“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2009, #10
Committee of Voters concerned over election process The right to a fair trial
Concerns over the draft law “On legal aid” Strasbourg issues ultimatum over Ukraines non-enforcement of domestic court rulings Constitutional Court: witnesses in criminal cases entitled to a lawyer Freedom of expression
Court finds assault on journalists obstruction of their professional activities Internet Association of Ukraine: European approach needed in fighting child pornography It is the States duty to protect the media from censorship Journalist Ethics Commission slams media over “Artek” case Cabinet of Ministers rules on language Access to information
Declassify “quasi-secret” documents! Social and economic rights
Swiftly forgotten Strike at the Yanovska Factory may be resumed Constitutional Court ruling on pensions while abroad Environmental rights
Dniester Canyon: nature sold for wood and stone On refugees
Ukraine not ready for commitments under readmission agreement Victims of political repression
Your voice can help stop the prosecution of Arkhangelsk historians and archive workers Words glorifying Stalin may be removed from the Moscow metro Lviv Museum – Prison “Tyurma na Lontskoho” must not be under the auspices of the SBU Dissidents and their time
In Memoriam: Iryna Senyk News from the CIS countries
Turkmen Miscarriage of Justice Stop persecution of scholars and interference in historical research! Leading Ingush activist shot dead We remember
Marek Edelman 1919 - 2009
Committee of Voters concerned over election process
On 19 October a press conference was held in Kyiv regarding the official start to the pre-election campaign. During it, the Head of the Board of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU], Oleksandr Chernenko pointed out the following:
- On 19 October the election campaign for Ukrainian President officially commenced. Analysis of the political process which preceded the official start of the campaign demonstrates an extremely low level of political discussion and augurs ill for the subsequent course of the campaign.
- CVU finds that the majority of participants in the presidential election campaign lack the political will to carry out democratic, transparent and honest elections in adherence to Ukraine’s legislation, international standards and moral and ethical norms.
- As of 19 October all previous threats to the holding of fair and democratic elections remain in place: changes have not been made to the Law on the Presidential Elections; the Law on the State Budget for 2010 has not been passed; and the powers have not been suspended of the member of the Central Election Commission who has reached retirement age.
- Legislation on the Presidential elections received an extremely negative assessment from the Venice Commission as well as in the OSCE / ODIHR Needs assessment mission report ahead of the 17 January 2010 presidential election in Ukraine. According to a number of media reports, the Constitutional Court is planning to find a number of provisions in the Law on the Presidential Elections unconstitutional. CVU calls on Ukraine’s National Deputies during the next plenary week to make the necessary changes to electoral legislation in accordance with the recommendations of international structures and Ukrainian experts, as well as the results of the judgment from the Constitutional Court.
- CVU is concerned over processes which can be described as the return of censorship in national and regional media. CVU has on many occasions spoken out against the onslaught of “commissioned” material in the media. However recently signs of direct censorship have emerged. According to unofficial information from journalists in some editorial offices, there are “filters” on mention of certain names, while editors and top managers of the media take part in special meetings of electoral party headquarters.
- From 19 October, in accordance with the Law on the Presidential Elections, any electoral campaigning up till the moment of registration of candidates with the Central Election Commission is prohibited. Yet CVU’s monitoring in Kyiv and regions of Ukraine show that with few exceptions, external advertising for potential candidates has remained intact. CVU considers that in this way political teams are infringing the spirit of electoral legislation and the principle of equal opportunities for all candidates. CVU calls on the Central Election Commission and the law enforcement agencies to react in appropriate manner to these violations.
- On 19 October the Central Election Commission will approve the boundaries of electoral voting districts. During October regional councils have provided the Commission with their recommendations regarding these boundaries. However, according to CVU estimates, regional councils have taken a merely formal approach in this procedure, without taking into account the negative experience of previous election campaigns. On the basis of proposals from regional councils, districts will have a disproportionate number of polling areas, and the distance from precinct election commissions to the district one in many cases will exceed 100 kilometres which seriously impedes communication on voting day.
The right to a fair trial
Concerns over the draft law “On legal aid”
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has issued an appeal to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, the parliamentary committee on legal policy and the Cabinet of Ministers with regard to Draft Law No. 4406 “On legal aid”.
“Our organization highly values parliament’s adoption in June 2009 in its first reading of the Draft Law No. 4406 “On legal aid”. This is an important step towards creating a system enabling those who cannot afford legal counsel to receive legal aid. We consider this a sign of a turn in government policy towards building systemic elements of a law-based State and reform of the justice system in Ukraine. We are greatly appreciative of the considerable contribution made by the Ministry of Justice in drawing up the draft law and its consistent plans to reform the system of legal aid.
At the same time we cannot but note significant flaws in the draft law which, if they are not removed, could obstruct construction of an effective system of legal aid and impede the objective and task of reform set out in the Concept framework for the formation of a system of [free] legal aid in Ukraine [affirmed through Presidential Decree No. 509/2006 from 9 June 2006.
The law has the important task of coordinating the interests of retaining independence of bar lawyers from the executive and the interests of ensuring effective functioning of the new system. This agreement should not be expressed solely at the level of declarations, but in certain elements of structure of management of the system, in procedure and guarantees clearly stipulated in the law. In our view these tasks are not met by draft law No. 4406.
Of concern is the lack of clear structure of management of the system of legal aid. The draft law contains only a general list of the powers of the Cabinet of Ministers and the Ministry of Justice without setting out any procedure for decision taking. This could lead to the system simply not beginning to function. And if it begins than this activity will not meet the task of the system, this being to ensure high-quality legal aid to people who cannot afford to pay for a lawyer. For over 18 years Ukraine has had a system of legal aid so ineffective that even the pitiful amounts allocated have to a large extent remained unspent.
The effective functioning of a system of legal aid depends not only on the effective functioning of the State body, but also on whether this system gains the trust of lawyers and recipients of legal aid. The lack of clear structure of management and procedure for decision taking, the lack of impact from lawyers on the passing of decision and other features that ensure lawyers’ independence, fundamental safeguards of the profession, including lawyers’ confidentiality and consideration of the interests of lawyers and recipients of legal aid, all this could mean that qualified and conscientious lawyers will not cooperate with the system, fearing loss of independence or even being seen in society as lawyers who are dependent on the State body in their activities.
Insufficient understanding of the nature of legal aid, the independent status of people providing legal aid, and the failure to appreciate the principle of non-intrusion by the State in the content of legal aid, are all vividly clear in the provisions concerning primary legal aid. In these, legal aid is treated as equivalent to the activities of the State in considering citizens’ appeals. This is unacceptable for a number of reasons.
Firstly, in this way legal aid loses certain significant intrinsic features – independence, competence, commitment to the client’s interests and others, and turns into a certain type of State activity.
Secondly, this creates permanent conflict of interests for people who are legal counsellors – a conflict between the interests of the State body whose activities this person answers for and the interests of the client who sought legal aid.
