“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2010, #03
Tamara Chikunova: No more killing in the name of the law Against torture and ill-treatment
Electronic records in fighting torture Freedom of expression
Mr President, Don’t infringe the Constitution! Writer threatened over opposition to morality commission? Access to information
SBU electronic archive in safe academic hands Which laws and secrets does the new Head of SBU plan to protect? New Head of SBU wants less work on archives Social and economic rights
Land shenanigans in the Ternopil region Environmental rights
Is it worth creating catastrophes from industry? Interethnic relations
NaUKMA President calls on colleagues to oppose the appointment of D. Tabachnyk Minister of Education Law enforcement agencies
The Minister of Internal Affairs has come out against protecting human rights Victims of political repression
Memory to order? Deported peoples
Resettlers from Poland demand compensation News from the CIS countries
Russian Justice as an instrument of political repression Warmest Birthday Greetings to Sergei Kovalev!
The right to life
Tamara Chikunova: No more killing in the name of the law
Tamara Chikunova, founder of the Uzbek organization “Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture” is travelling around different countries to inform people about the horrors of the authoritarian system in Uzbekistan and about lawlessness in the law enforcement agencies.
A lawyer and economist, Tamara Chikunova began her struggle against the death penalty after her only son was executed on 10 June 2000. Her efforts have finally brought success: since 1 January 2008 there have been no executions and the death penalty has been abolished.
She has received a number of international awards for her tireless and vital work. She spoke to Oksana Synytska from the Institute for Mass Information.
What is the purpose of your visit to Ukraine?
Tamara Chikunova I want to pass on to young people and society important things about human rights, about their dignity, the value and right to life. This is very important regardless of whether a country has the death penalty or not. The death penalty is the extreme form of denial of human rights. It is the deliberate and cold-blooded killing of a person by the State in the name of justice. There is no justification for torture and ill-treatment, and there cannot be. Like torture, the death penalty constitutes extreme physical and psychological violence against a person.
Asked about her trip to Lviv, she explained that this was directly linked with the plan to suggest that Mayor Sadovy includes Lviv in the international action: “Cities for life”, which is marked on 30 November by illuminating architectural monuments and accompanied by measures calling for the abolition of the death penalty throughout the world. She says that Mr Sadovy honoured them with his attention, listened attentively and has indicated that the city will take part if the Administration gives its permission.
How did your human rights work begin?
On 10 July 2000 in Tashkent my only son Dmitry Chikunov was executed. He had been unlawfully convicted and was very quickly executed after the sentence, seven months later. I would like to say that in Uzbekistan at that time according to the law those on death row and their relatives didn’t have the right to know the execution date. They weren’t able to see their relative before the execution. And to this day nobody has the right to know where those who were executed in Uzbekistan are buried.
It was through the death of my only son that I set out to fight for the abolition of this terrible, this brutal crime by the State in the name of justice. In 2000 I founded the organization “Mothers against the Death Penalty and Torture” which carries out constant monitoring of human rights violations and regularly sends information to international human rights structures: to the UN, Amnesty International, the OSCE, Human Rights Watch and other organizations. We worked to get the death penalty abolished in Uzbekistan for more than eight years. I’m glad to be able to say that since 1 January 2000 it has been totally abolished.
I can’t say that this road towards the abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan was accompanied by orchestra and upbeat marches: it was a path to test us, we needed to make the government, the State, society understand the horror of the death penalty.
There will be no more killings in the name of the law. Furthermore, I can say that a lot was achieved from the community. The international community was mobilized and it called on Uzbekistan to abolish the death penalty. We carried out many joint actions calling for this. Now the law envisages not only life imprisonment, but also as an alternative a fixed sentence of 25 years. That is, those who instead of the death penalty get life, have a chance of being released and bringing benefit to society. At the time the death penalty was abolished, there were more than 50 men on death row. The Supreme Court reconsidered all their sentences.
In Ukraine nobody has been executed for many years, however torture in prison and also during the criminal investigation remains widespread. What is the situation like with that in Uzbekistan?
Torture in prisons is generally a worldwide evil and there is presently a fight against it in many countries. In Uzbek criminal legislation Article 235 prohibits the use of torture in prisons. However we are fighting for the broadening of this article where torture has led to a person’s death, so that the law enforcement officers answer for it as for deliberate murder. As we see, for that killing they give police officers 8-15 years, whereas the norms of the criminal law give 25 years or life, and when it’s a police officer, the maximum is 15 years. In the main they get away with mild norms.
Unfortunately I don’t know what the articles are like in Ukraine punishing police officers for torture. There’s a huge problem in that it’s very difficult to prove that torture and violence were applied. And we are not only dealing with physical violence but also cases where people are morally and physically tormented, their psyche broken. You can turn a healthy, normal and dignified person into a cabbage. This can be seen in torture when they denigrate human dignity so much that a person can lose their mind, can kill themselves. This force over a person is unacceptable. It is important to adopt mechanisms to bring such people to answer.
Not so long ago, the Ukrainian media reported that 80% of Ukrainians are for the return of the death penalty. How would you assess such figures?
That percentage says that we’ve relaxed too soon. In Ukraine you need to carry out widespread explanatory work about how people die during investigations, how they’re driven to death in prisons, what the right to life is. When we pronounce sentence, apply the death penalty, we forget that life is a priceless gift bestowed on us by God. And people do not have the right to decide who is to live, and who to die. The executioner is always much worse than the person who committed the crime.
How wide is the coverage of this subject in the Uzbek media and how would you assess the level of freedom of expression in your country?
State officials prefer to conceal executions and the newspapers only whisper of them. Our level of freedom of speech is very low. I fully stand by these words since many of our journalists have been forced to emigrate because they’re subjected to pressure from the authorities and everything is subjected to strict censorship. Recently our journalist and documentary film director Ahmedova was convicted and sentenced for showing the life of simple people of Uzbekistan in her film. The film was condemned by the authorities and she faced criminal charges. This shows how strict censorship is and how little freedom of expression there is.
The interviewer was Oksana Synytska, IMI
Against torture and ill-treatment
Electronic records in fighting torture
The Kharkiv Institute for Social Research has developed an electronic registration terminal for those entering district police stations. According to Yury Chumak, Human Rights Adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs for the Kharkiv region, the idea is that each person entering the station will receive a record slip with the date and time that they arrived and left the station. Mr Chumak says that this system has worked for a long time in police stations of other European countries and has proved effective in countering torture and ill-treatment.
