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.

The right to a fair trial

Ukrainians will apply less to Strasbourg

KHPG lawyer Arkady Bushchenko believes that in 2009 Ukrainians will make fewer applications to the European Court of Human Rights. This, he says, is because people have stopped believing in its omnipotence. “At first people wrote to them on any issue. However we know that 98 percent of applications are not accepted because they do not fall within the jurisdiction of the European Court. After having their applications turned down, people pass on to their neighbours that this court can’t help.”

At the same time Bushchenko stresses that applications from Ukrainians have improved in quality and become “interesting” from the juridical point of view.  He believes that judgments from the European Court of Human Rights on such cases could have impact on reform of the Ukrainian system of court proceedings.

Last year, Ukraine was ordered to pay 20 million UAH in favour of applicants. Arkady Bushchenko confirms that the Ukrainian authorities do fully pay out material compensation to claimants, however there are problems with providing just satisfaction and reforming the legal system.

From a brief interview given to the Ukrainian Service of Deutsche Welle

Arkady Bushchenko is the Head of KHPG’s Legal Aid Centre for Victims of Ill-treatment and is also Head of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Board. He recently successfully represented another case where the Ukrainian Government was found to be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Freedom of expression

Crimean Voices of Hatred

I was always taken with the ancient Indian cyclical view of history. Purely in its abstract form, it has to be said, and if this is the real thing I’m by no means so certain. Like on a carousel we spin around, animatedly discussing who won the latest information war. The tune ends, we climb down, but then there’s another and another. 

No idea who won the gas information war. I know who lied better, but I rather doubt that for freezing Europe that was of major significance. Europeans wanted gas according to a clear commitment and they wanted stability.

Ukraine stands to lose one huge amount from lack of stability, and I’m not talking about glossy presentation of information. In August and September we heard almost the same discussions regarding the Russian-Georgian conflict. Everyone got scared, after all the analogy with the Crimea fairly hit you in the eye. And not just in Ukraine. For several weeks the world media was full of discussion about the purported “next hotspot” - until they switched to the next – economic – crisis.

However, I’m staying with the subject of xenophobia and stability in the Crimea. No apologies – I’m not wild about it myself, but see no choice.

The new article from Natalya Kiselyova “Voice of the Crimea” – the voice of the people? Why Ukraine finances the circulation of xenophobia, racism and Nazism” is in many ways staggering, only not in its depth of thought.  Truly amazing how a person who says she was a child in the mid 1970s can use Soviet techniques so very professionally. Just as the Soviet Union always trumpeted the cause of peace and defended the violated rights of people in the corrupt West, so now Ms Kiselyova vehemently rages against those who she claims are spreading hatred and intolerance. Her persistence is noteworthy since she’s been attacking “Voice of the Crimea”, which is a largely Crimean Tatar and State-funded newspaper for a long time and clearly has no intention of letting go.  Hard, admittedly, to avoid the comparison with a record stuck in a groove, since the same extracts are dredged up year in, year out. It is undoubtedly important to carry out monitoring of all negative phenomena, yet it’s difficult to understand what conclusions we are expected to draw when the period of time is, to put it mildly, extended. The vast majority of her quotes are from 2000 and 2001, there are some from 2005, one from 2006 and two, broken up into several, from 2008.  It would be well to recall the shameful record of anti-Semitic filth produced by MAUP (the International Academy of Management and Personal). In 2000 nobody had even heard of an institute propagandizing anti-Semitism. 2005 and 2006 saw the peak of MAUP’s virulent activity, and by 2008 it had virtually fallen silent. Yet here we are presented with all these “quotes” purportedly appearing during that same period which are supposed to prove something.

 Some of the “quotes” do indeed create an unpleasant impression. It is however difficult to add my voice in protest since a Google search on the whole sends one to Kiselyova, or, on one occasion, to the Russian website which the author presumably took as her source. Plus, of course, her old favourites which are one hundred percent diseased, only they come from a work published in Moscow 8 years ago. The conclusion seems called for that if all these elusive quotations are genuine, then they are taken from a forum or from letters to the editor.

The question of material on forums has been debated for some time now, since many sites do not require any form of registration, or provide a special forum where comments are not passed by a moderator. It’s absolutely clear, of course, why they don’t want to place restrictions on visitors to their sites. I would just mention two points that may perhaps be worth thinking about. These are firstly the appearance over recent times on many forums of new and highly active forum participants whose motives at very least raise warranted doubts. Secondly, it is by no means so relevant on the Internet where a specific text has come from, and it is quite often difficult to locate the original source. I could provide an example of absolutely unfounded allegations of anti-Semitism against one website specifically for utterances made on a forum with no moderator. I would suggest that the reader types in Google a couple of typical labels often foisted on Ukrainians. At least in Russian it is common to find the same quite lengthy entries, filled with unsubstantiated accusations roaming from site to site. I would simply quote, and not from a forum, Winnie the Pooh: “Something fishy here!”

One article from 2008 I not only found, but read very carefully. I can’t say that I share the author – Timur Dagdzhee’s – views however his article is essentially a cry from the soul, an expression of his opposition to assimilation. He doesn’t call for any methods of coercion and says nothing against non-Tatars. He simply feels very strongly that his people must not lose their identity. The pain he expresses can be felt in the utterances of very many representatives of minorities, including Ukrainians from the Diaspora.

People do of course perceive texts very differently. For example, I find it extremely hard to rid myself of the feeling that this new article by Natalya Kiselyova, like her previous ones for that matter not only fails to preach tolerance, but directly fuels hatred and mistrust of one specific ethnic group in Ukraine.

It stretches credulity to think that she could seriously see the study she cites using the Bohardus Scale of Social Distance as demonstrating animosity on the part of Crimean Tatar children to Russian and Ukrainian kids. Even from her muddled account it is entirely clear that the higher level of antagonism recorded was directed at the Crimean Tatars.

No idea whether the author believes what she is writing. Weakness of arguments and “proof” is to some extent determined by our initial position, and her chances of convincing me are as close to nil as mine of changing her views.

On the other hand I stop even trying to put myself in her place when she uses children for her propaganda purposes. Over the last 18 years we’ve become less accustomed to oozing passages about idyllic Soviet life, but I won’t argue, I never saw her school. For purely historical reasons it’s difficult to imagine that in the 1970s Crimean Tatar children could have appeared at the school at all, and exceedingly difficult to believe that no one would have paid any attention.  However, even if we assume that the author hasn’t invented a thing, even if that not overly bright lad who in adult life “has become “an activist of one of the regional Mejilis”, really did pull out a knife (from where?!) and begin shouting “We’ll carve you all up. First the Russians, then the rest …”, why is the author telling us this?  So that all parents and teachers who hear something similar from a child who’s been punished hurtle off to report him to the police, to ask that they put him on their records? (Or are they supposed to lock him up?)  It’s worth remembering that there has not been one “massacre” in all those years. Is she so intent on making sure that one happens or what?