Thirdly, this to some extent destroys the system for reacting to citizens’ appeals since there remains huge scope for officialdom to interpret this or that appeal as demanding resolution or as those requiring legal information. This creates an atmosphere of irresponsibility among executive bodies who, instead of resolving issues, will effectively provide legal advice.
The procedure envisaged by the draft law for providing primary legal aid is a model of bureaucratic procrastination aimed at ensuring that the person loses any desire to seek assistance with basic legal questions.
It is not clear from the draft law what the status and nature will be of secondary legal aid centres. It is impossible, for example, to understand whether they are bureaucratic structures managed by officialdom, or structures managed by lawyers. If these centres are bureaucratic structures, then it is highly dangerous to give them the power of refusing to provide legal aid if “the demands of the person for defence or reinstatement of their rights are not fair” since in this way bureaucrats are being given the powers to exercise justice.
The draft law has serious faults from the point of view of legislative technology, detailed consideration of which would occupy two much space.
The draft law has not taken into consideration important aspects of legal aid provision which could have been easily considered by looking at the experience in Kharkiv, Khmelnytsky and Bila Tserkva, created in implementation of the Concept Framework for forming a system of legal aid in Ukraine by civic organizations in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice.
We are, unfortunately, forced to conclude, together with experts from the Council of Europe that the experience of three years work of these centres was not in any way taken into consideration by the Ministry of Justice in drawing up the draft law which has had a decisive impact on its quality.
We hope that the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy will feel able to make use of the experience of legal aid centres, the expertise of representatives of the bar and civic organizations, and will significantly revise the draft law in question before its submission for its second reading.
Head of the UHHRU Board
Strasbourg issues ultimatum over Ukraines non-enforcement of domestic court rulings
The European Court of Human Rights has, since 2004, implemented a pilot-judgment procedure. The Court in a single judgment identifies systemic problems underlying a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights and indicates in that judgment the remedial measures required to resolve such situations.
The first such pilot judgment was issued on 15 October 2009 with the case of Yuriy Nikolayevich Ivanov v. Ukraine (application no. 40450/04).
“The Court noted that the case concerned two recurring problems - the prolonged non-enforcement of final domestic decisions and the lack of an effective domestic remedy to deal with it. These problems lay behind the most frequent violations of the Convention continuously found by the Court since 2004 in over 300 cases in respect of Ukraine. The present case demonstrated that these problems had remained without a solution despite the clear Court’s case law urging Ukraine to take appropriate measures to resolve those issues. In view of the approximately 1400 applications against Ukraine currently pending before the Court and concerning the same questions, the Court concluded that an incompatible with the Convention practice existed in Ukraine and held unanimously that:
· Ukraine had to introduce in its legal system, at the latest within one year from the date on which the judgment becomes final, an effective remedy which secured adequate and sufficient redress for non-enforcement or delayed enforcement of domestic judgments;
· Ukraine had to grant such redress, including by reaching friendly settlements where possible, within one year from the date on which the judgment becomes final, to all applicants in such cases who had applied to the Court before the delivery of the present judgment, and whose applications had been communicated to the Ukrainian authorities;
· In the event that no redress was granted following this judgment, the Court will resume its examination of all similar pending applications with a view to adopting a judgment on them;
· that pending the adoption of the above measures, the Court will adjourn, for one year from the date on which the judgment becomes final, the proceedings in all new Ukrainian cases concerning solely the non-enforcement or delayed enforcement of domestic judgments.”
In the case brought by Yuriy Ivanov, a Russian national, the applicant had not been paid the lump sum retirement payment due him when he retired from the Ukrainian army. The courts ordered that he be paid this money in 2001, however in April 2004 the bailiffs wrote to Mr Ivanov informing him that the military unit had no money to pay and that forced sale of its assets was prohibited by law. The August 2001 judgment remains partially unenforced.
In 2002 Mr Ivanov brought proceedings against the bailiffs claiming that they were at fault for the non-enforcement of the August 2001 judgment. The court found in his favour and ordered the bailiffs to identify and freeze the military unit accounts in order to seize the money available there. They did not comply. New proceedings were brought by Ivanov seeking compensation for pecuniary and non-pecuniary damages, in which the court granted his claim, partly, in July 2003. This judgment remains unenforced.
Effective remedy against non-enforcement
The Court found that a remedy had not existed at national level satisfying the requirements of Article 13 of the Convention in respect of Mr Ivanov’s complaints about the non-enforcement of the judgments in his favour. It held unanimously that there had been a violation of Article 13.
From information at http://echr.coe.int
Constitutional Court: witnesses in criminal cases entitled to a lawyer
The Constitutional Court has made public its Judgment from 30 September 2009 following a constitutional submission from Ihor Holovan asking for an official interpretation of the provisions of Article 59 of the Constitution. According to this article, “Everyone has the right to legal assistance. Such assistance is provided free of charge in cases envisaged by law. Everyone is free to choose the defender of his or her rights”.
Mr Holovan explained that there was no agreement among representatives of the Prosecutor, investigators, etc, as to whether this right also applies where a person is called as a witness or to give explanations to a State body. He considered that denial of such a right is a restriction of the constitutional right to legal assistance.
The Constitutional Court finds that “everyone” covers all persons without exception – Ukrainian nationals, foreign nationals and stateless persons who are in Ukraine. The exercising by each person of this right cannot depend on the status of the person and the nature of his or her legal relations with other parties.”
The Court stresses that legal assistance has many aspects, is of different content, scope and form and may include consultations, explanations, the lodging of law suits and applications, complaints, etc. It also points out that there are cases envisaged by law, involving for example protection of the rights of children, underage parents, as well as for defence in the case of prosecution, the relevant State bodies must provide the necessary legal assistance.
The Constitutional Court therefore finds that the provisions of Article 59 apply to every person regardless of the nature of their relations with the State bodies or bodies of local self-government, etc. Thus a person who is a witness in a case is entitled to legal assistance.
The text of the Judgment will shortly be placed on the Court’s official website. The above is from the press release at http://ccu.gov.ua/uk/publish/article/73697
Freedom of expression
Court finds assault on journalists obstruction of their professional activities
Ex-Head of the legal department of the municipal enterprise “Pharmacy” Vladislav Panfilov has been found guilty of obstructing the legitimate professional activities of journalists and deliberately causing light bodily injuries (Articles 177 § 1 and 125 § 1 of the Criminal Code) with regard to an assault on journalists from the programme “Closed zone”.
According to lawyer from the Media Law Institute, Ihor Rozkladai, this is only the second time to his knowledge that a court has applied Article 171, obstruction of journalists’ professional activities. He explains that offences are normally changed to other articles of the Criminal Code such as hooliganism or destruction of property.