With the support of the Public Council on Human Rights under the Kharkiv Regional MIA, such a terminal has been installed in the Zhovtnevy Police Station in Kharkiv. Over three months of the experiment the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research supported and serviced the work of the electronic terminal. The project has been carried out with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation.
From information at http://human-rights.unian.net/ukr/detail/193644
Freedom of expression
Mr President, Don’t infringe the Constitution!
On Monday 15 March, the Media Law Institute, “Telekritika” and the Institute for Mass Information issued a statement regarding the appointment of a new head of the National Television Company of the Ukraine [NTCU] expressing their concern that this appointment might be unconstitutional. They point out that after the Constitutional Court on 15 September 2009 found Article 14 of the Law “On Television and Radio Broadcasting” dealing with procedure for the appointment and dismissal of the heads of NTCU and the National Radio Broadcasting Company of Ukraine [NRCU], this article had ceased to be in force. The statement reads that “the Constitutional Court in its judgment clearly wrote that the President of Ukraine and the Verkhovna Rada cannot have power with respect to the staffing of NTCU since such powers are not given them by the Constitution. In our opinion, the only correct way out of this situation is to urgently consider and pass amendments to the Law “On Television and Radio Broadcasting”, as recommended by the Constitutional Court.”
The authors point out that a draft law regulating this issue is on the parliamentary agenda for 1 April, and that the draft law in question, No. 2445 from 25.04.2008, was drawn up with the active participation of civic organizations and registered by National Deputy Andriy Shevchenko. They add that while this draft law requires amendments due to the judgment of the Constitutional Court, these could be added between the first and second readings.
They reiterate that neither the President nor the Verkhovna Rada, following the CCU judgment, have any right to appoint or dismiss the heads of NTCU and NTRU, and enjoin the President to not act in breach of the Constitution.
Writer threatened over opposition to morality commission?
Late in the evening of 25 February well-known artist and writer Les Podervyansky received a call on his landline from a stranger who warned him to stop his activity aimed at discrediting the National Expert Commission on the Protection of Public Morality [in Ukrainian often abbreviated as NEK - translator]. The man did not identify himself and the warning sounded like an unconcealed threat.
Les Podervyansky explains that he answered the call, but that the person on the other end, without identifying himself, asked to speak to Maria Oleksandrivna [Maria Hanzhenko, Podervyansky’s wife]. Maria says that when she answered, she heard the following: “You don’t know me. Your husband, Les has begun getting involved in State matters which don’t concern him. He has begun taking part in actions against the Morality Commission. I mean AntiNEK [the name of the campaign launched by Podervyansky and other prominent writers and artists – translator]. You tell him that this isn’t his business at all. So that problems don’t arise for him. You understand”. In response to Maria’s question why this subject was being discussed with her, not her husband, she was told: “Writers are creative people. They’re like children, they don’t understand what they’re doing. You’ll explain it to him better!”
As reported already, on 15 January an artistic protest action entitled “AntiNEK: NO to Censorship!” took place in Kyiv. An Initiative Group made up of writers Serhiy Zhadan, Les Podervyansky, Andriy Bondar and Yury Andrukhovych called on the public and Ukrainian artists to support their proposal to introduce public control over every decision passed by the Commission
From unofficial sources it is also known that the Head of NEK, Vasyl Kostytsky has on more than one occasion made negative comments about Podervyansky. NEK called the artistic protest action “PR for writers who are being forgotten on NEK’s good name”.
“Telekritika” managed to contact Mr Kostytsky. As was to be expected, he denies NEK’s involvement in the telephone threats. “If some idiot rang and scared your wife, what’s NEK got to do with it?” The author of the article, A. Kokotyukha, says that Mr Kostytsky indirectly called on the organizers of such protests to invite him personally and members of NEK to a discussion. He also said that while he respects journalists, he is ready to go to court over slander, and again alleged that many people are getting PR out of NEK and that he doesn’t like it when they make themselves a name at his expense.
In view of the fact that Podervyansky and his wife are hardly in need of special PR connected with the activities of NEK, it is worth noting that over recent times the Ukrainian intelligentsia has been expecting various forms of repression, prohibitions and restrictions, and everything connected with “tightening the screws” in the humanitarian sphere which are anticipated from the new regime.
Meanwhile Les Podervyansky intends in the next few days to report the threats to the police.Slightly abridged from an article by Andriy Kokotyukha at http://telekritika.ua/media-suspilstvo/svoboda-slova/2010-02-26/51361
Access to information
SBU electronic archive in safe academic hands
The Kyiv-Mohyla Academy [NaUKMA] and Lviv National Ivan Franko University have received the database of the open electronic archive of Ukraine’s Security Service [SBU]. This contains over 17 thousand copies of archival documents. More than double this number were ready to be added to the database, however the process has been stopped. As reported here, the recently-appointed Head of the SBU Valery Khoroshkovsky, almost immediately announced a shift in focus and claimed that “all the truth that needed to be made available to the Ukrainian people had been made so.”
The open electronic archive began its functions in October 2008, with the main objective being to simplify access and use of documents in the SBU Archive. Through the next 6 months it was expanded to include all regional centres. Up till the last few days material was being added to the electronic archive on a daily basis by the staff of the SBU Archive and volunteers from civic organizations and universities.
On 11 March the new Head of the SBU said that work on declassifying archival material was being suspended and on that same day President Yanukovych dismissed the Director of the Archive Volodymyr Vyatrovych.
On 18 March, Mr Vyatrovych took part, together with the President of NaUKMA, Serhiy Kvit, in a formal presentation to students and academic staff of the open electronic archive.
Which laws and secrets does the new Head of SBU plan to protect?
Immediately after his appointment, the new Head of the Security Service [SBU] Valeriy Khoroshkovsky spoke with journalists expressing some interesting sentiments: “The Security Service should reduce work with archives and concentrate on its main tasks”; “a great deal of material has been declassified: the truth that needed to be made available to the Ukrainian people, that truth has been made available”. He also said that the “concern of the Security Service was primarily in protecting its secrets, protecting the laws which created these secrets”.
The same day one of those dismissed was the Head of the Central SBU Archive Volodymyr Vyatrovych.
What is most staggering in this is the total certainty of this top official that the truth needed has already been given to the people, and that’s enough.
So it seems there is truth that doesn’t need to be given? Once again they are trying to decide for us what we need to know and what we don’t? It won’t work, Valeriy Ivanovych!
I would remind you, should you have forgotten that the main duty of the State, according to Article 3 of the Constitution is to affirm and defend human rights, including the right to truth about our history.
