war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.


Warnings over “the worst ever” law on the local elections

The Law on the Local Elections, signed by the President on 27 July, came into force over the weekend. Experts point to serious failings in the law.

According to the Head of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU], Oleksandr Chernenko, the beginning date of 11 September envisaged for the electoral process makes the electoral campaign “too short for it to be possible to adhere to all procedure in organizing the electoral process”. Among other technical and procedural faults, he named the formation of electoral  commissions without mandatory proportional representation of all election players.

He says that “it is specifically the commissions which can become the instruction either for vote-rigging or for unlawful removal of registration from the leaders of the race”. Chernenko considers that the new law on the local elections is the worst of all electoral laws and from the purely political point of view. Restrictions and in some cases even abolition of the possibility of putting oneself forward as a candidate, the restriction to participation in the elections of political parties, he believes, seriously restricts the rights of cities to take part in the elections and be elected.

International expert opinion needed

This view was shared by the Head of the Council of the Laboratory for Legislative Initiatives, Ihor Kohut. He sees the main problem as being “excessive concentration on parties in the local elections and the few opportunities for non-party candidates” to take part in the elections. And the short time frames for preparing and passing the law not only precluded getting an expert assessment from European institutions as to compliance with norms of European law, but prevented even taking into account the comments of State expert bodies and the Verkhovna Rada.

“Ukrainian politicians were not interested in any outside expert assessment of this law. Since the Ukrainian legislators were quicker at working out how to ensure political preferences for a certain part of Ukraine’s political parties”. Kohut says that he is in favour of a mandatory expert assessment of the electoral law by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and considers that “the OSCE and its Office on Democratic Initiatives and Human Rights [ODIHR] can also speak out on this subject.”

Oleksandr Savytsky

The right to life

Police try to attribute death of student in their custody to childhood injuries

Ihor Indylo, a student who should have turned 20 the next day died in police custody in May. He had committed no offence, went voluntarily to the police station, apparently after an altercation with a police officer living in the same student hostel. He died from head injuries and haemorrhaging.  The police claimed that Ihor fell in a state of inebriation and that no police officers are implicated in his death. After a report on the TV 1 + 1 Channel, the story became high-profile, with the Prosecutor General and Kyiv Prosecutor promising to get to the bottom of it, and then the President meeting Ihor’s parents last week.

Unfortunately, there would seem little evidence of real will to prosecute those guilty of a young man’s death.  It is reported at that Ihor’s medical records are being used to justify the police version of events. The agency quotes its own sources within the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] as saying that investigators have questioned doctors in several hospitals of the Chernihiv region and taken Ihor’s medical records away. The management of the Kyiv Prosecutor’s Office have already been told that Ihor had been injured several times in childhood and that his parents had supposedly concealed this from the law enforcement bodies.

The examples range from a skull injury requiring hospitalization when he was 7, and allegations that on 18 November 2008 he took part in a fight in the Kyiv Hydropark and also received a head injury.

“If you put these cases together, the result of the second forensic medical examination promised for September, is predictable. They’ll claim that the student had had head injuries before, and that it’s not surprising that he died after falling on a wooden fall. And they’ll terminate the case.”

Ihor’s mother, Ludmila Indylo, stresses that there were no long-term consequences of her son’s childhood injuries. She notes, too, that in October 2009 he went through all the medical tests for conscription and was found to be health and able to do military service. She is convinced that her son was beaten in the Shevchenkivsky Police Station, and then the doctors did not save him. “Both the police and the doctors are to blame.”

From information at


Against torture and ill-treatment

After encounter with the police a man hanged himself. The police deny torture

A 34-year-old man hanged himself after “a conversation” with the police in Sosynytsa, Chernihiv region. Two months on, the Regional Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] rejects any suggestion that torture was applied. Human rights groups have a different point of view.

On 11 June this year, after several days of contact with the police, 34-year-old Valeriy Kysil, from the town of Koryukvkf in the Chernihiv region, hanged himself. Valeriy and his parents had been taken by force from their home, held in a SIZO [remand centre], and not allowed to see their relatives or a lawyer. He was subjected to intimidation and they tried to force him to confess to a crime.  Valeriy  stopped sleeping, became anxious, terrified that they “would soon come for us all and kill everybody”, and finally hanged himself.

The authorities’ position

On 22 July an information request was sent to the relevant MIA department asking whether the MIA were aware of the case, whether an investigation had been carried out and, if so, what the result had been.

They informed that they were aware of it, that after Valeriy’s suicide a complaint had been received by the Prosecutor alleging unwarranted actions by the Chernihiv Regional Police.

The Chernihiv Regional Prosecutor had instructed the police to carry out an official investigation. This had apparently been done, and the conclusions sent to the Prosecutor for a legal assessment. The conclusions were not provided.

After this another information request was sent to the Regional Prosecutor. The reply stated that in accordance with Article 37 of the Law on Information, this document did not need to be provided.

Human rights campaigners’ position

Article 97 of the Criminal Procedure Code which was the subject of the investigation pertains to procedural matters. There was no investigation into whether torture had been applied.

There are serious grounds for believing it was, including the testimony of Valeriy himself who spoke of it to his lawyer, to the taxi driver who took him home from the police station and to his family.

Serhiy Burov, Head of the Chernihiv Civic Organization M’ART says that after reading the response to the information requests, you have an impression of what really happened. He says there are many cases known where the Prosecutor and Police cover up for each other, and after such internal investigations it’s practically impossible to establish the truth.

Maria Yasenovska, President of the Kharkiv Regional Civic Alternative Foundation points out:

“European Court of Human Rights case law shows that in such cases we can speak of a presumption of guilt by the State. If before being in the police station a person was physically and mentally healthy, but afterwards committed suicide, then it is not for the victim’s side to provide the errors of the State, but for the State to provide that it did not do anything inadmissible.”