The judge imposed a sentence of 2 years restriction of liberty, and also ordered Panfilov to publicly apologise to his victims. With regard to the civil suits lodged, the judge allowed in full the claim by Olena Bondarenko, and partially that brought by Serhiy Kolesnikov.
On 25 June during filming of a feature for the programme “Warning” near the premises of the municipal enterprise “Pharmacy”, Vladislav Panfilov attempted to obstruct the filming by “Closed zone” journalist Olena Bondarenko and sound operator Serhiy Kolesnikov. He first stood with his back against the camera to obstruct the filming, and then sprayed tear gas in the eyes of the sound operator.
A criminal investigation against him was begun, and both victims of the attack lodged civil suits, Olena Bondarenko demanding compensation of 1 thousand UAH, and Serhiy Kolesnikov – 50 thousand UAH. In total the court awarded 10 thousand.
Reported at http://telekritika.ua/news/2009-10-30/48929
Internet Association of Ukraine: European approach needed in fighting child pornography
On 22 October the Verkhovna Rada passed as a base draft law No. 3271 from 25.05.2009 “On amendments and additions to some legal acts (on fighting the spread of child pornography)”. The draft law proposes stepping up measures to counter the spread of child pornography, including with the use of the possibilities offered by information and communication technology.
The Internet Association of Ukraine [InAU] shares the concern of the draft law’s authors over cases where minors have been dragged into criminal activities connected with the circulation of child pornography. At the same time, experts in the field of telecommunications and transfer of data point to serious flaws in this draft law due to major areas of non-compliance with norms of European and world legislation in this sphere, as well as the technical impossibility of implementing a number of its provisions. The measures proposed by the draft law will not be able to effectively help to eliminate such crimes.
InAU proposes effective mechanisms for fighting the spread on the Internet of something as shameful as pornography involving minors. These mechanisms have just been drawn up by specialists from the Public Council on Information and Communication Telecommunications which presently unites 24 professional associations and civic organizations in the field, and are reflected in the recommendations to presidential candidates “On urgent measures on developing Ukraine’s information society (cf. www.ict-forum.org.ua). Discussion of the most effective means of fighting cyber-crime on the Internet also took place during a roundtable on 22 October 2009 on legislative regulation of the problems of the information and communications technology field in Ukraine.
It is the States duty to protect the media from censorship
The procedure for appointing the management of the National Television Channel (Channel One) constitutes direct political control by the State of television and runs counter to a seminal judgment from the European Court of Human Rights.
In the recent case of Manole and others v. Moldova, the European Court of Human Rights significantly developed its previous practice. On the application of journalists from the central State-owned television channel TRM (“Teleradio-Moldova”), the Court found that there had been censorship on the channel from 2001 through 2006, that there were no legislative mechanisms to protect journalists from censorship and that there was, therefore, a violation of their freedom of expression. This was the first judgment to establish the State’s legal duty to protect journalists from censorship both in legislation and practice.
This case has enormous significance for the entire post-Soviet realm, including Ukraine. It stipulates new duties which were previously on the level of Council of Europe or OSCE recommendations. Now the State can be forced to answer for failure to fulfill this duty in court.
TRM was created back in 1994 and for a long time was virtually the only national television and radio broadcasting company in Moldova. In 2004 it was transformed into a public television channel, however according to Council of Europe experts, this did not comply with the recommendations of international institutions on public broadcasting.
Nine journalists had worked at TRM for a long time. Some were dismissed in 2004 with the transformation of TRM into a public company. Others expressed pressure in various forms, from administrative interference in the creation of programmes or their direct ban without reasons being given to disciplinary penalties (many of which were later cancelled by the court). The journalists asserted that the pressure was in connection with their journalist activists and with coverage of forbidden subjects or the activities of the opposition.
A lot of material from human rights and international organizations showing that the opposition had had virtually no access to television and radio was added to the case. It was also asserted that certain topics and even words had been prohibited on air. Programmes were also subjected to censorship with those which were not live being carefully checked, while for live broadcasts guests were carefully chosen.
These controlling functions were carried out by the President of TRM in person, without whose permission no programme could be broadcast.
There was a journalist strike on TRM in 2002. Later in 2004 most of its participants were dismissed, and 19 were prohibited from entering the TRM premises. The journalists dismissed were convinced that they had been dismissed for their political convictions. They appealed against the dismissals to the courts, but in vain. They therefore approached the European Court of Human Rights claiming breach of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights since Moldova had not established sufficient legislative mechanisms to protect them from censorship.
The Court found that that there had been a violation of Article 10.
(107) “… The State, as the ultimate guarantor of pluralism, must ensure, through its law and practice, that the public has access through television and radio to impartial and accurate information and a range of opinion and comment, reflecting inter alia the diversity of political outlook within the country and that journalists and other professionals working in the audiovisual media are not prevented from imparting this information and comment. Where the State decides to create a public broadcasting system, the domestic law and practice must guarantee that the system provides a pluralistic audiovisual service. In this connection, the standards relating to public service broadcasting which have been agreed by the Contracting States through the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe provide guidance as to the approach which should be taken to interpreting Article 10 in this field.
108. The Court notes that during most of the period in question TRM was the sole Moldovan broadcasting organisation producing television programmes which could be viewed throughout the country (see paragraph 8 above). Moreover, approximately 60% of the population lived in rural areas, with no or limited access to cable or satellite television or, according to the Secretary Generals Special Representative, newspapers (see paragraph 72 above). In these circumstances, it was of vital importance to the functioning of democracy in Moldova that TRM transmitted accurate and balanced news and information and that its programming reflected the full range of political opinion and debate in the country and the State authorities were under a strong positive obligation to put in place the conditions to permit this to occur.
“111. In summary, therefore, in the light in particular of the virtual monopoly enjoyed by TRM over audiovisual broadcasting in Moldova, the Court finds that the State authorities failed to comply with their positive obligation. The legislative framework throughout the period in question was flawed, in that it did not provide sufficient safeguards against the control of TRMs senior management, and thus its editorial policy, by the political organ of the Government. These flaws were not remedied when Law No. 1320-XV was adopted and amended.”
This judgment has many important dimensions for Ukraine. All judgements of the European Court of Human Rights constitute a part of the Ukrainian legal source, are a source of law and mandatory. Therefore these standards which are no longer simply the recommendations of international organizations which may or may not be fulfilled at a country’s discretion. This judgment demonstrates the important role which journalists have in defending freedom of speech in the country. The case began with their joint action and was successfully concluded following their applications. It shows an effective mechanism for protection of journalists from the authorities.
Another aspect of the issue is management of the Ukrainian State-owned television (Channel One or NTKU) where at the present time, in my view, one cannot speak of independence of political influence. The procedure for appointing the management and the lack of independent editorial policy shows that Ukraine is also violating Article 10 of the European Convention.
The procedure for appointing management of State-owned television cannot be political – bodies of power or representatives of political parties cannot dominate. Yet in Ukraine this process remains political and fully subordinated to the authorities.