And in fact, what secrets are we talking about?
Nobody is denying that the Ukrainian State has its secrets, and that the Security Service must protect them in accordance with the law.
However the corps of SBU archival material, created up to 1991 in other country, the USSR, does not form a part of these secrets!
The stamps “secret”, “entirely secret”, and other stamps restricting access on these documents are not set out in any Ukrainian law! I would point out that the right to information under Article 34 of the Constitution may only be restricted by law.
These stamps were introduced in the USSR by Instruction No. 0186 which was itself secret and not on open access.
Normative acts of the Soviet period are only valid in Ukraine where they do not run counter to the Constitution. The given Instruction clearly breaches it and cannot be applied. Therefore refusals to provide information and access to archival files with Soviet stamps restricting access are entirely unlawful.
It is clear that all documents classified as secret by the Soviet regime need to be declassified. There is no sense in independent Ukraine in keeping any of that material secret. And the information which should remain secret can be given the stamps “top secret” or “particularly important” in accordance with the Ukrainian Law “On State Secrets”.
The systematic process of declassifying documents about political repression of the Soviet period, and it is this which makes up the major part of the SBU archives, was only begun in 2009. The leadership of the SBU stated on 24 December that during the year 16 thousand archival documents had been declassified. Yet this is only a small percentage of the overall number of documents which need to be declassified.
Thus there are not a “great many” declassified files, but extremely few!
These are archival documents about Holodomor, a small part of the documents about the liberation struggle in the 1940s, some archival criminal files of prominent figures…
Yet the main corps of documents concerning the crimes of the Soviet regime against the Ukrainian people is still closed.
We would mention only the most serious crimes of the communist regime which concerned Ukraine:
1. Mass repression against the peasants – dekulakization, resettlement, arrests and executions at the ruling of OGPU troika, the terrible years of 1930-1931
2. Organization of manmade famine resulting in the death of 7 to 12 million people in the USSR, from 10 to 15 percent of the population of Ukraine, 1932-1933.
3. Mass arrests and executions in the so-called “Kulak operation” of the NKVD – executions according to quota, July 1937 – November 1938 (767,397 people were arrested, of whom 386,798 were executed).
4. Repression against the families of people convicted of “State treason” in 1937-1938.
5. Executions and convictions according to the so-called “execution lists” where the measures of punishment was determined personally by Stalin, Molotov, Voroshilov, Kaganovych, Zhdanov, Mikoyan and others. During the period from February 1937 to October 1938 44 thousand people were convicted, of whom 39 thousand were shot. Other mass repression of the Great Terror.
6. The mass execution of around 22 thousand Polish officers taken prisoner in the Spring of 1940 in Katyń, Mednoye and Kharkiv.
7. Mass deportation of civilians on the basis of “class” or ethnic group – Poles, peoples of the Crimea during the Second World War, Ukrainians “for abetting the Ukrainian Resistance Army”, etc.
Mr Khoroshkovsky, if none of the above-listed tragedies touched your family, I am sincerely glad for you.
Mine, however, is one of the majority of Ukrainian families who went through those tragedies, who want to know the truth about our past. And it is impossible to find it out without archival material.
The process of opening up the archives must be continued if the talk of President Yanukovych about European integration is sincere, and not hypocritical rhetoric.
Or it will once again end up that Europeans are much more affected by our tragic past, than we Ukrainians. On issues of memory, access to information about political repression, etc, European consciousness has long had a clear position, formulated in numerous resolutions of the European Parliament, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE Committee of Ministers and OSCE.
I will not bore you with long quotations, three will suffice:
1. “The wider public know almost nothing about the crimes of the totalitarian communist regimes. In some countries communist parties legally exist and actively function despite the fact that sometimes they have not even distanced themselves from the crimes committed in the past by the totalitarian communist regimes.”
2. “In order to strengthen European awareness of crimes committed by totalitarian and undemocratic regimes, documentation of, and accounts testifying to, Europe’s troubled past must be supported, as there can be no reconciliation without remembrance”
3. “access to documents that are of personal relevance or needed for scientific research is still unduly restricted in some Member States; calls for a genuine effort in all Member States towards opening up archives, including those of the former internal security services, secret police and intelligence agencies”
The only point on which I can agree with the Head of the SBU is that work with the archives cannot be among the main tasks of the Security Services.
In fact it would be desirable to hand these archives to specialized institutions as has been done in other post-communist countries.
Last year there was a draft plan for creating an archive of national memory, with the department of the SBU archive with the entire collection and personnel in a separate institution. Yet this was rejected by the government. Is it not time to return to this idea?
So what secrets and laws will be protected?
I publicly demand a meeting! I hope I can explain to you, a young man, that information about political repression needs to be declassified and what kind of reservations, etc are needed.
New Head of SBU wants less work on archives
Valery Khoroshkovsky, the new Head of the Security Service [SBU] believes that the Security Service should reduce work with archives and concentrate on its main tasks. He spoke of this today to journalists after he was official presented to the SBU staff by President Yanukovych.
“A very large amount of material has been declassified… The truth which needed to be made known to the Ukrainian people – that truth has become available.”, Mr Khoroshkovsky said. He went on to say that this was definitely not the main work of the Security Services, and that this task lies elsewhere.
He added that there are some issues regarding ways and methods of declassifying material “because, fortunately or unfortunately, the concern of the Security Services lies in the first instance in protecting their secrets and the laws which created these secrets”.
Volodymyr Vyatrovych, who has been removed from his post as Head of the Central Archives, disagrees. He stresses that while a lot of archival material has been declassified, by no means all. He adds that nobody has the right to determine what amount of truth needs to be made available, all must be.
He pointed out that according to current legislation, the material in question may not be classified as State secrets, and that the work on declassifying archival material must be continued. He is convinced that Ukrainian society will monitor adherence to legislation and the right to free access to information.
From reports at www.unian.net
Social and economic rights
Land shenanigans in the Ternopil region
Chilling cases involving public officials fleecing a village community came to light during an outreach visit by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union [UHHRU] Ternopil Advice Centre in the village of Mali Chornokintsi in the Ternopil oblast (Chortkiv rajon).
The villagers gathered in the premises of the Village Council were stunned by news of two official instructions which transferred 62.5 hectares of agricultural land from the reserve fund on the territory under the Council’s jurisdiction into the private ownership of 34 unknown individuals. Not one of these 34 people lives even in the broader area, yet each is to receive free of charge property rights over 1.7 to 2 hectares of fertile land!