According to Oleksandr Zaholets, Valeriy’s lawyer, the criminal investigation has stood still since Valeriy’s death. Nobody has been charged although the investigator has promised that the case will be sent to court. He says that the fact that the investigator is the same means that the police enquiry found no violations.


At present the possibility is being reviewed of sending the case to the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union as a strategic litigation, this being one aimed at changing either the law or practice of applying the law. Ms Yasenovska stresses that in this case it would be a question of changing practice, and says that a number of similar cases have already been won in the European Court of Human Rights.  Perhaps the sheer weight of these numbers can have impact on the government.

Slightly adapted from the original at

The right to a fair trial

New Law on the Judiciary augurs increased disorder

The Law on the Judicial System and Status of Judges which has just come into force is in many ways out of line with European norms. This is the message from human rights groups with criticism of the law vocal.

According to Ihor Koliushko, Head of the Centre for Political and Legal Reform, one can expect a considerable reduction in independence of the judiciary, and of the judges themselves. “This is reflected in the powers which the High Council of Justice receives. And its makeup does not comply with European standards for a body which should use disciplinary proceedings against judges”.

The High Council of Justice is a political body which is formed by the President and parliament and “at present is two-thirds dependent on one political force”, the Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Volodymyr Yavorsky explains.

He believes mass dismissals of judges cannot be ruled out, nor the loss of any independence from the authorities of those who remain in their positions. The Supreme Court, he thinks, could end up without work since all disputes will be shared out between the economic, criminal, civil and administrative courts. He expects this to result in considerable delays in examination of cases and an increase in disruption in court proceedings.

The Deputy Head of the President’s Administration Andriy Pornov told the Deutsche Welle Ukrainian Service that President Yanukovych had already given “a whole range of instructions to the Government and Ministry of Justice in the context of the coming into effect of the law on the judicial system”. Among them he mentioned the instruction to create another level – a High Specialized Court on examining civil and criminal cases. Yavorsky said that this is envisaged by the new law. However this will not, in his view, lead to any acceleration in examination of cases or have any effect on court proceedings.

Freedom of conscience and religion

How the Traffic Police do not ensure safe travelling

The Ministry of Internal Affairs traffic police were extraordinarily busy around the Orthodox Festival of the Baptism of Kyivan Rus on 28 July.  Not however with trying to reduce Ukraine’s abysmal road fatality statistics.  No, they had an entirely different task.

Among those wishing to be in Kyiv for the ceremony were many believers of the Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate. It is hard to provide an accurate estimate of the number of believers prevented from reaching their destination by the traffic police, however the latter’s, shall we say, vigilance was reported in a large number of regions of the country stopping entire coaches carrying believers.

The Statement issued by the Kyiv Patriarchate is entitled On violation of the right to freedom of conscience and freedom of movement and speaks of reports received on 26-27 July from believers in different parts of the country unable to travel despite coaches having been hired long in advance. It also describes measures obstructing entry and departure from Kyiv on 28 July.

“From the Chernihiv region not one coach was able to set off, from the Ternopil region – more than three thirds of the coaches. Coaches could not depart from Kharkiv and Odessa, while obstructions were caused to those heading off from the Vinnytsa, Dnipropetrovsk, Lviv, Rivne, Sumy and other regions”.  The report goes on to speak of traffic police using far-fetched pretexts to stop coaches and prevent them from travelling on, and says that it was only people’s outrage and threat to hold a  demonstration in protest there and then that made the traffic police let coaches go.

“Several kilometres from the city coaches were also stopped en masse by traffic police who prohibited them from travelling further. We would stress that there was no explanation to the pilgrims on ways of getting to the place of the Service making it possible to avoid congestion in the centre of the city.”

Worth remembering that these were believers on pilgrimage, not young people travelling to a music concert and it can be safely assumed there were a number of elderly people.

The information agency UNIAN reported on 28 July that Odessa traffic officers had prevented pilgrims leaving for Kyiv.  One of the believers explained that three police coaches blocked their coach, and came up to the driver saying that he was drunk. He asserted that police officers and men not in uniform had rough-handled male and female believers.

The believers, who we can assume did not just want to leave Odessa, but to arrive in Kyiv in one piece,  were adamant that their driver was sober. It does rather defy belief that a transportation company would provide a driver who was inebriated. Nonetheless, the police took away his keys and driving licence.

Judging from all the reports, it would seem that the traffic police caught an extraordinary number of drunk drivers that day. They were “caught” admittedly, in a very specific manner, at a glance and with the only consequences being to believers unable to attend religious services and ceremonies which had great meaning for them.

It is not clear whether some police officers decided to particularly shine, or whether it was always part of the plan to cause difficulties at both ends, but there were reports of trouble made when pilgrims tried to return home. The Religious Information Service of Ukraine [RISU] reports the account given by the Bishop of Sumy and Okhtyrka (Mefodiy). The traffic police tried to stop their coaches however they managed to agree that the coaches could stop near a metro station. After the believers left the coaches, he relates, a traffic police car arrived, searched the coaches and took away documents. After the day’s activities, they proved unable to move since one of the drivers had had his documents removed.  The Bishop rang the traffic police and was told by the person on the other end that they should travel regardless and “find out there where your documents are”. Asked to identify himself, the person hung up.

“We are peaceful people and believers, we have no grievance against the police however we want them to treat us accordingly, to respect our civil rights”, the Bishop stressed..

The response from the Ministry of Internal Affairs was also issued on 28 July, making it clear that no preliminary investigation into the reports can have been made.  It denies all allegations outright, and claims that it is all provocation.

Now even if we assume that so many believers from around the country had conspired, together with the leadership of their Church, to slander the traffic police, the reports seem depressingly credible for another reason.  Exactly the same reports were received from all over the country around 10-11 May when supporters of the opposition were prevented from getting to Kyiv for a planned demonstration by those same traffic police.