The Constitutional Court of Ukraine issued a judgment from 15 September 2009 which finds unconstitutional the procedure for appointing public councils under the President and Verkhovna Rada. However there is no word about the fact that this procedure in principle violates freedom of speech in Ukraine. This judgment is based exclusively on formal provisions for the division of powers between branches of power. It is strange that in considering this case the Constitutional Court does not at all consider the issue of participation of politicians in the management of television which there should be no place for in a democratic society.
Present procedure for appointing the head of NKTU by the President on the submission of parliament is not in line with the above judgment from the European Court of Human Rights – this is direct political control which has nothing in common with freedom of speech. There are no safeguards for editorial independence in State-owned media.
Other important dimension of this court ruling is the potential creation in Ukraine of public television. This may one day come about, though bearing in mind present politicians, it is hard to believe. Now such television should be built on certain mandatory principles which safeguard financial, editorial and administrative independence. Up till such time these principles are seen as recommendations and parliamentarians actively use them, fearing to lose political control over State-owned media outlets.
This judgment clearly shows that political control over State-owned or public media outlets is a violation of standards of freedom of speech. It is journalists who can force the Ukrainian government to understand this. The lack of political control over the media is an inalienable element of freedom of speech.
Somewhat abridged from a text by Volodymyr Yavorsky, Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union www.helsinki.org.ua
Journalist Ethics Commission slams media over “Artek” case
The Commission on Journalist Ethics has issued a statement in which it strongly criticizes the media outlets that published names, photos and medical documents about alleged victims of sexual abuse.
“In view of the publicity over the so-called “Artek case” and with regard to the specific features of its coverage in the media, the Commission on Journalist Ethics must state the following:
The Code of Ethics for Ukrainian Journalists stipulates: “Item 18: Journalists should be particularly careful in covering issues connected with children. Journalists and editors must have valid grounds for publicizing the private life of an underage person (persons)… It is unacceptable to divulge the names of underage persons (or details which enable their identification) who are connected with unlawful actions or were involved in events linked with violence”.
While in no way questioning the right of the media to cover events of public interest from all sides, the Commission would point out that in recent weeks numerous media outlets have repeatedly and flagrantly violated the above-mentioned norm. This resulted in the publication of:
- the first and last names, as well as photographs, of children who may have been the victims of sexual violence;
- medical information and the results of expert assessments;
- numerous details of a possible crime.
The Commission considers that the publication of such information not only runs counter to the universally accepted principle of the presumption of innocence, not only hampers the investigation into the case, but mainly, inflicts irreparable damage on children who were, it is highly likely, subjected to sexual violence.
The Commission strongly condemns numerous cases where information which flagrantly violates the rights of abused children was unwarrantedly made public and circulated. The Commission would draw the attention of employees and management of media outlets to the fact that discussion of this topic in a considerable number of media outlets would appear unacceptable from an ethical point of view. The tone of commentaries, assumptions and versions was often of a flagrant and offensive nature. From the point of view of the Commission, an unhealthy enjoyment of physiological details has nothing in common with the important task of informing society.
The Commission advises journalists, editors and the founders of media outlets to be guided in their everyday professional activity by universally accepted ethical norms regardless of whether or not they have signed the Code of Ethics for Ukrainian Journalists.
In view of the fact that politicians are most clearly trying to use the “Artek case” for their own purposes, yet again using the media for this, the Commission would remind all of Item 2 of the Code of Ethics: “Serving the interests of the authorities and not society is a violation of journalist ethics”
Cabinet of Ministers rules on language
In a rather bizarre Resolution from 30 September (No. 1033), the Cabinet of Ministers has authorized changes to the Regulations on General Educational Institutions, approved by the Cabinet of Ministers on 14 June 2000 (No. 964).
The Regulations are now to contain a new Item 241 which reads:
“In State and municipal general educational institutions Ukrainian shall be the language of tuition. Together with Ukrainian in the teaching process in State and municipal general educational institutions, languages of national minorities may be used and studied.”
Item 46 is supplemented with the following paragraph:
“In working hours in State and municipal general educational institutions the Ukrainian language shall be used regularly, and in State and municipal general educational institutions with tuition in a language of a national minority together with the Ukrainian language – also the language which is used for tuition within the institution.”
It is as yet unclear what, if any, ramifications, this Resolution will have. A prominent human rights organization has already offered to help any teachers who wish to file a law suit objecting to this encroachment on their freedom.
It seems likely that the Resolution is not unconnected with the plans at present to make students take external exams for entering university in the Ukrainian language from 2010. We will be returning to this issue which is fraught for many national minorities, and has caused considerable conflict in the Crimea, where more than 80% of the population name Russian as their native language. More importantly, perhaps, only 5% of school students in the Crimea at present study in Ukrainian, and while the theory is that more intensive tuition in Ukrainian will be provided, this remains theory, and would, in any case, run up against a lot of opposition on the peninsula.
Access to information
Declassify “quasi-secret” documents!
Human rights activists are calling for documents stamped “for official use only” to be declassified. According to legal adviser for the “Maidan Alliance”, Oleksandr Severyn, there are currently at least 800 legal acts holding the “quasi-lawful” (envisaged by a resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers, but not by law) stamp restricting access “for official use only”.
He adds that this figure is based on incomplete data from open sources and is convinced that in fact there are far more.
“What is in these documents is largely unknown since according to established practice, State bodies do not provide information about of the general names of such acts stamped “for official use only”. In this way society is deprived of the possibility of monitoring at least the overall direction of the government’s activities which, instead of using the legal mechanisms set out in the Law “On State secrets” or regulating “official use” in law, violates both Ukraine’s Constitution (Article 19) and the right of citizens to information.”
According to Article 57 of the Constitution, “Laws and other normative legal acts that determine the rights and duties of citizens, but that are not brought to the notice of the population by the procedure established by law, are not in force”. Oleksandr Severyn asks how society can know whether an act determines citizens’ rights and duties when only the fact of its existence and date, etc, are known.
The Civic Information and Methodological Centre “Vsesvit”, with information support from the “Maidan” site and a specialized site “The Right to know” is beginning a campaign, supported by the International Renaissance Foundation, to ensure access to information about acts stamped “for official use only”.
Oleksandr Severyn explains that in the last few days more than 100 central and regional bodies have been sent formal requests for a full list of departmental acts “for official use only”, including their names.
He points out that civic action resulted in the total cessation of the issue of acts carrying the entirely illegal stamps “Not to be printed” and “Not to be published” (for example, through Cabinet of Ministers Instruction o. 490-I from 19.03.08 “On canceling restricted access to some Cabinet of Ministers acts issued from 1991-2005”).
He says that it is now the turn of acts stamped “For official use only. While not denying the State’s right to its secrets, they insist that all be according to the law, and not at the whim of this or that body.