It transpires that the Head of the Chorkiv Rajon Administration Taras Kapusta during recent months has signed two instructions “on allocating land plots as the property of citizens to carry out personal farming activities beyond the boundaries of an inhabited point on the territory of the Mali Chornokintsi Village Council”. The land in question had always belonged to farmers. In 1939 it was confiscated for use as a collective farm and after this was dissolved and shares allocated, the land was included in the reserve fund.
The legal grounds for privatizing the land can, the rajon officials claim, be found in Item 12 of the Transitional Provisions of the Land Code. According to this Item, the local authorities have power with regard to delineating State-owned or municipal property to distribute land outside inhabited areas.
Nobody of course discussed or agreed this bold privatization with the village community and bodies of local self-government. They were simply presented with a fait accompli.
What perhaps most outrages the villagers is that none of them, not even those who worked for 30 or 40 years on the collective farm received a land plot of 2 hectares. The average land share allocated in Mali Chornokintsi was a mere 0.67 hectares. People are asking what those unidentified people have done for the State or village to deserve from Mr Kapusta & Co. such a generous present. What will the village community, the local budget, or the State receive as a result of the privatization of 62 hectares of chornozem [fertile soil]? And if neither the village, nor the State made a profit over this deal, then who has become richer on it?
The villagers gave a good deal of testimony regarding machinations with shares and the privatization of land in many other villages of the rajon. Some of the land disputes between villagers and the Rajon Administration are being examined at the level of the Supreme Administrative Court. This is while the Raion Administration has virtually not begun the demarcation process of municipal or State-owned land, drawing up urban construction documentation, plans for environmental networks, water reserves, etc.
It would seem that the rajon officials see their powers in the area of land policy only as concerning privatization according to questionable deals. Obviously not bypassing themselves or their close ones.
Is it not time to stop this lawlessness?
The Ternopil UHHRU Advice Centre is ready to provide free consultation to residents of Mali Chornokintsi to defend their socio-economic rights.
Is it worth creating catastrophes from industry?
Last week the Ternopil Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union Advice Centre received people and learned about the situation in the environmental disaster zone which covers the city of Kalush and villages of Kropyvnyk and Sivka-Kaluska in the Ivano-Frankivsk region.
The local authorities there and residents are seriously concerned that since the President signed his Decree a month has passed and yet the funding envisaged in it for carrying out priority steps on eliminating environmental risks, monitoring and making prognoses has not emerged.
Nor do the largest enterprises in Kalush – Carpatnaftokhim and LUKOR – which at one point took over the assets of the OJSC Oriana Potassium Plant and Chlorvinil factory see the need to become involved in eliminating the consequences.
Yet the remains left from the chemical monsters of past years will, it seems, long be a horror for local residents and a headache for the State. The main such problem is the toxic waste area where there are around 12 thousand tonnes of hexachlorobenzene, that is, a third of all Ukraine’s toxic waste. The management of LUKOR clearly does not acknowledge legal liability for the level of safety of the toxic waste. Furthermore the new monster is continuing to pile onto potassium dumps rare waste from modern production the toxicity of which has not been determined.
It would seem that neither the bosses from Russia’s Lukoil who own most shares of the Kalush chemical plants, nor Ukrainian officials from controlling and permit State institutions are aware that the universal principle applies everywhere in the world that the polluter pays. In such a situation, there is nobody to pay for the burden of environmental disasters but the taxpayer.
It is clear all around that the package of environmental risks which urgently need to be minimized in Kalush is considerable. It includes dips in the earth surface over mining shafts. In all on the territory of mine fields, and therefore under some risk of destruction, are around 1 thousand residential buildings in Kalush, the villages of Kropyvnyk, Sivka-Kaluska and Holin. There are also 15 million cubic metres of brine and chemical waste in the Dombrovsky quarry which have already caused salinization of subterranean water over an area of 950 hectares and swiftly migrate to the river Limnytsya and Kalush water supply sources. That same quarry is also under threat of flooding by the Sivka river. If in addition to spring flows of water, dams of Tailing Pit No. 2 of the former potassium factor are destroyed, as well as 10 million cubic metres of salt brine gets into the river, then the entire Dniester awaits consequences comparable to the notorious Stebny Disaster of 1983.
The amount of time, therefore, set aside for immediate and well-thought-out action is not so large. However it would seem as though the 90 day period of environmental disaster stage could be confined to bureaucratic establishing what to do, how and when.
NaUKMA President calls on colleagues to oppose the appointment of D. Tabachnyk Minister of Education
President of the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy Serhiy Kvit has made an open address to the educational community in which he states:
The appointment of Dmytro Tabachnyk Minister of Education and Science was totally unexpected. This is a politician who places in question Ukrainian identity, suggesting instead a concept of unspecified “Ukrainian – Russian culture”. In Dmytro Tabachnyk’s view the Law “On Holodomor 1932-1933 in Ukraine” places our country “on one level with the most revolting totalitarian dictatorships”. The Minister of Education and Science considers that “the desire to play a petty trick on your neighbour, betray him, make something up, deceiving a close relative, the willingness to lose an eye so that your neighbour goes completely blind, are typical characteristics of the forming Ukrainian nation”.
His remarks like “Halychans are lackeys, who have scarcely learned to wash their hands”, your neighbour who “virtually have nothing in common with the people of Great Ukraine from either the mentality, religious, linguistic or political point of view”, or about the “battle between the Roman-Orthodox-Halychan and Russian-Orthodox ethnic groups” supposedly developing on Ukraine’s territory, arouse bemusement since they come from a Doctor of History. Such a position of intolerance to any nation or ethnic culture can be described as xenophobia. In this case we are talking about hatred for Ukrainians and Ukrainian culture on the part of a minister who answers for State policy in education.
Sensitivity to lack of tolerance has been a hallmark of the entire post-War world, especially Europe. Therefore such a minister cannot take part in negotiations with ministers of civilized countries, cannot answer for our country’s science and education.
Ukraine needs unity and culture, our education and science need to develop in quality and competitiveness on the global arena, and universities – autonomy. Dmytro Tabachnyk cannot take on these tasks since the humanitarian field is not built on hatred and lies.
Let us not be indifferent today since our school and university students will not forgive us for that tomorrow! True pedagogy begins from ones own example, from upholding ones own dignity. We call on you to speak out publicly against Dmytro Tabachnyk, a person who is unacceptable for such an important and responsible position, as Ukraine’s Minister of Education and Science.
