachtigal “killing Soviet citizens”. 

This comes a year after the first statement apparently from a Yad Vashem representative accusing a man and his battalion of a heinous crime.

The sources for information here are given. It is still conceivable that they are incomplete, and somebody has clear evidence of crimes committed by Nachtigal and its leader.  If so, make them publicly available. However, for all our sakes, please do not confine yourself to vague accusations, but provide verifiable documentation and references. 

The spectre of communism roamed Europe for far too long, spreading lies and hatred.  It’s time to lay all the phantoms it generated to rest.


* Sources used:  Other SBU documents are on their site (usually in the original language);  V. Vyatrovych’s article is available in Ukrainian and Russian at:

No dossier on Shukhevych

The Security Service [SBU] has just reported on a visit to Yad Vashem in Israel undertaken by the Head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Ihor Yuknovsky and his colleague and adviser on research issues Volodymyr Vyatrovych.

In reporting back on Tuesday, 4 March, Mr Vyatrovych explained that Ukraine had twice approached the heads of Yad Vashem asking to see the material of the dossier on Roman Shukhevych which was spoken of publicly on 6 December 2007 by the Head of the Memorial Council Josef Lapid. The first letter was sent on 18 December from the Ukrainian State Archive Committee. A second similar letter was a few days later written from the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance and passed on by the Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.

No answer was received over a period of two months, so a government delegation was sent to Israel on 27 February, with Mr Yuknovsky and Mr Vyatrovych, in order to see the documents held in the Yad Vashem Archive on Roman Shukhevych. 

They had a meeting with the Director of Yad Vashem on 28 February in Jerusalem.

The Ukrainian delegation passed over copies of documents from SBU archives giving accounts of the situation in Lviv in summer 1941, and KGB material about how the legend of the “Nachtigal” division’s involvement in anti-Jewish actions was created.

The Israeli side responded that they were not ready to hand over material about Roman Shukhevych from their archives since this was not collected together into one file and might be spread over the entire archives and would require special and long research.

The Director of the Yad Vashem Archive Department Chaim Gertner confirmed that there was no dossier on Shukhevych in the archives. He said that Josef Lapid who had claimed there was such a file was not an employee of the archives.

As grounds for accusations of Shukhevych’s involvement in anti-Jewish actions, Mr Gertner handed the Ukrainian delegation two small folders with copies of documents on 7 and 18 pages respectively.

The first is the protocol of a KGB interrogation of an UPA [Ukrainian Resistance Army] sergeant Luka Pavlyshchyn from 13 May 1986.  This contains only general phrases regarding “Nactitigal”’s involvement in “killing Soviet people”. The same folder provides testimony of Yaroslav Shpytal (who like Luka Pavlyshchyn never served in Nachtigal). This gives a more detailed account of the “crimes” of Ukrainian nationalists. The document is known to historians since Shpytal’s testimony was published back in 1960 in the Soviet propagandist brochure “Oberlander’s bloody crimes”. Information about how this testimony is produced on the instructions of the KGB was published on 6 February 2008 at public history hearings at the SBU “The accusations against Nachtigal – historical truth and political technology”.

The second folder contains the testimony, translated into German, of another “hero” of the above-mentioned brochure – Hryhory Melnyk, former Nachtigal fighter who is in the list of those,  in accordance with KGB instructions from 13 November 1959, needed to be “properly prepared for interrogation”. Moreover, documents uncovered in the SBU archive show that Melnyk was recruited by the KGB to take part in the trial.  Soon afterwards his “testimony” and that of Yaroslav Shpytal, were used as the base for a trial in East Germany, aimed at discrediting one of the Germany commandants of Nachtigal, Teodor Oberlender.

Volodymyr Vyatrovych stated that “There is thus no dossier on Shukhevych in the Yad Vashem archives, the copies of documents received from them are fragments of material fabricated by the KGB and can in no way be the basis for accusations against Roman Shukhevych. The information campaign aimed at discrediting him has no historical foundation and is based solely on Soviet propaganda material and testimony fabricated by the Soviet Security Service”.

