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

Supreme Court defends Zhvania’s constitutional rights

On 1 August Ukraine’s Supreme Court suspended the ruling of the Kyiv Court of Appeal from 2 July. As reported here, this ruling had ordered a review by a district court of the decision by the Radyansky District Court in Kyiv from 1999 which formed the grounds for David Zhvania to receive Ukrainian citizenship.

Gennady Moskal, a fellow National Deputy (both from the faction “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence”) who is representing Mr Zhvania quoted the Court’s judgment. «bearing in mind that the ruling of the Kyiv Court of Appeal from 2 July 2008 could lead to a violation of his (Zhvania’s) constitutional rights, including his right to Ukrainian citizenship, the Court considers that the application is worthy of attention and should be allowed”.

Mr Moskal states that the Court suspended enforcement of the ruling until the cassation appeal has been examined, and a ruling on it passed.

This means that the ruling of the Radyansky District Court in Kyiv from 1999 remains in force.

Please see “Passports are not Party cards” for the details of this case, and why concern was felt over the sudden questioning of the validity of Mr Zhvania’s citizenship.


Passports are not Party cards

A child’s initiation into the rule of law is a bit on the primitive side: I want my half of the cake, and so does he. With age, we learn that even if we think that X or Y is a swine, this does not take away his right to a fair share. After all, we can always run into somebody who thinks the same of us.

All primitive, and it could be put more elegantly, but events of the last week or two make me inclined to stay with simple truths, including the methods acceptable in a democratic society..

The Internet has been buzzing over reports concerning the investigation into Yushchenko’s poisoning, and then over another National Deputy’s right to citizenship.  I am not a criminal investigator, nor acquainted with any of the people involved, and will not try to discuss who did what and why. 

During the last month, National Deputy David Zhvania publicly stated that President Yushchenko had not been deliberately poisoned in 2004.  Serious doubts have been expressed in media and human rights circles as to why a journalist who interviewed Zhvania was himself subjected to more than 10 hours interrogation being brought effectively by force to the investigator the first time. One also wonders how other journalists will now feel about taking interviews in such cases, and whether this thought came to the minds of those involved in this questioning. In the last week, the investigator suggested that Zhvania’s unwillingness to cooperate with the investigation might indicate that he has something to hide or is himself involved. Then President Yushchenko used the same word, saying that he believed Zhvania to be involved.  He noted that he was using a “mild form”, however at least one foreign media outlet* has already reported him as saying that he believes Zhvania was “behind” his poisoning 

No criminal charges have been laid, so the President’s words cannot, I presume, be deemed as directly influencing the court. They cannot however be considered entirely without significance, and the investigator’s willingness to “draw conclusions” in public is positively disturbing.

Of even greater concern was the ruling by the Kyiv Court of Appeal on 2 July 2008 to revoke the ruling of the Radyansky District Court in Kyiv from 1999 (!) which formed the grounds for Georgian-born Zhvania receiving Ukrainian citizenship. The original case has now been sent for new examination to another Kyiv district court.  Zhvania’s lawyers have lodged an application with the European Court of Human Rights.

In the last few days another National Deputy Yury But was threatened with problems regarding nationality. The Minister of Internal Affairs suggested “the existence of questions” regarding how But, a former Russian national, received Ukrainian citizenship. The subject was first raised in the media after Yury But left the democratic coalition on 6 June.

There are a huge number of undercurrents, behind the scene deals or battles going on.  Some of these are known, some can only be guessed.  There are also doubtless grounds in law for the arguments over citizenship now raging.

The question is one of methods, and this must be assessed outside of any political considerations. This is the way it is viewed by a large majority of the population and by people abroad.  A famous philosopher once demonstrated brilliantly that our understanding of cause and effect is all about habit.  And that is precisely the problem.  There may be all sorts of cogent reasons for the events of the last weeks however for most of us it is difficult not to make certain assumptions. 

One of these assumptions is that irregularities with citizenship are noticed extremely selectively.  In a neighbouring country with a large number of rich people, few of them wishing to pay hefty tax bills, tax irregularities have proved most visible to the authorities in the cases of those least popular with the Kremlin.  Appearances are preserved, however with courts and the enforcement agencies proving disturbingly malleable, the gloss should deceive none.

This is not a road that Ukraine should be taking.㤌%20Poisoning

Against torture and ill-treatment

Police officers charged over the wrongful prosecution of Svitlana Zaitseva

Charges have been laid against the former heads of a criminal investigation unit and of a criminal police department. They are accused of exceeding their authority over the crime committed against over Svitlana Zaitseva. According to the press statement from the Prosecutor General’s website, in September 2000 Ms Zaitseva, under psychological and physical pressure from the police officers of one of the district police departments in the city of Makiyivka in the Donetsk region confessed to a murder she had not committed.  In 2001 she was sentenced to seven and a half years imprisonment, however a year later the real killer was found, and she was totally cleared and released. She returned home, however, with tuberculosis.  She died in April 2006, aged 28, leaving three children.  In November 2007, a Donetsk court awarded 2 million UAH in material and moral compensation to her mother and three orphaned children

The two men accused have been remanded in custody.

Freedom of expression

No false notes

Martin Luther King wrote somewhere: “An eye for an eye and you become blind”.  In the information war, a lie for a lie is no less disastrous.  Listen to a group of people all singing out of tune and try to work out what the melody should be!

The following is not an attempt to determine who is least or most out of tune.  It is an attempt to discover how antagonism is being kindled, perhaps unknowingly, perhaps with full intent.

Of the numerous articles in one way or another addressing the subject of inter-ethnic relations on the peninsula, three demand particular attention. Two, by Natalya Astakhova, are entitled  “Brought by the wind” and [a literal translation] “He who sows a wind, reaps a storm”  On 17 July, a new article by Natalya Kiselyova appeared, entitled “Don’t offer victim services, or the criminal policy of the Mejilis”.

The author of the last article gives a huge number of examples of “overt Russophobia”, allegedly published in what she calls the “ethnic press”.  A mere perusal of the original should convince any reader that such utterances do indeed, as she asserts, “make Russians into the enemy”. Any words which denigrate an ethnic group or nationality demand our unequivocal condemnation.  On this point one could totally agree with the author if not for two “buts”.

We add quotes to our texts to clearly indicate that the words are somebody else’s, not ours. Yet whose are they?  The author does not cite one name or source. Pure anonymity in quotation marks.

It proved quite easy, in fact, to find three of the quotes since this is not the first year that they were used. It would seem that the author has the same source for her information as the compiler of the press review here: .  From this one learns that the words about Russians’ alleged “debilizm” [suggesting mentally slow] and “cattle” originate from copies of “Voice of the Crimea” from 2001-2002.  There is one other source of the same vintage, written by a Tatar writer living permanently in Moscow  The age of all these demented outpourings in no way improves them, nor can there be any question of justification. On the other hand, age is surely of relevance when what is being discussed is the situation in the Crimea in 2008.