And now for what is also not a recently written example of a text aimed, in my opinion, at heightening tension between different ethnic groups on the peninsula. I believe I must recall a text which first appeared in April 2008 since it is still on the front page of the website of “Krymskaya Pravda”, although another article postdating it has disappeared from the list of most-read texts. The article that disappeared was the one in which the journalist Natalya Astakhova, together with the Editor, effectively made excuses for her article “Brought by the wind”. It is quite clear, of course, that they made excuses and assurances of noble intentions, tolerance and love for all humanity because they felt they had to. The article in question had been submitted, backed by a police expert assessment, to the prosecutor’s office. There was certainly enough to complain about in the article.

Only many months have passed and silence – not deathly, but vapid and passive. And this silence is continuing despite the conflict over South Ossetia, despite the endless discussion about security and stability in the Crimea and about whether Ukraine’s territorial integrity could also be in jeopardy. In fact with regard to the dangers, there was really no argument, nor will there be, judging by such inertness.

Most disturbing is the fact that Astakhova herself talks of a premonition of war. In her version of reality this is even logical since she paints a picture of tolerant people who are suffering from an invasion. It should be borne in mind that she does not set out to convince the reader. That’s not effective since the same reader could then go off and hear out the other side. If they can be persuaded to think one way, they can be equally persuaded to change their mind. No, if you want people to have a negative attitude to specific people then avoid any words that might remind your reader that they too are human. Use as many derogatory words as you can. And remember that the more words eliciting physical disgust, the better. That’s precisely what she does.

There are masses of statements which are easy to refute: about the role of the Crimean Tatars during the Second World War, about the distribution of land, the Soborna [Assembly] Mosque and a lot more. However the text does not confine itself to these issues and its danger is specifically in the labels and descriptions which the reader takes in at an emotional, not rational level. Yet why at the end of the day seek other words to describe this? The text is entirely adequately described in Article 161 of Ukraine’s Criminal Code:

.”deliberate acts aimed at inciting ethnic, racial or religious enmity and hatred, at denigrating national honour and dignity or offending the feelings of citizens on the basis of their religious convictions.”

Only the Prosecutor remains silent.

I am not suggesting that this is all a question of hate speech. That would be as unwarranted and dangerous as to assume that if Ukraine had possessed a propaganda machine like that of the Kremlin – Gasprom model, that it would have “won” the gas war. The problem lies precisely in the fact that mere high-sounding words are insufficient regardless of their packaging.  Unlike Kiselyova and her ilk, I rather suspect that Astakhova may genuinely believe the grotesque version of reality that she presents. All groups in the Crimea have their grievances and there is no justification whatsoever for understating the problems. The authorities are demonstrating incredible lack of foresight and responsibility not only in their inaction over land issues, but in ill-conceived policy on language which may seriously infringe the rights of the considerable Russian-speaking part of the Crimean people.

Nonetheless when highly-placed politicians of a neighbouring country in no way conceal their position regarding Ukraine’s sovereign rights, and not only did not hide, but openly demonstrated their attitude to the territorial integrity of another neighbour just a few months ago, then surely it is not unreasonable to expect some flickering instinct for self-preservation?

You wonder whether this is not some kind of recurring nightmare where the authorities are incapable of grasping the obvious fact that we all need to be protected from any attempts to use hatred, lies and primitive labels to destabilize the country.

Access to information

Tell us what you’re hiding!

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group is calling on the authorities to reveal the content of all normative acts, not just those issued with the unlawful stamps “Not to be published” and “Not to be printed”., but also those secreted away as “for official use only”.

According to KHPG Co-Chair one of the ways of carrying out corrupt dealings is through concealing information by thus classifying documents. These refer o decisions taken by the authorities (Presidential decrees and instructions, resolutions, instructions or orders from the Cabinet of Ministers or other bodies, etc). At a press conference on Wednesday, Yevhen Zakharov explained that the civic campaign against the illegal practice had been reasonably successful, and, as reported here, that the Ministry of Justice had banned the use of the illegal stamps “Not to be published” and “Not to be printed”

In March 2008 the Cabinet of Ministers decided to removed the stamp “Not to be printed” from 1,410 acts issued between 1991 and 2005.  The Ministry of Justice declassified 1,015 of them and made the rest “For official use only”.

“And yet the President’s Secretariat has refused to reveal even the names of the normative acts with the stamp “Not to be published” passed up till 2005. 35 of 44 were declassified, but the others received the stamp “For official use only”. In order to fight corruption, the public need to force the Secretariat to uncover the documents which used this stamp”.

The Cabinet of Ministers has also refused to provide the names of acts with the stamp “For official use only” issued from 2005 which makes proper public scrutiny impossible. Yevhen Zakharov adds that the Verkhovna Rada are also failing to open up acts with these unlawful stamps.

He explains that the documents can be divided into those about corrupt dealings, various benefits and preferential treatment for high-ranking officials, behind-the-scene political agreements, future plans for the development of various areas of the economy and documents concerning state investments.

He adds that while the names of some of the normative acts suggest that a certain number of documents are on defence issues, there are good grounds for questioning the reasons for classifying and even the legality of the actions which they envisage.

Prohibition of discrimination

Ukrainian State and society against gays and lesbians: a brief report for 2008

The report just issued points to various violations of the rights of homosexuals during 2008.  These include violations of the principle of freedom and non-discrimination; the right to information; to freedom of peaceful assembly and to form civic associations; access to justice. The report concludes that homophobia is widespread in Ukrainian society, manifesting itself among other things in the behaviour of some state bodies, and statements from politicians, representatives of the Church and extremist groups.

1.  On 10 February 2008 national TV channel “Studio 1 + 1” showed a film at 22.15 about the relationship between two young men. Following this the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council approached the National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality [the Commission] for an expert opinion regarding the legality of broadcasting this film. The Commission concluded that the film “could cause harm to people’s physical, intellectual and moral – psychological state, including that of children and young people”. It stated therefore that broadcasting the film was in breach of the law on the protection of public morality. As a result, the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council prohibited the showing of the film except between 23.00 and 6.00.

2.  At the end of 2008 a new draft Code of Labour Laws was submitted to parliament and passed in its first reading on 20 May 2008. The anti-discrimination article in the law does not include sexual orientation as prohibited grounds for discrimination. One of the authors of the draft law actually stated in an interview that he considered that homosexuals are in breach of all moral norms, and that homosexuality is an illness, but did acknowledge that European norms would probably remain in the law, but that he was personally against them.

Despite numerous appeals from the “Our World” Centre on the need to specifically ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, the norm has not been included in the draft law.

3.  In March 2008 a letter was posted on the website of the extremist group “Love against homosexuality” from two members of parliament from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko Ihor Yeresko and Vitaly Barvynenko. The letter states their view that propaganda and spread of homosexuality in the country jeopardized national security and undermined the authority of the rights and freedoms of the individual and family.

