“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2009, #04
CVU: Politicians are hampering electoral reform in Ukraine Privacy
UHHRU Open Appeal against collection of biometric data Freedom of expression
Prosecutor General tops IMI “Press Enemies – 2008 list National Union of Journalists names enemies of journalism New Resolution on defending honour and dignity Access to information
Journalists win law suit against Verkhovna Rada over information Environmental rights
We didnt live through Chernobyl, we are living through it On refugees
Georgian film director held as illegal immigrant threatens hunger strike Interethnic relations
How to provoke a pogrom Penal institutions
Discrimination of prisoners an ongoing problem Human rights protection
UHHRU Declaration of Ethical Principles News from the CIS countries
Lack of Ukrainian language schools in Russia because the languages are “closely-related” European Court of Human Rights Condemns Russia for 13 disappearances in Chechnya Prosecutor General again ignores human rights concerns
CVU: Politicians are hampering electoral reform in Ukraine
On 7 April the Committee of Voters of Ukraine held a press conference on “Electoral reform in conditions of political crisis” with the participation of the Head of the CVU Board Oleksandr Chernenko and the Deputy Head Yevhen Radchenko.
The following points were noted:
- The adverse effect of the political crisis on electoral reform. He said that most politicians viewed changes to electoral legislation from the vantage point of their own narrow corporate interests, with their main concern being to ensure that their factions are represented as widely as possible in the future parliament;
- At present there are 8 draft laws tabled in the Verkhovna Rada proposing a system for electing National Deputies according to open candidate lists, yet their consideration is being stymied by party leaders. The profile committee has not even considered any of these draft laws. CVU points out that implementation of an electoral system based on open candidate lists was one of the points of the coalition agreement and therefore the adoption of such amendments could remove argument regarding the viability of the parliamentary coalition;
- CVU calls on the profile committee to begin consideration of these draft laws;
- “CVU considers that the holding at the same time of Presidential and early elections for National Deputies could be a way out of the political crisis and provide qualitative renewal of the Ukrainian political realm. However in CVU’s view, the holding of such elections would only be possible with the consensus of the political forces represented in parliament and on condition that changes are made to electoral legislation.”
- It stresses that under current legislation it is virtually impossible to hold concurrent presidential and parliamentary elections. It suggests that a way around this would be to pass a special law, this including procedure for holding concurrent elections, and a “political component” with National Deputies being elected according to open candidate lists. It considers it unacceptable to worsen electoral procedure in the running of any elections;
- It does not believe it realistic to hold concurrent elections on 25 October;
- It would be realistic to launch a single voter register however its quality would not be ideal.
- It stresses that given changes to the electoral system and a considerable number of procedures, major programmes for training electoral commission staff would be needed, and also as many international observers as possible.
- CVU believes that open candidate lists would lead to an improvement in the quality and responsibility of the deputy corps; contribute to the running of administrative-territorial reform; the reduction in the influence of party leaders on the formation of candidate lists and ensure mutual link between voters and deputies. It names specific draft laws it considers most adequate;
- It considers that a system of open regional lists where National Deputies would be elected from 27-40 electoral districts is best.
- It proposes a four-tier system of electoral commissions;
- CVU proposes keeping the threshold at 3%, but 5% for electoral blocs. Each political party taking place in the elections would be obliged to put forward a candidate list in each electoral district, but there would also be a State-wide candidate list
- It acknowledges that the procedure for counting votes under such a system is quite complicated this being another reason why training of electoral commissions is vital;
- It points to a number of failings in the Law on Presidential Elections which would need to be removed in a special law were presidential and parliamentary elections to be held concurrently;
- It calls on the Verkhovna Rada to make amendments and additions to the Law on Presidential elections as a matter of urgency.
Based on information from the CVU Press Service at www.cvu.org.ua
UHHRU Open Appeal against collection of biometric data
On 14 April 2009 the Verkhovna Rada adopted amendments to the Law “On the legal status of foreign nationals and stateless persons” which allows for the collection by all Ukrainian consulates and diplomatic offices of biometric data when issuing visas, as well as by border guards at the State border. This procedure is to be introduced from 1 January 2010.
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is calling on the President to use his power of veto against this law, since it:
- violates fundamental human rights;
- will involve considerable expense from the State Budget without clear justification of the need and efficacy of such measures;
- does not achieve its declared purpose, of increasing national security.
Violation of fundamental human rights
The collection of biometric data is a flagrant and disproportionate restriction of civic rights, in particular the right to privacy, guaranteed by numerous international agreements to which Ukraine is a party.
Ukraine lacks personal data protection both at legislative level, and in practice. Databases with personal information are freely sold at city markets and on the Internet. This law would mean that biometric data about foreign nationals could also become accessible.
Ukraine has not ratified the Council of Europe Convention No. 108 for the Protection of Individuals with regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (1981) which establishes the proper safeguards in this area.
The European Court of Human Rights has on many occasions noted that the collection, processing and use of personal data without proper guarantees of their protection, as set down, for example, in Convention No. 108, is an unequivocal violation of Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
In the EU which is planning to introduce such collection, the USA, Japan and other countries, the collection of biometric data is taking place against the background of many years’ experience of effective legislative and administrative practice with personal data which does not exist in Ukraine.
There is thus the likelihood of an increase in applications from foreign nationals to the European Court of Human Rights against Ukraine, as well as the possibility of other adverse impact on relations with other countries as a result of mass leakage of information with biometric data about their nationals.
It is clear that when biometric data (fingerprints, etc) of a well-known foreign national end up freely sold in Ukraine that this can be of interest to criminals which will not pass unnoticed.
The introduction of discriminatory procedure for treatment of all foreign nationals as though they are criminals will certainly not make our country more attractive to the thousands of tourists and businesspeople who come to Ukraine. This is especially strange to observe before the holding of EURO-2012”., especially since the authorities cannot guarantee the security and protection of this data.
The introduction of this system would obviously slow down movement of people at the border and significantly increase queues at passport control.
Considerable expense from the State Budget without clear justification of the need and efficacy of such measures
At present collection of biometric data is not mandatory in international law, and remains the internal matter of each country.
The draft law was passed in haste without discussion, proper assessment of the consequences. Parliament immediately passed it in its first and second, final reading.
Such hasty procedure for sending 12.5 million UAH of public money which also flagrantly violates human rights, cannot fail to be of concern.
This financial estimate is, moreover, excessively superficially since the real cost of the plan have not been calculated, with the cost of such equipment for each diplomatic mission, border point and a central server, not being taken into account. Other costs not considered include training, maintaining the equipment, holding and processing the information, and many other expenses. The USA has already spent over 1.7 billion USD on such a system.