 The question, of course, arises where the other anonymous quotations are from. The answer might possibly be found in the second article by Astakhova who gives extracts apparently from letters received from readers. At a human level we can all understand that she quotes only those agreeing with her. The effect, though, is entirely predictable with absolutely unknown people effectively “confirming” the author’s views. It is not impossible that some of the outrageously Russophobic quotes are from a similar source. No less to be regretted that there are people with such views, however the difference is significant. The author of a newspaper article and the editorial office are liable if they knowingly circulate misleading information or incite inter-ethnic enmity. This is not the case with Maria Petrivna with her letters of support, even if we succeed in finding the honourable lady in question.

However if the aim is to show how “we” are hard done by, and what heroes “we” are for tolerating it, then produce as many examples as you like. Who cares where they’re from and when they first encountered the printed page!

All three articles are pretty clear in attributing blame for the Crimea’s ills. For Astakhova those responsible are the Crimean Tatars, while Kiselyova blames, and I quote, “the so-called mejilis of the Crimean Tatar people”. It should be noted that all texts abound with words in inverted commas placing not only the words themselves in question, but also the sincerity of their authors who claim commitment to tolerance and good relations between different ethnic groups. Their texts are also teeming with phrases in brackets. These have the advantage (for the author) of making ones meaning quite clear, while enabling them to deny such messages if need be. About the Mejilis, for example, the author claims that this body “in fact amasses for itself political (and not only political) capital”.

In her efforts to present her specific understanding of the relations between the Mejilis and the Crimean Tatars, Ms Kiselyova resorts to what cannot with the best will in the world be called “psychology” without inverted commas. One has the impression that she has prepared her theory which she now needs to coat in words.  The latter are neither too difficult nor too simplistic, they’re just wrong.  The Mejilis is supposedly “engaged in the victimization” of the Crimean Tatar people. In this rich concept she thrusts the fact that the “mejilis encourages the Crimean Tatars to think that they are the victims of a crime” (which, of course, they are, since how else would you describe Stalin’s Deportation?).  To this is added the assertion that the Mejilis cultivates “deviant behaviour”. All this gobbledygook, together with terms which can only elicit both aural and mental discomfort, would seem to be aimed at creating an image of spoiled and insatiable children, while “enriching” this with the associative force of a word more common among law enforcement officers.

Well, OK, the text may not exactly contribute to our knowledge of psychology, but maybe we can gain some other information from it? The article is certainly well-stocked with statistics. Admittedly, when you look closed, they elicit a large number of questions. The most incomprehensible are the assertions of the author regarding the land issue and her “evidence” to back these (the inverted commas are mine and used without any pretence to indicate total scepticism).

Ms Kiselyova claims that with regard to the land issue “in actual fact it is Crimeans of non-Tatar origin who are discriminated against.” She triumphantly presents what she terms statistics from the Republic Committee on Land Resources of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea. it is not clear where she found this “data” since it is not available on the Committee’s official site, and a representative of this esteemed body has not even heard of such figures. Statistics hypnotize people between then car lights rabbits, however one would like to know what, excuse me, is the source of this magical effect on us.

The question, after all, is extremely important since those of us who are less than au fait with the subject must be staggered by such figures. If “the degree of provision for Crimean families of plots of land allocated for building housing comes to 147.7%, while the analogous figure for families simply of Crimeans does not even reach fifty percent”, then what is the Crimean parliament doing? Why do people vote for deputies who think only of the needs of a mere 10% of the peninsula’s population?

However one can perhaps conclude that the authorities have come to and understood that they have, so to speak, lost count. The author explains that the Speaker of Parliament Anatoly Hryshchenko “considers that it is precisely the lack of a combined register of repatriants (i.e. those formerly deported) who have received or are applying for land and housing in the Crimea which set the scene for the bacchanalia seen at present in the peninsula’s land sphere and causes periodic protest actions.” Ms Kiselyova is outraged by the stand taken by the Mejilis against such a register. She writes a large number of enraged words accusing it of a lack of logic. I have to admit that where she finds this appalling failing in logical faculties is baffling to me. The Deputy Head of the Mejilis, Refat Chubarov explains that “a land cadastre for the Crimea is absolutely vital. If only to finally understand the scale of the “land lawlessness” on the peninsula which in turn will make it possible to see who are the real “squatters” of Crimean land”.

One has the impression that the author has got tired, or is countering on her readers’ mental exhaustion, and like an engine running on will simply continue repeating her line about supposed attempts by the Mejilis to cover up the real situation.

Yet going strictly by the text, what do we have? The Crimean Parliament, together with Ms Kiselyova, are speaking out in favour of a register which will record only the land situation among those repatriated. The Mejilis, however, whom the author sees as guilty of all deadly sins, is in support of a land cadastre which will present a full picture of land relations among inhabitants of the peninsula, including the Crimean Tatars. Ukraine, by the way, has long been criticized for not creating such a land cadastre. International structures stress the importance of such a cadastre in fighting corruption. And here it is the Mejilis, source of such outrage for the author, which supports this step.

It seems that even when the entire choir is out of tune, certain notes are still distinguished. Or, more accurately, they can be distinguished if you read carefully, it is by no means easy to unerringly detect who the victims of manipulation and machinations are, and who is treating us like idiots and has an interest in stirring up tension in the Crimea.  Not easy, but it is possible, and most importantly, absolutely imperative.

Access to information

Simferopol authorities want to put the clamps on information about HATO

In the administrative centre of the Crimea, the authorities have prohibited measures aimed at informing the public about NATO. The City Council voted to declare Simferopol “NATO free”/ Members of the public have already appealed against the decision. 

As well as objecting to “potential dangerous exercises” by NATO, the deputies are against any events – roundtables, lectures, seminars, conferences etc aimed at informing the public about the Alliance.

Oleh Fomushkin, Head of the civic group “Crimean Right(-wing) is convinced that the Council’s decision is against the Ukrainian Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He therefore asked the Prosecutor to consider the legality of the decision.

He believes that the deputies’ want to prevent people receiving information about NATO because they are frightened of losing some of their power.

The Prosecutor has already looked into this and, according to a representative, is preparing a protest. The Secretary of the Simferopol City Council says however that the council’s majority made up of left-wing pro-Russian forces in the city will reject the protest.

Based on information at

Prohibition of discrimination

So what does “characteristic appearance” mean if not ethnic profiling?