The reception given to Patriarch Kyrill of the Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate by the country’s leaders seemed disturbingly excessive to many Ukrainians given the division of Church and State stipulated in the Constitution and the very considerable number of people with different (or no) religious affiliations. Many had reservations about the unprecedented amount and style of coverage on Ukraine’s National Television Channel.  It was certainly difficult to escape the sense that one particular Church was being singled out as favoured.

Any such favouritism or discrimination is a grave violation of freedom of conscience, and therefore of Ukraine’s Constitution and its international commitments. These recent events suggest that the new leadership of the Ministry of Internal Affairs considers this of no importance. Given the failure thus far of the President to react, it is to be hoped that representatives of other countries and international structures will impress upon him the need for full investigation into these allegations and remind him of the inadmissibility of any such actions by law enforcement bodies. 

We need to all remind politicians that this behaviour is unacceptable regardless of people’s religion, their politics or any other considerations.  It is vital to act now.  The traffic police have almost certainly now been used twice to deny citizens their most fundamental human rights. With local elections looming, the consequences of ignoring such violations surely do not need to be spelled out.

Freedom of expression

Colleague of Missing Ukrainian Journalist slams Investigation

A colleague of missing Ukrainian journalist Vasyl Klymentyev has described the investigation into his disappearance as "a farce,"
Petro Matvienko, deputy chief editor of the weekly "Novy Styl" (New Style) in Kharkiv, told RFE/RL that investigators are not interested in finding Klymentyev.
Klymentyev, 66, has been missing since August 11.
Interior Minister Anatoliy Mohylyov said last week that Klymentyev was likely dead and that security forces are suspected of involvement in the disappearance.
Matvienko said that the investigations cannot be unbiased, as he and Klymentyev were preparing articles about "the illegal activities of Kharkiv Oblast Deputy Prosecutor Serhiy Khachatrian."
According to Matvienko, the police and prosecutor’s office are connected, and therefore it is hard to believe that the investigation will shed any light on the case.
"The statements made by President [Viktor] Yanukovych and Interior Affairs Minister Mohylyov, saying that they have the investigations of Klymentyev’s case under their personal control, are nothing but a PR action," said Matvienko.
He called Klymentyev’s case "Gongadzegate," an allusion to independent journalist Georgy Gongadze, who was abducted and beheaded by unknown assailants in 2000. Three former police officers were jailed for killing Gongadze, but it has not been established who ordered the killing.
Klymentyev’s relatives reported him missing on August 12. Police said preliminary investigations revealed that Klymentyev was last seen on August 11 near Kharkiv’s Sportivna metro station, together with an unknown man, and that both of them got into a BMW automobile.  (The police have since said that this was not the case – PL)
Matvienko said that on August 9, he and Klymentyev took photographs of mansions belonging to regional tax chief Stanislav Denisyuk and three other local officials, including a former Ukrainian State Security Service officer. They intended to use the pictures in an article to be published in the next issue of the paper.
Matvienko said he and Klymentyev met on the morning of August 11 to discuss the article and the photos. Later the same day, Matvienko said, he was not able to reach Klymentyev by phone.
30 August was the International Day of the Disappeared.

First National TV has most violations in the news, Inter – the most subjects avoided

From 26 July to 21 August 2010 there was an increase in violations of journalist standards in the news on nationwide television channels. This is demonstrated by the results of the monitoring carried out by Telekritika as part of an Internews Network project.

523 items were identified with violations which could indicate that they were commissioned, as against 385 during the previous reporting period. 

Table 1:  The number of items with violations of professional standards suggesting commissioned nature

First National, or UTV-1 is the only State-owned television channel in Ukraine. Inter is part of the Inter Media Group, owned by Valery Khoroshkovsky, Head of the Security Service



2 - 7.08

9 - 14.08



First National [UTV-1]
























Channel 5






Novy Kanal
























The First National TV Channel [UTV-1] takes a dubious lead with 103 items with violations suggesting that the material was written to order. Last month it was in third place.  It is disappointing that “1 + 1” is back there with top offenders since it had produced less such material in recent months. (It was journalists from this channel who first revolted in May this year, publicly stating that they were being subjected to pressure and censorship]/

Also of concern is the increase in number of violations by Channel 5.  This is one of the few channels not demonstrating a pro-government position.  It has been in 5th place for some time, however there is a steep increase in the actual number.

The number of cases where important information has not been reported has increased against last month. 1,759 such cases were identified with the “leaders” here being, as before, Inter (242) and UTV-1 (232). Rather unexpectedly, Novy Kanal was in third place (230).


The number of cases where information about events, opinions, etc of public importance were avoided in television news broadcasts 



2 - 7.08

9 - 14.08















Novy Kanal
























Channel 5


















Telekritika’s experts note that while there is a dramatic difference between the best and worst figures regarding likely commissioned news items, the problem of subjects (or aspects of them) being avoided is common for all television channels.

The monitoring is carried out every week by Telekritika and the Institute for Mass Information as part of a project aimed at improving the level of media awareness among the public and encouraging the media to be responsible and observe journalist standards.

From information at

Call for Help from Crimean TV Company Chornomorska

Management and journalists from one of the largest and most popular television companies in the Crimea, Chornomorska, are calling on Ukrainian and foreign journalists and human rights campaigners for help. As reported, the tax police have frozen Chornomorska’s assets, while the Control and Audit Department has now begun a check. Chornomorska warns that nearer the elections the TV company may stop broadcasting as has already happened under Kuchma.

Both bodies have simply frozen the assets, but are not returning to carry out a check.

The Head of the Crimean branch of the Batkivshchyna [Motherland] Party, National Deputy Andriy Senchenko, who is considered to be the owner of Chornomorska views this as pressure on the television company in order to exclude it from broadcasting during the local elections.