One of the largest sources of documentation on the life and activities of Roman Shukhevych, and the struggle of the OUN [Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists] and UPA, are actually in the State Archive of the SBU which are open to all researchers.

On 6 December 2007 the Head of the Council of the Yad Vashem Memorial Josef Lapid stated on the radio station Deutsche Welle that the Yad Vashem Archives contained a collection of documents gathered from German and Soviet sources which supposedly proved that the Nachtigal battalion under the command of Roman Shukhevych had been involved in repressive operations against the civilian population of Lviv during the summer of 1941.

“We have a whole dossier which shows that Shukhevych was one of those implicated in mass murder. Ukraine has not yet asked us to hand over these documents. If such a request is made, I think we will meet it”. The story received wide publicity in both the Ukrainian and foreign media.

It is this assertion that was the main argument against declaring the Chief Commander of UPA Roman Shukhevych a Hero of Ukraine. Some media outlets spoke of the “mysterious reluctance of the Ukrainian side to see the dossier and its silence on this subject”.

As can be seen, there was no silence.

Prohibition of discrimination

Large skinhead organization blamed for refugee’s murder

Kyiv police have detained a minor suspected of murdering a 40-year-old refugee from Sierra Leone on 8 March. This was announced on Thursday during a press conference given by the Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko.  He said that it had been ascertained that the minor belonged to a gang of skinheads who had sent him on this “initiation”.

Mr Lutsenko added that the detained man was presently giving information, including about other members of the organization.

He said that at the present time the police are aware of over 500 skinheads in the capital. He stressed that this didn’t mean that they were all potential killers, however added that they would be watched closely by the police.

As reported here already, the man from Sierra Leone was found on Saturday with multiple knife wounds and a head injury.  He was married to a Ukrainian national and had a child.

Based on a report at

On refugees

Painful lessons

The response “They never learn!” was probably shared by many on Friday when it became known that the Ukrainian authorities had expelled 11 asylum seekers back to Sri Lanka.  A great deal was hideously reminiscent of February 2006 when the authorities handed over 11 Uzbeks to Karimov’s henchmen.  In the following, I will outline the key elements in this latest disgrace and some thoughts on ensuring that this time becomes the last.

  Details are in fact scarce, and more information will, we hope, emerge.  Better not to sit and wait, however, after all, the lack of information is one of the problems needing to be addressed now. 11 Sri Lankan nationals, all ethnic Tamils, over a period spanning August 2007 to January 2008 approached the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kyiv and asked for assistance in applying for refugee status in Ukraine.  They were all registered and given the appropriate document. Only 6 of them applied for refugee status to the Migration Service.  It is not clear why the others did not. 

According to the UNHCR they were detained at the end of January because they had entered the country illegally. A letter from human rights defenders to the Prosecutor General states that this was during a joint operation against illegal immigrants by the State Security Service [SBU] and the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA). According to the UNHCR statement, “On several occasions, UNHCR requested that these individuals be granted effective access to an examination of the substance of their asylum claims”. Most unfortunately, UNHCR would seem to have informed its Ukrainian partners only on 28 February, which made time extremely short to take measures, and the expulsions did take place on 4 and 5 March..

There were a number of infringements both of domestic legislation and of international norms.


Why were they detained in the first place?  A mere glance at their documents from the UNHCR should have been sufficient to release them.  It was not.  

I will avoid high-flown language and stay with basics.  If a person asks for asylum in your county, and says they are afraid to return to their home country, you listen.  Regardless of the country, regardless of your suspicions that over a drink you would come to ideological (or other) blows with this person within seconds.  If a person is calling for help in any situation we hold out a hand first, ask questions later.

In the case of Sri Lanka, the situation has an added complexity. In October 2007, the European Court of Human Rights recommended that, given the very difficult human rights situation specifically for Tamils, that countries refrain at present from sending any ethnic Tamils back to their country. 

It is conceivable that some minions in the SBU or MIA knew nothing of this recommendation, nonetheless the UNHCR wrote to both bodies, as well as to the Prosecutor General and the Human Rights Ombudsperson. Nobody had any right not to know.

Despite this, on 4 and 5 March, 11 ethnic Tamils were sent back to a country where their lives could be in danger. .