What should have been an important court hearing was held in Kharkiv on 29 July. What was in question was the legitimacy of the actions of the Kharkiv metro police in stopping people to check their documents on disputed grounds.  Disputed because the claimant alleges that he was detained because of his ethnic origin and the head of the metro police appeared to confirm this, yet neither first instance nor appeal court agreed.  They did not, however provide other grounds since no specific accusations were made and no charges brought.  The courts also paid no heed to the claimant’s statement that he was often stopped.

The case involved an appeal brought by Kharkiv resident, Viacheslav Manukian against a first instance court which had rejected his civil suit against top management of the Metro Police. 

Mr Manukian says that he is regularly stopped and asked for identification. “Since there are no grounds, reasons or causes for systematically “checking my identity”, I have every justification for assuming that this behaviour is linked to my ethnic origin and my appearance”.

The civil suit had asked the court to declare unlawful the actions of the police when they stopped him in the metro and took him for questioning to police premises. There were various specific complaints such as that his details were noted in the police log book, that he was not informed of his rights and others. 

Mr Manukian had pointed out that the behaviour of the police breached the Law “On the police” which states that a person is only detained on suspicion of having committed a crime or offence.  He had also appealed against the behaviour of the head of that metro police department who had on 28.12.2006 answered in writing that the reason for Mr Manukian’s being detained had been his “characteristic appearance”.

The Kharkiv District Administrative Court rejected Mr Manukian’s claim with a long list of arguments, for example, that the metro had strategic significance for the economy and security of the State, and that the police were responsible for public order, safety etc.

This first court stated that the law had been adhered to since the log book stated that Mr Manukian had been stopped on suspicion of having committed an offence.

  The court ruling of 29 July cites many laws regarding the right of the police to stop and check the documents of people suspected of a crime.  This was not, in fact, in dispute.  Mr Manukian stated consistently that he had been stopped because of his appearance, and indeed this was confirmed in writing.

  The panel of judges agreed with the conclusions of the first instance court which found no justification in Mr Manukian’s call for the actions of the respondents to be declared unlawful and discriminatory.  The panel of judges stated that the claimant’s assertion that he had been stopped on the grounds of his ethnic origin was based on supposition.  It went on to say that the claimant had made “an incorrect assessment” of the words of the head of the metro police about his “characteristic appearance”, and that this had not meant only ethnic origin but everything about his external appearance. “The subjective assessment of such external appearance of the claimant had been the grounds for the police officer to feel prompted to carry out action to identify an offender.”

The judges also rejected the claim against the entry in the log book, yet once again on the grounds that such entries are envisaged by law, without touching on the issue of whether there were any grounds for believing that Mr Manukian had committed an offence.

However the appeal court found that the first instance court had not given a correct assessment of the actions of the police officer who had breached the law by not informing Mr Manukian of his rights, and had not explained the grounds for his being stopped.

It concluded that there had not been proper fulfilment of the police officer’s duties when detaining Mr Manukian on 27 November 2006.  Under these circumstances the first instance court should not have fully rejected the claim.

The panel of judges therefore partially allowed the appeal against the ruling of the Kharkiv District Administrative Court from 27 March 2008 by declaring the failure of the police officer involved to inform Mr Manukian of his rights when detaining him.

The court rejected the rest of the appeal.

In defence of redheads

Yesterday, right on the street, a guy with red hair nicked my bike. They’re getting totally brazen, these people, in broad daylight!  If you see a redheaded guy on a bike, please dial the police on 02 immediately.

This week at a managerial meeting in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Minister Yury Lutsenko criticized subordinates for granting what he deems too many residence permits to foreign nationals from the “far abroad”. This term is clumsy in translation and should be no less clear in the original, yet everybody knows who is meant (and who not). It is regrettable that Ukrainian officials are adopting Russian terminology, not to mention the accompanying attitude. 

Having asked rhetorically whether Ukraine doesn’t have enough workers, Mr Lutsenko is reported to have said: “You can consider me a racist however I won’t allow them to make Kyiv into yet another Kharkiv or Odessa. The position is that we issue a permit if he’s married to one of ours”.

The Minister did not realize his words would become public knowledge, and it is possible his audience understood the allusions without further explanation.  Since such remarks from a Minister cannot but arouse concern, it would be good to have a public statement from him concerning his position reflects that of the government, and especially how this complies with the latter’s plans for European integration. That statement, incidentally, should be translated at least into English since it would doubtless be of interest to the Council of Europe, international structures, and to the authorities of the many countries where Ukrainians are presently working.

 It might also go someway towards rectifying the worrying impression made by the Kyiv Police Department’s attempts to “explain” the Minister’s words.  These stated that the Minister was concerned that foreigners had committed three times more crimes against Kyiv residents and guests to the capital, than vice versa.  The statement refers to a particular geographical area and states that “it is specifically this category which is carrying out flat burglaries and robberies. The Minister, aware of this statistic, was speaking out in defence of our citizens.”

I am sure that any red-headed reader knows exactly why I prefer not to explain which particular ethnic groups have been lumped together in the police communiqué.  It is unfortunate that representatives of the MIA which created its own anti-racism department some nine months ago do not understand. 

There doubtless are groups of people united by their ethnic origin committing crimes in Kyiv and / or Ukraine in general.  There are also groups and individuals united by the same ethnic origin doing nothing of the kind.

The message being spread among police officers is as primitively simplistic as the above suggestion for finding my bike.  It leads to people of certain ethnic groups (or hair colour!) being “checked” in the metro, on the streets.  I suspect that stopping people to check their documents does not help identify those planning to commit or committing crimes. As far as I can see, it actually contributes to another type of crime, that of bribe-taking.

Such behaviour is just part of the general message to the public:  watch out for those red-heads (or others …).  We should watch out for criminals, not for people of a certain race.  The law enforcement agencies undoubtedly have a tough and complicated task, however primitive methods only generate new problems and contribute to a rise in racism and xenophobia.

We should bear in mind one other undesirable message. I would in no way underestimate the problems for Ukraine in connection with its agreement with the EU on readmission, and in all European countries immigration is a controversial subject made use of by many political forces.  Nonetheless most countries in Europe have become multicultural and diverse. A closed fortress policy can only harm Ukraine’s reputation and as a result narrow all our options.  Whose interests is that serving?

On refugees

The Prosecutor General must go!

A law-based democracy is no utopia and we need people to protect us from those who treat the law with contempt.  For this reason, those in authority bear particular liability if they abuse the trust society must be able to place in them.

On Monday the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko ordered the extradition of a refugee, a person whom the Ukrainian authorities had granted asylum to in March this year. He did this in flagrant contempt of a court ruling from 21 July which had turned down his appeal against the granting of refugee status.