One feels that the given draft law was more likely designed to meet the economic interests of a specific enterprise which will supply the equipment, than the country’s interests. This is despite the fact that these interests will be met from public funding. The State is already dependent on one private enterprise which deals with the preparation of passports and this law will only increase such dependence. This can only place national security in jeopardy.
No increase to national security
Introduction of a system of collecting biometric data is an ill-considered move copying the most ineffective experience of certain countries which will not achieve its stated aim, that being to ensure national security. The practice of countries which have brought in analogous systems shows that there are many other more effective methods for identifying criminals at the border (for example, checking the passport against the Interpol database).
The proposed measures remains of little benefit due, for example, to its unreliability, vulnerability to interference from outside individuals and many other factors.
The assessment, for example, by the US Government of its system US-VISIT showed that:
- after spending 1.3 billion USD only half of the system was launched during the next 4 years;
- spending continues on the project, with this being “not clearly stipulated, planned or justified in terms of the cost, possible achievements and risks”
- the government is continuing to finance the system without it being linked with border and migration policy;
- control over determining computer and software-related risks was inadequate which prompted serious operational, technical and managerial challenges;
- poor security increases the risk of unauthorized reading, copying, destruction, addition or modification of sensitive personal data
According to the Head of the Senate Committee on National Security, D. Lieberman, the US Government “spent 1.7 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money on a programme for identifying potential terrorists at the border, yet did not take security measures to protect this sensitive information from them” which renders meaningless the efficiency of this system against international criminals and terrorist groups.
It is therefore no surprise that there are frequent hiccups in the work of this system in the USA which leads to the suspension of the work of airports and other forms of transport because foreign nationals cannot be admitted.
There are similar problems in the EU although only in planning collection of biometric data.
Clearly problems and expense for Ukraine in introducing such a system will be no less, and probably considerably more given a badly prepared infrastructure. And the risks are also much greater.
It is also clear that if the Ukrainian State databases are unprotected and freely sold then the biometric data in them will not be difficult to copy, add to, destroy or change where needed, especially if one is talking of organized crime and terrorism. In other words this system is so sensitive with such a huge number of users, that it cannot serve as an effective barrier for protecting national security, and will be only a means of control over people, and create problems and difficulties for millions.
The introduction of a system for collection of biometric data does not in fact protect national security and Ukraine’s national interests, but will lead to mass-scale violations of fundamental human rights and is economically unjustified especially given the present economic crisis.
In view of this, we would ask you to use your power of veto on this law and to ask parliament to reject it.
Arkady Bushchenko, Head of the UHHRU Board
Volodymyr Yavorsky, UHHRU Executive Director
Freedom of expression
Prosecutor General tops IMI “Press Enemies – 2008 list
The Institute for Mass Information (IMI) and the Independent Media Trade Union have published their list of “Enemies of the Press in 2008”.
The Prosecutor General ousted the Mayor of Kyiv Leonid Chernovetsky who after being the first laureate of this more than dubious honour has slipped into fourth place.
This is the third year that IMI and the Independent Media Trade Union have monitored which politicians and public officials have most threatened freedom of speech.
Their not-exactly “top ten” are:
- Oleksandr Medvedko, Prosecutor General – for terminating the criminal investigation against former National Deputy Oleh Kalashnikov (over the assault on an STB film crew); for lack of progress in the Gongadze case; for failing to respond over prominent crimes against journalists; failure to react to the armed seizure of the TV and radio broadcasting company “Krym” by Crimean deputies to stop a journalist programme about NATO.
- Yury Lutsenko, Minister of Internal Affairs – over conflict with a television channel and journalist; and over the beating by police officers of photographers during a protest over unlawful construction in Kyiv.
- Owners of media outlets – over numerous dismissals with infringements of labour rights; paying wages in envelopments and failure to observe labour legislation.
- Leonid Chernovetsky, Mayor of Kyiv – for failure to provide journalists with information about the Kyiv City State Administration and the Kyiv City Council; for conflict between his press service and an STB journalist who tried to ask him questions
- Volodymyr Kovalenko, Mayor of Nova Kakhovska
- Serhiy Kivalov, National Deputy (over a bizarre case involving conflict with STB journalist Ihor Yakovlev, which led to an initial court ruling sentencing the latter to 6 years imprisonment (this was later quashed at appeal)
- Rinat Akhmetov, National Deputy over a defamation suit demanding 100 thousand dollars (in a London court)
- Yury Kuvita, Head of the Department of Health for the Cherkasy Regional Administration – the media in the region are not allowed into medical establishments and not given any explanation. This began after a serious of features and articles about the criminal case against doctors of the Cherkasy district hospital in Chervona sloboda
- Hanna Shevchuk, Head of the Baryshiv District Council (Kyiv region)
- Mykola Nykitin, Deputy of the Lutsk City Council
(where no “sins” are itemized, they in one way or another involve pressure on journalists)
From information at www.imi.org.ua
National Union of Journalists names enemies of journalism
In the run up to Press Freedom Day on 3 May Ukraine’s National Union of Journalist has published its list of enemies of Ukrainian journalism. The list is made up of public officials who in some way resisted or hampered the media’s free and publicly significant work.
In 2008/2009 the following people, in the Union’s view, deserved this anti-award:
Mykola Veres, Head of the Oktyabrsky District Court of the Sumy region (on last year’s list as well). He is suing the newspaper “Panorama” which published an article about conflict between Judge Veres and a deputy of the city council. The amount demanded in compensation is extremely high – 300,000 UAH.
Hryhory Kalyetnik, former Head of the Vinnytsa Regional State Administration and Ihor Kalyetnyk, a National Deputy from the Communist Party. They lodged a suit against the Vinnytsa newspaper “33 kanal” over value judgements regarding these politicians’ activities and letters from the staff of the newspaper to the Speaker of Parliament and National Deputies regarding pressure on the newspaper.
Two judges are on the list in connection with this case: Tetyana Izmailova who allowed the two men’s claim and Natalya Horelkina from a court of appeal who upheld the ruling.
There are three other judges: Olena Kalchenko, Mykhailo Borodin and Oleksandr Shostak.
Victoria Shylova is theGeneral Director of the Dnipropetrovsk regional TV and radio broadcasting, who received the position despite the opposition of a large part of the staff, and who unlawfully dismissed a group of journalists.
Felix Segal, acting Head of the Rozdilnyansky District Administration (Odessa region), who in March this year summoned the Editor of a district newspaper and demanded that she take out material from the font page.
The list also includes other heads of administrations, and deputies.