Only six of the men applied to the Ukrainian migration service for refugee status. This is in itself strange, and we need to make sure that the others did not also attempt to submit applications. All six men were turned down en masse without any requests being considered on their individual merits.  In my view this raises questions as to whether the law whereby migration officers can simply refuse to even consider a claim on, for example, procedural grounds, complies with international conventions. How can one turn down an application for asylum without properly examining it?

Nobody is suggesting we do not ask questions.  The questions must be asked, and the answer may well be that the person is not considered to be a refugee.  However in any case where people say they are afraid to return, then they must have full opportunity to present their case.

No opportunity was provided to appeal against this rejection, although human rights defenders were informed of the wish to appeal.

They were not given access to a lawyer, and those representatives of the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group who arrived to provide legal assistance were turned away.

No interpreters were provided.  The only conversation we know to have taken place was between one of the asylum speakers and a representative of a human rights group speaking a language (English) foreign to both. People seeking asylum were given no opportunity to explain why they were afraid of returning.

They were held in police premises as people awaiting expulsion. The person who spoke with a human rights group representative complained that they had been beaten and not provided with food.  Since access was denied and then the men were illegally expelled, these claims cannot be checked.  Under such circumstances there can also be no grounds for simply dismissing the accusations.

  There are contradictory reports and no clarity whatsoever as to when and where a court hearing was held, if in fact it was held.

One feels that the only clear thing is that all those who shamed themselves and the country two years ago are once again implicated.  This includes not only the SBU, MIA and Prosecutor’s office, but also the Human Rights Ombudsperson, called upon to defend human rights, who did nothing.

In fact, of course, something else is plain, and that is the need for a thorough investigation to ascertain all reasons for this flagrant violation of legislation and international norms. Not behind closed doors, but transparently and with honesty. This time we must not allow them to confine themselves to feeble excuses and attempts to shift the blame.

We can hope that people will be found in the SBU, MIA and Prosecutor’s office who will themselves want to understand how this could have happened so as to prevent it happening again.

We can hope, however it would be difficult to count on this, and if the representatives of these bodies prove incapable of learning these lessons, then we will have to help them do so.


  This was our failure too. Firstly, because in 2006, we demanded answers and were fobbed off. We demanded them again with no greater success. We asked again and again, until finally we got tired of demanding the truth and hearing lies. And the calls to punish those responsible became less and less audible. In short, we shut up.  Doubtless exactly what the authorities were waiting for. No lessons, no more unpleasant conversations, and no change. And here we have the repeat offence.

  Not that we were naïve, and our expectations were extremely modest yet we failed to prevent disaster. It would seem we were also slow to learn lessons.

  Charities and civic organizations don’t have it easy anywhere.  We depend, after all, on support from the public, often also from donors, and this can lead to a certain degree of competition, and desire to stand out.  This is probably all absolutely normal, however in emergencies, we must work together or we are failing those very people who need our support.  There is such cooperation already however a mechanism for swift response is also needed, since swamped with information as we are, we often don’t react in time.  I think we should consider a special SOS mechanism to be used in situations where emergency action is needed.  This would also need to be coordinated with international organizations – for example, the UNHCR and Amnesty International.  

  More primitively, we need to make noise and a lot of it.  Noise, incidentally, not only in Ukrainian or Russian, but also at very least in English.  

  On 31 December a young Russian political activist and asylum seeker was detained in Ukraine.  The noise which carried far beyond Ukraine may well have ensured his release and the assurances given by the authorities that no extradition requests can be considered until Mikhail Gangan request for political asylum has been considered.

We bellowed loudly enough then. We could have done it again.  The fact that we did not is our failure also.

  If we are to prevent this happening again, we must follow all violations and avoid expressing any opinions as to who bears greatest responsibility. This is not aimed at helping anyone get away with it, quite the contrary. A serious investigation will uncover causes we had no idea about. If we already “know” who is to blame, we risk missing the faults of other players. In the present case, just as in 2006, liability is borne by the SBU, MIA, Prosecutor General, the courts and the Human Rights Ombudsperson. We can broaden this list, in fact, since in two years the government did nothing to prevent a repetition of such a disgrace.