4.  “Love against homosexuality” also informed of a letter from the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Freedom of Speech and Information, which stated that the Committee shared concern over heightened propaganda via the media of various forms of sexual perversions. “”Such a situation makes it incumbent on state bodies to take decisions and urgent measures to put an end to popularization of homosexuality, lesbianism and other sexual deviations which do not meet the moral principles of society.” The letter was signed by the Head of the Secretariat of the Parliamentary Committee Vasyl Ivanina.

5. On 16 May 2008 the Mykolaiv Association of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals “LiGA” were planning to hold a flash mob to mark International Day against Homophobia. Their information action was aimed at breaking down superstitions and stereotypes regarding homosexuals and proposed placing posters on advertising boards in the city, holding three street actions, and showing a documentary film in the organization’s office. The local authorities were, in accordance with legislation, notified of these plans.

In its response, representatives of the Mykolaiv authorities stated that they had received a request from the Head of a Christian denomination to prohibit such actions by members of sexual minorities. “Therefore, in order to maintain law and order and prevent conflict on the grounds of moral and religious feelings of city residents, the holding of flash mobs in Mykolaiv is prohibited.”, the letter, signed by the First Deputy Mayor reads. This is a flagrant violation of the right to peaceful assembly, enshrined in the Constitution.

6.  At the end of May members of the Mykolaiv Association of Gays, Lesbians and Bisexuals “LiGA” lodged applications with the Central District Court in Mykolaiv and with the Economic Court over the plan on holding flash mobs. However both courts refused to examine the case claiming that it did not fall within their jurisdiction.

7.  In September 2008 the Ukrainian Organization of Lesbians and Gays approach a number of state bodies with an action plan to counter discrimination in Ukraine on the grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity. The document contained a broad list of measures which need to be taken to safeguard the civic rights of homosexuals. However no constructive responses were received.

8.  On 22 February 2008 the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office initiated a criminal investigation against editorial staff of the newspaper “Gay.Ua” (published by the “Our World” Centre) on the basis of Article 301 of the Criminal Code on spreading pornography. The newspaper, which is registered as a printed publication, contains information, entertainment and erotic material intended for gays. It is circulated among subscribers, not available or intended for a wide audience. On the other hand, openly erotic journals, designed for heterosexuals are on free sale in newspaper kiosk, and their editorial offices are not obstructed in spreading pornography. The actions of the prosecutor’s office were thus of a discriminatory nature. They also run counter to the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights which has stated that “it is especially necessary to understand whether the indecent materials were shown to a wide audience.”

9.  On 12 December 2008 the Department of Justice for the Chernivtsi Region registered the civic organization “People of Bukovyna” for homosexuals. However officials forced the founders of the organization to remove from their articles of association the wording “sexual orientation”, agreeing to the absurd wording “gender orientation”. Thus one of the aims of the new organization now reads as “promoting an increase in tolerance in society towards representatives of non-traditional gender orientation”.

10.  As part of the new UN mechanism on monitoring human rights observance in different countries – universal periodic reviews, in May – June 2008 the UN Human Rights Council reviewed Ukraine’s Report. During the working meeting Slovenia noted that there had been an increase in homophobia in Ukraine over recent years, and drew attention to problems which homosexuals encounter in the workplace and in dealing with the law enforcement agencies. As part of the recommendations it was proposed to consider the possibility of using the Jakarta Principles of applying international legal norms on human rights with regard to sexual orientation and gender identity as a guide in drawing up policy. However Ukraine rejected this recommendation.

11. On 18 December 2008 a Joint Statement by Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Trans-gender persons was for the first time made at the UN General Assembly. It was signed by 66 countries. Ukraine did not support it. In this respect the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Press Secretary stated that “In this situation we do not have a problem and do not need to talk about this. In Ukraine this phenomenon is decriminalized and there is no punishment, no persecution”.

(It should be stressed that this Joint Statement has aroused considerable controversy mainly because of the Catholic Church’s stand against it.  The aim of the document is to decriminalize homosexuality, which can even be punishable by death in some countries - translator).

Oleksandr Zinchenkov, “Our World Centre”

(very slightly abridged)

Social and economic rights

Level of Corruption in Higher Education Admissions Reduced

In 2008, conditions of admission to higher educational institutions (HEI) in Ukraine were changed radically:  the certificate of standardized external testing (SET) became the only document which opens the doors of HEI.  Monitoring studies conducted by the Promoting Active Citizen Engagement in Combating Corruption in Ukraine (ACTION) Project indicated that the nationwide introduction of SET contributed to a considerable reduction of the level of corruption during admission processes and is now perceived by  society as a promising method for  combating corruption and increasing the quality of knowledge of graduates.

In 2007 and 2008 in cooperation with the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology (KIIS) the project Promoting Active Citizen Engagement in Combating Corruption in Ukraine (ACTION) carried out two waves of sociological studies in regards to the state of corruption in the sphere of access to higher education.  As studies of 2007 were held before the introduction of the obligatory usage of SET and studies of 2008 afterwards, they were aimed at evaluating the first results of the impact of the procedural changes upon the level of corruption.

Changes in problem perception.  Studies of 2008 recorded real changes in the perception of corruption during admission to HEI on the part of those who participated in the process of taking or conducting SET or simply were interested in this; for example, graduates’ parents.  Among the polled  were graduates, their parents, students, teachers and school administrations.  All four groups believe that corruption during the overall admissions process has decreased as compared to 2007.  

Encounters with corruption in the process of taking SET exam are negligible.  Actual encounters with corruption during SET procedures was acknowledged by only an inconsiderable share of those polled:  1% of graduates (as compared to 3% in 2007), 3% of graduates’ parents, 3% of students (as compared to 6% in 2007).

This index is a lot smaller as compared to the last year when entrants had a choice between SET and traditional entrance exams.  Overall attention and novelty were an obstacle to corruption – that’s why there exists the possibility that later on such corruption schemes will be elaborated.

Violations during SET have become more frequent.  Various types of violations during the standardized external testing increased in the last year. Among students, the use of crib notes, unauthorized communication, exchange of answers that was not punished and the use of cell phones all increased. More suspicious/cheating behavior was noticed during the SET in the Kyiv region – the number of violations here is greatly exceeds the national average. 

Regional Differences.  Among all regional USEQAs, the most significant experiences with corruption took place in the Simferopol regional center.  Corruption experiences with graduation exams in Simferopol region was 9%; and during SETs 4% of those polled used illegal methods.  Also the highest index of corruption behavior during admission processes was registered here; 15% entrants made attempts to enter HEI illegally.  

Efficiency of Government Anti-corruption Actions. Representatives of all four groups consider that this reform turned out to be effective.  A number of those who believe that a change of all forms of entrance exams to SET is a promising step in combating corruption increased.  Teachers and school staff supported this opinion (their number is growing: 52% to 42% in 2007) and graduates hold a similar point of view
(34% to 17% in 2007).  The number of students who supported this measure also shot up, from 13% to 29%, although students are usually most skeptical and are generally not disposed to positive assessments.