President of the National University of the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, Serhiy Kvit
Law enforcement agencies
The Minister of Internal Affairs has come out against protecting human rights
Open Appeal from Ukrainian Human Rights Organizations
On 17 March 2010 we learned that the Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylev has the firm intention of dissolving the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of the Police.
We are convinced that such actions by the new leadership are unwarranted, weaken national mechanisms for protecting human rights and demonstrate his priorities which do not include ensuring that the police respect human rights.
The folding of the work of human rights institutions created in recent years arouses outrage among civic organizations.
This Department was created in 2008 as the result of systematic cooperation over many years between the police and human rights organizations. It was moreover initiated when V. Tsushko was Minister of Internal Affairs in V. Yanukovych’s government. This non-political initiative was a step towards developing a policy of openness and transparency in the work of the MIA.
The work of Public Councils under the MIA and regional MIA departments made it possible to develop contacts between the police and human rights organizations. We are certain that these public councils are the most effective of any attached to bodies of power.
In just two years the Department has carried out a massive amount of work in the police aimed at safeguarding human rights in police activities and the reform of the MIA.
It is thanks to the Department that the mobile groups on monitoring observance of human rights in places of detention under the MIA have begun working systematically. These have become a prototype for a national preventive mechanism against torture which has gained recognition among international and Ukrainian specialists. Employees of this Department have uncovered hundreds of violations in the MIA.
The Department initiated the drawing up and approving of an action plan against racism and xenophobia, and a programme for fostering gender equality in police stations.
Hundreds of ordinary citizens who have complained of unlawful actions by the police have received assistance from the staff of the Department. With their help significant abuses by the police have been uncovered.
It is clear that without such a Department it is impossible to create a contemporary European police force which respects human rights in its work.
We would ask the new MIA management whether it is specifically this policy that they are rejecting when they state their intention to dissolve the Department for Monitoring Human Rights in the Work of Internal Affairs agencies. Do the police really not need to fight racism and xenophobia on the even of EURO 2010? Will the police not develop cooperation with international institutions and human rights organizations? Is there no need for mobile groups? Are public councils also not needed?
If you don’t need that, then you are building a police force for a totalitarian country working against the people and society.
We are convinced that you must not only retain the Department, but also provide new impetus for its work. We call upon you to do that and continue to develop policy based on observance of human rights by Internal Affairs bodies.
18 March 2010
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union which is made up of 23 Ukrainian human rights organizations
Kharkiv Human Rights Group
International Women’s Human Rights Centre “La Strada – Ukraine”
The Centre for Political-Legal Reform, Kyiv
Kherson Regional Charity and Health Fund
The Kherson City Association of Journalists “Pivden’” (“South”)
The Regional Civic Fund “Law and Democracy”, Lviv
The Sevastopol Human Rights Protection Group, Sevastopol
Sumy City Civic Union “Public Bureau ‘Human Rights Protection
The civic organization “Expert Group”
The Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy
The Mykolaiv Regional Women’s Independent Association “DANA”
The human rights centre “Postup”, Luhansk
The Public Committee for the Protection of Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties Luhansk
Luhansk Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine
Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine
City Youth Civic Organization “M’ART” (Youth Alternative), Chernihiv
Youth Human Rights Centre
Information and Consultative Women’s Centre, Kyiv
Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities (Vaad)
The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine (KNGU)
Chernihiv Public Committee for the Protection of Human Rights
The Civic Network OPORA
The Institute for Legal Research and Strategy, Kharkiv
Konotop Society of Consumers and Taxpayers “Dignity”, Konotop, Sumy Region
Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine
Civic Encouragement Movement
Luhansk Legal Foundation
Kirovohrad Association “Civic Initiatives”
The Kirovohrad Club “For a Law-based State”
Victims of political repression
Memory to order?
When there are no graves, we light candles. In a church, a forest, in our window – important only that the memory burns on. .
When that memory is of the victims of an inhuman regime, we want people to know and to stop turning away. However it is no less vital that the memory of victims is not used for political purposes.
On 12 January 2010 the Kyiv Court of Appeal began its preliminary hearing into the case over genocide in Ukraine. The very next day, according to information from the press centre of the SBU [Ukrainian Security Service] the court found Stalin and six other leaders of the Bolshevik totalitarian regime guilty of Holodomor-Genocide in Ukraine in 1932-1933. It then terminated the proceedings since all those found guilty are dead.
We learned, yet again from the SBU, that the Kyiv Court of Appeal’s 13 January Ruling had not been appealed and therefore came into force on 21 January. It is, admittedly, difficult to understand how there could have been appeals against a ruling which was only made public (posted on the Kharkiv Human Rights website) at the beginning of February.
The authorities clearly saw the fact that the public had not seen the ruling as trivial, and as early as 14 January both the Head of the SBU and the President of Ukraine named it a milestone ruling. President Yushchenko, for example, stated that the “Ukrainian court ruling moves any discussion on Holodomor from a political to a juridical-legal level.” Maybe it does, however it wouldn’t hurt to first read it. Particularly since this unpublished ruling represents, in the President’s view, “an additional argument for Ukraine’s parliament to introduce criminal liability for denying crimes against humanity”.
Some other plans by State bodies in connection with this ruling surely make the fact that it came into force without being available for perusal even more startling. In the SBU report from 14 January we read:
“The Security Service, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, plan to establish where abroad and to whom grain confiscated during those years in Ukraine was sent. “The purpose of this work is to identify the companies, corporations and governments which received ‘commercial profit’ from the criminal acts of the communist leadership as a result of the confiscation of property of the Ukrainian population”, Mr Nalyvaichenko [Head of the SBU] stated. He added that such action was universally recognized world practice regarding compensation for victims of crimes against humanity.”
It would be worth finding out how universally accepted it is to claim compensation for actions the companies, corporations and governments may not have known were criminal. In any case it is to be hoped that the court will spend somewhat longer examining such claims.
The Head of the SBU asserts that “Ukraine is the only country in the world which through domestic investigation, Prosecutor and court has proven that genocide was committed on its territory”. Whether this is something to boast of could be questioned given that the court dealt suspiciously quickly with a massive amount of historical detail and in one day was ready to entirely agree with the criminal investigators. Obviously the need for some elements of a normal court trial is obviated by the lack of living defendants however I would doubt that the Nuremberg Tribunal or the International Court in the Hague in the case of Bosnia and Herzegovina v. Serbia and Montenegro deliberated so long merely because they needed to interrogate the accused.