We must ensure once and for all that several lessons are learned.  Let everybody understand that we will follow all infringements and there is no chance of them going unnoticed.  There will be no avoiding loud publicity and our voices will fall silent only when those in authority learn to act according to the rules of a law-based and civilized country.

Penal institutions

Events in Penal Colony No. 100

On 27 March the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group received several reports about various difficulties in colony No. 100 in the Kharkiv region.

On 28 March the official site of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences carried a press release stating that: “The State Department for the Execution of Sentences officially reports that on 27 March in the Temnivska corrective colony No. 100, 24 prisoners, after lights out, used razors from single-use shavers to inflict insignificant cuts to their wrists. The prisoners say that their actions were due to the harsh regime they are held in.  They are, for example, demanding to be allowed to move freely around the institution.

No physical force or special measures were used against the prisoners.

At the present time the situation in the colony is stable. A commission made up of representatives of the

State Department for the Execution of Sentences, the Department’s division in the Kharkiv region, the regional prosecutor’s office and representatives of human rights organizations is working at the scene.”

However, according to information which human rights organizations have, the situation has remained unstable.  On 28 March most of the prisoners protesting against the inhumane conditions were not able to meet with representatives of the media and the public who were allowed into the colony.  Ludmila Klochko from the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group contacted the deputy chair of the Public Council under the Department’s division who was in the colony, together with the head of the division itself, but was unable to find out anything. It was she who informed Kharkiv journalists about the incident in the colony.

While in the colony, Ms Klochko met with prisoners who had inflicted injuries upon themselves.  She explained that of course she had not been allowed to speak to the men without members of the Administration being present, however she had found out from Mr Serebryansky, the prisoner who had first begun the protest, that he had acted thus because of the biased attitude of the unit leader. The prisoners themselves are afraid that a criminal case will be brought against them under Article 391 of the Criminal Code. The Administration deny any such intention and say that Serebryansky has only 54 days of his sentence left, and the member of staff said that he had no desire to see the man in his colony any longer.

Serebryansky and another 20 men feel OK. Some have one hand and others both hands bandaged.

Ms Klochko reports that the situation was much more unsettled in the living area where the prisoners had gathered demanding that their fellow-prisoners be returned since they were afraid for the latter’s life and health.

Rumours are flying about spetsnaz [a special forces unit] and the men asked Ms Klochko if she had seen anything. She had indeed seen two or three men in camouflage and black masks entering the colony.

The prisoners had various complaints, regarding bad treatment in general; not being allowed short or long-term visits; medical care – with a person suffering from asthma complaining of not being allowed to have an inhaler with him – the head of the colony noted this, and hopefully the problem will be resolved.  A person living with HIV said that he was receiving no treatment at all. Many pointed to the high mortality rate, saying that in their unit three people had died in a short period.

On 29 March Ludmila Klochko and lawyer Arkady Bushchenko were not allowed to visit No. 100, with the reason given being that representatives of the Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova were there. The Ombudsperson herself did not come. 

However after numerous calls, Ludmila Klochko was allowed in, she obtained promises that no force would be applied against the prisoners who then agreed to stop their hunger strike.

It would seem that the Ombudsperson did come on 30 March and that her representatives are still in the colony.

The prisoners are presently making only one demand – that no sanctions, no physical force or spetsnaz be applied before the investigation is concluded.

Spetsnaz strikes again?

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group has received information that on 18 March, a spetsnaz [special forces] unit of around 10 men in masks and full fighting gear was deployed in penal institution No. 55 in the Zaporizhya region.

According to the information received, they severely beat prisoners in the SHIZO [punishment isolation unit] and PKT [cell-like units, also a form of punishment], as well as prisoners serving life sentences. They allegedly kicked the prisoners, beat them with their fists and with rubber batons, hung them from an exercise bar, and some had their heads thrust into the toilet. Our informant asserts that some of the prisoners had water poured on them after the beating to bring them around. It is alleged that the spetsnaz men beat even prisoner Stryukov who has tuberculosis and was brought from the medical unit. Three people are said to have suffered particular: Viktor Sadovnykov and Yevhen Brusensky who were in the SHIZO and Ruslan Artamonov who was in the PKT.