Method of studies and degree of samples: by means of personal interview method 2758 respondents aged over 18 were polled, including people living in villages, regional centers and cities of all regions of Ukraine, including Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Kiev.  Apart from the quantitative part, both studies consisted of quality components which included 10 focus-group discussions in 5 cities of Ukraine and 10 deep interviews with rectors of HEI, officials in the sphere of education and leaders of key NGOs.

Information about SET methods

Corruption is perceived as an everyday activity in the sphere of higher education as a whole and specifically in admission campaigns.  According to the results of a nationwide poll conducted by the Promoting Active Citizen Engagement in Combating Corruption in Ukraine (ACTION) Project in 2007 on The State of Corruption in Ukraine, 46.3% of citizens feel that corruption is very widespread amongst the management of HEEs, while 34.5% believe it is only partially prevalent.  Almost 38% of respondents who gave bribes in higher education establishments  admitted that these were in relation to the enrollment process.

According to the definition, corruption at the enrollment stage to higher education establishments results in inequality for university entrants, which in turn violates the constitutional right to equality in education (Constitution of Ukraine. Article 53).

Thus, to fight corruption in the higher education admissions process, in 2003 SET (standardized external testing) was introduced. SET was aimed at evaluating graduates’ knowledge in various subjects. The results of such the  evaluation are indicated officially in the Certificate.

The standardized external testing (SET) approach is viewed as a way to make the admissions process more transparent, accountable, less susceptible to corruption, and thus more equitable. In April 2008, the SET is being rolled out nationwide with the assistance of the Millennium Challenge Corporation Threshold Program in Ukraine.

In 2008, it becomes obligatory for every entrant to use their SET results when applying to any establishment of higher education. It should be noted that one’s SET results can be applied as his/her State Summary Attestation results if one so desires.

The SET testing is organized by the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment (UCEQA) – a separate budgetary organization not affiliated with either general secondary education establishments or establishments of higher education. The tests are developed and kept secret and are transmitted to the testing locations using special communication means. Answer sheets completed by graduates are coded and sent for checking using the same communication means.

 Overall, the goal of standardized external evaluation is to make the knowledge assessment of graduates applying to establishments of higher education considerably more objective and unbiased, thus decreasing the opportunities for corruption in the admissions process.

The admission requirements of establishments of higher education have been modified accordingly.  UCEQA certificates for the corresponding subjects must be used instead of the establishment’s own oral and written exams. However, foreign language exams remain in place (SET modules for foreign languages have not been developed yet) and special forms of entry examinations may be used (for example, creative competitions) for admission to some departments.  At the same time, the special entry conditions that existed previously have been preserved in a modified form.

Please see ACTION’s website for more information:


Ukrainian-German projects on miner safety suspended

According to Ludmila Volynets, International Secretary of the Ukrainian Confederation of Free Trade Unions, cooperation between German and Ukrainian trade unions on ensuring miner safety is stopping.

For several years the Ukrainian Confederation of Free Trade Unions has cooperated with the Industrial Trade Union for Chemical, Energy and Mining Workers in Germany. The cooperation was largely in the area of improving safety and conditions of work for miners.

However the projects are now being terminated, Ms Volynets says. “In Germany at present they are cutting back on work in the coal mining field, with there being more convenient forms of electricity and therefore our project with the miners is being stopped.  Events in their field are more important now for Germans than strengthening the Ukrainian trade union movement”. The time has come to seek other areas of cooperation, although work safety remains an important focus for miners around the world, Ms Volynets says. She mentions also that Ukrainians are cooperating with the youth Industrial Trade Union of Germany, with the focus here being largely on social and labour relations and trade union rights.

In March a meeting is scheduled of the executive committee of the International Confederation of Trade Unions where the main issues of strategy, activity and goals in general of the trade union movement in Europe will be decided. Ukrainians will also have their representatives and a vote there.

Olha Vesnyanka

The right to health care

Kharkiv authorities stubbornly “reorganizing” tuberculosis epidemic

As reported here on several occasions, the Kharkiv authorities have unfolded plans which put not only the health and wellbeing of patients suffering from tuberculosis at risk, but place the public at large in danger, and could also jeopardize Kharkiv’s – if not Ukraine’s – chances of hosting Euro-2012. 

The plans involve effectively closing down a major part, and eventually all tuberculosis facilities in Kharkiv itself and sending patients to units in the Kharkiv region, despite the fact that the regional facilities are also stretched to the limit.

The authorities – city and regional – are squabbling over who must finance these healthcare facilities. All use the word “reorganization”, clearly aware that the words “reduction” and “closure” are all too brutal – though much closer to the truth.  The city authorities use the incredible argument that the money previously spent on maintaining the clinics is needed to prepare for Euro-2012.

By virtually closing anti-tuberculosis facilities in the city and forcing people who will most certainly not drive a BMW to travel long distances to get treatment, they are risking a serious increase in the number of cases of tuberculosis, yet are still even thinking about football.

It is highly disturbing that the authorities appear to be prepared to ignore a recommendation issued by the Ministry of Health on 6 February that the city authorities revoke their Order from 3 January which set these preposterous reductions in motion. Not to mention the outcry from medical institutions and trade unions, including the Kharkiv National Medical University and the Academy for Post-Graduate Studies, and the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

The Head of the City Department of Health has issued an order to prepare lists of patients to be discharged from three clinics by 27 February. The move is so staggeringly obviously dangerous that it seems redundant to provide a list of all the laws, as well as the Ukrainian Constitution, that the Kharkiv authorities are breaching. Suffice it to say that the list is long.

It is transparently obvious that the number of beds available must not be reduced. Even without the planned measures, there was a shortage of 1,425 beds at the beginning of this year.

As reported already, the number of people in Kharkiv (719) who contracted tuberculosis translates at 50 per 100 thousand head of population, whereas one speaks of epidemic proportions if this figure is more than 40. Of these, 321 were coughing or in other ways expelling bacteria.  The figure for the Kharkiv region was 1,936, of which 1810 had an active form of the disease. 554 people died.

As of 1 January this year, there were 4,728 people with an active form of tuberculosis in the Kharkiv region. 1500 of these are coughing up or otherwise expelling contagious bacteria and need inpatient treatment. Of this number 613 (298 in the region and 315 in Kharkiv itself) have a drug-resistant form and need to be in a clinic on a permanent basis.

  The Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor Vasyl Sinchuk has issued instructions to the City Prosecutor to appeal against the Order to reduce the resource facilities of Clinic No. 1. At the same time patients are being coaxed to agree to be moved to regional anti-tuberculosis units. These, however, are already overcrowded, and there is still no answer to the crucial question, this being where the patients are to go when their clinics are closed.  An answer is needed urgently.


(Halya Coynash)

If the State wants people to drink themselves into the grave, they’re going the right way about it

Every year in Ukraine 40 thousand people die as the result of alcoholism. This approximate figure is named by consultants on alcohol dependence, however the real figure could be much higher if one considers that alcohol can lead to very diverse human tragedies. Alcohol dependency is a problem that crosses all social and economic divides.