From information at http://unian.net/ukr/news/news-343747.html
Social and economic rights
The floods in Western Ukraine a year ago caused an unprecedented amount of damage. Torrential rain flooded over a thousand populated areas, damaged more than two thousand bridges, destroyed or damaged 4.8 thousand kilometres of road. The President issued a decree on 31 July 2008 ordering the Government to allocate extra resources to normalize the environmental situation and compensate damages, as well as eliminating the consequences, together with regional administrations, in the shortest possible time.
The Accounting Chamber of Ukraine has reported the results of an audit to check how efficiently money from the State Budget aimed at eliminating the consequences was spent. The Chamber found that the Government has not created an effective system for preventing and reacting to manmade or natural disasters and that the activities of ministries and other central and local authorities have not been coordinated.
Anti-flood measures have been carried out ad hoc and unsystematically without ensuring effective and comprehensive protection from floods. This was one of the causes of the inadequate organization of measures to eliminate the consequences of the floods of 23-27 July in the Carpathian region, and the ineffective management of the money allocated for this purpose.
Having spent more than 4 billion UAH at the beginning of 2009, the Cabinet of Ministers did not ensure the planned repair and renewal work on the proper scale. At the beginning of this year work had not been completed on three thousand (out of over 7 thousand) State-owned or municipal structures. Local authorities virtually did not ensure bank fortification and measures against earth slips.
The list of what has not been done is long.
The auditors also established numerous cases where legislation was not adhered to by central authorities in their capacity as central curator for the State-allocated funds.
The authority responsible for roads spent over 100 million UAH with violations of procedure and with the roads not made ready for use. During 2009 the same authority has not produced design and costing documentation for over 50 percent of objects where repairs are needed, which will lead to their becoming more expensive and will heighten social tension in the areas affected.
The Accounting Chamber also notes that the Transcarpathian department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs carried out capital repairs worth more than half a million UAH in Uzhhorod which was not in the disaster area.
From a report issued by the Accounting Chamber’s Press Service
Strike at the Yanovska Factory may be resumed
The latest hearing into a worryingly inappropriate law suit was due on 9 October, but there has been no news of its having taken place. It was to have been the fourth hearing into a claim brought by the closed joint stock company “Yanovskoye” against the organizers of a strike at the factory because employees had been paid for less than three of the last six months.
The first hearing was held on 27 July with the employers demanding that the strike which began on 6 July be declared unlawful and the employees forced to return to work, and that court costs be paid by the respondents.
The Trade Union for Coal Industry Workers stated late last month that the employees at the factory are intended to resume their strike. The industrial action began on 6 July, with the workers seeing no other option having not been paid even half the outstanding wages for the last six months, despite the fact that the factory brought in considerably more money. No social security payments at all had been made for half a year. The employers’ first response had been to dismiss the organizers (cf. http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1247834920).
An emergency meeting of the City Council on 16 July fully supported the striking workers, finding their demands entirely legitimate. They ordered the owner to pay all wage arrears and arrears to the social security funds within a week.
The workers claim that only 2 parts of the Council’s decision have been implemented: the orders dismissing the organizers were revoked, and arrears were paid on the three months in question. The rates of pay, which in breach of legislation, are calculated at 2006 level, much lower than for coal industry workers generally, have not been changed, and arrears are owed for the summer months.
New information at http://ostro.org/news/article-70625/
Constitutional Court ruling on pensions while abroad
On 8 October the Constitutional Court announced its judgment on the submission made by the Supreme Court. The latter had questioned the constitutionality of Article 49 § 1.2 and the second sentence of Article 51 of the Law “On Mandatory State Pension Insurance” from 9 July 2003. These stopped payments of pensions to people living permanently abroad where Ukraine had not concluded an arrangement on pension provisions with the country in question.
“On the basis of the legal, social nature of pensions, the right of a citizen to receive pensions assigned him or her cannot be linked with such a condition as whether the person is living permanently in Ukraine: the State in accordance with constitutional principles is obliged to guarantee this right regardless of where the person assigned it lives – in Ukraine or abroad”.
From information at http://ccu.gov.ua/uk/publish/article/74123
Dniester Canyon: nature sold for wood and stone
As reported, environmentalists warn of serious risk to the Dniester Canyon if it does not receive national park status in the nearest future. They consider that it is local officials who are obstructing the establishment of a national park. The latter deny such charges.
The Dniester Valley in the Ternopil region is a forested rocky canyon which has been declared one of Ukraine’s seven natural wonders. It holds the world’s largest caves and monuments of very old architecture, including the family estate of the Pototsky Princes. All of this could be the basis of tourist development of the region – or, as the coordinator of the civic movement Dniester Environmental Wave, Oleksandr Stepanenko warns, it can be destroyed.
“In formal terms, the Dniester Canyon is protected by its status as regional landscape part. However this exists only on paper”, Mr Stepanenko explains. “In many places on the shores one sees mass illegal wood felling, and extraction of precious metals directly in the mouth of the river which is prohibited by the Water Code.”
He adds that near some villages in the region, hundreds of hectares of forest is being felled near the river, and there are businesses extracting minerals, with new ones also being created.
He believes that the canyon will be saved if a national park is created however notes that the Programme for Development of the Ecological network in Ukraine and presidential decrees which envisage this, are not being implemented.
According to the Head of the environmental organization “Merry Dolphin”, Anna Kolomiyets, this not only places the natural environment of the area in jeopardy, but also put in question Ukraine’s fulfilment of its international agreements. She says that on the shores of the Dniester there are 100 endemic and relict plants, that is, ones that can be found nowhere else in Ukraine. There are also 11 breeds of animal protected by the Berne Convention.
The environmentalists assert that the creation of a national park is being hampered by the local authorities which defend the interests of the businesspeople who extract stone and fell forest.
Deputy Head of the Reserve land department of the Ministry for Environmental Protection Serhiy Matveyev agrees with part of the accusations. He says that they have difficulty exerting influence on the local authorities and that they therefore hold hundreds of meetings with village councils, the heads of districts. He adds that at the present time, they have documents for 40 percent of the territory of the Canyon. He says that the Ministry hopes to get the consent of all local councils in the valley by the end of the year.
Local officials deny the accusations, one – Ivan Chelesyuk, Head of the Borshchivsk Administration, claims that there is no unlawful activity and that all work according to licences. He claims that the problem is the lack of gas and that local residents fell the forest.
From a report at: http://radiosvoboda.org/content/article/1863652.html
Ukraine not ready for commitments under readmission agreement
According to Natalia Dulnyeva from Amnesty International in Ukraine, Ukraine is not prepared for fulfilling its duties under the readmission agreement with the EU which comes into force in 2010. The agreement means that during the first two years Ukraine will annually receive on its territory up to 2 thousand illegal migrants from the EU. Ukraine will have to send the illegal migrants home at its own expensive.