This latest outrage and violation of Ukraine’s national legislation and international commitments was learned about on Tuesday. when it was already too late to help refugee Oleg Kuznetsov.  All that remained, it seemed, was to present the facts of this treacherous act and demand Medvedko’s dismissal. 

  This does, in fact, remain the case since a Prosecutor General who shows contempt for court orders, national and international law and hands over a person to a country where he could face torture and ill-treatment and other violations, has lost any right to remain in office.

  It is regrettable that Mr Medvedko has not understood that he should resign and appears  indifferent to the serious damage the Prosecutor’s Office has done Ukraine’s reputation in the world community.  Still worse, the response of the Prosecutor General’s Press Service to the call by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union for Medvedko’s dismissal demonstrates a disturbing willingness to twist the truth and staggering disregard for the law.

  Before beginning, I would note a typical ploy used by those who wish to deflect attention from the real situation and their personal liability, this being to present arguments in detail which are not relevant in this case.

  The statement reads that Oleg Kuznetsov was detained because he was on the international wanted list on charges of fraud and attempted fraud involving large amounts.  The charges and general circumstances of the case against him clearly needed investigation.

  This is undoubtedly what the State Committee for Nationalities and Religions [the State Committee] did before granting Kuznetsov refugee status. They examined the evidence and clearly decided that there were serious grounds for believing that Mr Kuznetsov might not get a fair trial in Russia and could be subjected to ill-treatment.  It is worth noting that the story regarding the charges against Mr Kuznetsov is highly equivocal and suggests that a State enterprise may have brought the charges against him to avoid paying back a huge debt. The details are available here:

  The press statement asserts that people who have committed serious crimes of a non-political nature are not eligible for refugee status in Ukraine.  Entirely reasonable and no, the person does not have to have been convicted by a court (otherwise the number of extraditions worldwide would be infinitesimal).  Who decides non-political nature?. Few repressive regimes are brazen enough to openly admit that they are planning to try a person for their political or religious convictions. In the case of Oleg Kuzbetsov, we are indeed not talking of “crimes of a political nature” (?!). There are however a number of scientists, as well, of course, as Khodorkovsky and Lebedev, who are serving sentences in Russia, having been convicted of economic or spying charges that few serious analysts believe.

  It is clear that the State Committee considered this possibility, as doubtless did the District Administrative Court in Kyiv which on 21 July rejected the Prosecutor General’s case.  It is disturbing that the latter’s press service should be churning out arguments which are generally the staple offering of repressive regimes.

  I have perhaps tediously stressed that Mr Kuznetsov was a refugee because this is quite simply fundamental and all else secondary. It would seem that the Prosecutor General’s Office does know this, and has therefore decided in craven and quite extraordinary fashion to deny the refugee status..

  It is indeed true, in accordance with Article 21 of the Law on the Prosecutor’s Office, that the force of an act being appealed is suspended. The said provision was clearly designed to avert miscarriages of justice and danger to national security while appeals were underway.

  What do we have here?  The PGU is claiming the right to extradite a person during the period between the rejection of their protest at his refugee status and their appeal against this ruling.  Thus even though the court turned them down, they are claiming the right to do what the court effectively prohibited them from doing, since a refugee cannot be extradited. In fact, it is unclear whether the GPU even lodged the appeal, in which case the court ruling of 21 July had entered into force.

  It is bitterly clear that Kuznetsov was denied his right to appeal against the extradition, and by being hurriedly removed from the country was deprived of the rights of any individual, let alone a recognized refugee.

  There are no words for the shame this act has brought upon Ukraine and on all those who wish to see the rule of law prevail. 

  There is, in fact, only one message: the Prosecutor General must resign or be dismissed.  The courts must not be ignored when their rulings are not to the Prosecutor’s liking, and the law is not a device for manipulation, but a mechanism for protecting us all.  The Prosecutor General has placed this mechanism as well as the reputation of the country in jeopardy and must go.

Ukrainian human rights defenders report a worsening in the human rights situation in Ukraine

It was both a bitter irony and a telling statement that the press conference to present the annual report “Human Rights in Ukraine in 2007” was forced to emphatically call for the dismissal of Ukraine’s Prosecutor General over his violation of Ukraine’s commitments with regard to refugees.

A statement ( ) was addressed by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union to the President, the Verkhovna Rada and the European Community. It concerned the extradition to Russia of Oleg Kuznetsov who had already been granted refugee status in Ukraine. 

There was plenty else to report at the press conference in the UNIAN information centre on Wednesday with little of cheer for Ukraine despite certain changes for the better with regard to observance of some rights.  UHHRU Executive Director Volodymyr Yavorsky stated that the situation remained bad with regard to the use of torture and ill-treatment, the right to life in the context of investigations into cases where life has been taken; the right to a fair trial, to privacy and of access to information.

He considers that perhaps the greatest problem is the failure to ensure the right to a fair trial. Long court proceedings; considerable amounts of corruption; the lack of judges’ independence; and non-enforcement of almost 70% of court rulings are common issues highlighted in the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and reports of human rights groups and international organizations. Furthermore the draft laws for court reform, prepared by the National Commission for Strengthening Democracy and the Rule of Law, which could improve the situation are being stalled.

Another problem is the considerable scale of surveillance over individuals by the law enforcement agencies.  Human rights groups estimate that around 12 thousand permits to intercept information from communications channels are issued. While this is smaller than the figures in, say, 2003 (40 thousand) it is still substantially higher than in any western European countries and the USA.

With regard to the ever more important issue of freedom of speech, Mr Yavorsky said that while pressure from the authorities has eased, other pressure brought to bear by the owners of the media outlets has in fact become greater. Increasing monopolization of the media by huge holding companies observed over the last two years means that although there is competition between the different holding groups, each upholds its position more and more, and many such outfits practise strict censorship. There are no mechanisms at present to address this problem which is particularly acute at the local level.

It was also reported that in 2007 a third of the population were beyond the poverty line. Problems had been especially exacerbated by a significant rise in communal charges and the increase in inflation since the system for protecting the poor was inadequate.

The human rights representatives stress that the government is not fulfilling the recommendations made by International bodies such as the UN, the Council of Europe and OSCE, which may reflect a lack of any systematic policy on improving rights and freedoms.


Human Rights in Ukraine – 2007 can be found at and  As in previous years, it is divided into different rights and freedoms, and is well worth a read!

The Prosecutor General has overstepped domestic and international law. What next?

Open Appeal from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

During the night of 28-29 July 2008 a Russian national Oleg Kuznetsov was, in enforcement of a decision by the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko extradited to Russia.  Mr Kuznetsov had been granted refugee status in Ukraine, yet was handed over to the country which he fled from due to well-founded fear that he could be subjected to torture and ill-treatment, as well as other human rights violations.