Judge Olena Kalchenko, from the Desnyansky District Court in Kyiv allowed the defamation claim by Y. Symonenko against two journalists of Blitz-Inform (Maxim Birovash and Serhiy Komyshev, as well as against the publication. As reported, the Supreme Court cancelled all rulings into the case and sent it back to the same Diesnyansky Court for a new examination.
From information at: http://unian.net/ukr/news/news-313636.html
New Resolution on defending honour and dignity
An event awaited 18 years has finally taken place: the Plenum of the Supreme Court has issued Resolution No. 1 “On court practice in cases defending the honour and dignity of individuals, as well as the business reputation of individuals and legal entities”.
The previous Resolution – No. 7 from 1990 – with a similar name, despite constant cosmetic changes over the years, was hopelessly out of sync with current legislation and the development of social relations. It preceded, after all, not just a huge number of vital laws and codes, but the adoption of Ukraine’s Constitution and ratification of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
A new Resolution was therefore undoubtedly needed, especially given that with the workload on ordinary courts, judges quite often confine themselves to reading only the Supreme Court Resolution.
In our view the main thing in Resolution No. 1 is that the Plenum directly indicates to judges that they should apply the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (the Convention) as a source of law (Item 2). While this obviously follows from Article 17 of the Law “On enforcing judgments and applying the case law of the European Court of Human Rights”, judges, especially on the outskirts, have difficulty coping with such radical shifts, since we were all once taught that in our legal system a precedent is not a source of law.
It is also important that a reminder is given in Item 21 that public figures are less protected from criticism than ordinary individuals. Admittedly the Plenum for some reason does not demand that judges apply European Court precedents (Lingens v. Austria, Oberschlik v. Austria, Prager and Oberschlik v. Austria, Castells v. Spain, etc), which are a source of law for us, but recommendations – the Declaration on freedom of political debate in the media of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers from 12.02.2004 and PACE Resolution No. 1165 (1998) on the Right to Privacy (although the right to privacy and to honour and dignity are far from the same thing).
The Plenum has finally also directly stated that an apology cannot be a way of reinstating violated rights (Item 26). This is, after all, a category of morality, not of law. The court cannot order somebody to apologize, just as it cannot force a person to respect or love another. Unfortunately the courts (especially first instance courts) fail to understand this and allow court suits demanding an apology.
It is useful to have a clear focus on the fact that cases defending honour, dignity and business reputation cannot be examined according to the rules of the Code of Administrative Justice since such disputes do not have a public legal nature even where someone in a position of power is one of the parties. There have, unfortunately, been cases where such suits have been accepted for consideration by some district administrative courts. For example, the District Administrative Court in Kyiv in September 2007 allowed a suit lodged by Yulia Tymoshenko, then simply leader of BYUT, as well as three members of this bloc against member of the Party of the Regions Inna Bohoslovska. The information circulated by the latter was found by the court to have been inaccurate.
It is very good that judges have finally had it directly pointed out that it is far from always the case that publications’ editorial offices are legal entities (Item 9). I have known only two cases where a judge though to check the legal status of the editorial office of the respondents, and another twenty or so where they paid no attention to this point. Often judges (even of appellate courts) simply don’t understand that a certificate of registration of a printed media outlet is not a substitute for a certificate of registration of a business person or entity. Frankly, in some hopeless cases it has been necessary to consciously use this, albeit losing, but gaining a judgment which can’t be enforced with the respondent legally not existing. One could, however, argue about why the Plenum has stipulated that the founder is responsible for the actions of an editorial office which is not a legal entity, or a structural part of such an entity. The beginning of the thought process was correct, with an institution which prepares and produces a printed work having to answer for it, however who says that such preparation is carried out by the founder, and not, for example, the publisher? Legislation does not clearly address this issue. Article 41 of the Law “On Printed Mass Communication Media (the Press) in Ukraine”, names as potential respondents the founder, publisher and even the distributor. The Plenum however at its own discretion has “assigned!” as respondent only the founder.
An extremely positive element is that the Resolution indicates the need to distinguish between assertions about facts and value judgments. This norm has been in the Law on Information since 2003. Although this is some move towards European standards of freedom of expression, the legislators immediately took a retrograde step saying that offence can not be used as protection guaranteed for the rest of value judgments. The European Court of Human Rights was forced specifically for Ukraine to reiterate in the judgment “Ukrainian Press Group v. Ukraine”, from 29.03.2005, that value judgments could easily be both insulting and shocking, if they have sufficient factual basis. For example, the Court found in the 1997 case Oberschlik v. Austria (2) that the word “idiot” in a specific article “An Idiot, not a Nazi” could not be considered libellous or insulting, but an element of political polemics. Our Plenum has, unfortunately, yet again stated that if a subjective view is expressed in a brutal or denigrating form, then the respondent may be ordered to pay moral compensation (Item 19). Thus Resolution No. 1 although it calls for European Court of Human Rights case law to be used as a source of law, itself in this case does not do so.
It is also to be welcomed that the Plenum has finally touched on procedural issues regarding the retraction of information contained on the Internet (Item 12). For technical reasons the Internet enjoys a much greater level of freedom of expression than printed or audiovisual media outlets. It is no secret that some Internet resources are created for the specific purpose of discrediting a particular individual or legal entity. A number of procedural issues arise in court cases of this nature, first and foremost, determining the proper respondent. The Plenum obliges the claimant to themselves establish the author or owner of the website which should be held to answer. There are two difficulties here. Firstly, from a legal point of view, the website may not have an owner and may therefore simply be part of the virtual realm. Clearly the Plenum has in mind the owner of the domain name. Secondly, in order to establish such an owner, sometimes several court proceedings are required. The author of this article, for example, has had on occasion to lodge appeals against the provider, and the registrar of the domain name www.temnik.com.ua in order to force them to name the owner of the domain (the proper respondent). And it is not guaranteed that such suits will be successful. In principle, one can found out about owners of a domain on the Ukrainian segment of the Internet at https://hostmaster.net.ua/?domadv however nobody is liable for the accuracy of the information there.
The Plenum has partially addressed this problem by establishing that information about the owner of a website (domain name) may be required through the Civil Procedure Code of the administrator of the system for registering and recording domain names and addresses of the Ukrainian segment of the Internet.