In order to establish an act of genocide according to the UN Convention from 9 December 1948 on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide [the Convention], convincing evidence must be provided that the act was “committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group as such”. Among the many cases of mass murder during the first half of the twentieth century, only the Holocaust has been generally recognized as genocide. The Court in the Hague only found one act of genocide to have been proven in Bosnia. Yet the court in Kyiv felt competent after one day to find that there had been a deliberate intention by the accused “to destroy in part specifically the Ukrainian ethnic group (and not any other)”.
From the verdicts at the Nuremberg Trial it is clear that both specific actions, and intent and level of knowledge were taken into consideration. Not all those convicted were executed, and a few were acquitted. The court in Kyiv found all seven accused guilty of exactly the same crime. If one simply needs a court ruling on Holodomor-Genocide, then there is no problem. From the point of view of historical truth it would have seemed justified to mention the letter one of the men, Chubar, wrote on 10 June 1932 in which he tried to make Stalin and Molotov aware that the requisition plan was unrealistic and that food aid needed to be increased to the starving peasants. There is also no mention of quite different possibilities – without serious risk to themselves – of realistically influencing the situation (it is no accident that four men later became victims of repression, while Stalin, Molotov and Kaganovich died of natural causes). This exonerates no one, yet the lack of any attention to such differences seems at least odd.
It is also doubtful whether this State-organized trio succeeded in proving that genocide was perpetrated which is frustrating, especially for those including myself who actually consider Holodomor to have been genocide.
The court did not find that there had been an act of genocide against the Ukrainian people, i.e. the deliberate destruction in part of the people living in Ukraine. For some reason it was decided to assert that the crime was one of genocide of the Ukrainian ethnic group in part, and that’s where the rot sets in.
Value judgments and assumptions regarding who was to blame in the testimony of witnesses are given as factual proof of the guilt of the “defendants”. Such testimony is undoubtedly valuable, however one needs to clearly define what can be termed proof and what cannot. One woman quoted perhaps genuinely believes that only ethnic Ukrainians in her area suffered, while Jews did not. I would seriously doubt whether this opinion of hers, without being backed up by hard evidence, should have been added to the case. Unfortunately there are considerably more xenophobic points in the ruling and we are unlikely to be dealing only with an inept choice of testimony.
Perhaps the stress on the Ukrainian ethnic group is linked with the fact that deliberate destruction of part of the group of peasants as such does not fall under the Convention. Back in 1948, under pressure from the Soviet delegation, the clause regarding social groups was removed. However one should not forget other, more nationalist, considerations. We hear, for example, from the Head of the SBU Central Archive that Holodomor should unite Ukrainians. How can such a decision unite Ukrainians when it effectively calls Holodomor genocide of only one ethnic group of the population? They have furthermore totally ignored Kuban which suffered no less than Ukraine. Kuban, despite its two thirds Ukrainian population, clearly didn’t fit the political plan called “Holodomor-Genocide in Ukraine in 1932-1933”. Yet what kind of plan is that when a million people died in Kuban and they’ve decided not to mention them at all?
For decades the figure of 10 million victims of Holodomor was given, quoting the number which Stalin supposedly named to Churchill (admittedly as the cost of industrialization). A good many Ukrainians felt virtually indignant, refusing to believe historians who put forward substantiated suggestions that Holodomor in fact claimed the lives of approximately 4 million people. Yet now the SBU has miraculously managed to resolve this conflict and reinstate the old – Stalin-based! – figure. We hear from Mr Nalyvaichenko that “the final number of human losses suffered by Ukraine as the result of Holodomor 1932-1933 comes to 10 million and 63 thousand”. Of this number, he explains, 3 million 941 thousand died of starvation, while 6 million and 122 thousand people who should have been born, were not.
One can subject the Appeal Court’s ruling to lengthy and exhaustive criticism, however the problem does not lie only in procedural flaws.
It is undoubtedly cheering that the Ukrainian Security Service has moved far from the pernicious legacy of the KGB. However when today they carry out one political task, where is the guarantee that tomorrow, next month or in a year, they won’t undertake an entirely different role? All those involved, including the judge, were well aware what was expected of them and that undermines any trust. In my view everything linked with our memory should be entrusted to a fully independent structure, like the Polish Institute of Natural Remembrance.
I am not suggesting that politics has not played a role in other cases of crimes against humanity or genocide. Often, unfortunately, “inconvenient” trials (such as that of Milosevic) were dragged out inordinately, while other criminals have scarcely been hunted down vigorously. However the actual court trials were carried out properly which cannot be said of the pitiful imitation of a judicial examination in Kyiv on 12-13 January.
Whether it was necessary to insist on recognition of Holodomor specifically as genocide is hard to say. The Soviet authorities forcibly took the grain away from the peasants, dooming them to starvation. They prevented them from leaving the villages in search of food while Ukraine was at the same time exporting grain. This was without any doubt a crime against humanity which the world once preferred not to know about and some western intellectuals shamelessly denied. There must be no more silence and the world has to know. In the name of the victims, and so that next time, wherever that may be, people do not look away, pretending they see nothing.
Instead of educational, awareness-raising measures, the authorities decided that they absolutely had to prove that genocide in the understanding of the UN Convention from 1948 had been perpetrated and they issued the relevant instructions. Everybody knew that there would be opposition from Russia, though in fact it is not necessarily obvious why. However we mustn’t forget that there are serious historians who do not believe that Holodomor falls under the Convention. Whether or not we agree with them is another matter, only in no way, is it a political one. When the issue becomes politicized, we end up with political tasks and the temptation to find the facts to fit our conclusions. And we end up with court rulings like that of the Kyiv Court of Appeal.
It is frustrating that there remain no graves, yet even memory is politicized and exploited. It betrays the memory of victims of a monstrous crime.
Resettlers from Poland demand compensation
Around 2 thousand Ukrainian nationals are demanding compensation from the State for property lost in Poland from 1944 to 1951 during the mass resettlement of Ukrainians from ethnic Ukrainian land to the territory of the Ukrainian SSR, yet judges from the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv are refusing to examine such claims.
Lviv architect, Oles Yarema, as heir, would like to receive compensation for his family’s property in Poland. He has archival documents confirming ownership rights. His grandfather worked hard in the USA in order to build a house and buy land.
“My grandfather sent money to my grandmother for her to buy land. They planted a forest, orchard. Then the values were family, land, a house. Other people are using that property.”