Oleg Kuznetsov had been detained by Ukrainian law enforcement officers in Kyiv a year ago, on 19 July 2007. The following day, the Shevchenkivsky District Court in Kyiv remanded him in custody. Soon afterwards, Kuznetsov applied for refugee status but remanded in custody from that time on. .

On 5 March 2008 the State Committee on Nationalities and Religions granted Kuznetsov refugee status, finding his fears of flagrant violations of his basic rights in the Russian Federation to be well-founded. On 21 April he received his refugee identification card.

Despite this, Oleg Kuznetsov remained in custody pending extradition, although in accordance with Article 3 of Ukraine’s Law “On refugees”, such extradition was impossible.

The Prosecutor General’s Office considered remand in custody of a refugee to be lawful arguing that it had first protested against the decision of the State Committee, and after this protest was rejected, had lodged an appeal against the decision with the court.

All efforts by Kuznetsov’s lawyers to have him released by a court order were in vain.  However, on 21 July the Prosecutor’s Office lost the case with the court upholding the lawfulness and valid grounds for granting Kuznetsov refugee status.

It remains unclear under what circumstances on the night leading into 29 July Oleg Kuznetsov was taken across the border and handed to the Russian law enforcement agencies. According to our information, he is presently being held in a remand centre [SIZO] in Moscow.  The Prosecutor General has thus demonstrated that he considers his wishes to be above the law, his duties and outweighing the internal and international reputation of the country.

We would note that Ukraine has on several occasions violated its duty before refugees. In February 2006, 11 Uzbek nationals were sent back to Uzbekistan. Then in March of this year 11 Tamils were returned to Sri Lanka. All such cases have involved grave infringements of Ukraine’s international commitments.

The extradition of Oleg Kuznetsov can, however, be viewed as the most shameful of all violations of the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.  Having lost in the courts, the Prosecutor General has simply brushed that aside demonstrating how he deals with court rulings not to his taste.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union considers that Mr Medvedko has discredited the office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine and the prosecutor’s office, and has dealt a devastating blow to the country’s international standing. Called upon to oversee observance of the law in Ukraine, by demonstrating his open contempt for a court ruling, Mr Medvedko is creating the conditions for the spread of lawlessness and disrespect for the principles of the rule of law.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union calls on:

The President of Ukraine

To take all possible measures to secure the return of this refugee treacherously extradited to a country where he faces danger;

To make a submission to the Verkhovna Rada to have Oleksandr Medvedko removed from the office of Prosecutor General of Ukraine

the Verkhovna Rada:

to pass a vote of no confidence in the Prosecutor General in accordance with Article 85;

to set up a special commission to investigate the circumstances against the violation by the Prosecutor General of the law and to bring him to answer;

to draw up and pass as a matter of urgency amendments to legislation which will establish exclusively court procedure for determining any question of extradition and regulate the procedure for remand in custody, the periods for such remand and judicial procedure for its appeal;

- the European Community t

to suspend the force of the Agreement between Ukraine and the EU on Readmission until Ukraine’s legislation and practice are brought into line with the principle of non-refoulement;

- the governments of countries with whom Ukraine has agreements on mutual legal assistance

to bear in mind when considering whether to pass any persons over to Ukraine that Ukraine cannot be considered a safe third country in accordance with international agreements on the rights of refugees since the Ukrainian government:

is not observing international standards on the rights of rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

does not have appropriate legislation on refugees and asylum seekers;

is not providing effective court defence against arbitrary expulsion.

Penal institutions

Real measures not imitation needed

The appeal is addressed to the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada

On 22 February we addressed an open letter to you in which pointed out serious failings in the work of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences [the Department].  We expressed concern that despite upbeat statements from those in charge, the Department is extremely secretive, virtually not subject to control and is not accountable to the public.  We warned of grave violations of the rights both of prisoners and personnel of penal institutions, to the use of unlawful force against people deprived of their liberty and of numerous financial irregularities.

Over almost four months we have had no response from you and do not know your position on the infringements mentioned and concerns expressed in our letter.

Yet subsequent events have merely served to confirm the seriousness of the situation in penal institutions.

The unmotivated beatings continue of prisoners carried out by spetsnaz [Special Forces] units. There are reports that the latest such beating occurred on 12 June in the Dnipropetrovsk Penal Colony No. 89, and before that on 3 June In the Volyanska Penal Colony No. 20 in the Zaporizhya region.

The standards of justice of the present management of the Department is reflected in cases where they have put forward for honours from the Ministry of Justice heads of territorial divisions of the Department, for example, those from the Chernihiv and Vinnytsa regions whose actions have been found by courts to have contravened the Constitution and legislation. One can only try to guess how, without corruption, they could have received such honours.
The mythical “openness” of the Department is contradicted by new court rulings over the failure to provide information about the actions of penal institutions, with the actions of the very head of the Department Vasyl Koshchynets being found unlawful. We are compelled to repeat that the lack of reliable information from penal institutions renders impossible an objective and unbiased assessment of the human rights situation there.

It is to be regretted that all of this is taking place with your tacit consent.

We turned in our letter to you, Viktor Andriyovych, “They are threatening to shoot at prisoners and set dogs on them in your name!” It would seem, Mr President, that you didn’t hear that, which is truly very sad.

We reiterate that the human rights situation in the penal institutions is catastrophic. It is important to stress that the management of the Department is unable to adequately assess both the dangers and their causes, since they see the source of any problems are coming from outside.

All too symptomatic was the reaction of the management to our open letter. Instead of explanations over the examples of human rights abuse in penal institutions, the management began a campaign in the media aimed at discrediting the authors of the appeal, not balking even at over untruths. The management’s message boiled down to the assertion that nobody was stopping human rights defenders from visiting penal institutions (which is not true), that the authors do not see the penal institutions, which is also false.  The stress was placed on human rights organizations receiving grants for their work from foreign donors, while remaining silent about the fact that the Department also receives funding for Department spending from abroad in considerable quantise for which they do not account to the public. The management of the Department did not even stop at accusing human rights defenders of carrying out orders from criminal elements which is total nonsense.

In our appeal on 22 February we stated that Penal legislation requires major reworking, both at the conceptual level and in details. Internal normative documents of the Department do not pass through the appropriate expert assessment and discussion, neither with specialists nor with the public and they often clash with current legislation and fail to comply with international norms and human rights standards.

We must note with regret that we received yet another confirmation of legal illiteracy with regard to the system. It is no secret that there were grave infringements of the procedure for preparing and adopting the Concept Strategy for reform of the State Penal Service, recently approved by Presidential Decree № 401/2008.  This Concept clearly contradicts provisions of the previously adopted Concept Strategy for the Reform of the Criminal Justice System. This not only demonstrates the extraordinarily low level of preparation of the document, but also the secretive procedure for its being pushed in its final version, as well as the open disregard for the critical assessment of experts and the public. This document and the procedure for its adoption put our country to shame before the European community. It forces them to look at Ukraine as a country where personal relations between politicians and behind the scenes deals reign and lawful democratic procedures are ignored.