It is also asserted that information about the beating has gone beyond the penal colony and that Zaporizhyan journalists have tried to visit the colony to meet the prisoners, but have been refused entry.

We are unable to verify this information and have therefore appealed to the Human Rights Ombudsperson and the Prosecutor General to investigate the situation.

Human rights protection

The most honest films

“The best playwright is life itself”, documentary film producers like to say. They insist that contemporary documentary films are often more interesting than those for entertainment.

They are always dialogue about human beings and if the films are on human rights, then the dialogue is doubly honest.

The first International Film Festival was held in Ukraine in 2003. The Festival is called: “Human Rights Documentary Film Days: Ukrainian context”, or more simply:

That first festival had only 36 films. Five years later, have received about 500 films from 43 countries.

For the Festival running at Kyiv’s Cinema House from 28 March to 4 April, 70 firms have been selected.

To find out more about the Festival, we spoke to its founders – Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Volodymyr Yavorsky and Head of the Centre for Contemporary Information Technology Gennady Kaufman.

What distinguishes from other documentary film festivals?

G.K.  Our festival has two main aims: through serious film to draw the viewer’s attention to current human rights issues and to show the real face of the world, concealed behind the gloss of commercial cinema.  And the second aim is to enable Ukrainian viewers to see the best works in this area.

V.Y.   Human rights awareness and culture in society is the basis for the development of democracy. Films more than anything else, explain highly complex things in a simple and accessible form. The festival encourages us to look around and think about our lives and our values, about why we live the way we do and whether we can change anything.

The focal point is on the person and society, on the relations between people and the authorities.

It may sound like there are only problems and not very inspiring. However that’s not the case. You can see films about the lives of different people resolving very difficult issues, each in their own way. Stories like this can inspire us, motivate us to fight for our own rights.

I’d add that the festival does not accept any films of a propagandist nature, or films made to order by any political party, religious group or other groups with a specific interest.  We are presenting independent cinema and this key principle safeguards against propaganda and brainwashing.

G.K.  After virtually every film viewing there are discussions about the films with the participation of their producers, specialists on the issues raised in the film.

Following the main event in Kyiv at the end of March and beginning of April, the festival will travel around regions of the country. Last year visited 25 cities in 12 regions.

In each region the festival is held in places popular among young people. Very often the viewings continue non-stop from evening to the next morning. And there are never fewer than a hundred viewers. Later young people come up to us and say that they had no idea there was this kind of cinema., or “I won’t be able to watch all that artificial soap on television”. One not so young viewer made a wonderful comment: “These films help to clear the scaling from our hearts.”

This year marks the first five years of the Festival’s existence. What have you achieved in this period?

G.K.  The Festival now has a huge number of partners with over 30 organizations from within Ukraine and other countries helping to make it possible. In 2006 was accepted into the international network of human rights film festivals. Previously, our partners, Czech and Polish film festivals helped to select films for us; another third we received by asking for them, and only a third came to us spontaneously, with the authors offering them. Now around 80% of the applications come to us at the initiative of the creators and producers.

V.Y.   The festival programme has become more developed from the point of view of human rights as well. More and more film directors are giving their time to this area and the quality is improving. It’s becoming harder to choose the best films.

G.K.  Last year in the regions a whole network of festival clubs emerged where you can watch and discuss the films with viewers regularly throughout the year.

At present, following an initiative from the Ministry of Internal Affairs Public Council on Human Rights, some films will be included in the police training programme.

Many documentary film festivals have master classes where well-known directors help beginners to draw up attractive applications for producers. Is anything like that available at
G.K.  There is an international master class during the festival. Last year, not only Ukrainian, but also Russian and Belarusian directors took part, and there was a possibility to gain advice from the Polish documentary film master Martsel Lodzinski, who also presented a retrospective view of his work.  Later the best students of these master classes presented their projects brilliant at such project exhibitions at the Krakow and Leipzig film festivals. We also helped the organizers of an international market of creative documentary films East Silver to choose ten Ukrainian films. This year, the well-known director and producer Alexander Gootman will be giving a master class.