Almost half a million Ukrainians were forcibly resettled between 1944 and 1951 from the Chelm, Peremysl, Yaroslavsk and other powiats to what was then the Ukrainian SSR. People were only able to take what they could carry with them, and many arrived in Ukraine without food, money or clothes, while their homes and land remained on the other side of the border.
Ukraine is obliged to pay compensation
According to an agreement between UkrSSR and the Polish Committee for National Liberation on the Evacuation of the Ukrainian Population from Polish Territory and Polish Nationals from the territory of UkrSSR, the resettled Ukrainians were supposed to receive from the UkrSSR the value of moveable and immovable property. However none of the victims received a penny.
People were issued with evacuation letters, the Poles itemized the property and were obliged to indicate its value. A number of resettlers received archival certificates confirming that they had property.
The civic organization “Harmony and Order”, together with a lawyers’ association, have calculated the equivalent of the money then and now. 1 Soviet Karbovanets is now equal to between 41,92 and 55, 54 UAH, depending on the time they were resettled.
If a property was valued at over 4,500 karbovanets, then members of the family or heirs could receive over 150 thousand UAH (1 euro is worth a little less than 11 UAH – translator).
Since the judges of the Pechersky District Court in Kyiv are refusing to examine the cases, claiming that there are no legal grounds, lawyers have drawn up a draft resolution on compensation which they have sent to the government. The grounds were the publishing in the official press in 2006 of the 1944 international Agreement. According to lawyer, Lev Kozakov, this case concerns more than a million Ukrainian citizens. He says that over the last 6 months more than 2 thousand people with compensation documents prepared have approached them. “We have carried out archival searches, corresponded with the Polish authorities, established the value of the property and buildings. It’s a huge amount of money.”
If the government ignores the lawyers’ application, on behalf of the resettlers they will turn to a Ukrainian court, and if the ruling is against them, will lodge an application with the European Court of Human Rights. That is, like the Poles who were resettled to Poland and left property in Ukraine have done. Poland, incidentally, has paid many resettlers compensation for the property they lost.Halyna Tereshchuk
News from the CIS countries
Russian Justice as an instrument of political repression
This report is based on appeals and analytical material received by the movement “For Human Rights”, and information published by journalists, public and political organizations. We would point out that in this report we do not consider the question of mass fabrication of repressions, including extrajudicial killings, many examples of which we know.
Political repression continues unabated in the Russian Federation; with the number of political prisoners (those who have never resorted to violence nor called for it, and have been imprisoned for their beliefs, political and public activities) or people whose persecution is linked with a wish by the state authorities and officials to strengthen their positions and control over different spheres of life, according to various estimates, standing at about 200. Several dozen are under investigation at the present time, or have received suspended sentences.
We consider court rulings or decisions of investigation agencies as unfair and unlawful where they are made in the interests of a state authority or department, or for a misinterpreted notion of “benefit to the State”, with these reflecting the political corruption of Justice.
Russian Human Rights activists consider political prisoners to be not only victims of authorized repression against oppositionists and dissidents, but also victims of political corruption.
A typical example of a political order to persecute a public figure is the high-profile case of Yekaterinburg human rights activist, head of “Legal basis” foundation Aleksey Sokolov, who held a public inquiry into several crimes, including mass beating up and murders of prisoners (the movie “Torture factory”, hearings on circumstances of the murder of 4 people by jailers in the colony in the city of Kopeysk in May 31, 2008, inquiry into reasons of mass death of youngsters in a jam near “Hollywood” club in March 2009) and other resonant cases.
On 13 May, 2009 Sokolov was seized near his house and charged with involvement in criminal offences committed 8 years ago – on the basis of testimony of prisoners who had been convicted of these crimes and had complained to Sokolov of tortures for many years. After his release from the courtroom Sokolov was immediately arrested near the detention center’s gates on another absurd charge.
The most well-known examples of political corruption of Justice are false accusations of espionage. The fate of scientists Valentin Danilov and Igor Sutyagin who were sentenced to 14 and 15 years of imprisonment have received the most publicity (recently the Court refused early conditional release to Igor Sutyagin). The wave of fabricated espionage trials over the last decade resulted in not only an upsurge in spy mania, but also in the restoration of an almost Soviet level of special agencies’ control over international scientific cooperation.
By all accounts, the trial proceedings of cases of Yukos oil company, first of all both trials of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev were aimed at a large scale transformation of the Russian political system: establishment of financial basis of a new elite of siloviki, and intimidation of big business.
Since the year 2003 there have been other “Khodorkovsky case” look-alikes, with persecutions of other businessmen from Mikhail Gutseriev (Russneft company) to small businessmen such as publisher of “Life” newspaper Aigul Makhmutova), managers and corporative lawyers (two more terrible examples which shook the country – has been the inhuman treatment of terminally ill Vasiliy Aleksanyan and the death of attorney Sergei Magnitsky in the cell of “Sailor silence” detention center).
These persecutions have resulted in a radical transformation of the public and political situation – Russian business has practically ceased to participate in politics, refused to support the opposition and independent institutions of Russian society.
Cases of politically motivated terror are actively fabricated in order to justify a sharp increase of control of the Ministry of Internal Affairs over public and political life, and manipulation of society. Here we give two examples:
The case of the first explosion of elite train “Nevskiy express” on August 13, 2007: ethnic Ingush Salambek Dzakhkiev sentenced to 10 years of imprisonment in a harsh regime colony was accused of transportation of explosives on the basis of testimony of people who stated in court that they had been tortured. He was also charged with robbery which had been allegedly committed in 2003 (!)
The case of student Ivan Belousov who was accused of blowing up a lamp pole at Manezh Square in the heart of Moscow on December 27, 2007. Investigation agencies assumed that Belousov had been acting as a member of the Russian nationalistic underground because he knew some right-wing ideologists. We have an official expert examination from the MIA indicating that approximately half an hour before the explosion, somebody knew about the later events and made a CD copy of the only one moment from the all many hours camera record – 2,5 minutes when somebody allegedly mined the lamp pole.
The monstrously absurd case of “Saratov satanists”, fabricated with Federal Security Service assistance. 25 years old student of Medical Faculty Aleksandr Kazakov is accused of creation of “Noble Order of the Devil”. The case was fabricated with Federal Security Assistance and through the use of physical torture (brutal beating up) and psychological (during the investigation the “suspects” were threatened with homosexual rape). In fact it was interest of youngsters in mysticism, and there was nothing real in the accusation but a sexual episode of three years prescription.