The Plenum has left out the issue of liability for circulating inaccurate information on Internet forums and guest books. Here the owner merely places a blank notice board where authors can freely express their views. Should the owner of such a “notice board” be answerable for the content of the notices since after all there is no procedure for providing consent for its publication? One would think that it would be virtually impossible to provide the owner’s guilt. However in such situations where there is no clarity, there have already been unfortunate examples in our closest neighbours. In the Russian Federation a law suit brought by “Troika Steel” was allowed against the limited liability company Megasoft. An unidentified individual had placed “Troika Steel” on a “blacklist of metallurgic companies” on the Megasoft resource, and moral compensation from the latter was ordered at appeal and cassation levels. In the West in such cases they endeavour to hold the actual authors of the information in dispute liable. In the USA in the year 2000 the brothers Raymond and Richard Constancio, as well as Yefraim Morris, were charged with having 15 months earlier placed on the Yahoo Financial Bulletin 16 thousand compromising messages under various nicknames about the company Biomatrix, this reducing the value of its shares from 35 to 21 dollars. It was Yahoo which helped find the offenders through their IP, although only when this was ordered by the court. In Ukraine no precedent has yet been created.
Another positive aspect is the reminder to courts of the need to bear in mind Constitutional Court Judgment from 10 April 2003 No. 8/2003. According to this statements to the law enforcement agencies reporting violations of citizens’ rights cannot be considered as circulation of information smearing honour, dignity or business reputation, or harming a person’s interests. Admittedly the Plenum slightly edited the Constitutional Court Judgment: if the author of the report to the law enforcement agencies was not guided by motives of public duty or protection of his/her rights, then s/he should answer in accordance with the law for giving the law enforcement agencies incorrect information (Item 16).
It is also good that the Plenum has clearly set out the final deadline for enforcement of a court order for retraction in the media, this being no more than a month after the ruling came into force. It is not so good that this timeframe is not passed on any legislative act. If the Plenum had paid attention to the content of Article 1 of the Law “On Printed Mass Communication Media (the Press) in Ukraine”, they would have understood that some publications in fact only come out once a quarter or once a year, so how can they publish a retraction within a month?
One can also welcome the instruction of the Plenum on establishing moral damages: “the amount of pecuniary compensation awarded should be commensurate with the damage caused and should not lead to the media outlet being forced to cease its activities”.. (Item 27) It does, admittedly, remain a mystery which specific law the Plenum was providing explanation for in this way. A draft law by Y. Pavlenko and S. Pravdenko with this wording was indeed tabled in the Verkhovna Rada six years ago, however it was not passed.
The bad points
One cannot ignore some failings of Resolution № 1. Sometimes it is in breach of current legislation, while sometimes it contradicts itself.
It is unclear why the Plenum ignored Article 302 of the Civil Code in favour of Article 42 on the Press, stating that only the latter contains an exhaustive list of grounds for waiving liability for publication of inaccurate information (Item 22). After all, Article 302 of the Civil Code also releases from liability for publishing information from any official sources (information from public bodies or bodies of local self-government, reports, shorthand records, etc).
In our view, the explanation of the right of reply can also be debated. The Plenum concluded that only in retraction is the circulated information recognized as inaccurate, while in exercising the right of reply a person has the right to express their point of view without saying that the information is inaccurate (Item 5). Certainly in the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe Resolution from 1974 “On the right of reply – the position of the individual in relation to the press”, this was how it was envisaged: any individual or legal entity spoken about in the press had the right of reply regarding information they considered inaccurate. However the Ukrainian legislators have taken another path, envisaging the right of reply in Article 277 of the Civil Code – “retraction of accurate information”) Article 37 of the Law “On Printed Mass Communication Media (the Press) in Ukraine” directly states that retraction can be in the form of a reply.
The interpretation by the Plenum of paragraph 3, Item 4, Article 277 of the Civil Code is also controversial, this stating that if the circulator of inaccurate information is unknown, the onus of proving that the information is wrong falls upon the claimant. What in that case has happened to the “presumption of good faith” enshrined in Item 3 of the same Article: negative information about a person or entity is considered untrue until its circulator proves the opposite? According to the Plenum’s logic, if the circulator has concealed himself well, then the negative information is already not considered a priori incorrect? This conclusion of the Plenum would seem rather debatable.
Unfortunately Resolution No. 1 does not mention the provision of Article 17 of the Law “On state support of media outlets and the social protection of journalists”: “The journalist and / or media outlet shall be waived of liability for circulating information which does not comply with the truth if the court establishes that the journalist acted in good faith and did carry out a check.” After all such a norm is in keeping with a whole number of precedents from the European Court of Human Rights.
There are also some faults with terminology. The Resolution for some unknown reason three times replaces the constitutional term “inaccurate” with the word “untruthful”. They are not entirely synonymous.
[Viacheslav Yakubenko’s point here is better explained: the term “dostovirna” is literally translated as “authentic”, “reliable”, with the opposite being, therefore, “inauthentic”, “unreliable”. The terms sound strange in English so I have used “inaccurate”, as opposed to the term he mentions being used three times “nepravdyva” – untruthful. The author says that the latter is absolute and objective, while the term “nedostovirna” is a subjective characterization of the information at a given moment. Perhaps the point is that the first may be wrong, but given in good faith. He cites the example of reports in 2002 of a terrible crime apparently involving the rape and murder by a 14-year-old of his sister, and similar cases reported in the media later. All cases were reported in good faith although it was in fact established in 2007 that the crimes had been committed by the “Ukrainian Chikatilo” – Serhiy Tkach. Thus the information provided by the media had seemed reliable and only later proved false (translator).
It might be more conscientious to establish the circle of individuals who can lodge an appeal in the event of inaccurate (nedostovirna) information being circulated about a person. Besides the person him- or herself, Article 32 of the Constitution and Article 277 § 1 of the Civil Code give this right only to members of the family, and not to relatives and other interested parties, as is stated in the Resolution (Item 6 § 1). Clearly another norm is mixed in here, on the right to have information about a person deceased refuted (Article 277 § 2 of the Civil Code). However the Resolution speaks of this more correctly in the next paragraph. We would remind the reader that the Supreme Court Plenum is not authorized to create new norms of law.
The fact that the Resolution was prepared in haste can also be seen from a rather comical detail: the word “inviolability” is used with an error three times. (The difference would roughly be between the legal term “inviolability”, and a term with a very different scope of meaning, more or less “untouched” or virginal (translator).
General Conclusion: Supreme Court Plenum Resolution No. 1 is a right step towards balancing the constitutional right to freedom of thought and speech, the right to freely express ones views and convictions on the one hand, and the right to respect for human dignity and judicial protection of the right to have inaccurate information refuted, on the other. At the same time, it requires improvement and harmonization with current legislation.
Very slightly adapted
Access to information
Journalists win law suit against Verkhovna Rada over information
The newspaper “Delo” has won court confirmation of its right to receive information which the Verkhovna Rada keeps from the public.
The District Administrative Court in Kyiv allowed a claim lodged by “Delo” (officially, the publishing house “Economica”) and ordered the Verkhovna Rada to reveal information about money spent on State-run sanatoria for National Deputies. The information had been officially requested back in July last year.