Tetyana Shmihirovska is a doctor who has 25 years experience in this field. She has noted an increase since September last year in the number of people who need help for alcohol abuse.

Each day she pulls out of a serious binge as many as three people in Lviv and the region, though sometimes she has to go much further away in response to calls for help.

Radio Svoboda’s correspondent accompanied Tetyana Shmihirovska on one of her call-outs in Lviv. The 35-year-old man, married with children, had become drinking heavily 7 years earlier when he got a job as a civil servant. Now every occasion where drinks were available turned into a week’s orgy of drinking. The family didn’t want to take him to the city clinic for drug and alcohol abuse because of the publicity, the fact that he would be put on the clinic’s register, and could lose his job and driving licence.  In their case the family could call out a doctor privately.

In that man’s case, the source of the problem was in a sense that he was not fulfilling himself, however asked what prompts people, she says that there are a huge number of causes, just as there are of people.

She does believe that one should pay attention to genetic factors, and that if some behaviour is passed on from generation to generation, it must come out.

In the city people drink, starting from young people of 15-17, up to the elderly, however the situation in the villages is catastrophic. It’s now winter, there’s less work and people have no money. They either can’t sell their livestock or earn virtually nothing for it, while what they earned in the summer has been spent.  In every household they make moonshine.

She says that in one district, she dealt with the patient she’d come to help, and found 4 women waiting to ask her to come to their husbands or sons.

There is even more such drinking now. Politicians are constantly telling people from their television screens that things will be bad and worse. Yes, unemployment is rising, people are not fulfilled at work, in their life and don’t see any future ahead. The main thing is that they feel unneeded in their own country. They don’t have anyone to turn to for help.

“I’m treating people whose children or spouse are living abroad. They want to be together but can’t because they won’t be able to cope in Ukraine if somebody isn’t working abroad”.

Tetyana Shmihirovska says that it’s much hard to treat women than men for alcoholism. She says that sometimes women begin by taking a glass so that their husbands will drink less, but she is called out by the children to treat both parents.

Alcoholism from beer is particularly dangerous and hard to treat.  She is appalled at seeing young people walking around with bottles of beer. She mentions a school in the district with a kiosk near it – kids buy buns, fruit juice and beer.  13-year-olds drink beer and then go off to their lessons.

She believes that a State policy could go somewhere to dealing with the problem but says that there are those who find it convenient that the population is drinking, dying early. “The less people, the less problems”. She does not believe that raising the price on alcohol will solve the problem. They’ll make up by drinking the cheapest things available, or technical spirit and there will be deaths from poisoning.

She believes there should be strict penalties for selling alcohol to people underage, and a lot of work on educating the public.

Heavily edited from an article at

On refugees

Should the police be entrusted with migration policy?

Changes in government migration policy are long overdue, and one must therefore welcome action by the Head of State aimed at introducing some order. The creation of a separate department to regulate government policy in this area is an obvious step.

Unfortunately doubts arise over the ability of a profile State committee to effectively work in this sphere. In fact the transformation of the State Committee on Nationalities and Migration into the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion was intended as the gradual transfer of the functions of the working committee in this direction to other departments. Staffing confusion, financing limitations and complaints from the Ministry of Internal Affairs have hampered the work of the State Committee on Nationalities and Religion over the last year.

However the specific decision of the National Defence and Security Council brought into force through Presidential Decree is not ideal for a number of reasons. The main objection is the effective subordination of the body carrying out government policy in the area of migration to the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). This option was actively discussed and lobbied by the MIA leadership (with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Turchinov) from the beginning of 2008. The initiators of this project cited the experience of some developed countries in which migration is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.  The problem is that in those countries the MIA is a civil body, and its “policing” and “criminal” direction is just one of its departments.

Ukraine’s MIA on the other hand inherited its structure from Soviet times and is virtually entirely the “criminal police”. The transfer of government migration policy will lead to all activities in this sphere, where there is undoubtedly a need for strategic changes, boiling down to the “fight against illegal migration”.

This struggle was one of four main focuses in MIA activity during 2008. In practice this means that “operation “Migrant””, which mainly involves checking documents of all those unfortunate enough to not have Slavonic facial features, and contributes considerably to the material position of ordinary police patrol officers, will become a permanent fixture.

Public statements by the Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko and his adviser Gennady Moskal who has most actively commented on migration issues (and who is, as far as one can judge, the main candidate for the leadership of the “separate central body of executive power on issues of migration”) suggest that for them all government migration policy will entail maximum restriction in the number of people coming to Ukraine.

Some experts draw attention to the likelihood of a financial motive behind the tug of war between various departments for control over migration. This is linked with the fact that considerable amounts are being allocated through European Union support for equipping temporary holding facilities. It is absolutely unacceptable that the delicate issue of migration policy which is important for the country should be used in the battle of control over cash flows.

Viacheslav Likhachev is the Editor of the bulletin “anti-Semitism, xenophobia and the rights of national minorities in Ukraine”.

Court practices

Why are court rulings not available to all?

Is it worth taking the housing and communal services department to court when the radiators are cold?  Can you get your job back through the courts if you’ve been unlawfully dismissed?  Each year millions paid in taxes are spent on ensuring that we can get answers to such questions easily and free of charge. According to figures from the State Judicial Administration, the website is visited by four thousand people each day. Yehor Sobolev believes this to be too few if one considers that it provides people with access to court rulings handed down. His Bureau of Journalist Investigations decided to investigate why people are not receiving information. 

The Law “On access to court rulings” was drawn up in 2005 by the then Deputy from the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko [BYuT], Vasyl Onopenko who is now Head of the Supreme Court.

We reported back in May 2006 that the procedure for keeping a Single State Register of Court Rulings had been approved by Cabinet of Ministers Resolution No. 740.  This stated that all copies of court rulings, with the exception of those declared state secrets, would be sent to the Single State Register.

Ihor Koliushko, Head of the Centre for Political and Legal Reform, which drew up the draft law, explains: “We wanted to ensure public monitoring of court rulings. We also understood that that could have a psychological impact on judges, discipline them”.

A new document was lying on Koliushko’s desk as he spoke, with the title “Rubbish tip of court rulings?”. Also prepared by the Centre, it gives their assessment of what eventuated.

What’s not working?

The author says that after several days where there was virtually no heat in the centrally controlled radiators, he checked the Register, typing in the relevant period and the word “heating”.  Surely someone must have taken the housing authorities to court. He tried other key words as well, each time getting the message that no results had been found meeting those criteria.

The author decided to check all rulings since the beginning of the year. If one is to believe the register, the court had not handed down any rulings.

In order to decide whether others are more successful, Sobolev’s Bureau of Journalist Investigations, together with Roman Holovenko from the Institute for Mass Information, chose five cases of public interest where judgment had been passed.  These were:

  1. A complaint by a woman over the demand to write her diagnosis on the medical certificate confirming that she was unable to work;
  2. Suspension by a judge of last year’s Decree from Yushchenko about early parliamentary elections;
  3. Accusations from the prosecutor’s office of officials over the Sknylivska tragedy (the terrible accident at an air show in Lviv in 2002);
  4. An appeal by Lviv residents against the housing and communal tariffs;
  5. The demand by 63 residents of Drohobych to declare unlawful the inaction of the City Council in not providing safe drinking water.