The Head of Chornomorska, Tetyana Krasikova says that the staff have called on international human rights organizations and the journalist community to support them at this difficult time. She stresses that what is happening to Chornomorska could at any time happen to other opposition channels or media outlets.

She says that while the company’s assets are frozen, they are losing advertisers, money, but are continuing to work. They fear, however, that the accounts of the channel could be frozen, and then it would stop broadcasting. This was what happened in 1998 when before the elections to the Verkhovna Rada and local councils, Chornomorska broadcasting was suspended for a week. Before the presidential elections in 1999, they were stopped for three months. There were similar attempts in 2002, 2004 and 2006.

The tax police refuse to comment.

Tetyana Krasikova states that the documents have been removed and assets frozen over a criminal case that is not connected to the TV channel, while the Control and Audit Department check is about payment by the social insurance for information services provided by the company in 2009.

According to the Crimean Centre for Journalist Investigations, Chornomorska is the largest non-State owned regional television and radio company, broadcasting 24 hours over the whole area of the Crimea and Sevastopol. Its founders are legal entities, however control, via affiliated structures, is in the hands of Andriy Senchenko.

On Wednesday in Simferopol the Security Service [SBU] carried out searches of several officers of BYuT [Yulia Tymoshenko’s Bloc] and Batkivshchyna. The SBU are also not commenting or explaining their actions. Local observers believe that the actions are aimed at enterprises owned by Senchenko and his political partners from BYuT. Suspension of their work will hit funding of the opposition in the Crimea on the eve of local elections, and will also have serious impact on the financial state of Chornomorska since these enterprises are its main advertisers.

Slightly abridged from the Ukrainian at:

Do They Know What They Are Doing?

Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy started his attempts to take away terrestrial television frequencies from TV networks TBi and Channel 5 in the very first week after the inauguration of the new President. Since then numerous petitions have been written, all following the same pattern: «Dear Mr President, we appeal to you with the request…». No response. Lately, more and more concerned petitions have been arriving from abroad (as for instance, from International Press Institute’s Interim Director Alison Bethel McKenzie). There are no substantial reactions from the government; only declarations with no follow up. There are numerous proofs of illegitimate use of power and persecution of journalists by the Ukrainian Security Service and law-enforcements agencies can be seen on YouTube. People on Bankova St ignore them. At best they say dismissively: “You still have Channel 5, you will have it!”

In the meanwhile, Mr. Khoroshkovskiy proving his devotion to the president, has uncovered potential “killers” of the President among the Internet bloggers, concurrently he is about to complete his legal battle against TBi and Channel 5, the court hearing, which is to deprive the above mentioned TV channels of their licenses, is scheduled to take place on August 16, 2010. 

During this entire period of six months’ long struggle the President of the country has not explained why he puts up with the evident conflict of interests, when the owner of the biggest media group in Ukraine Іnter is the head of the Ukrainian Security Service, and at the same time, the same person, publicly and openly uses the Ukrainian Security Service for his private business interests. The President still has a few more days to resolve this conflict of interests by dismissing Mr. Khoroshkovskiy from his position of the Head of the Ukrainian Security Service for flagrant abuse of his official duties.

The President has not explained to the public why he allows the plaintiff in the court case about the distribution of TV frequencies to be simultaneously a member of the High Council of Justice, which, by the way, is subordinated to the President, and which appoints and dismisses all judges. The President still has a few more days to ensure fairness and transparency of the judicial process.

The President and his team have been ignoring numerous articles in the press about the fact that the appointment of new members of the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting took place with flagrant violations of the law. President still has a few more days to stop the lawlessness and let the public know that the new government will not tolerate disregard of the law.

The President knows very well that on December 16, 2009 the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine warned the National Council on Television and Radio Broadcasting that the acquisition of additional licenses by the Inter media group could change the situation in the TV market and adversely affect competition. The President of Ukraine today has the last chance to not allow monopolization of the media market by the Inter group and by its owner Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy, and therefore also monopolization of the media by the Ukrainian Secret Service.

If the President does not do all that, I as a citizen of this country will have all reasonable grounds and moral right to come to the conclusion that the head of the Ukrainian Secret Service is merely carrying out a plan that was in advance sanctioned by President, and accordance to which the media in Ukraine should be “cleaned up”, free from unruly channels and freedom loving journalists.

The fulfilment of personal business interests of Mr. Khoroshkovskiy is in this case a reward for the successful execution of the plan. This situation is so dangerous to my country that I believe it is my civic duty to publicly inform Head of the Council of National Security of Ukraine Mrs. Raisa Bogatyriova about this threat.

In that way, in the future no one in the top reaches of the government could even think of hiding behind the almost Biblical expression: “For we knew not what we were doing”.

Myroslav Marynovych, Vice Rector of the Ukrainian Catholic University and former political prisoner

