“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2010, #09
Paradoxes of the New Law on the Local Elections Against torture and ill-treatment
Didenko: Anyone can become a victim of torture The Government is wrong: public consultation is required Freedom of expression
Learned Impunity UHHRU demands swift and independent investigation of the assault on Dementiy Bily Journalist and Civic Activist Dementiy Bily badly beaten up by Kherson Mayor’s guards Police continue to put pressure on Kharkiv civic organizations Access to information
Security Service picketed by opponents of a return to 1937 Petition by historians in response to detention of their colleague Ruslan Zabily Protest Action: “SBU! Your duty is national security, not persecuting historians” Stop the Persecution of Historians! Ukraine’s Case of the Historians Law enforcement agencies
Tax police fire on workers in Berdyansk
Paradoxes of the New Law on the Local Elections
According to the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU], the most important innovations of the new version of the Law on the Elections to the Parliament of the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, the local councils and village, settlement and city heads” concern the procedure for formation of the electoral commissions (Articles 22 and 23 of the Law). In comparison with the previous version of the Law, the new one does not sufficiently regulate the actions of those involved in forming the electoral councils; their activities according to the new law are more subjective. They are, in addition, difficult to appeal against.
Regional and district territorial electoral commissions [TEC], TEC of cities under regional jurisdiction, are formed by the Central Election Committee, and they are made up by people put forward by party branches registered in those regions (districts, cities). At the same time, parties represented in the Verkhovna Rada can put forward three candidates for each TEC. There are 16 political parties represented in the Verkhovna Rada which together can put forth 48 candidates of whom the CEC will include only 15 people. This selection for the CEC is regulated only by a purely subjective criterion – “taking into account their work in electoral commissions.”
Unlike the previous version of the law, the new law is lacking the principle of proportionality in distributing leading posts. As a result, for example, representatives of one party can become the heads of all regional, district and city TECs.
On the whole such subjective procedure for the formation of TECs “of top level” gives a significant advantage to those parties with a majority in the CEC.
Analogous innovations have been introduced regarding the formation of precinct commissions [PEC]. These are formed by TECs from candidates submitted by organizations of parties taking part in the elections and candidates, following the same subjective principle - “taking into account their work in electoral commissions.”
Here, however, what is more important is the fact that in forming PECs, not only is the principle of proportionality in distributing leading posts not allowed for, but here there are not even restrictions on candidates from one party occupying leading roles in one PEC.
For example, party X has put forward a candidate for Mayor and candidate for deputy in the electoral district containing a polling station. And this party organization and its candidates put forward candidates for the PEC. If there is control over the TEC, then all three of its representatives are not only included in the PEC, but are appointed the head, the deputy head and the secretary of the commission.
According to the new version of the Law, both in the formation of TECs and PECs, those involved in forming the electoral commissions turn down representations submitted by party organizations or participants in the elections, and the candidates they submit, without passing any formal decisions. This will make it difficult to appeal against their actions to a higher electoral commission or the courts.
CVU experts believe that these innovations can place in question the equality of electoral rights of all participants during the local elections of 31 October 2010.
Alexei Svyetikov, Luhansk Regional Branch of CVU
Against torture and ill-treatment
Didenko: Anyone can become a victim of torture
Human rights organizations are calling on the government to draw up a draft law to initiate the creation of a mechanism for preventing torture among Ukrainian law enforcement bodies. Spokesperson for the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, Andriy Didenko warns that in Ukraine anybody can become a victim both of torture and of an unfair trial. He learned this through his own experience.
Andriy Didenko “It so happened that I know very well about torture by the police and in places of confinement since I served 8 years for a crime I didn’t commit. In Ukraine anybody can become a victim of torture. According to social surveys, each year more than 600 thousand Ukrainians are subjected to various forms of torture, beating or other degrading treatment. The situation must and can change. In 2006 Ukraine committed itself to the UN to create a mechanism for preventing torture.
BBC: The conditions in Ukrainian prisons are largely, of course, bad, yet are there no exceptions. For example, in one of the penal colonies in the Vinnytsa region, the Mohylyov-Podilska colony, they recently built a football field, a fountain, and in the institution not far from Kryzhopil, prisoners earn more than, for example, cleaners in the outside world. After a harsh regime colony prisoners say that such a colony is like a resort.
Andriy Didenko You know those are exclusive institutions and overall the situation in penal institutions is quite different. If in such colonies there are, say, 250 prisoners, in the vast majority the number is much higher. And probably their treatment is entirely different. Of course if such colonies became the trend, and the State treated prisoners as human beings, the situation with torture and with everything else would also change.