Ms Dulnyeva believes that Ukraine is unable from a technical point of view to receive such a number of people since at present only two holding places for 400 persons have been built in the Chernihiv and Volyn regions.
Ms Dulnyeva considers that such holding centres are not refuges but little better than prisons. She also asks where they will put these people later – in pre-trial detention centres [SIZO] or centres for vagrants. She believes that Ukraine is not ready for this agreement and gave unrealistic promises of which the EU is well aware.
Ukraine is only planning to build another 7-9 holding centres. Each would be for about 100 people, however when this will take place is not at present known. The European Union allocated Ukraine 30 million Euros for construction, however according to the President of the Refugee Legal Aid Centre of “Human Rights know no borders”, Svitlana Marintsova, there is no adequate control over the use of the funds. She is convinced that if they begin sending illegal migrants to Ukraine when there is nowhere to accommodate them this could place the people at risk of conditions which can constitute ill-treatment.
N. Dulnyeva believes that holding centres need to be built in the Lviv, Transcarpathian, Odessa and Chernivtsi regions. The State spends on average 1 thousand Euros on each deportation, while monthly accommodation costs up to one thousand UAH.
Victims of political repression
Your voice can help stop the prosecution of Arkhangelsk historians and archive workers
In Arkhangelsk a criminal investigation has been initiated against the Head of the Faculty of Russian History of the Pomorsky State University, Professor Mikhail Suprun and the Head of the Information Centre of the Arkhangelsk Regional Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA], Alexander Dudarev.
On 13 September 2009 searches were carried out at Suprun’s flat and at his working place at the university. Computers and irreplaceable material were removed.
Professor Suprun is suspected of “unlawfully gathering personal data about a person constituting their personal, family secrets without their consent” [Article 137 § 1 of the Russian Federation Criminal Code]. He is also suspected of “inciting an official to commit actions clearly beyond the scope of the person’s powers and leading to considerable violation of citizens’ rights and legitimate interests” [Article 286 with application of Article 33 § 4 of the Criminal Code]. The “official” whom Suprun incited to “exceed his powers” was Colonel Dudarev; the latter is only accused under Article 286.
These charges are the result of Mikhail Suprun’s research, his work on creating a database of Germans deported during the War and in the first post-War years to a special settlement in the Arkhangelsk region – Soviet citizens of German origin and civilians with German citizenship, as well as of German prisoners of war held in Arkhangelsk camps. This study was being carried out within the framework of an agreement concluded in 2007 between the German Red Cros and the Pomorsky University. The main aim of the research is to preserve the memory of the victims of the Second World War and the post-War period.
The investigators claim that the construction by Suprun of a list of five thousand victims of post-War deportations constitutes “the gathering of information about their private life without their consent”. By “an official exceeding his powers” is meant the fact that Colonel Dudarev provided Suprun with access to archival material needed for his research.
The case has been initiated on the basis of a personal application from a person sent to the special settlement and the results of checks carried out by the regional department of the Federal Security Service [FSB] in the Arkhangelsk region. At the present time FSB officers, probably realizing the absurdity of the charges laid, are continuing to question Alexander Dudarev’s colleagues, trying to find some kind of compromising material against the suspects.
The role of the FSB in initiating this criminal investigation remains unclear. What checks on the basis of which a criminal investigation was initiated were carried out? Is our Security Service really so concerned about protecting citizens’ inviolability of their private life that they are prepared for the sake of that to put aside their direct duties in defending State security?
We assume, unfortunately, that this is the case. The main reason for the criminal prosecution of Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev is that hostile and unfriendly attitude to Russian and international attempts to study the tragic pages of our past which have on a number of occasions been publicly expressed by the Russian leadership. If the FSB is really the initiator of the “case of the Arkhangelsk historians”, then one must conclude that the body retains the mentality of the Cheka – GPU – NKVD-KGB. They have no interest in the truth about the repressions. Hence the attempts to frighten the Russian academic community, one of these being the case of Suprun and Dudarev.
Mikhail Nikolaevich Suprun is a historian well-known in Europe. It is thanks to his work that academic projects are carried out aimed at objectively studying the most tragic pages of Russia’s history.
Alexander Vasilyevich Dudarev is also well-known to the academic community as a conscientious and knowledgeable archivist who has given invaluable assistance to many historians in their research, as well as in the preparation of Books of Memory of Victims of Political Repression.
We demand the immediate termination of the prosecution of Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev.
The appeal has been endorsed by Ludmilla Alexeeva from the Moscow Helsinki Group, Alexander Daniel, member of the Memorial Board, Lev Ponomarev from “For Human Rights”, many other human rights defenders, historians, journalists, lawyers and others.
PLEASE HELP BY BOTH SIGNING THE APPEAL AND PASSING IT ON TO OTHERS!!!
You can sign the appeal at: http://zaprava.ru/content/view/2034/9/ (no problem writing in English)
More information about this most disturbing case can be found at: http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1255322121 and http://khpg.org.ua/en/index.php?id=1254770164 It is vital that historians and other scholars demonstrate solidarity and prevent a serious set back to the reinstatement of historical truth and remembrance of the victims of repression
Words glorifying Stalin may be removed from the Moscow metro
The Moscow Heritage Department has called the restoration of the Kurskaya Circle Metro Station “unacceptable” in a letter addressed to the organization “For Human Rights”. The human rights group turned to the Mayor’s Office in response to the reinstatement in August 2009 of a phrase from the Soviet Anthem of 1943 which glorifies Joseph Stalin.
The letter reads: “The Moscow Heritage Department has considered the appeal regarding the reinstatement of a fragment of the 1943 Soviet anthem in the vestibule of the Moscow metro station “Kurskaya Circle Line”. Planning document for the restoration of the metro station was not agreed with the Department. A letter addressed to the Metro has been prepared indicating that it was unacceptable to carry out work on an object of national heritage without agreeing with the Moscow Heritage Department.
“For Human Rights” – and other human rights groups and concerned individuals – reacted with outrage to the appearance in late August of lines from the old Soviet anthem. The words read: “Stalin brought us up – to be true to the people. He inspired us to labour and to heroism!”. The words are from Sergei Mikhalkov’s version of the national anthem, and were replaced by other, less offensive words, in 1961, five years after the dictator was denounced.
“Memorial” also issued an open letter to the Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov demanding a public investigation into the reinstatement of the text. It called the action “a grave insult to Moscow, its residents and to the entire Russian people… It is spitting on the graves of those people he murdered, among whom were tens of thousands of Muscovites.”
“To this day full lists have not been published of the Muscovite victims of the communist regime, yet the capital’s metro representatives are already hurrying to immortalize the name of their executioner.
The very words “Stalin raised us to be true to the people” should not be tolerated in a democratic country. Such phases appear only under a dictatorship.”
Lev Ponomarev, the Head of “For Human Rights” calls the response from the Heritage Department of the Mayor’s Office a pleasant surprise and says that he hopes that there will be real action and that the words will be removed.