Which films this year will in your opinion create the “face of the festival” and which well-known directors are coming to Kyiv?

G.K.  There are a lot of films which have received awards from influential film forums. The festival will open with the film «Mother», produced by Pavel Kostomarov and Anton Kattin, an amazing Russian and Swiss duet. We have shown their films before: “Transformer” and “Peaceful life”. I was afraid to watch the new film, after all it’s rare for people to consistently maintain such a level. However this time the young directors have excelled themselves. “Mother” was declared the best Russian film last year, and has received a number of awards at international festivals. There is a very interesting programme of Polish documentary films. In fact there’s an indecently large number of very strong films.

Are you planning any special events for the festival this year?

V.Y.   We wanted to begin with something that’s fun. On the day after the opening, there will be an exhibition in Cinema House of a cartoon competition on human rights, where the winning entries will be announced. We are expecting a number of well-known Ukrainian cartoonists to take part. There will also be various actions on human rights issues running in parallel with the film viewings.

There will also be an international seminar entitled “Documentary films against injustice. International Practice.” Given that filmmaking is now accessible for virtually all interested, the international organization WITNESS has prepared a special training seminar on the effective use of mobile video and the Internet in human rights work.

G.K.  There will also be a videoteque where accredited participants will be able to watch any of the films, those being shown in the festival and others.

V.Y.   We traditionally have a human rights jury where the most influential and authoritative human rights defenders from Ukraine, Russia, Belarus and Polish assess the films on how well and deeply the theme of human rights defence is presented. This year there will for the first time be a professional competition with a jury of cinematographers choosing the best three films. We are also planning a competition of viewers’ favourites. We also invite firms, corporations and creative groups, as well as individuals, to suggest their nominations and prizes on human rights issues. Suggestions can be submitted on the website

The interviewer was Darya Averchenko

News from the CIS countries

Imminent likelihood of another illegal expulsion from Russia to Uzbekistan

We have yet to learn whether the European Court of Human Rights has applied Rule 39 halting any expulsion pending review. If it has, then the plans to expel Abdulazhon Isakov from the Tyumen oblast are a flagrant violation of Russia’s international commitments.  In any case, as the report published below shows, there can be no question whatsoever that the planned expulsion is lawful.

On 21 March the Civic Assistance Committee received an appeal from the Tyumen lawyer representing Abdulazhon Isakov (born 1963), who is presently held in Tyumen city prison.  Mr. Isakov was detained on 6 March 6 and prior to March 14 his lawyer was unable to establish where he was being held.

On 14 March the lawyer met with Isakov in jail, where he found no official documents to validate the detention.

That same day, Isakov filed an illegal detention complaint drawn up by his lawyer. When the lawyer visited Isakov again on 21 March, it emerged that the complaint had not reached its due destination.  The lawyer, Mr. Khramov filed the complaint again and left the prison.

In the afternoon of 21 March, Mr. Khramov was unofficially informed by sources in the prison that Isakov was served a ruling on his removal to Uzbekistan.  Isakov was unable to establish whether that removal constitutes expulsion, deportation, or extradition. He was notified that he would be removed as early as 25 March.  Mr. Khramov had no opportunity to meet with his client again, since visiting hours had ended.

Immediately after those events, S.A. Gannushkina from the Civic Assistance Committee and Moscow-based lawyer N. V. Dorina who took out an order to represent Mr. Isakov, forwarded a fax to the European Court of Human Rights, in which they cited Rule 39 of the Court’s procedure to ask that the Court:

-  ask the Russian government to explain the grounds for Mr. Isakov’s detention and why he is being held in Tyumen prison;

-  ask what the grounds are for not recognizing Mr. Isakov a citizen for the Russian Federation.

-  Take preliminary protective steps and stay Mr. Isakov’s removal to Uzbekistan.

On March 23, Mr. Isakov’s wife reported that her husband had managed to call her and to read her the document which, according to prison officials, provides grounds for his removal to Uzbekistan. It transpired that the document is an order for Mr. Isakov’s detention and removal under convoy issued at Namangan Oblast of Uzbekistan by the senior investigator of the prosecutor’s office A. Bobomirzayev and senior legal counsel B.B. Pinhasov. The order alleges Mr. Isakov’s involvement with “vakhabism” religious movement.