We consider that the problems in the system are accumulating because of the indifference and disregard from the leaders of the country to its problems, those of its staff who for ten years have not felt confident in their future. We confirm our conviction that to a large extent the reasons for this situation is the incompetence of the Department’s management, combined with active resistance to fulfilling Ukraine’s commitments made when joining the Council of Europe in 1995 regarding the subordination of the Department to the Ministry of Justice. Initiatives of the Ministry of Justice’s leaders for improving the situation are ignored by the Head of the Department and the Ministry as yet has no legal mechanisms for influencing the Department’s activities.

We are forced to once again turn to you.

We call on you to give your attention to the appalling human rights situation in penal institutions and to publicly state your position on this.

We ask you to show the political will to finally transfer the State Department for the Execution of Sentences to the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Justice as demanded by the commitments, as yet not fulfilled, to the Council of Europe, and not try to trick them with a mere imitation of such subordination;

We urge you to demand that all employees of the Department, from the Head down, show respect for the dignity both of prisoners and of personnel of the system and strictly observe the standards of social fairness, and demonstrate real openness, not just an imitation,  of its activities for the public, including for human rights organizations and the media;

We call on you to finally put aside the habits of local corporate considerations and give priority to State interests, and to seriously consider the expediency of Vasyl Koshchynets’ and his deputies remaining in their posts since in our view they have demonstrated their inability to manage such a complicated and specific department.. The capacity of the department to ensure the implementation of the tasks before it will depend largely on the resolution of these staffing issues. This in turn has direct impact on public safety, as well as on the image of the President, Government and Ukraine as a democratic and civilized European country.

We reiterate that we will maintain our zero tolerance for the flagrant violations of human rights in the penal institutions of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences.

Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Oleksandr Bukalov, Donetsk Memorial, Ukrainian Penitentiary Society

Oleksandr Betsa, independent specialist on the penitentiary

Human rights protection

On duty while humanity endures

Two prominent Russian human rights defenders – Ludmilla Alexeeva and Yury Orlov – were in Kyiv last weekend and gave this interview to the newspaper “24”.

Yury Fyodorovych, you fought the Soviet system, and the system has returned to modern Russia. Is that not depressing?

It was predictable. It’s a miracle that the system collapsed. It was so closely constructed that you pulled a thread and it crumbled. When Gorbachev wanted changes, the system was already unable to take them and collapsed and that was a miracle. And the fact that it is presently going backwards, even partially, is unfortunately more natural since there isn’t yet a generation of democratic leaders of a State type. When I met Yeltsin, he said openly that he was trying to be democratic but only the next generation would be true democrats. Unfortunately the next generation has proved worse.

Ludmila Mikhailovna, as a member of the President’s Human Rights Council you know Putin. Is he indeed worse?

I saw two Putins. The first time I spoke with him was at the end of 2002 – he’d been President for two years then and was still a perfectly normal man, it was still interesting for him. The second time was in December 2003 and he already looked like a bronze monument to himself. He didn’t forget for a second that he was the President and that his prop came from bureaucrats and enforcement officers, and not society. I didn’t like that Putin.

And yet you work on the Council. And Yelena Bonner actually criticizes you for that, saying that human rights activists shouldn’t collaborate.

Human rights activists are not a party. You have to work with those who can get things moving. Andrei Sakharov wrote to Brezhnev: “Dear [literally “respected”] Leonid Illich, would you like to declare an amnesty for political prisoners?  Do you think that he genuinely respected Brezhnev?  However if the result depends on a person in power, there is no sense in convincing one’s human rights friends that you need to call an amnesty. I need to convince those who I don’t like and who think differently.

Yet the majority of Russians, as the elections show, like Putin and Medvedev

Firstly, it’s television that makes politicians popular, and that is under total State control. You see Putin from morning till evening. People are simply being brainwashed, and they can’t counter it. Secondly, a large part of the population lacks political culture, and they don’t connect who they voted for with what happens after the elections. However I’d say one thing: the Public Opinion Foundation, a Kremlin outfit incidentally, two years ago published the results of a survey as to whether people counted on help from the State in their everyday life. 47% of the population said no, only on themselves. and 25% said that they not only couldn’t count on them, but that the State was very much in the way. Add up 47% and 25%!  So 25%, I’m convinced, don’t vote for Putin, and 47% do still but they’re thinking. “They look after themselves and we ourselves”. Not counting on the State means stopping being a “sovok” [person with a Soviet mentality – translator]. We’ve made this first step. In order to become a civil society and democratic country we need to make the second step and learn to defend our interests not separately but together.

Yet why, in your opinion, did the people who went for changes in 1991 accept partial restoration of the regime in 2000?

Yury Orlov: The democrats didn’t think about the people when they were carrying out reforms. Even with their words they didn’t express concern about people. During the crisis [in 1998 – translator]. people developed cynicism with regard to any political party and a negative attitude to the word “democracy”. Moreover their perception of western ideas was to a large extent damaged by US foreign policy. It was quite incomprehensible. And now the economy is thriving, together with the possibility to earn money. People are people and they link this with Putin. It’s another question whether this would have happened too without Putin.

Ludmila Alexeeva: Yet you can only talk about the reanimation of the old regime if you watch television and that way draw conclusions about what is happening in Russia. If you live in Russia and especially if you’re involved in the human rights movement, you see that it would be absolutely impossible to turn back. It’s no accident that a law was passed which tries to place non-profit-making civic organizations under control. Do you know when the authorities began particularly putting pressure on us?  It was after the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, the events in Georgia and Kyrgyzstan.  They openly said that the danger of civic revolution was not so much from political parties as from civic, human rights and youth organizations, and civic society in general. That’s because civic society cannot live without democracy. Civic society, regardless of the maximum pressure from the State is developing and the authorities are frightened!

Why is the opposition and its leaders so unpopular in today’s Russia?

Yury Orlov:  I think that they wanted a swooping victory. Yet how can you so rapidly convince people that democracy is good and Putin bad if then they weren’t able to feed their family and now they can? There are a lot of good people in the opposition, yet there aren’t any with State and political thinking so that they turn up in any part of the country and people listen to them.

How do you assess Ukraine’s democratic achievements?