They approached a prominent law firm “Vasyl Kysil and Partners” and asked them to help find the rulings using the Register or the biggest commercial databases of legal information.

The firm found the following:

The State Register and the commercial database “NaU” had the ruling of the Lviv Administrative Court of Appeal regarding the Drohobych residents, but there was no indication as to whether this was final.

In the same two places they find the judgment of the Lviv Regional Economic Court regarding the Lviv residents. However it was stated that the ruling was being appealed in the Lviv Economic Court of Appeal, and that verdict was not available.

There was no information about the case of the “Sknylivska generals” or about the suspension of the President’s decree in the Register, or any commercial database.

The ruling upholding the right to not have ones diagnosis given on medical certificates was only found in “Liga.Law” (both the first ruling from the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv and the final ruling of the Kyiv Administrative Court of Appeal). In the commercial database NaU and, most importantly, in the free State Register, there was no information.  (Information about it in English can be found here: and at the URLs at the bottom of that page).

Why isn’t it there?

According to Andriy Bodelan, Head of the State enterprise responsible for maintaining the Register, the law envisages no liability of the courts which can send the rulings or not. His company, “Information judicial systems” is also responsible for removing surnames from the rulings however the names of companies, surnames of officials taking part in the process as well as of the judges who pass the ruling should be given in the Register.  The latter information is clearly of interest to any party to a case where the same judge is presiding.

According to “Information judicial systems”, out of 787 general jurisdiction courts functioning, 35 do not send their rulings at all.

This is not a question of money, just that the will is lacking. Almost all those that the author spoke with praised the Higher Economic Court. Long before the law was passed it created a full register of its own rulings and forced economic courts under its jurisdiction to do the same thing. This register is still considered the fullest in the country.  One vital feature of this register, according to the person generally considered its author, Leonid Bohdanov (at the time Deputy Head of the Court) is that records are kept at the stage of processing claims and no claim can be registered without adding it to the register.

Yehor Sobolev states that unfortunately the management of the State Judicial Administration were unable to meet with them to discuss the question of will.

He points out too the difficulties with the presently available databases. Liga-Law, for example, chooses court rulings which its lawyers believe are crucial for business. “NaU” has far more rulings with more than 2 million, against the State Register’s 3.3 million, however in everything else the difference between the State Register and NaU is immeasurable.  The main difference is in the ability to find the necessary ruling using keywords and other options. The State Register has only one similar option, via a keyword, and it very seldom works. It would seem that this is possible if no more than 30 people are using the Register at the same time.

Another aspect of the problem seems to be in inadequate financing of software and modernization needed.

Abridged and in places summarized from an article by Yehor Sobolev,, Bureau of Journalist Investigations “Svidomo”  at

Penal institutions

UHHRU Appeal on behalf of prisoners

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has addressed an appeal to President Yushchenko, Prime Minister Tymoshenko and the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn. It calls on them to use their legislative initiative to prepare and submit a draft law to protect the rights of prisoners to receive parcels without restriction.

It states that the organization has recently begun receiving numerous appeals from prisoners and their families expressing well-founded concern over significant restrictions to prisoners’ right to receive parcels.

“The applicants note with justification that the said restrictions have coincided with a severe economic crisis which will undoubtedly worsen the material and food situation for those deprived of their liberty, when this was already by no means always satisfactory.

Furthermore such restrictions have been reinstated against still unresolved epidemiological problems in penal institutions linked with tuberculosis, AIDS and other infectious diseases. According to our information, there are not just isolated cases of dystrophy among prisoners”.

UHHRU points out that not only is there public awareness of the problem and the need to resolve it, but that the situation had begun to improve. The Law on the Budget for 2007 had, for example, suspended Article 112 § 1 of the Penal Code restricting parcels for prisoners. Later in the Law on the Budget for 2008, and on amendments to some legislative acts from 28 December 2007, it seemed that the issue had been laid to rest, with the relevant articles of the Penal Code being changed.  Following this change, prisoners were receiving parcels without restrictions.

However a judgment of the Constitutional Court from 22 May 2008 stated that the Law on the Budget could not make amendments to other laws, suspend their force or revoke them since for objective reasons this created discrepancies in legislation and as a result cancellation and restriction of human rights and civil liberties.

Thus in a judgment which is not entirely unequivocal from the legal point of view (there were three separate opinions issued), the above-mentioned amendments to the Penal Code were declared unconstitutional  and the problem of material and food provisions for prisoners has re-emerged in a new crisis form. Once again there are restrictions incomprehensible from a criminological, not to speak of from an ethical point of view. Even for minimum security penal colonies, a limit has been placed of seven parcels and four parcels with printed matter during the year. Surely one does not need to provide any particular arguments to understand that with the present state of affairs (one parcel at best for 50 days) thousands, without any exaggeration, of Ukrainian citizens will be doomed to gradual starvation for lack of proper sustenance. And any denial, through for example an increase in financing for the material needs of prisoners in the current budget year cannot be taken seriously.

“Bearing in mind the above, we are turning to you and asking that you submit to the Verkhovna Rada as a matter of urgency the necessary draft law and that it is considered without waiting in the queue.

One could like to believe that despite political differences, such a draft law will be passed by an overwhelming majority of votes and will not encounter any significant objections. Particularly since the said amendments to the Penal Code had already been signed by all parties to the legislative process and the reason for its cancellation is based on considerations of a purely formal nature. As stated in the above-cited Judgment of the Constitutional Court, “where there is the need to suspend the force of laws, introduce amendments and additions or declare them null and void, separate laws shall be used”.


The letter is signed by Volodymyr Yavorsky, UHHR Executive Director

Legal aid to prisoners:

To the Prosecutor General Oleksandr Medvedko

 and the Head of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences, Vasyl Koshchynets

In its letter dated 8 November 2007, the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group informed the Head of the Bilozirska Penal Colony No. 105 that it was taking upon itself free legal aid to a number of prisoners moved from the Izyaslav Penal Colony No. 31 in January 2007, among them A.V. Bensyak should they face disciplinary measures. KHPG asked that the Head of the colony give prior notice of any disciplinary proceedings against A.V. Bensyak or the other prisoners listed.

We were not once given such notification and did not have the opportunity to provide legal aid although Bensyak and the other prisoners mentioned in the letter were on several occasions were subjected to such disciplinary proceedings. Such an attitude by the colony administration to the provision of legal aid during disciplinary proceedings places in question the fairness of such disciplinary measures.

Furthermore, on 5 February 2009, the Head of Bilozirska Penal Colony No. 105 refused to allow lawyer V.O. Pankiv to see Bensyak despite the fact that the lawyer had agreed with Bensyak’s mother on legal assistance. Prisoner A.V. Bensyak was thus artificially prevented from making a complaint against disciplinary proceedings. That strengthens our impression that the said proceedings were carried out with violations of elementary procedural requirements and that the penalties were unfounded. We cannot in any case find explanations for the stubborn resistance from the administration to any possibility for the prisoners to receive legal aid.