Ernest Sementovsky, General Director of Mosmetroproekt which drew up the plans, claimed that the reconstruction was no in way connected with an attempt to glorify Stalin. He also asserted that the plans had been sent to the Moscow Heritage Department but that they had received no reply. He added that the Moscow authorities do not have the right to take a decision about redoing the station since it is a monument of federal significance. “I don’t think that a decision to take the words down can in principle be taken by anybody.”
New information at http://kommersant.ru/doc-y.aspx?DocsID=1259361
Lviv Museum – Prison “Tyurma na Lontskoho” must not be under the auspices of the SBU
Prominent Lviv academics, historians and public figures have signed an open appeal to the country’s leaders, the SBU [State Security Service] and the Lviv city authorities expressing their opposition to the creation of a Museum “Prison na Lonskoho” under the auspices of the SBU.
“Projects have been initiated in Ukraine concerning historical memory, the study of history and honouring of the memory of the victims of regimes pitched against human beings. The launching of specific actions by the State and local authorities in creating memorial museums and research centres can only be welcome.
However academic circles in Ukraine and abroad, as well as the civic community in Lviv, are concerned over the situation regarding the creation in Lviv of a memorial museum “Tyurma na Lontskoho” [the prison was at 1, Lontskoho St., now vul. Bryullova, or Bryullov St). This would be a research institution aimed at studying the history of repression and crimes against humanity which were directed against the Ukrainian, Polish, Jewish and other peoples of Halychyna, Volyn, the Trans-Carpathian region and Bukovyna during the First and Second World Wars, during Soviet and Nazi occupation and after the War.
The former prisoner on Lonskoho is a place of tragedy for many thousands of residents of Lviv. This place is testimony to the fact that in the twentieth century totalitarian and authoritarian regimes gave as “motivation” for mass murder racial, ethnic, political, social and religious “reasons”, directing their repression and crimes against various groups of people, which lead to the brutalization of society and its decay. The former prison at Lonskoho is a symbol of the tragic history of Lviv in the XX century and its significance for the city community cannot be overstated.
Our concern is aroused by the fact that the museum is to be a structural division of the Security Service of Ukraine. It is important that the Security Service is ready to promote the creation of a museum, in the first instance, by making access available to archival material. Such open cooperation is a significant move in the development of the Ukrainian State. Nonetheless it is inadmissible that the creation of the concept of the museum and its work should depend on political factors, ideological orientation and personal views of people in high-ranking public posts. The only way of avoiding this is to remove the museum from the Security Service’s jurisdiction.
The museum “Tyurma na Lontskoho” will be an important factor in affirming Lviv’s place as a European city and Ukraine as a European State. The Memorial should become a place of meetings, mutual understanding and recognition of the past. It is for this reason that Lviv which has huge cultural potential and long-standing international connections should be the main initiator and founder of such a museum. It is the Lviv community who are a reliable guarantor of the creation and stable work of the memorial museum. The State must in all ways support such initiatives by local communities, help Lviv in creating the Museum and promote its founding and developing.
We are convinced that only through the widest involvement of the public, including experts, academics and researchers, can the first Ukrainian Memorial Museum – Prison museum “Tyurma na Lontskoho” – be created, an important research and educational centre, a place to honour the memory of victims who suffered and died in this place.
The appeal has been signed by a number of prominent Ukrainians including the historians Tarik Syril Amar and Yaroslav Hrytsak, Myroslav Marynovych, founding member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group and a former political prisoner, Taras Voznyak, political scientist, philosopher, founder and Chief Editor of the Journal “I”, and many others.
It is open for signatures at [email protected]
Dissidents and their time
In Memoriam: Iryna Senyk
Iryna Senyk, poet, former political prisoner, member of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG), died on 25 October 2009 She was 83.
Iryna Senyk was born into a family of sichovi striltsi (military units fighting for Ukrainian independence in Halychyna from 1912 through 1919 against both Poland and Russia). She herself became a member of the OUN in 1941, although she acted as a messenger in a youth section of the OUN from 1939.
Due to her involvement in the national liberation movement, she was arrested on 12 December 1945 and accused of “treason against the homeland” (Article 54-1 “a”) and “involvement in a counter-revolutionary organization” (54-11) of the Criminal Code. She was sentenced in March 1946 by an NKVD military tribunal to 10 years labour camp and life-long exile.
In 1968 she was released, but prohibited from returning to Lviv. She settled in Ivano-Frankivsk where she became friendly with the Shestydesyatnyky [Sixties activists], and worked as a nurse. On 17 November 1972 she was arrested and charged with engaging in “anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda” under Article 62 § 2 of the Criminal Code. On 26 January 1973 the Ivano-Frankivsk Regional Court declared her a particularly dangerous repeat offender, however bearing in mind her level of health (in 1958 she had undergone a serious operation), sentenced her to 6 years harsh regime labour camp and 5 years exile.
She served her sentence in the women’s unit of the Mordovian political labour camps where she took part in hunger strikes to mark the Day of Soviet Political Prisoners, signed letters and appeals to the world community trying to draw attention to the “flagrant violations of basic human rights” in the USSR.
On 15 November 1978, after 6 years labour camp, Senyk was sent to serve her five-year exile period. Iryna Senyk joined the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG) in 1979. On 30 October a document was published with the title “Lamentatsiya” [“Lamentation”], where three women members of UHG, Oksana Meshko, Nina Strokata and Iryna Senyk addressed an appeal to the world community and to all people of good will, informing them of the numerous instances testifying to the “escalation of State terror and defamation directed at the Ukrainian human rights movement in Ukraine”. In autumn of the same year, Senyk signed the UHG Memorandum stating that the Group was alive and functioning in spite of the repressions perpetrated against its members.
Iryna Senyk spent 34 years in captivity. She was released on 17 August 1983.
In November 2005 she was awarded the Order of Princess Olha, 3rd order, then in November 2006 with an award £For Courage”, 1st order.
Iryna Senyk was buried on 27 October 2009 at the Lychakivske Cemetery in Lviv.
News from the CIS countries
Turkmen Miscarriage of Justice
Andrey Zatoka, environmentalist and civil society leader from Turkmenistan, was convicted of assault and sentenced to five years in prison by a judge in Dashovuz, Turkmenistan on October 29, 2009.
On October 20, 2009, Andrey Zatoka was arrested by the police in a Dashovuz bazaar, after he was attacked by an unknown man while buying groceries for his birthday. When Andrey approached the police for help, they arrested him instead of protecting him. Following his arrest, Andrey’s wife, Evgeniia Zatoka, has been denied the right to see her husband.