It is evident that such an order which is not backed by a legally valid decision from the Russian Federation Prosecutor General’s office  nor consideration for Mr. Isakov’s right of appeal, cannot serve as grounds for Mr. Isakov’s removal.

Unfortunately, lack of legal grounds is no guarantee that Mr. Abdulazhon Isakov will not be removed.

It is known that in October 2005, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Directorate (GUVD) for Tyumen Oblast  received a letter from his counterpart in the Namangan oblast, of Uzbekistan requesting assistance in finding and holding pending extradition Abdulazhon Isakov, Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov), and Abdulaziz Baymatov.

The letter claimed that those individuals were adherents of an extremist “vakhabi” religious movement who face charges under article 159.4 of Uzbekistan’s Criminal Code (“encroachment on the constitutional order of the Republic of Uzbekistan”).

The letter stated that “should the detention take place, the issue of extradition would be addressed via the Prosecutor General’s offices of Russia and Uzbekistan”.

Yet, in violation of Russian laws and injunctions by the European Court of Human Rights, two of the people named in the letter have already been handed over to the Uzbekistani authorities.

On April 27 2007, Abdulaziz Boymatov was abducted from the premises of Nizhneserginsky district police headquarters (Sverdlovsk oblast), even though in December 2006 Prosecutor General’s office had turned down Uzbekistan’s request for his extradition. All we know about Mr. Baymatov’s subsequent fate is that he was taken into custody immediately upon arrival in Tashkent.

As reported here, Abdugani Kamaliyev (Tursinov) was removed from Tyumen in the early hours of 5 December in violation of a decision from the Court in Strasbourg using Rule 39 to halt his forced return to his country of origin.  On 26 February 2008 Abdugani Kamaliyev was sentenced to 11 years.

Based on the above-said we can assert that there is a strong likelihood of Mr. Abdulazhon Isakov’s unlawful removal to Uzbekistan, especially considering that Russia’s enforcement agencies are ever so willing to provide services of this kind to that country.

Slightly abridged from a report issued by the Civic Assistance Committee

For more information please contact Svetlana Gannushkina, tel.  +7(985)925-91-45.

Moscow “leads” on number of neo-Nazi attacks

Attacks on people from the Caucuses and Central Asia are becoming more serious. This was the view of participants in a press conference on xenophobic attitudes among Russian youth held in Moscow to mark International Day against Racism on 21 March.

The participants included representatives of the Association of Youth of the Union of Armenians of Russia, the Centre for Inter-ethnic Cooperation, the St Petersburg Anit-Discrimination Centre “Memorial”, the Sova Centre and the Youth Human Rights Movement.

All pointed to a significant increase in xenophobic attitudes in Russian society, especially among young people. They said that people with non-Slavonic appearance are increasingly likely to be beaten up on the street.  Adolescents, starting from as young as 12, are being drawn into neo-Nazi gangs.  Propaganda of hatred is increasing rapidly on the Internet. People using nationalistic rhetoric are trying to get into power using local and federal elections.

Natalya Yudina said that Sova Centre data indicates that racially-motivated attacks are becoming more serious.  Neo-Nazis no longer just try to beat up their victims, but actually kill them. The “leaders” as far as such attacks are concerned are St Petersburg and Moscow. Here during the winter months in 2007-2008 neo-Nazis have killed 24 people from the Caucuses, Central Asia and China.

Olga Abramenko from the St Petersburg Anit-Discrimination Centre “Memorial” noted that the pseudo-patriotic rhetoric from the authorities was fuelling xenophobia in society. Looking for “an enemy model” like the anti-Georgian campaign of 2006, statements by the main people in government about “defending the native population” do not contribute to inter-ethnic harmony in the country.

Levon Mukotian from the Association of Youth of the Union of Armenians of Russia commented that the Soviet Union had collapsed specifically when the authorities had played the “nationalist card”. He belives that the Russian Federation is a multi-national state and the rise of Great Russian chauvinism is leading to an increase in separatism in the national republics, with the people living there understanding that in “Russia for the Russians”, there can be no place for people from the Caucuses, Tatars, Bashkiris.