The newspaper had asked about the amount spent on such sojourns in sanatoria by Deputies of the sixth term of parliament in 2008. The information request had been ignored.
Now, according to the Court ruling, the Parliamentary Office must provide information about the amount paid to National Deputies last year for such health restoration measures and on the number of parliamentarians who made use of the benefits. They must also within a month provide information about the number of Deputies who actually visited these sanatoria last year.
The Office has also been ordered to provide information about how preparation is going for implementing the information and analytical system “Rada-4”. This system is supposed to be able to identify Deputies when voting by their fingerprint which would make it impossible (as now happens en masse – translator) for parliamentarians to vote using colleagues’ cards. Former Speaker Arseny Yatsenyuk promised to implement Rada-4 by September 2008. According to “Delo” information, its cost is in excess of 6 million UAH.
The Court did not, however, allow the claims asking for lists of Deputies who were in queue in 2008 to receive a flat or compensation for its purchase. It explained this by saying that this information is considered information about the property of a civil servant, and not about his or her political activities and the information is therefore confidential. It added that the journalists did not have the consent of the Deputies to receive this information. A conflict arises here, however, since how can journalists obtain the Deputies’ permission to publish the information if the Parliamentary Office conceals their identiy?
According to Petro Boiko, Vice-President of the Ukrainian Union of Bar Lawyers, publication of the names of Deputies applying for accommodation or for compensation for this, cannot be confidential. In his view the only confidential information would be the actual address of a politician.
“Delo” is planning to file another suit against the Verkhovna Rada over violation of the law on information. The Parliamentary Office is ignoring requests to provide its report on implementation of the cost list of expenses of the Verkhovna Rada in 2008, as well as that for 2009. In accordance with Article 9 of the Law “On fighting corruption”, information about income, securities, real estate and valuables, as well as bank deposits of officials and their families must be published on an annual basis. Among the officials listed in the relevant law are the President, the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada and his deputies, the Chairpersons of permanent parliamentary committees, National Deputies, the Prime Minister and Members of the Cabinet of Ministers, judges of the Constitutional Court, the Prosecutor General and others.
The original law suit was lodged in autumn 2008 as part of a project on improving public participation in fighting corruption. It is being implemented by the Institute for Mass Information together with Management Systems International, with the financial support of USAID.
We didnt live through Chernobyl, we are living through it
On the eve of today’s 23rd anniversary of the Chernobyl Disaster, the BBC Ukrainian Service spoke with biologist Natalya Preobrazhenska, Head of the Board of the Charity “Saving Ukraine’s Children from the Chernobyl Disaster” and expert for the Verkhovna Rada National Commission on Radiation Safety
She says that doctors have found that the level of oncological disease has risen significantly in Ukraine since the Disaster. She is calling for a State programme “Healthy Nation” and accuses the authorities of a lack of attention to the issue of Chernobyl.
N. Preobrazhenska I don’t think that the truth about Chernobyl has yet surfaced. At present specialists argue about whether or not any nuclear fuel remains there. They say that only 3-4% was released, while many specialists say that all 192 tonnes were released. That is very important. If the mine really is empty, and there isn’t any nuclear fuel, that means that it all came out and travelled the World. Japanese authors have proven that on 19 May 1986 radionuclides from Chernobyl were found in a feeding mother’s milk in Japan. We need therefore to review the likely doses that those involved in the liquidation process received in that first year.
Over 23 years a lot has not been done and consciously not done because the people who hushed it up remain in their jobs. This issue needs serious specialist consideration. There are no new specialists. In Ukraine we cannot build more nuclear power stations.
You are the head of the Board of the Charity “Saving Ukraine’s Children from the Chernobyl Disaster”. Do you think that children in Ukraine still need to be saved from the consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster?
N. Preobrazhenska After the Chernobyl Disaster we are living on the same territory. I mean the 12 regions contaminated with radioactive particles, and therefore children living there are ill, and that’s already the children of those who were children at the time. For example, a lot of those evacuated from Prypyat, live in Kyiv. We checked 115 children born of those who in childhood received radiation. All 115 are ill, with 3-4 illnesses each. A whole range of illnesses like a 40-year-old might have.
Ms Preobrazhenska says there is no doubt that this is related to the Chernobyl Disaster. The strontium and caesium which penetrated people’s bones and muscles can be identified.
In its last report the UN said that the greatest harm for the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant had been in the psychological consequences
N. Preobrazhenska The International Atomic Energy Agency should concern itself with the safety of nuclear power stations and not propagandize nuclear energy. My attitude on the biased nature of that report was published in America. There was no study at the time of the liquidators’ health. Ten days of irradiation of the environment covered the entire planet with its black wing. Radionuclides spread through all of Europe. They were in Scandinavia, in Turkey, Africa and Brazil.
How does radiation affect human cells?
N. Preobrazhenska It breaks down DNA. Then the genome is effectively destroyed and all the damage will be passed on at the third or fourth generation. …
Are we talking about cancer of the thyroid gland?
N. Preobrazhenska Yes, however the WHO has acknowledged that breast cancer is also linked with Chernobyl. Moreover urologists have show that cancer of the pancreas in men is also connected with the Chernobyl Disaster.
Can you explain this paradox? People who are living in the Chernobyl zone are 80, they feel fine, catch fish, grow vegetables. Why?
N. Preobrazhenska Correct, but children don’t live there. A child is growing and when the bones are growing, that’s calcium. Bones aren’t still growing in older people and the strontium doesn’t get into their bones. A child gets it from the water, from food.
Yury from Kyiv People need to have the consequences explained, learn about the current situation. There should be an educational programme. I worked for 13 years in the Exclusion Zone. From conversations with people I see that they talk about what they don’t understand.
N. Preobrazhenska We didn’t live through Chernobyl, we are living through it since the radioactive elements have a half-life of thousands of years. We must therefore provide children with knowledge. It would be very good if bureaucrats knew this, they are absolutely ignorant and they change. They don’t know the real state of affairs now. They must think about how to ensure that children have decent water. There isn’t clean water at all in Ukraine.
How can this problem be resolved?
There needs to be political will …. We are demanding a State approach to creating a programme on “The Health of the nation”.
She says that in parliament they don’t listen. That once a year they have three-hour-long hearings in parliament. Once a year they remember the Chernobyl Disaster.
From a programme which went on to discuss nuclear energy in general (also attended by a representative of Energoatom) at www.bbc.co.uk/ukrainian
Georgian film director held as illegal immigrant threatens hunger strike
For over a month David Kuridze, a Georgian film director and screen writer has been held in the temporary holding facilities for foreign nationals in the village of Rozsudiv in the Chernihiv region.