“Andrey’s arrest is a miscarriage of justice,” said Kate Watters, Executive Director of Crude Accountability. “Andrey has committed no crime. We appeal to the international community, to the US and Russian governments and to the OSCE to raise Andrey’s case with the Turkmen authorities. If the US, Russia and OSCE had sent observers to Andrey’s trial, as the international human rights community appealed to them to do, perhaps the outcome would have been different. It appears that the west has traded away protection of human rights for access to hydrocarbons.”
Andrey’s arrest and sentencing are the culmination of a three year long exercise in intimidation and harassment by the Turkmen authorities. He was arrested in December 2006 and charged with hooliganism as he attempted to board a plane in Dashovuz, on his way to Moscow. That charge was then changed to possession of dangerous substances after a vial of snake venom was found in his apartment. Andrey spent 46 days in prison before he was let go on a suspended sentence. In September 2007, Andrey was amnestied by President Berdymukhammedov. However, he has been denied the right to leave Turkmenistan since his arrest. Andrey holds joint Russian and Turkmen citizenship.
Andrey is the founder of the Dashovuz Ecology Club, one of Turkmenistan’s oldest and most respected environmental nongovernmental organizations, which was shut down in 2003 when the Turkmen government cracked down on civil society, changing the NGO law and making it virtually impossible to register a public organization with the government.
For more information about Zatoka’s case see www.azatoka.org.
Please check back often for the latest updates on the campaign to secure Andreys immediate and unconditional release, and to find out how you can help. Crude Accountability is working together with human rights and environmental organizations the world over to monitor Andreys case around the clock, and well be posting additional information regularly.
Thank you for your support!
Friends and supporters of Andrey Zatoka demonstrate in front of the Turkmen Embassy in Moscow, Russia on October 27, 2009. Their signs read: Free Andrey Zatoka! No More Repression in Turkmenistan! An inquest for 8 days--like during Stalins time! (www.seu.ru)
Stop persecution of scholars and interference in historical research!
48 Russian scholars have signed a statement calling for an end to persecution and interference in historical research on far-fetched pretexts and causes. “We demand the termination of the criminal prosecution against Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev, an apology from the officials involved in this and compensation to the scholars for the moral damages inflicted and the return of all documents and material removed during searches”.
The authors insist that attempts to regulate and censor historical research are unacceptable in a free country and run counter to the Russian Constitution and international human rights documents. They stress that the scientific community has no need for bureaucratic control and instructions and party leadership, and that academic institutions are sufficiently authoritative to take part as qualified experts in scholarly debate which can only be discredited by any “commissions to fight falsification of history”. “In reality true falsification of history is facilitated by closed access to many invaluable archival materials and new attempts to mythologize the recent past”.
The scholars express their categorical protest against the initiating of a criminal investigation on 13 September 2009 with regard to Professor of the Pomorsky State University Mikhail Suprun and Head of the Information Centre of the Arkhangelsk regional department of internal affairs Alexander Dudarev.
M. Suprun is suspected of having “for mercenary gain in order to later sell it decided to organize and carry out the gathering and formation into an electronic database of information about Soviet citizens repatriated from Germany at the end of the Second World War, who were ethnic Germans and Poles ..”
“For the first time in many decades officials of investigative bodies have carried out searches of historians, removing not only electronic holders of information, but also documents uncovered by M. Suprun as the result of painstaking research over many years in Russian and foreign archives.
It is not only the suspects who are traumatized by this, but also members of their families, friends and students. An important project on forming a database on victims of repression, carried out by the Pomorsky University and the German Red Cross has been stopped. There is no doubt of the outrageous nature of this shocking and pseudo-law-based action which is enormously harmful to Russia’s image and to the historical scholar community….”
“We are seeing the creation of a dangerous precedent on the basis of which one can initiate prosecutions of any historian whose research for any reason seems unwanted or inconvenient to the authorities. This augurs a return to the darkest times in the history of the Soviet State, shattered fates and devalued scholarly works.
We express solidarity with our colleagues in Arkhangelsk and our moral support for them.
At the present time indifference of representatives of the Russian historical community to this case will constitute corporate betrayal.
We demand the termination of the criminal prosecution against Mikhail Suprun and Alexander Dudarev, an apology from the officials involved in this and compensation to the scholars for the moral damages inflicted and the return of all documents and material removed during searches”
Leading Ingush activist shot dead
A leading opposition activist from Ingushetia has been shot dead in the latest act of violence in Russias North Caucasus region. Maksharip Aushevs car came under fire on a road near Nalchik, about 160km (100 miles) west of Grozny.
The North Caucasus has seen a recent upsurge in violence. Hundreds of people - rebels, security force personnel, ordinary civilians and human rights activists - have been killed this year.
Simmering conflicts blight the mainly Muslim regions of Chechnya, Ingushetia and Dagestan.In Ingushetia, the presidents motorcade was bombed in June, leaving him severely injured. And a suicide bomb attack there in August killed more than 20 people. Almost daily there are reports of deaths, kidnappings and clashes with rebels in the region.
In April, Russia declared it had successfully completed its military campaign in Chechnya - where it fought two wars against Muslim separatist rebels.
But lower-level violence there has continued and is blamed by local authorities for fuelling clashes in neighbouring territories.
Moscow, which has poured thousands of troops into the region, puts the violence down to rebels bent on creating an Islamic state.
But human rights groups accuse Russian forces of brutality, acting with impunity and increasing the violence in a region steeped in traditions of clan loyalty and blood vengeance.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has vowed to wipe out the insurgents, but critics warn that without a change in approach, Russia could lose control of the North Caucasus.
Marek Edelman 1919 - 2009
When asked what the most important thing in life was, Marek Edelman replied: “In principle the most important thing is life. And when there’s life already, then the most important thing is freedom. And then you give your life for freedom. And then it is no longer clear what is most important”
Marek Edelman was one of the leaders of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and one of the few members of the Jewish Combat Organization who survived. He was the only one who remained in Poland. Asked why, he replied: “My people are buried here. I have stayed because I am the keeper of Jewish graves.”
In Poland Marek Edelman was not, however, only the “keeper of Jewish graves”. His post-War biography is the best example of presence in Polish history of the last sixty years. He took part in the Warsaw Uprising, fighting in Śródmieście and Żoliborz. Although as a young lad he joined the socialist movement, he was never taken in by communism. The fact that the Jewish Socialist Party Bund in 1948 rejected a proposal to join the Communist Party [PZPR – the Polish United Workers’ Party] and disbanded was thanks to him.
He was linked with the democratic opposition through friends and through his sense of civic responsibility for Poland. He had seen so much death at such a young age, that later he saw his only choice as being to become a doctor and fight death.
During 1981 he was chosen as its delegate to the First Congress of "Solidarność”. He was interned during martial law, then continued to be active first in the underground opposition, then later he took part in the Round Table Talks and in the Polish Sejm.
In free Poland his voice was always to be heard in important civic matters.
Wiecznej pamięci Вічна пам’ять Eternal Memory
From a text by the Editors of Gazeta Wyborcza