The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group is disturbed that such cases where prisoners are refused legal aid have become more frequent.  For example on 28 October 2008 the Head of the Temnivska Penal Colony No. 100 refused to allow Arkady Bushchenko to see a number of prisoners despite the fact that KHPG had, in accordance with the law, applied to the Head of the Colony, providing all necessary documents, even those which are not stipulated by the law, but which the Head had demanded.

On 28 November 2008 Arkady Bushchenko and A.S. Mukanova were unable to see their client who is held in the same Penal Colony No. 100, despite authorization from the prisoners, due to there being no person available to fulfil the functions of management staff of the colony.

We would ask you to provide the relevant instructions aimed at unrestricted access by prisoners to legal aid, especially during procedure related to disciplinary proceedings or appeals against such proceedings to the court.

Yours sincerely,

Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

Victims of political repression

Perpetrators of Holodomor named

Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU] has made public an updated list based on its archival material of those directly involved in organizing and carrying out Holodomor, the manmade Famine of 1932-1933.

The names have been established of 136 people who took decisions leading to the death of millions of people. They include: 19 heads of the All-Union Communist Party and highest bodies of Soviet power, the OGPU and GPU of the Ukrainian SSR; 8 heads of regional and district bodies of the GPU; 33 heads of secret political, economic and investigative departments and their deputies; 59 district authorized operations officers and their assistants; and 17 prosecutors and their deputies.

The interactive part of the tables makes it possible to open and see electronic copies of documents passed or signed by those individuals.  There is also an explanation of the content of documents which directly or indirectly caused the physical destruction of people, imprisonment, displacement, fall in the birth rate, high mortality from starvation, mental disorders.

The SBU Press Service says that documents about Holodomor have been declassified and made generally available. They should help to establish the specific perpetrators of the genocide.

The Head of the SBU Valentin Nallyvaichenko believes that the passing of a just verdict by the Ukrainian justice system and the world community is necessary in view of the moral duty before the victims of Holodomor. It will testify to the inevitability of punishment for crimes against humanity and about the overcoming of the terrible legacy of the Soviet past.

Abridged from the report issued by the SBU Press Service

Russia «Holodomor was not genocide»

Since the event in Moscow was for the world media’s benefit, here is the report from Associated Press which has since been widely reported in the Ukrainian media. No changes have been made, and we leave it without comment.

MOSCOW (AP) -- Russia issued a DVD and a thick book of historical documents on Wednesday to dispute claims that the Ukrainian famine of the 1930s amounted to genocide.

Russian archivists and historians pressed the Kremlin’s case that the Stalin-era famine -- which killed millions of people -- was a common tragedy across Soviet farmlands, countering efforts by Ukraine’s pro-Western president to convince the world that Ukrainians were targeted for starvation.

’’Not a single document exists that even indirectly shows that the strategy and tactics chosen for Ukraine differed from those applied to other regions, not to mention tactics or strategy with the aim of genocide,’’ said Vladimir Kozlov, head of Russia’s Federal Archive Agency.

He said the famine was a direct result of Josef Stalin’s brutal collectivization campaign and the widespread confiscation of grain that was exported to secure equipment needed for the Soviet dictator’s frenetic industrialization drive.

Kozlov said the policy was class-based, targeting the kulaks -- wealthy farmers seen as enemies of Communism -- and was implemented virtually identically across the Soviet Union.

’’There were no national or ethnic undertones,’’ he told a news conference at the headquarters of state news agency RIA-Novosti.

Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko contends the famine was aimed at rooting out Ukrainian nationalism.

’’Hunger was selected as a tool to subdue the Ukrainian people,’’ he said at a November ceremony marking the anniversary of what Ukrainians consider the onset of the 1932-1933 famine.

Ukrainian lawmakers and a U.S. commission have labeled the famine an act of genocide, and Yushchenko has pushed for more governments and international bodies to follow suit. However, neither the United Nations nor the European Union has done so.

The heated dispute over the past comes amid a mounting tug-of-war over the future of Ukraine, whose European aspirations and tight historical ties to Russia make for a potentially volatile mix.

Yushchenko is pushing for NATO membership, a prospect Russia has said it will do its utmost to prevent.

Russian officials have cast the genocide claim as part of an effort by Yushchenko to discredit Russia in he eyes of Ukrainians and the West.

Months before his death last summer, the renowned writer and Soviet dissident Alexander Solzhenitsyn dismissed the genocide claim as a ’’fable’’ that could only fool the West.

On Wednesday, Alexander Dyukov, director of Historical Memory, a Moscow-based foundation that helped organize Wednesday’s news conference, said: ’’It is aimed, among other things, at inciting ethnic hate, at tearing Ukraine away from Russia.’’

Journalists were given an English-language DVD and a 500-page book reproducing documents -- some of them recently declassified -- that are to be included in a three-volume study of the famine in the U.S.S.R. from 1929 to 1934.

They include letters portraying the dire situation at the time in what is now Russia and in other ex-Soviet republics and orders -- some with Stalin’s stamped signature in red ink -- denying pleas for a letup in grain procurement quotas. Other documents suggest officials in Ukraine misled Moscow about the extent of hunger there.

The famine’s death toll is disputed, but it is widely believed that it killed between 3 million and 7 million people in Ukraine.

Yushchenko has said as many as 10 million Ukrainians died, while Russian historian Valery Tishkov said more conservative estimates of 3.5 million deaths in Ukraine and 3.5 million in Russia are likely about twice the true toll.

Steve Gutterman, Associated Press

News from the CIS countries

Opposition activist buried in Belarus

The funeral has taken place in the city of Soligorsk (Minsk region) of Yana Polyakova. The 36-year-old human rights activist from the organization “Legal Aid for the Public” committed suicide a few days after her court sentence was passed. On 3 March in the Saligorsk District Court, she was convicted under Article 400 § 2 of the Criminal Code (“making a knowingly false accusation”). She was charged with giving false testimony against a police officer and sentence to 2.5 years restriction of liberty. She had also been ordered to pay the equivalent of 400 USD to the police officer as compensation for moral damages. Yana Polyakova asserted her innocence and maintained that the police officer had beaten her. Her colleagues say that she had often been detained for her opposition activities, and beaten in the police station, and that once they had almost broken her arm.  Oleg Volchek, Head of “Legal Aid for the Public” believes that there every justification in initiating a criminal investigation over Yana’s death under the Article of the Criminal Code “Driving a person to suicide”. He explained that Yana had tried to have a criminal investigation launched against the police station inspect and two unknown individuals who in September 2008 inflicted blows upon her in the Soligorsk Police Station. However the City Prosecutor refused to do this, and at the beginning of 2008, initiated criminal proceedings against Yana Polyakova herself which ended with her conviction on 3 March. Volchek said that the case was a disgrace. Yana had spoken of not being prepared to go to prison and had talked of suicide.