August 12, 2010


IPI Addresses Open Letter to Ukrainian President over Press Freedom Concerns

The International Press Institute (IPI), the world’s oldest global press freedom organisation with members from the world’s leading media outlets, addressed an open letter to Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych on Tuesday respectfully urging him to address a disturbing deterioration in press freedom over the last six months in Ukraine.
President Yanukovych won election in February 2009. There are fears that since then the clock has been rolled back on recent press freedom gains in Ukraine.
A rise in attacks on journalists has been reported, along with a climate of impunity.
In the most recent worrying development, a Kiev court decided to cancel the allocation of broadcasting frequencies to two privately-run TV channels - TVi and 5 Kanal.
TVi Chief Executive Mykola Kniazhytskyi told IPI on Tuesday: “After President Yanukovych came to power a number of topics became off-limits. On top of that there have been attempts to take away the licenses of TVi and Channel 5. Bloggers were ‘invited’ for questioning by the security services and were asked to sign that they would refrain from saying anything negative about the government.”
Kniazhytskyi also said that a number of journalists had been allegedly roughed up by the police.
 “Recently, a journalist from Novi Kanal was reporting on a photography exhibition,” he said. “The police attacked him. The cameraman who was with him filmed the incident.”
The journalist who was attacked, allegedly by members of the Ukrainian police special forces, can be seen attempting to follow security services personnel through a door on the exhibition premises after they had dragged away a person who was protesting against the exhibition, which reportedly focused on World War II. The assault can be viewed here.
 “In a separate incident, another journalist, from STB, was attacked by a member of the president’s security,” said Kniazhytskyi. “This also was filmed, shown on TV, and no one was punished.” The incident can be viewed here.
Kniazhytskyi asserted: “The courts are refusing to defend the journalists. This is a consequence of a decrease in independence in the judicial branch.”
The TVi CEO also told IPI that he was recently followed by a car with false license plates which parked in front of his house and in front of the TV channel. He said this video shows what happened when he sent a reporter out to film and question the occupants.
The EU, the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and the European security watchdog, the OSCE, have all expressed concern about the current media environment.
"I viewed the 8 June [court] decision as potentially negative for pluralism in Ukrainian broadcasting," said OSCE media freedom representative Dunja Mijatovic in a recent report, according to the BBC.
The U.S. Embassy said that "like Ms Mijatovic, we are also concerned about recent steps taken in Ukraine that have the potential to threaten media freedom," the BBC reported.
Ukraine’s media is dominated by millionaires, and their business competition is reflected in the current developments.
However, one of the country’s richest men is also the head of the state security service and owner of a media empire - including the county’s most-watched television channel. The BBC reported that Ukrainian media watchdog Telekritika has warned that he also exerts influence over the state body overseeing television and radio.
In an April incident involving media freedom in Ukraine, police allegedly roughed up journalists and an editor working for the Express newspaper who had come to the office of a regional prosecutor to inquire about another Express reporter arrested without charge the previous day.
The journalist was detained in Horodok, in Ukraine’s western region of Lviv. The incident, which was filmed (the footage was later uploaded to Youtube and can be viewed here), came a day after police had arrested a journalist from the same paper, who had recently written an investigative report exposing corruption in the regional government. 
IPI Interim Director Alison Bethel McKenzie said: “We hope President Yanukovych takes note of the serious concerns we have outlined in our letter, and acts to address them. After several years of press freedom progress, Ukraine risks undoing those gains and sliding backwards into a climate of intimidation characterised by the absence of independent news.”
The full text of the IPI letter to President Yanukovych can be read below:
Your Excellency,
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), a globally-renowned press freedom group, is writing to express its concern at the significant deterioration in the press freedom environment in Ukraine, since you came to office in February 2010. This follows several years of improvement in Ukraine’s press freedom climate.
The current developments run counter to your public pledges to defend the freedom of the press and "to prevent pressure on the media".
We are particularly concerned about a Kiev court’s decision to annul the allocation of broadcasting frequencies to two privately-run TV channels: TVi and 5 Kanal.
IPI is alarmed at reports of an increase in the number of assaults against journalists and a failure to bring the perpetrators of the attacks to justice.
In a number of instances, involvement by state security forces has been alleged.
We have also noted an apparent blurring of the lines between government office and private media ownership and have received reports of the exertion of political influence over the state television and radio channel regulatory authority.
We understand that a hearing in the license allocation case of TVi and 5 Kanal is approaching. We hope that it will be open to the public and that the Ukraine will make efforts to ensure that the allocation process is transparent, fair and not subject to political pressure.
We also respectfully call on you to ensure that those who attack journalists are identified and brought to justice, and to guarantee the independence of the broadcast regulatory authorities.
IPI is a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists dedicated to the furtherance and safeguarding of press freedom, the protection of freedom of opinion and expression, the promotion of the free flow of news and information, and the improvement of the practices of journalism. Based in Vienna, Austria, IPI is the oldest press freedom group in the world and holds consultative status with the United Nations, and the Council of Europe.
IPI would be happy to discuss these matters with you in person, at a time of your convenience.
In the anticipation of swift action on this matter, I remain
Respectfully Yours,

Alison Bethel McKenzie
Interim Director
International Press Institute (IPI)

Freedom of peaceful assembly

The State is watching you everywhere!

From now on any movement by students around Ukraine will be under the close surveillance of the State. From September the Ministry of Education and Science will be introducing an electronic student card. This will mean that the relevant bodies will have no difficulty in finding out when and where a student went.

The Ministry claims that their aim is to create an information and analysis system for recording and compensating concessions which school and institute students receive when buying tickets for travelling around. When buying any railway ticket, the railway database will add the information that the ticket was bought using a student concession. It will therefore, they say, be very easy to estimate the overall amount compensated. The new system will clearly allow them also to identify people who use these concessions.

Such an initiative by officials jeopardizes freedom of peaceful assembly in Ukraine. It is easy to understand how by imagining a situation where the Ministry of Education issues an order banning the study of Ukrainian. Students from all parts of the country would want to converge on the Ministry. The authorities will now know each of them by name. What guarantees do we have that the authorities will not apply repressive means against activists of the student movement whose names and movements are now known?

It is not only students who are endangered by new measures from the government. For example, the Ministry of Transport and Communications has obliged coach companies to make lists of passengers on routes between cities in Ukraine and agree them with the traffic police and local authorities.

We can recall recent events when traffic police officers did all they could to prevent coaches with supporters of the opposition, then in July believers from the Orthodox Church under the Kyiv Patriarchate. Now the traffic police and local authorities have received the possibility to agree or not agree such trips.

Nor should we forget the efforts of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to introduce named railway tickets. This year, under pressure from the public, the Ministry’s idea of introducing full name, date of birth and passport number on railway tickets was put on hold. However there is no guarantee that officialdom will rest with this, and that there will be no continuation to the story.