For almost three years David Kuridze worked in Kyiv as a screen writer for the Dovzhenko Film Studio. He left the country every six months and returned, since as a Georgian national he cannot be in Ukraine longer than 6 months without registration.
He alleges that officials of the Department for Citizenship, Immigration and Registration of Individuals in the Shevchenkivsky District Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Kyiv unlawfully annulled the period of his stay in Ukraine and through deception brought him to the Rozsudiv Temporary Centre. He says that the ruling of the Shevchenkivsky District Court from 3 March for his forcible removal was only handed to him on 26 March while he was being forcibly placed in the temporary centre.
As opposed to previous years, money has not been set aside in this year’s budget for forcible expulsions. The programme of the International Organization for Migration this year also does not apply to citizens from countries of the Caucuses. Therefore the only solution is to appeal against the expulsion otherwise he could spend up to 6 months as allowed in the law in the Chernihiv temporary centre. David is threatening to go on hunger strike.
The Chernihiv Civic Committee for the Protection of Human Rights is lodging the appropriate appeals with the court and prosecutor’s office on David Kuridaze’s behalf.
How to provoke a pogrom
Ask me how to provoke a pogrom? I imagine intuitively perhaps most of us having anything to do with the media know this, and instructions aren’t needed. The question is only whether it’s done consciously or not.
At the beginning of April on one of the numerous Nazi websites a text declaring 5 May “Day of Rage” was posted. There is no sense now trying to decide whether the text represents anything significant since within a few days one of the most popular Moscow newspapers came out with a whole rant along the lines of “what a horror, what a nightmare! Skinheads are going to kill on 5 May”.
I don’t know how popular the Neo-Nazi site was before that article, but I’m convinced that since the middle of April its popularity has risen dramatically. And I am absolutely convinced that the journalist, writing about a possible pogrom, whether or not he wanted to, gave those Neo-Nazis who had not read the site, information allowing them to turn the intentions of a marginal number into an entirely real all-Russian action.
What the journalist was thinking of when he wrote the article, I can’t say. I’m even quite prepared to allow for the possibility (although here my conviction is not so firm) that this person was sincerely trying to warn his readers of a danger which he considered real, and not do a banal PR job for a Nazi group he liked. Be that as it may, the real hysteria started precisely after this article, and in no way after it was posted on the website. And if before the article and its reprinting, dozens at top whack knew about the planned pogrom, after it there were already hundreds. And all those home-grown “warriors for a pure race” poised themselves at the starting point, just waiting for a signal.
If it was just that it wouldn’t be so bad. However literally a few days after the warning of the pogroms in the media, a headline in the press caught the eye: “Tadjik knives three skinheads!” Clearly lots of publicity, the information is immediately reposted and related. However, reading carefully, you realize that you’re dealing with a crime committed more than a year ago. And for all my criticism of the work of the police, I don’t believe that they established who the suspect was not a year ago, nor even half a year, but only just now. So where’s the news then? Why did the information about this person appear specifically now just when a large number of Neo-Nazis are impatiently waiting for the announced pogrom? Who threw in this information, who decided that this was the best moment for publishing what, at the end of the day, is not an event at all, but only it’s echoes? I won’t even ask what was in the minds of the journalists when the media spread this news everywhere. You can justify the article about a pogrom on 5 May through its “urgency”, but what kind of “urgency” can you be talking about in last year’s news? Except that you need it definitely to go out on the eve of Hitler’s birthday.
The situation in contemporary Russia is extremely bad. It is so bad that even the showing of an anti-fascist film is banned on the pretext that provocation is feared from Neo-Nazis. So, dear writers and readers: is it really so difficult to think about the fact that an article about a “migrant” killing three “skinheads” during days when comrades of the latter are already preparing themselves for attack, and possibly coordinating their plans is an open cry “They’re killing out people”? I wouldn’t say it’s hard to understand that this is a recipe for a pogrom.
And there is something particularly cynical in the fact that a person killed literally the day after these publications was killed in the courtyard of the prosecutor’s office. Are you surprised? I’m personally surprised that they only killed one person. I’m sure that they killed and maimed more, but it’s just that for now nobody knows about it.
Those who fed out information, and those who published it without thinking for a second about the consequences, do they not have that blood on their hands?
Discrimination of prisoners an ongoing problem
At a press conference given by Donetsk Memorial on Observance of Prisoners’ Rights in 2008, the following main elements of the organization’s fourth annual report were highlighted.
The number of prisoners is falling
The fall continued in 2008 of the number of prisoners in Ukraine which as of 1 January 2009 came to 145,946 prisoners. However the rate of the fall was three times lower than during previous years. For each 100 thousand head of population there are 314 prisoners, this being almost three times the figures in countries of Western Europe.
No improvement over prisoners’ rights
Despite the positive trend towards lower numbers, there were no noticeable improvements in the area of human rights during 2008, with the level of rights abuse remaining high. This is less to do with the conditions, as the behaviour of penal staff with the prisoners. As in previous years one cannot say that respect for human dignity has become a dominant factor in penal system policy, and the existing manner of treating prisoners is based on strict demands from the staff of absolute obedience. This is exacerbated by the lack of an effective mechanism for making complaints.
Protests from prisoners are punished and concealed
There is no let up in the number of protests from prisoners. The management of the Department for the Execution of Sentences [the Department] claims that these are due to external factors “that somebody needs to stir prisoners up”. The results of investigations into such events are not usually published, the public are sometimes given incorrect information about the real course of events, and incidents of beatings or ill-treatment are denied. Punitive measures are applied against prisoners who protest or make complaints.
The Department management ignores suggestions from leading human rights organizations to carry out objective investigations into reports of conflict or incidents in penal institutions with this significantly narrow the possibilities for an independent assessment of human rights violations.
Access to information about the human rights situation in penal institutions is extremely limited. It is standard practice to not provide answers or give only partial answers to requests for information. No measures of response are applied against those members of staff who breach information legislation.
Public control is limited
Cooperation with the public, in the first instance, with nongovernmental organizations is limited to issues of material assistance to the system and particular services to prisoners of a legal or consultation nature.
The Department management demonstrates inability to work with human rights organizations which have their own views on what is happening and who criticize the Department. There is no public control over observance of prisoners’ rights and over the behaviour of those in charge.
As far as normative documents are concerned, the Department gives preference to issues of security and safety at the expense of human rights. The commitment made on joining the Council of Europe in 1995 to subordinate the Department to the Ministry of Justice has not been fulfilled.
There is widespread corruption among penal staff, especially over the granting of release on parole. It is difficult to assess the scale of the problem, and there is also no information regarding an active and public response to cases of corruption.