The last scandal concerning political persecution of oppositionists is a hunger strike of State Duma Deputy Oleg Shein (“Fair Russia” fraction) and other 6 participants as a sign of protest against a systematic fabrication of criminal charges against representative of Opposition. It should be noted that it concerns only a moderate opposition which protests against abuse of local representatives of “United Russia”.
Several years targeted political repressions mainly were based on the following factors:
Participation in civil protest actions such as a symbolic “capture” of MHSD (Ministry of Health and Social Development) and Public Reception of the President of the Russian Federation in 2004; or protests against high prices in restaurants;
Attempts to resist riffraff of pro-Kremlin youth organizations;
Banal tossing drug.
Currently political Justice persecutes citizens on the basis of the following accusations:
Incitement of social hatred;
Membership in “banned organizations”.
It’s necessary to consider accusations of incitement of social hatred, hostility and intimidation on the grounds of social groups (article 282 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation). Article 29 of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, guaranteeing freedom of speech, prohibits the promotion of social hatred, without giving a detailed interpretation of this concept. However the legislation of the Russian Federation doesn’t establish criteria of a “social group” (in terms of various directions of sociology; anything can fall under this term). It made an opportunity to substitute combating promotion of social hatred for a ban on any radical protest demonstrations. For example: such terms as “Ment” (slangy equivalent of a term “militia officer”) (the case of blogger Savva Terentyev from the city of Novosibirsk), “Government” (the case of resident of the city of Khabarovsk Natalia Ignatyeva), “Federal Security Service officers” (the case of communist Andrei Nikiforov from the city on Novosibirsk) have been slant in favour of the concept “social group”. In 2009 Human Rights activists urged President Dmitriy Medvedev stop bringing such charges. The Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation refused to accept the complaint against unconstitutionality of charges with incitement of hatred for social groups without its consideration.
Fabrications of charges of belonging to banned organizations come thick and fast, with these in the first instance concerning allegations of membership of the National-Bolshevik party (NBP) founded by Eduard Limonov. The party was liquidated at the end of 2005 for participation of its members in civil protest actions, before that the party was refused registration for its statutory goal to protect the rights of compatriots (Russian and Russian-speaking) in countries of the new abroad. It should be noted that all prosecuted people have already been members of other parties and organizations, for example, Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), or large oppositional coalition “Other Russia”. Numerous defendants said that they were just supporters of the doctrine “national-bolshevism” which had been created in the 20s by Russian philosopher Nikolay Ustryalov. This doctrine proposed to reform Soviet communism and was never recognized as extremist.
Another unfairly banned organization is the “Russian section” of the network party “Hizb ut Tahrir al Islamiy”. Obviously, Russian cells of this structure have no organizational tie either with the party created in 1943 in Arabic countries or with organizations with the same name in Uzbekistan and other countries. However many Muslims in Russia are convicted only of their involvement in “Hizb ut Tahrir al Islamiy”. It should be noted that the call for peaceful establishment of the united nationalist Islamic Government should be respected as well as the position of Russian Orthodox Church about advantage of autocratic monarchy over republican system.
Examples of persecution of religious dissidents are searches conducted in Islamic chapels in Saint-Petersburg on March 19, 2010; persecution of bishop of the Russian Orthodox Autonomous Church Grigoriy (V.M. Luriye) because he doesn’t bear allegiance to the Moscow Patriarchate. Moreover, law-enforcement agencies dared to decide which relicts are authentic!
Another telling example of persecution for religious dissention is the criminal prosecution of the Jehovah’s Witnesses for incitement of religious hatred – they have been accused of questioning the doctrine of the Trinity and other Christian doctrines.
At lower level, politically motivated repressions are expressed in systematic use of administrative liability against participants in political meetings and demonstrations allegedly for “disobeying a police officer”, because the authorities are convinced that the threat of penalty (1000-2000 rubles fine) for “violation of order during mass events” is not capable of deterring participants of mass protest actions. In order to fabricate charges, false testimony of police officers is frequently used in courts, as well as ready-made templates of “witnesses”’ testimony (which are distributed to police and OMON officers).
Executive Director of the Movement “For Human Rights”, Member of Moscow Helsinki Group
Warmest Birthday Greetings to Sergei Kovalev!
2 March 2010 is the eightieth birthday of Sergei Kovalev, human rights defender, former political prisoner, first Russian Federation Human Rights Ombudsperson and Chair of the Russian “Memorial” Historical-Educational and Human Rights Society
Sergei Kovalev was born on 2 March 1930 in the Sumy region of Ukraine, however his family moved to the Moscow region when he was just two years old. He is a biophysicist who has published more than 60 scientific works, although he is much better known as an unwavering defender of human rights and justice.
His opposition to the hypocrisy and lies of the regime emerged in the mid-1950s with his participation in the struggle against the Lysenko doctrine which was dominant in Soviet biology and supported by the Party.
In 1966 he organized the collection of signatures to an appeal addressed to the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet in defence of Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuly Daniel who were being tried for “anti-Soviet propaganda”. The appeal named the conviction of the two writers for publishing their works abroad unlawful and in breach of the Soviet Constitution. Later Sergei Kovalev was to stress that this appeal to the law was no accident. “This form of protest, unlike underground and violent methods, is far more morally acceptable”.
He joined the emerging human rights movement in 1968 and in May 1969 became one of the members of the Initiative Group for the Defence of Human Rights in the USSR, the first human rights association in the country. From 1971 he was one of the leading figures in keeping the “Chronicle of Current Events”, the typed information bulletin of Soviet human rights defenders.
Sergei Kovalev was arrested on 28 December 1974 and sentenced, a full year later, to 7 years harsh regime labour camp and 3 years exile for “anti-Soviet propaganda and agitation”.
He returned to Moscow during the years of perestroika and took part in a number of civic initiatives.
During the first years after the Soviet Union collapsed, he was active also in politics. In 1994 the State Duma elected him the first Russian Human Rights Ombudsperson. In December that year he sharply criticised the actions of the Federal authorities in Chechnya and up till March 1995 spent most of his time in the Republic, becoming one of the main sources of information about the military action, bombing of Grozny etc.
His unwillingness to tolerate lawlessness and injustice made him enemies then, as in Soviet times. This has continued to the present day, especially since the human rights situation began worsening in the early 2000s.
This same unfailing commitment to human rights and respect for human dignity has brought him recognition and deep respect, and made him many friends throughout the world.
We join with them in extending our best wishes to Sergei Adamovich on his birthday.