Planes, coaches, trains … It would seem that the authorities have taken efforts to ensure that movement by any form of transport is under the eagle eye of the State.

They need only issue an order obliging ordinary drivers to receive written permission to transport a passenger, providing his or her passport details. We suspect this can be anticipated in the near future.

Interethnic relations

While Neo-Nazis become more active, the MIA dissolves the section on fighting xenophobia

The Ministry of Internal Affairs recently dissolved the departmental section involved in uncovering crimes under Article 161. The section focuses its efforts on hate crimes. The management of the Ministry would appear to believe that there are no such problems in Ukraine. Yesterday, members of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union had occasion to see how absolutely untrue this is. The young woman who approached the advice centre gave a harrowing tale.

On 15 August, her boyfriend went to the football match “Arsenal” (Kyiv) vs. “Volyn” (Lutsk),, following which he became the target of a neo-Nazi attack.

He says that going away from the stadium he and his friends, together with fans of “Arsenal”, were grabbed by 50 tattooed young men with bare chests from among “Dynamo” fans. They began the attack with gas canisters, then they pushed the fans against the wall and began brutally beating them, shouting “Sieg heil!” and “Kill the anti-fa” [a youth anti-fascist movement].  Several knives were also used.

The far-right thugs proudly informed of the results of the fight on their site.  Ihor and Mykola (not their real names) ended up in hospital, one with concussion and having lost three front teeth, the other with three knife wounds.

The most interesting thing began in the hospital. Two men not in uniform but calling themselves policemen came up to Ihor. Without showing identification, they began questioning him, although the interrogation was more of an attempt to convince Ihor that the fight had been arranged between fans of the clubs. When his girlfriend began objecting and asking the doctor for permission to hold the conversation and for a lawyer, she was told “Get out, and don’t interfere, or because of oh-so-clever people like you, we’ll release them, and let the lawyer catch them.”

After they learned that Ihor is a Russian national, the threats began. The people calling themselves police officers tried to persuade  Ihor and his girlfriend that if they make a report to the police department, he will be deported as an illegal immigrant.

The men left,, but Ihor did submit the report. However, judging from what happened, the police officers have their own version of the evidents.

The situation gives rise to a number of questions:

Why did they attempt to convince the victim that the fight had been arranged between fans of the clubs?  Perhaps to conceal the fact that Ukraine has problems with football fans and they need people and funding for that?

Why did the police, if such they were, so obstruct Ihor in handing in a report?  Perhaps in order to later try to convince the victim that the fight had been arranged between fans of the clubs?  Or to conceal the fact that Ukraine has a problem with fascist movements and to report that Ukraine does not need a specialized section to fight hate crime?

If they weren’t police officers, who else has an interest in stopping the victim from turning to the police and reporting the crime. You might think it was the neo-Nazists themselves, yet it’s not like them.

Most of the victims are indeed frightened to submit a report. They are worried, not without cause, of reprisals from the neo-Nazis whose antics are being fuelled by the lack of response from the authorities.

Yet the MIA believes that there is nothing to fear, and the section for tackling hate crimes has been dissolved. So don’t worry if somebody knifes you after a football match screaming Heil Hitler. The police will say that that’s simply hooligan antics between supporters of completing fan clubs.

P.S. It transpired that the two men are indeed police officers – the young woman recognized one of them at the Pechersky District Police Station.

According to Viacheslav Lichachov, Head of the Programme for Monitoring and Analysis of Racism and Xenophobia in Ukraine run by the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine, there is an upward trend in the number of attacks on anti-fascists and opponents from sub-cultures. “Such attacks have become more frequent, and increasingly more brutal. This has been seen particularly during 2010.”


“ Infringement of citizens’ equality on the basis of their racial or ethnic origin or their attitude to religion.”  Article 161 covers “deliberate actions aimed at inciting ethnic, racial or religious enmity and hatred, at denigrating a person’s ethnic honour and dignity or causing offence with regard to religious beliefs, as well as direct or indirect restrictions of rights, or the establishment of direct or indirect privileges for citizens on the basis of race, skin colour, political, religious, or other convictions, gender, ethnic or social origin, material position, language or other grounds”.

Law enforcement agencies

MIA and Traffic Police: overt mockery of human rights and the law

It’s music to the ear when the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs [MIA] says that under the present government, the work of the police is aimed in the first instance at defending human rights, and that there can be no justification for uncovering any crimes, even the most serious, by violating those rights.  He says that to prevent human rights abuse even the criteria for evaluating police work have been changed.

The Minister did indeed, on 25 May 2010, sign Order No. 197 which approved a new System of Evaluation for the work of the police. According to Item 6.2 of this System, the criterion for assessing the efficiency of the work of the police is a positive rate of increase in the number of identified violations as set out in Article 130 of the Code of Administrative Offences [CAO] (driving in a state of inebriation).  That means that the work of a traffic police unit can only receive a positive assessment if for the current reporting period more such offences were uncovered than during the previous one.

One would not suggest that it’s not necessary to fight drunken driving moreover the State is obliged to ensure people’s safety on the roods. However that needs to be with unfailing observance of human rights, guaranteed by domestic and international legislation, including the following articles of the Constitution: Article 19 (no one shall be forced to do what is not envisaged by legislation); 28 (Everyone has the right to respect of his or her dignity. No one shall be subjected to torture, cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment that violates his or her dignity. No person shall be subjected to medical, scientific or other experiments without his or her free consent.) and 29 (Every person has the right to freedom and personal inviolability).  We should not forget that the traffic police must also act only on the bass, with the powers and in the manner envisaged by the Constitution and laws of Ukraine.

Yet what do they do in reality and how can this be reconciled with the statements of the Minister?