Ludmila Alexeeva: It’s difficult for me to judge how developed Ukrainian democracy is, and I would be very surprised if it proved to be developed. However all those who come to Ukraine from Russia say that the air feels different here. At home there’s a cop with a baton on each street corner and he’s not holding the baton for decoration. Yes, an undeveloped democracy means that it can move in the opposite direction. You won’t have an imperialist State, for example, but you will have a nationalist one which is also not that attractive, believe me. Since I’m an elderly woman I remember what it was like under Stalin, I was 25 when he died. So the present regime is nothing to his. And if that one couldn’t endure, than this one won’t either. So you’ll get to democracy and so will we. You perhaps earlier. Incidentally, the quicker you do, the quicker it will be for us.

And in those countries you see as the bastion of democracy, do human rights organizations have anything to do?

Yury Orlov:  In the best democratic society you also have to defend human rights.  The problem of terrorism arose in America and Guantanamo immediately appeared, together with secret CIA prisons in the North of Poland, where the USA spends prisoners so that it’s simply to question them. Problems have begun in America itself with violations of the rights of those detained. All of this was discovered by American human rights activists. In any critical situation human rights violations can appear, even if there weren’t any until then. You need to be permanently on guard.

Human rights will have to be defended while humankind exists. They will come to an end only when the Solar System dies and there are no longer any people.

The interviewer was Serhiy Vysotsky, the newspaper “24”

Point of view

The Edge of National Memory (Volyn 1943)

Human memory is at once elusive and intense, the source of pain and regrets, and of endless richness of experience. We feel the most compelling argument to be “but I remember!”, although any psychologist will tell you that the dividing line between what we remember and what “really” happened is at least as elusive.  In the world we share with others, and our “historical memory”, emotions and subjective assessments may abound, however the prose of life does add its restrictions.

Earlier this year Memorial published a call to dialogue, entitled: “On “National images of the past”

The central thesis is presented as follows: “Yet each national group remembers and perceives its own history in its specific fashion. National memory refashions and interprets this shared history in its own way. For this reason, each national group has its own twentieth century.”

I am prompted to write this as the sixty fifth anniversary approaches of the Volyn Massacre, although the thoughts apply just as much to conflict over Holodomor, the attitude to the Soviet period in the Baltic Republics, and to a lot more.

Two people can experience and therefore remember events quite differently, and how much more so two nations.  I would in no way minimize this.  It is vital to make every effort to understand the tragic complexity of the Soviet period and endeavour to understand one another.

Yet the way forward, towards trust and growth, will remain blocked while we refuse to confront a legacy of bitterness and hatred, and clutch hold onto a myth in which we alone are victims.

Is there a Polish “Volyn” and a Ukrainian?  The very suggestion is monstrous. There are different assessments on both sides, caused partly by years during which the subject was taboo, but doubtless also by psychological factors.  Poles become frustrated that many Ukrainians avoid Volyn in discussing UPA [the Ukrainian Resistance Army], and fail to acknowledge the scale of the tragedy. During those bloody days far more Poles were massacred than Ukrainians, and therefore more Ukrainians were party to this terrible crime. And yet Ukrainians with justification point out that Ukrainians were also killed by Poles. Ukrainians hear wild charges that all UPA fighters murdered Polish civilians and react with antagonism.  Or they try to avoid the subject entirely.

Most unfortunately the difficulty many people have in reading Polish or Ukrainian material on the subject has little to do with problems in understanding the language. There are, however, historians willing to thoroughly and honestly examine all material, not just that which suits previously formulated opinions.  

Openness and tolerance are vital, and yet there are and must be absolutes.  The murder of a child is a horrific crime regardless of political considerations, regardless of injustices endured. However much Poles may have oppressed Ukrainians, there can be no justification, historical, political or moral, for the murder of civilians. We can try to understand, should in fact, but condemn we must.

A few years ago a Russian national, Vitaly Kaloyev, killed the Swiss air controller who may have caused the collision of two planes in which Kaloyev’s wife and two children died. The consequences if all took the law into their own hands are too clear to need spelling out, and the welcome Kaloyev received in Putin’s Russia disturbing, yet at an emotional level we probably understand. There could be no question of compassion if he had killed the air controller’s children.

The son of the notorious war criminal Mengele was asked once in an interview why he had not denounced his father during the latter’s illicit visit to Germany. “He was my father”, the man responded.  Well, I could rage about who Mengele was and what he did. That answer will still stay in my mind.

  Yet it is grotesque to even conceive of Germans laying claim to their own memory of Nazism, their own twentieth century which we must try to respect and understand.  Some Germans may justify the Third Reich: they do so privately.

For Western Ukraine and the Baltic Republics which were occupied first by the USSR, then the Nazis, then by the Soviets again and for a long time, obviously words like “liberation” sound like mockery.  These circumstances preclude judgment of those who lived through terrible times.  They do not, however, doom us to justify choices made. 

There is no longer any doubt that some members of the UPA were directly implicated in the massacre of civilians in Volyn and Eastern Halychyna.  If some Ukrainians believe that the UPA is unfairly maligned or that it was an isolated group within the Army that took this road, then the evidence needs to be presented widely and can only help understand what happened. On condition, that is, that the evidence concerns complicity or non-involvement in a crime, not reasons why it was all “understandable”, or simply a barrage of emotions and lists of historical grievances.

The grievances are endless.  They will remain so unless we finally accept that some things have no justification. 

The Germans were forced to come to grips with their guilt 63 years ago.  Certainly they had more grounds for repentance. However most other countries in Europe have dark moments which need confronting.  .  Doubtless some French historians have scrupulously studied the true nature of the Vichy regime’s collaboration, yet the popular image presented of war-time France is of the fearless Resistance, with all else hidden from view.  In neighbouring Poland we should mention the publication of Gross’ book “Neighbours” in 2000 which demonstrated that Poles had been guilty of the massacre of Jews in the village of Jedwabne. The impact was devastating for a nation accustomed to seeing itself only as victim, not the perpetrators.  To their credit, the National Institute of Remembrance investigated the evidence and basically confirmed the charges. Even before that President Kwasniewski had officially apologized for the crime. 

A gesture, some might say.  Others will argue that we don’t bear responsibility for the actions of those who committed monstrous crimes. At one level this is true. We bear responsibility, however, for hiding from the truth, whether by concealing facts or blurring the issue with historical grievances. We are complicit when we assume that those demanding the truth about the murder of whole families, entire villages, are in any way “anti-Ukrainian” or “anti-Polish”.

Attempts to defend at any cost a specific view doom us to history which tells only part of the truth and to conflict with those who want another part of that same truth to be told.  Not two twentieth centuries. One – filled with tragedy and infinitely complex but one that we share.

Victims of political repression

SBU to name perpetrators of Holodomor and repression

Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU] is to make public the first list, based on its archival material, of Party and Soviet figures, heads of the punitive bodies – ODPU and DPU * for 1932-1933, as well as documents signed by them personally which formed the organizational and legal basis for committing Holodomor-Genocide in Ukraine and mass repression.