Yelena Dudykina from the Youth Human Rights Movement spoke of how the Youth Centre against Racism and Intolerance was trying to fight fascism in Russia through awareness-raising. The first Russian March against Hatred took place in Voronezh in 2004, and such marches are now taking place throughout Russia. The Youth Human Rights Movement shows anti-fascist films and publishes relevant literature.  The movement’s activists glue or paint over xenophobic graffiti on the street.

The press conference aroused a lot of interest from both the Russian and foreign media.

Reports continue to come of attacks and killings in Moscow of people from the Caucuses committed by young people with nationalist ideology. The law enforcement agencies speak of a new wave of skinhead activity.

For example, on 24 January a group of five adolescents attacked a 20-year-old man originally from Armenia.  One of them stabbed him in the heart and he died later in hospital.

On 9 December 2007 four adolescents knifed to death a young man from the Caucuses.  The Sova Centre reports the attack to have been carried out by Neo-Nazi skinheads.

“Caucasian Knot” reports that attacks in Moscow have become particularly frequent against people from Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Four youths were detained at the beginning of February and are accused of involvement in more than 20 racially motivated murders,

More and more arrests in Armenia

Given the near information blackout in Armenia, it is important to post the following appeal from the Helsinki Association of Armenia and the report about arrests, etc.  Information is extremely scarce, however, and we are simply passing on information

Arrests continue in Yerevan of opposition supporters who took part in the recent protests which resulted in clashes with the police.  On Tuesday it was learned that the National Security Service has detained the head of the board of the Armenian National Movement Party Ararat Zurabian and the former Minister of Foreign Affairs and head of the pre-election headquarters of Levon Ter-Petrosian Alexander Arzumanian.

Charges have not, however, been laid as yet, and both are only suspected of actions falling under the Article of the Criminal Code “usurping power”.

Meanwhile the Minister of Justice Gevork Danielian said in an interview to France Press that the law enforcement agencies were getting ready to lay criminal charges against Levon Ter-Petrosian. According to the Minister, the investigation has already been carried out and sufficient evidence collected.

More than 400 people have been summoned to the police, the National Security Service or the prosecutor. Arrests have been made of 73 opposition figures on charges linked with the mass disturbances recently. 11 people are presently classified as suspects.

In Yerevan the state of emergency is still in force, although on Monday President Kocharian introduced some amendments.  One of the items cancelled made it possible to suspend the activities of political parties which obstruct the authorities from eliminating the consequences of the disturbances. The second allowed the authority to evict residents of the capital who violate the state of emergency regime.

The state of emergency is scheduled to continue until 20 March. 

During the disturbances in Yerevan 8 people were killed and 131 injured. They began after the police dispersed supporters of Former President Ter-Petrosian who were protesting against what they claim were rigged elections.

Armen Dulyan

Radio Svoboda, Yerevan (for Novaya gazeta)


The Armenian Helsinki Association has issued a statement about the elections and the situation in the country. 

«The Helsinki Association (Yerevan) which acted as an observer during the Presidential elections in February 2008, and which has been following the situation in the post-election period, states that the elections in no way complied with democratic standards.”

The Association speaks of ballot papers being unlawfully added, intimidation of voters, attacks on journalists, and other forms of vote-rigging. It considers that this led naturally to protests from the opposition “which resulted in peaceful protest actions”.

The Association places the blame for the situation which ensued on the authorities of the country.

It calls on international organizations to

·  Not recognize the election results from 19 February;

·  Demand that the President revoke the Decree of 1 March introducing the state of emergency;

·  Demand the release of all political prisoners;

·  Demand that the authorities carry out an independent investigation involving international experts into cases of excessive force against demonstrators which led to casualties;

·  Suspend Armenia’s membership of international organizations, including the Council of Europe, as well as economic and financial assistance programmes until Armenia fully complies with international democratic standards and its international commitments.

The Helsinki Association

Yerevan, 11 March 2008.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2008, #03