St Petersburg “Memorial” archives still not returned

On 24 February the St Petersburg City Court allowed a cassation appeal from the Prosecutor against the ruling of the Dzherzhynsky District Court from 20 January. The latter had found the search on 4 December 2008 of the research and information centre “Memorial” in St. Petersburg to have been illegal, and had ordered the Prosecutor to return all material removed.

The City Court revoked this ruling, deciding that that in the first instance court, the issue had not been sufficiently examined of the authority of lawyer Gabuny present at the search to represent Memorial’s interests.  The case has been sent for a new examination by the same court but with new judges. The date for the hearing has not yet been set.

The previous court ruling ordering the return of the material removed to its lawful owner has been annulled.

The hard discs of the computers containing the results of the St Petersburg Memorial Centre’s work over twenty years - a unique database on the history of Stalin’s Terror – thus continues to be held by the Prosecutor.

The research and educational work of the St Petersburg Centre is as a result to a large extent paralysed.

Today the St Petersburg City Court had the possibility to turn the page on the scandalous and absurd “case of the search of the Memorial Centre”. The Court did not avail itself of this opportunity. Its ruling will merely lead to procrastination and an escalation of a scandal which has already aroused international publicity.

Memorial for its part states that under the present conditions it sees no alternative but to conduct a consistent and full-scale defence of its rights, its professional reputation and good name by all lawful means at its disposal.

We will be regularly informing the Russian and international academic community of our further actions.

The International “Memorial” Society

Arseny Roginsky, Chair of the Board

The Research and Information Centre “Memorial” in St. Petersburg

Irina Flige, Director

Strasbourg condemns Russia for torture and enforced disappearances in Chechnya

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on 5 February found Russia guilty of violations of the European Convention over the torture of two men and the enforced disappearance of another six men in different locations in Chechnya between September 2001 and November 2002

In Khadisov and Tsechoyev v. Russia (21519/02) the ECtHR held Russia responsible for the illegal detention and torture of Salambek Khadisov and Islam Tsechoyev. Salambek and Islam,who had never met before, were detained on 23 September 2001 in the Sunhza district of Ingushetia. The next day a local court sanctioned their arrest for 3 days. On the same day they were illegally transferred first to a military base near Nazran, Ingushetia, where they were beaten, and later by helicopter to Khankala, the main Russian military base in Chechnya. Upon arrival they were thrown into a pit in the ground. They were held in the pit for 5 days and were only taken out for interrogation. During interrogations they were severely tortured. Salambek and Islam were subsequently transferred to the Sixth Department of the Organized Crime Unit of the Staropromyslovskiy district of Grozny and finally released on 12 October 2001. Upon release Salambek and Islam could hardly walk, the skin on their feet peeled off, and their faces and bodies were bloated and covered with haematomas.

The applicants in Khaydayeva and Others v. Russia (1848/04) are the relatives of five men who disappeared after being detained at a checkpoint near the village of Duba-Yurt, Chechnya, on 9 June 2002. Several eyewitnesses, including two members of the special police forces employed at the checkpoint, subsequently stated to investigators that soldiers belonging to the 348th battalion of Interior Ministry troops had detained Sayd-Salu Akhmatov, Mansur Ismailov, Suliman Malikov, Adlan and Aslan Khatuyev. For several years the authorities denied that they had ever arrested the five men. In October 2007 the Russian government informed the Court that it had detained the five men on 9 June 2002 but that it released them on 10 June 2002. However, it failed to produce any documents showing that the men were released. There has been no news of the five men since.

“Today’s judgment is a first step but now the Russian authorities must continue the investigation. We want to know what happened to our loved-ones and the perpetrators should be found and brought to justice,” said Aset Akhmatova, the mother of Sayd-Salu Akhmatov.

Idalova and Idalov v. Russia (41515/04) concerns the enforced disappearance of Marvan Idalov on 22 November 2002 after he was arrested by military servicemen in the village of Akhkinchu-Borzoy, Chechnya. Marvan has not been seen since.

In today’s judgments the ECtHR unanimously held that:

The right to life has been violated in respect of the six disappeared men who must be presumed dead (violation of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights);

The Russian authorities had failed to conduct effective investigations into the violations of the right to life (Article 2);

Salambek Khadisov and Islam Tsechoyev were subjected to torture (violation of Article 3);

The Russian authorities had failed to conduct an effective investigation into the allegations of torture (Article 3);

Salambek Khadisov, Islam Tsechoyev and the six disappeared men had been illegally detained (Article 5);

The manner in which the complaints of the relatives of the disappeared men were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (Article 3);

The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (Article 13).

The ECtHR awarded the applicants in the three cases a total of 286,000 euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages. The applicants were assisted in bringing their applications to the ECtHR by Russian Justice Initiative. On 12 February 2009 the Court will announce its judgments in two other cases concerning grave human rights abuse in Chechnya.

Russia: figures on racist violence still frightening

In January 2009 at least 39 people suffered racist and neo-Nazi attacks. 14 of them died.  The statistics are lower than for January 2008 when at least 59 people fell victim, with 15 of them killed.

The main centres of violence remain Moscow region (10 killed, 15 injured) and Petersburg region (2 killed, 7 injured). Attacks were also recorded in Yekaterinburg, Nizhny Novgorod, Novosibirsk, Ryazan and Ulyanovsk.

The largest number of people killed were from Central Asian republics, however there were attacks on many different people (black, people from South-East Asia, from the Caucuses and others).

In January this year an attempt was made to blow up one of the Macdonalds restaurants in Moscow following which a group of suspects was detained. They are suspected of a series of no less than five explosions in Moscow and Moscow region.

In the same month at least three guilty verdicts were passed down on 7 people in cases involving racist violence: in St Petersburg sentence was passed over a series of explosions under charges of terrorism (Article 205 of the Criminal Code); in Khabarovsk – on a charge of racially-motivated murder; and in the Kaluga region – on a charge of hooliganism and beating motivated by nationalism (and with the motive of hatred taken into account).

For some reason the motive of hatred was not reflected in the sentence against a right-wing radical who planted a bomb cast by the premises of the local branch of the FSB and shooting through a rifle at a group of people from the Caucuses. The court found him guilty of a knowingly false report of a terrorist attack (Article 207) and unmotivated hooliganism (Article 213 § 1).

At least four sentences were passed for xenophobic propaganda (with five people convicted) in Moscow, Tomsk, Krasnodar krai and Tyumen region (oblast).

At the end of January 2009 a religious group of old believers (starovery-inglingi) was found to be extremist in Adyga – for the use of a swastika in their symbols. Before that analogous organizations had been banned in Omsk and Krasnodar krai, with the court ruling mentioning not only the swastika but also racist elements in the religious teachings as such.

Additions were made three times to the federal list of extremist literature, increasing from 301 to 314 items. Thus by 1 February 305 works were included in the list (9 of which figure in the list twice).

The Sova Centre

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2009, #02