Legislation envisages prosecution for driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicating substances. Signs of intoxication are defined by the relevant instructions from the Ministry of Health and MIA, and these signs are grounds for carrying out a check. The grounds for drawing up a protocol regarding such an offence are confirmation of the person’s state of intoxication through a check according to established procedure or the refusal by the driver to undergo such a check. It should be noted that a check carried out with infringements of the established procedure is deemed invalid (Article 266 § 5 of the

CAO) and the results may not used in drawing up the relevant protocol on drunk driving.

The procedure in detail: the check where somebody is suspected of being under the influence of alcohol, drunks, etc, must be carried out by a traffic police officer in the presence of two witnesses at the place where the person was stopped, using a special technical device (Article 266 § 2 of the CAO).  Only if the driver disagrees with the result of the check, carried out according to established procedure, or does not agree to it being made, is it permitted at the wish of the driver (but under no circumstances forcibly!) to carry out a check in a medical establishment ((Article 266 § 2 of the CAO).

There are thus four cases, according to legislation, where it can be legitimate to draw up a protocol on driving in a state of intoxication.

1. Where a check carried out by a traffic police officer at the place where the person was stopped in the presence of two witnesses, using a special technical device establishes that the person was in a state of intoxication and the person agrees with this result;

2.  Where a check carried out by a traffic police officer at the place where the person was stopped in the presence of two witnesses, using a special technical device establishes that the person was in a state of intoxication but the person does not agree and asks for another check in a medical establishment which results in the assessment being confirmed.

3.  The driver is asked by a traffic police officer at the place where the person was stopped in the presence of two witnesses to undergo a check using a special technical device, but the driver does not agree and expresses the wish to have the check carried out in a medical establishment. This results in the person being confirmed as being in a state of intoxication.

4.  The driver is asked by a traffic police officer at the place where the person was stopped in the presence of two witnesses to undergo a check using a special technical device, but the driver does not agree and refuses to have a check carried out in a medical establishment

This list is exhaustive and there are no other grounds for the lawful drawing up of a protocol. Note that each of the grounds must involve the use or offer to use a special technical device. In other words the law requires that each time a protocol on driving in a state of intoxication is drawn up, the traffic police officer must have a special technical device to carry out the relevant check. A protocol drawn up without this special technical device is in breach of the norms of procedural law and prosecution in such cases would violate a whole range of human rights.

The situation with such special technical devices

Partial procurement of such devices has only now been begun. At present there is no talk of providing traffic police units with such special technical devices to carry out checks.

So do traffic police maybe not draw up such protocols due to the lack of special technical devices? Or only about driving in a state of inebriation where there are alcohol testers (according to unofficial data only around 300 of these have been bought for all traffic police units)?  Not at all.  If we are to believe the upbeat reports from the heads of regional traffic police officers on official Internet websites, just in the first half of this year there were around 300 thousand such protocols.

Remember too that according to the new MIA Order, there needs to be positive growth in this figure.

The results of talks on condition of anonymity with traffic police officers fill one with horror, the kinds of tricks and violations they resort to in order to get this growth. They provoke drives to refuse a check; they force them to go to a medical establishment; numerous types of overt falsification. Otherwise they can’t draw up a protocol due to current legislation and the lack of special technical devices. The demands from the MIA are strict – if you don’t make the figures, you don’t suit the position you hold. First of all, his majesty the statistical findings, with the law and human rights somehow not worthy of consideration.

It is not only individual traffic police officers who resort to violations of the Constitution, laws and human rights, but whole Ministries. As we noted, the check as to whether a person is under the influence of alcohol, drugs etc should be carried out with the use of special technical devices by a police officer in the presence of two witnesses, and a check carried out with infringements of this article is considered invalid. The Cabinet of Ministers through its Resolution from 17 December 2008 No. 1103 instructed the MIA and Ministry of Health to bring their normative legal acts into line with their resolution. Instead the two ministries approved through a joint Order Instructions which in violation of the Law allow them to send a person to a medical establishment without carrying out a check at the place with the use of special technical devices where there are signs that the person may be under the influence of alcohol, drugs, etc.

This is how they brought it into line? It is clear that this is to avoid problems with purchasing the special technical devices.  And the traffic police officers follow this Instruction, systematically violating human rights, guaranteed by the Constitution and norms of international law.

One thus has a situation where:

The Minister makes an official statement about the work of the police being aimed at protecting human rights and about the inadmissibility of uncovering any crime through the use of violations;

There is a departmental decision which without creating the necessary legal and material conditions sets the ground for systematic violation of the law and inevitable human rights violations;

The departmental decision is carried out without creation of these conditions and leads to a serious deterioration in observance of human rights in police work.

Cheap populism, profanation or own mockery of human rights and the law?

Abridged from the original

Minister Mohylyov and Human Rights

On 27 August 2005 the then Minister of Internal Affairs Yury Lutsenko signed Order No. 1243 creating an MIA Public Council on Human Rights (on Ensuring Observance of Human Rights in the Work of the Police) as a consultative advisory body. On 28 December the first meeting took place at which I was elected Co-Chair, together with the Minister. The Public Council functioned for more than four years, contacting with Yury Lutsenko, then with Vasyl Tsushko, then again with Yury Lutsenko. After the creation of a new government in 2010, members of the Public Council tried for more than three months to hold their next meeting, but to no avail. Yet Order No. 1243 has not been cancelled, and I consider that I must fulfil my duties. Without the possibility of giving recommendations, as usual, during Public Council meetings, I am forced to do this publicly.

Over recent times the Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoly Mohylyov has often spoken about human rights. He even said on 9 July during the television show “Big Politics” on the Inter TV Channel that “in relation to each violation of human rights we will carry out the most rigorous investigation” (my underlining). Yet human rights violations by Internal Affairs officers arise in the main during certain ministerial instructions.