Not one of the sixteen suggestions made in the last report have been followed. There is no response from the Department to the recommendations or the report altogether.
Human rights protection
UHHRU Declaration of Ethical Principles
At its annual general meeting on 1 April, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, which is made up of 24 Ukrainian human rights organizations, unanimously adopted the following Declaration of Ethical Principles.
We civic organizations that have joined together in the All-Ukrainian Association of Civic Organizations – the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU)
- recognizing the value of human dignity, freedom, universal human rights, the rule of law, a humane society and democratic State, as well as respect for nature which is the foundation of human life;
- conscious of our responsibility for the achievement of our mission, this being to defend freedom, promote the development of a human society based on respect for human life and dignity, and harmonious relations between the individual, the State and nature;
- confirming our commitment to the ideals and principles, enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the humanitarian provisions of the Concluding Act of the Helsinki Accords, and other international legal documents adopted on their basis which take into consideration the civilization demands of the XXI century;
- endeavouring to develop greater understanding of our work in society, and make this work more conscious, responsible and efficient;
have adopted this Declaration of Ethical Principles underlying the work of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and state our intention to be guided by it in our everyday activities.
We agree that the main ethical principles for the activities of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union are:
- Compliance of our actions with the proclaimed mission, objectives and principles;
- Democratic management;
- Independence and impartiality;
- Active human rights and civic stands;
- Non-discriminatory policy;
- Openness and transparency;
- Solidarity and friendly cooperation;
- Effective and frugal use of resources.
1 The Principle of compliance of our actions with the proclaimed mission, objectives and principles
1.1. UHHRU shall act in accordance with its mission, commonly agreed objectives and principles, as set out in this Declaration;
1.2. UHHRU and its members shall seek to prepare and introduce high ethical standards of cooperation and individual action;
2. The Principle of democratic management
2.1. UHHRU as a voluntary association of independent and self-governing organizations respects its members and ensures equal opportunities for participating in decision-making and access to information;
2.2. UHHRU observes democratic procedure in the management of the Association.
3. The Principle of independence and impartiality
3.1. UHHRU is independent and impartial in determining its mission, objectives, principles and in the adoption of decisions.
3.2. Interacting with State, political or commercial structures, the media, and other civic organizations, the Association and its members shall avoid dependence on them, first and foremost, when this is a threat to human rights, fundamental freedoms, the declared mission, values and principles of work of the Association.
3.3. UHHRU shall be independent of public opinion when this runs counter to the declared mission and values shared by the members of the Association.
3.4. UHHRU and its members may not support in any form one or other political party. Political choice is the personal matter of all members of the human rights organizations which form the UHHRU.
Holding a management position within UHHRU is incompatible with membership of a political party or holding a position in the civil service.
4. The Principle of responsibility
4.1. The Association and its members shall strive to achieve maximum accuracy and objectivity of information which they circulate.
4.2. Members of UHHRU shall act within the framework of their competence, constantly seeking to improve their skills and achieve the highest professional standards.
4.3. UHHRU and its members, including representatives elected to its statutory bodies shall seek to carry out the duties they have taken on and adhere to their written and verbal agreements and arrangements.
4.4 The Association and its members shall respect the authorship of ideas, publications and projects, avoid plagiarism.
5. The Principle of active civic and human rights stands
5.1. In its activities UHHRU members shall try first and foremost to eliminate human rights abuses and uphold an active civic and human rights stand
6. Prohibition of discrimination
6.1. UHHRU and its members defend human rights and fundamental freedoms regardless of race, colour of skin, gender, citizenship, ethnic or social origin, property or other situation, position, type and nature of activities, place of residence, language, religion, political or other convictions.
7. The Principle of non-violence
7.1 UHHRU and its members do not either propagate or use violence to achieve their aims.
8. The Principle of openness and transparency
8.1. Information about the mission, values, actions, principles and the results of the activities of UHHRU and its members is open to the public.
8.2. UHHRU is open to cooperation and membership of other organizations which share its public mission, values, objectives and principles of work.
8.3. The Association and its members seek to achieve constant dialogue and cooperation with other public structures.
8.4 The principle of openness does not apply to personal information about people who have approached UHHRU, its members and working structures seeking defence of their rights. This information may be made public only with the persons consent.
8.5. UHHRU and its members annually publish a report about their work.
8.6. On the basis of their projects, the Association and its members draw up an honest and transparent budget, regularly publish an annual generalized financial report with an indication of the sources of financing and use of funds received.
9. The Principle of tolerance
9.1. The Association and its members respect differences in thinking, diversity of civic associations and their objectives.
9.2. UHHRU members avoid compromising other organizations and people who work in them.
9.3. UHHRU members respect the position of the minority in the Association.
10. The Principle of solidarity and friendly partnership
10.1. With their objective being the achievement of common objectives, UHHRU members strive for effective cooperation and combining of resources in the Association and beyond it.
10.2. UHHRU members work together in a spirit of trust, respect and mutual assistance.
10.3. Fair competition between UHHRU members is acceptable as one of the means of increasing their professionalism and capacity for effective action. However this competition must not hinder the support of relations of trust, active communication and cooperation within the Association.
10.4. Where conflict arises between UHHRU members they should be guided by this Declaration of Ethical Principles, and seek to resolve conflict through dialogue and compromise within the Association itself in order to not damage its reputation.
10.5. The Association and its members shall support in their human rights activities civic organizations and individuals who do not belong to UHHRU.
10.6. Members of organizations within UHHRU, including those elected to statutory bodies, must observe recognized moral norms in their communication and actions.
11. The Principle of effective and frugal use of resources.
11.1. UHHRU and its members endeavour to use financial, material, human and natural resources as efficiency and economically as possible, directing these resources mainly at achieving the mission and objectives of the organizations.
News from the CIS countries
Lack of Ukrainian language schools in Russia because the languages are “closely-related”
Moscow claims that despite the large number of Ukrainians living in the Russian Federation, there are “virtually no requests” from parents or civic organizations to open Ukrainian-language schools.
Answering journalists’ questions about Ukrainians’ rights in Russia, Andrei Nesterenko, an official representative of the RF Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that “this can perhaps be explained by the relatedness of East Slavonic languages and culture, common history (Kyivan Rus, the Moscow State, the Russian Empire and the USSR), as well as a single Orthodox Christian faith.”
Furthermore, “culture measures carried out in the Russian Federation by various civic organizations largely take into account the needs of ethnic Ukrainians”.
“Due to the above-stated reasons in the Russian Federation there are no schools where the curriculum is taught in Ukrainian”.
He gave figures for Russia, with the overall number of Ukrainians reaching almost 3 million. He claimed however that it was unjustified to compare the situation of Russians in Ukraine, with Ukrainians in Russia.