The SBU states that the archival documents indicate without any doubt that Holodomor 1932-1933 was the result of planned criminal actions by a totalitarian communist regime.

Visitors to the website will not only be provided with the lists of names, but also the protocols of meetings of the Politburo, instructions to Party activists, resolutions, etc.

“The documents clearly show that during Holodomor-Genocide 1932-1933, on the instructions of the Politiburo (Stalin, Molotov, Kaganovich, Voroshilov and others), the leadership of the punitive bodies issued operational orders and other normative documents on carrying out mass operations of repression against “kulaks”, “saboteurs”, “money-bag-speculators” and other “counter-revolutionary” elements in order to subjugate the Ukrainian villages and elicit famine which led to millions of victims under the Ukrainian people”.

The SBU states that this publication is the beginning of a new archival document project and they call on the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance, the State Archive Committee, legal experts, specialists in branch archives of the law enforcement agencies, and researchers into Holodomor, representatives of nongovernmental organizations to become involved in work on a document base for assessing the actions of the organizers and perpetrators of Holodomor – Genocide in Ukraine, and condemnation of those guilty or organizing and carrying out these crimes.

* ODPU, is probably better known as OGPU [from the letters in Russian] and stands for the United State Political Department [ODPU] under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR; DPU [of Russian GPU] was the State Political Department for the Ukrainian SSR [translator]

The SBU website is at:

OSCE Parliamentary Assembly passes Resolution on Holodomor

On 3 July, at its seventeenth annual meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly passed a Resolution on Holodomor 1932-1933 in Ukraine.  Reports suggest that the Russian delegation opposed the resolution.  The actual text passed is not yet on the OSCE’s, however going by the Ukrainian reports, it does not differ from the Draft below.


The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:

1. Reiterating the crucial role of the OSCE in the promotion of human rights and values,

2. Reminding that parliamentary institutions play a decisive role in defining humanitarian policies and legislation and represent the will of the people of relevant countries,

3. Emphasizing that raising public awareness of humanitarian tragedies of our history is an important tool of restoring the dignity of victims through acknowledgment of their suffering and preventing similar catastrophes in the future,

4. Reminding the OSCE participating States of their commitment to “clearly and unequivocally condemn totalitarianism” (1990 Copenhagen Document),

5. Recalling that the rule of the totalitarian Stalinist regime in the former USSR had let to tremendous human rights violations depriving millions of people of their right to live,

6. Recalling also that crimes of the Stalinist regime have been already revealed and condemned and some still require both national and international recognition and unequivocal condemnation,

The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly:

7. Pays tribute to the innocent lives of millions of Ukrainians who perished during the Holodomor of 1932 and 1933 as a result of the mass starvation brought about by the cruel deliberate actions and policies of totalitarian Stalinist regime;

8. Welcomes the recognition of the Holodomor in the United Nations, by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization and by the national parliaments of a number of the OSCE participating States;

9. Endorses the Joint Statement of 31 OSCE participating States on the 75 th anniversary of

Holodomor of 1932 and 1933 in Ukraine, delivered at the 15th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial


10. Supports the initiative of Ukraine to reveal the full truth of this tragedy of Ukrainian people, in particular, through raising public awareness of the Holodomor at international and national levels, organizing the commemorations of the Holodomor as well as academic, expert and civil events aimed at discussing this issue;

11. Invites the parliamentarians of the OSCE Member States to participate in the events, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Holodomor of 1932-1933 in Ukraine;

12. Strongly encourages all parliaments to adopt acts regarding recognition of the Holodomor.

Dissidents and their time

20 years since the founding of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union

On 7 July 1988 at a rally attended by some fifty thousand people in Lviv the creation was announced of a the Ukrainian Helsinki Union. This was the first mass social, political and human rights organization in the Ukrainian SSR. 

It was created on the basis of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group [UHG] formed in 1976 by ten human rights defenders.  The UHG never folded, as did, for example, the Moscow Helsinki Group, and committed and courageous people emerged to replace those sent to labour camp for their membership.  It was, however, always a small group of totally committed people who knew the sacrifice which would be demanded.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Union emerged both after Chernobyl and during the years of perestroika, and was from the outset a federal association of self-governing human rights groups and organizations from all over Ukraine.  The idea to broaden and politicize the Helsinki Group came from Viacheslav Chornovil who, together with Levko Lukyanenko took leading roles in the new Union.

The “UHU Declaration of Principles”, made public at the rally, included: full establishment of Ukrainian statehood, as well as a wide range of rights, including freedom of speech, political, socio-economic and labour rights.

The central press body of the UHU was the samvydav [samizdat] journal “Ukrainsky visnyk” [“Ukrainian Herald”] under the editorship of Viacheslav Chornovil. A UHU newspaper “Holos vidrodzhennya” [Voice of Renewal”], edited by Serhiy Naboka, began coming out in 1989.

The authorities treated the creation of the UHU as a challenge to the Soviet state. The governing Party bodies, KGB and police directed their efforts on countering the newly-emerged and daring opposition, using official and unofficial warnings, intimidation, detentions, administrative arrest, campaigns to discredit and of disinformation in the Party press.

However the UHU’s authority only increased as a result. At the elections to the Verkhovna Rada in March 1990 12 members of the UHU became National Deputies, and hundreds – deputies of local councils.

From Union to the first independent party in Ukraine

This difference both in political atmosphere and the size between the Union and the original Ukrainian Helsinki Group was reflected in the fairly rapid move from purely human rights defence to active political struggle.  In April 1990 the UHU was transformed into the Ukrainian Republican Party, with Levko Lukyanenko its leader. .


30 July: Presentation of “Human Rights in Ukraine – 2007”.

Ukrainian human rights organizations’ annual report will be presented on Wednesday 30 July and discussed during a roundtable organized by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

Discussion will focus on the human rights situation in the country during 2007, as well as recommendations on improving the situation. The positions of human rights groups and of representatives of the authorities will be presented on 8 of the most burning human rights issues at the present time. There will also be discussion of possible mechanisms for achieving systematic State policy on human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Those attending will include members of human rights organizations, scholars and specialists, representatives of the authorities and of international organizations.

The event is being run with the support of the Human Rights Committee of the National Commission for the Strengthening of Democracy and the Rule of Law, and the participation of the Ministry of Justice.

Please join us on Wednesday from 13.00 to 18.00 at the Ministry of Justice (Kyiv, 10 Rylsky Lane, second floor, meeting room).

We are unfortunately unable to provide synchronic interpreting, but do hope you will be able to attend.


“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2008, #07