For example, with Instruction No. 236 from 8 April 2010 the powers of Internal Affairs officials are unwarrantedly increased since heads of divisions are required to ensure on the railways “constant control over the stay of foreign nationals on service structures, carry out thorough checks of foreign nationals’ documents, give particular attention to whether they have registration cards issued by border guards.”  Acting in this fashion constitutes wide-scale violation of the law. It is clear to anybody that constant surveillance over a person and checking of their documents are specific procedure which is quite strictly regulated by law. It may not therefore be applied on a mass scale whether in relation to Ukrainian or foreign nationals.

In addition, according to Instruction No. 292 from 23 April 2010, it is planned to introduce on railway tickets full name, date of birth, series and number of a person’s ID, The objective is supposedly for the public’s good, to seek out criminals. Yet the MIA management is entirely indifferent to the fact that such an approach is a flagrant violation of the right to privacy and treats all Ukrainians as to potential criminals. The introduction of such a system significantly hampers freedom of movement which can only be restricted in conditions of global social threats – war, terrorist acts, mass riots or natural cataclysms. None of these are taking place in Ukraine. Instead there is the overt wish by the MIA management to control the movement of citizens in an arbitrary and unhampered fashion as was the case with officials of police states. Do we really wish to show guests coming to Euro 2012 such a police state in Ukraine?

Another example of systematic and wide-scale violation of the right to privacy which have increased dramatically under the new management of the MIA is the mandatory fingerprint recording of people detained. This should be carried out against people accused of a crime, or subjective to administrative penalties in the form of deprivation of liberty, yet is applied much more widely against certain groups of the population, for example, the Roma who are specially detained for that purpose, then released. Such actions reinstate old forms of discrimination against the Roma which the MIA had, over recent years, got rid of.

During the 100 days of the new management,, regional and national media outlets have published more than 350 critical publications regarding the work of the police during peaceful gatherings. This was more than the number for 2007-2009 altogether. The nature and scale of these violations leaves no room for doubt that the police unlawful acts were carried out on the orders of the MIA leadership. These included preventing people taking part in peaceful gatherings; giving preference to one of the sides during them; unwarrantedly stopping peaceful gatherings and detaining their participants; unlawful failure by the police to respond to scuffles between opponents, and excessive use of force and special means against participants in peaceful actions. One can cite many examples.

I am forced to state that the course chosen by the new MIA leadership with regard to freedom of peaceful assembly has been aimed at the development of largely repressive measures despite the lack of any threat of mass riots or terrorist acts. In fact, the police should gain skills in as large as possible a spectrum of law enforcement tactics with minimum use of force.

Reports of torture and other forms of unlawful violence by the police, some with a fatal outcome, have recently become more frequent.  Just in the period from 11-14 June there were reports of 4 deaths as a result of police action, while another person ended up in emergency care. I consider this to be directed linked with the incorrect and unprofessional orientation of the MIA management to such indicators of work as the number of people prosecuted which Minister Mohylyov spoke of during the TV programme on 9 July. This is even worse than assessing work by the percentage of crimes solved as was the case until 2005 since it will lead to wide-scale falsification of the figures in order to have good readings and get bonuses. Is this not where the 30% increase in the number of registered crimes during the first six months of 2010 comes from?

One can be safe in predicting that this quantitative figure will rise at the expense of trivial crimes, while the organizers and those who order serious crimes, drug traffickers and the leaders of organized criminal gangs will remain at large. There will also be widespread demands that those accused confess to some other crimes which they did not commit purely so that they can be added to the list and improve reporting. This is not to mention the entirely forgotten presumption of innocence.

In the analysis made of the first 100 days under the new MIA leadership by the former Adviser to the Minister on Human Rights and staff of the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the Work of the Police, it is conclusively demonstrated that no less than 60% of cases involving removal of weapons, ammunition and explosive substances are regularly falsified, again to create the appearance of improvement in police work.

There is equal pretence in the assertions about the MIA’s attention to human rights. All projects which concerned human rights in the work of the MIA have been stopped. As the authors of the above-mentioned report write: “the new MIA leadership, headed by Anatoly Mohylyov, has returned to a model of a police department as a closed and self-sufficient system with its own interests which are radically divergent from those of the public. The nature of the “reform” measures over the last several months leaves no room for illusions and clearly demonstrates that the police do not like civic activity and intend to significantly restrict it. We are forced to note also that the publicly declared statements from the MIA about the need for cooperation with the public have no practical application and remain merely populist slogans.

However much officialdom at different levels may assert that the Department for the Monitoring of Human Rights in the police is working, this is not the case since it was dissolved by ministerial order back on 18 March, and its regional staff made redundant with flagrant infringements of labour legislation. During the television show, the Minister also insulted them, saying to the entire country that half of them were personal acquaintances given the jobs because of their connections. This is an arrant lie and there was no such job-giving to cronies. Only a person who is blind or entirely biased could fail to see the enormous work done in the police aimed at ensuring respect for human rights in the work of the police and reform of the MIA achieved by the Department in less than 2 years. Hundreds of ordinary citizens who complained of unlawful actions by the police received assistance from the staff of the Department. With their help significant abuses by the police were uncovered.  It was thanks to members of the Department that the mobile groups on monitoring observance of human rights in places of detention under the MIA began working systematically and conditions in temporary holding facilities improved.

In summing up, one can differ in assessment of the changes in the country over recent years. However there is a clear awareness among Ukrainian citizens of the fact that the government should serve the people, and not vice versa. If the authorities on the taxpayers’ money employ the police to protect human rights, this is how it should be. Therefore the police do not have the right to act without taking the population’s needs into account, it cannot pretend that it doesn’t matter how many people lose their life or health as the result of the unlawful behaviour of law enforcement officers. In view of this the MIA leadership should radically change their attitude to cooperation with the public and to human rights, and stop violating them. They should reject work statistics which only foster unlawful violence and the imitation of fighting crime. If it is not capable of this, it needs to be changed.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2010, #08