It is not quite clear what Mr Nesterenko meant, however the lack of Ukrainian-language schools in his country highlights a major difference from Ukraine.
Worth mentioning also that Russia has yet to sign the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Information about the press conference from a text at www.pravda.com.ua
European Court of Human Rights Condemns Russia for 13 disappearances in Chechnya
On Thursday 23 April, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously condemned Russia for the enforced disappearance of 13 men in different locations across Chechnya between November 2001 and March 2004.
The case Gakiyev and Gakiyeva v. Russia (3179/05) concerns the disappearance of Idris Gakiyev. Russian military servicemen detained Idris at his home in the town of Argun on 30 November 2003. The servicemen badly beat Idris father Khalid Gakiyev before leaving. On 29 March 2004 Idris mutilated body was discovered in Grozny. In January 2008 the Russian government claimed that Idris could not have been detained on 30 November 2003 because he had voted in the parliamentary elections on 7 December 2003.
The applicants in Bitiyeva and Others v. Russia (36156/04) are close relatives of 8 men (Bayali and Sharip Elmurzayev, Khusin and Isa Khadzhimuradov, Lechi Shaipov, Apti Murtazov, Zelimkhan Osmayev and Idris Elmurzayev) who disappeared following their detention by Russian military servicemen in the village of Duba-Yurt in the early hours of 27 March 2004. Their dead bodies bearing gunshot wounds were found in a forest near the village of Serzhen-Yurt on 9 April 2004.
The case Israilova and Others v. Russia (4571/04) concerns the disappearance of Sharpuddin Israilov and Adlan Dovtayev. Sharpuddin and Adlan were detained by Russian military servicemen at a checkpoint on the road between Grozny and Urus-Martan on 30 December 2002. The servicemen brought them to Khankala, the main Russian military base in Chechnya. The following day Sharpuddin and Adlan were taken away in a military vehicle. They have not been seen since. In June 2003 the civilian prosecutor transferred the case to the military prosecutor after establishing that the crime was committed by Russian military servicemen. The military prosecutor has for almost 6 years failed to take any meaningful steps to identify those servicemen.
The applicant in Alaudinova v. Russia (32297/05) is the mother of the Bekkhan Alaudinov, who was detained by Russian military servicemen at his home in Urus-Martan on 8 November 2001. He has not been seen since.
The case Khachukayev v. Russia (28148/03) concerns the disappearance of Murad Khachukayev. Murad disappeared following his detention by Russian military servicemen in the village of Goyty in the early hours of 5 February 2003. His dead body was found several days later.
In its judgments the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that:
The right to life has been violated in respect of all 13 men (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 (violation of Article 2);
The applicants relatives had been illegally detained (violation of Article 5);
Khalid Gakiyev suffered inhuman and degrading treatment upon his sons arrest (violation of Article 3);
The manner in which the complaints of the applicants in Israilova, Gakiyev and Gakiyeva and Alaudinova were dealt with by Russian authorities constituted inhuman treatment (violation of Article 3);
The applicants did not have access to an effective remedy before Russian authorities for the violations (violation of Article 13).
The Court awarded the applicants in the five cases a total of 549,700 euro for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages.
The applicants in Bitiyeva, Gakiyev and Gakiyeva and Israilova were assisted in bringing their applications to the Court by Russian Justice Initiative. The applicant in Alaudinova was represented by lawyers from EHRAC/Memorial. The applicant in Khachukayev was represented by Mr. Itslayev, a lawyer in Chechnya.
Prosecutor General again ignores human rights concerns
On 16 April Ukraine’s Prosecutor General ignored warnings from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union about the human rights situation in Moldova and extradited two people accused of involvement in the protests of 7 April. According to Interfax, the two – Gabriel Stati and Aurel Marinesku have already been arrested for 30 days.
Earlier on Thursday UHHRU issued a statement in which it expressed concern over the widespread flagrant human rights violations in the wave of the events in Chişinău (Kishinev) on 7 April 2009.
While stressing that it can in no way approve of any manifestations of violence during the political process and that the situation is difficult, it states that “there can be no justification for the wave of brutality and violence vented by the authorities against members of the opposition who may have overstepped the permissible limits in expressing their protest.
Mass arrests of mainly young people, the use of torture against those detained, disappearances, conviction without proper procedure, without the possibility of defending themselves against the unceasing pressure of the police – none of this can be called measures to prevent unrest.
It has been learned that two people detained during the mass arrests died from torture and we have no information to suggest that an investigation is being carried out into these crimes and those guilty punished.
Hundreds have been convicted of administrative offences, having been given neither the time, nor the opportunity to prepare their defence. Hundreds have been arrested and the official figures are several times lower than those provided by civic organizations.
Six people have disappeared without trace.
There are no grounds for distrusting these figures especially given numerous judgments from the European Court of Human Rights which found Moldova responsible for the kind of human rights abuses which have taken on a mass nature in recent days.
We are also concerned over the hasty statements regarding political conspiracy supposedly behind the events of 7 April. This presents an even greater risk for those detained that they will be subjected to torture and ill-treatment with the authorities seeking proof of such conspiracy.
The scale of widespread and organized State violence far exceeds the need to maintain public order and is more reminiscent of a warning to those who believe they have the right to freedom of expression, of peaceful assembly and the right to political choice. We therefore view such action as a violation of these fundamental rights.”
The statement goes on to speak of the two opposition figures who have indeed been extradited.
“We believe that the extradition of these people to Moldova will indicate support and justification by the authorities in Ukraine for those mass violations of human rights taking part in that country. Ukraine as a member of the UN Human Rights Council must not allow a situation where the world sees it as an advocate for brutality and violence towards dissidents. In putting forward its candidacy to the Council, Ukraine committed itself to honour the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and avoid double standards in its assessment of situations. As representative of Eastern Europe on this important international body, Ukraine must not be silent in the face of mass violations of human rights in a neighbouring country.
We call on the Ukrainian authorities to condemn the mass violations of human rights in Moldova on and following 7 April 2009, and to initiate a review of the situation at the next session of the UN Human Rights Council.
We call on all Ukrainian authorities to refrain from any actions which could be interpreted as direct or indirect approval of the actions of the Moldovan authorities.
We call on the Moldovan authorities to take immediate action to stop torture, mass arrests and collective court hearings over the events of 7 April.
We also demand that they immediately and thoroughly investigate all information about torture, arbitrary arrest and violations of the rights of the detained.
We call on international organizations to come out with a swift and decisive condemnation of the mass violations of human rights in Moldova.
Arkady Bushchenko, Head of the UHHRU Board
Volodymyr Yavorsky, UHHRU Executive Director