Can one give an overall figure for the number of deaths in police custody during the year as a result of torture? Is the figure increasing or falling?
Andriy Didenko I can give as an example that in just the last 3-4 months about 6 people have died from police torture. That’s only from torture in police custody. As far as penal institutions are concerned the figures are very hard to estimate since people die and their deaths are attributed to illness or something else. It’s very hard to follow what happens in penal institutions, what the conditions are like and what kind of unlawful measures are used. This subject remains closed as it has since Soviet times.
And is there a problem in general with testimony being beaten out of people? How many people are serving sentences for crimes they didn’t commit?
Andriy Didenko The problem is that there is always some kind of logic when torture is applied. A person is forced to testify against himself in order to fabricate a criminal prosecution. There are also a lot of such cases. There are cases where a person is serving life, like for example, that of Oleksandr Rafalsky. The lawyer in this case is Arkady Bushchenko, Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union. In that case there are serious grounds for believing that torture was applied. And he’s serving a life sentence. There’s also the Bondar case where there is also every justification in believing that he was tortured and he’s serving life. Then there’s the case of Osypkov who had his earlobes cut off when they used torture. That is, torture is common with the police. Yet when they torture people in penal institutions, there is no logic, after all there’s no gain in it. And that is a relic of the Soviet punitive system when they begin to tell you about the conditions and when there are features like the GULAG.
If we return to the problem of torture by the police, how long can such lawlessness continue? Should there be trials or should the human rights move increase its powers?
Andriy Didenko We’re involved in that campaign now. This year the Ministry of Justice drew up a draft law on creating a National Preventive Mechanism against torture. However it was done behind closed doors and is called Amendments to the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson. No human rights organization was involved in preparing this draft law. International practice shows that such legislative work needs the maximum amount of public involvement both in drawing up and introducing such mechanisms and in monitoring their implementation. Yet the draft law contains the instruction to not include the public in this process (it says there is no need – translator), which is why today we are holding a peaceful protest outside the Cabinet of Ministers and Verkhovna Rada. We will be directly referring to this draft law. People who have suffered from torture are voluntarily coming to express their concern that there isn’t such a mechanism in Ukraine. I mean public control over the actions of the authorities. That is basically our main aim. Our programme is aimed at ensuring that there is finally a National Preventive Mechanism against torture and that it’s created with the participation of the public and with wide public discussion. That will make it possible to prevent torture.
Do you think that the government will listen to your proposals?
Andriy Didenko It’s obviously a very difficult process. Very lengthy however we hope for constructive dialogue between the public and the government. We are appealing in fact to international institutions and telling them that Ukraine signed a Protocol which obliged it to create this Preventive Mechanism by 2006.
In Russia, for example, groups of young people have appeared who attack police officers. As an example of social opposition to the police. Is something like that possible in Ukraine?
Andriy Didenko Of course. When a person is tortured, when they use prohibited methods of physical force, then these people and their relatives can protest in some way. When there isn’t the kind of mechanism that can foresee and prevent torture, and force the government to punish the perpetrators. That’s the main thing, there must be liability. If there is a crime, there must be punishment.
The Government is wrong: public consultation is required
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has initiated an Appeal open for endorsement by civic organizations, over the secretive drawing up by the Ministry of Justice of a draft law on the creation of National Preventive Mechanisms against torture [NPM].
The letter is to the Minister of Justice, the Heads of the Verkhovna Rada Committees on Human Rights, National Minorities and Inter-ethnic Relations; on Legislative Provisions for Law Enforcement Activities; on National Security and Defence and on Health.
The letter points out that Ukraine ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment [OPCAT] on 21 July 2006.
“This Protocol binds countries to create a National Preventive Mechanism against torture. This mechanism, positive experience indicates, can lead to a country’s significant progress in fighting torture and ill-treatment in places of confinement: penal institutions, SIZO [remand units], temporary holding facilities; children’s homes, closed hospitals, etc. Various models for such a mechanism were discussed and pilot programmes on monitoring places of confinement run.
Ministry of Justice was for a number of years engaged in drawing up a draft law on NPM in Ukraine. The draft law was repeatedly changed however in general envisaged the creation of a separate special body of power which, in cooperation with human rights defenders, would carry out this function.
However public concern has recently been aroused by the draft law “On amendments to the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson” prepared by the Ministry of Justice and sent to be agreed around other central authorities. This version of the law has been radically changed without public involvement.
It is clear from Item 8 of the explanatory note to the Ministry’s new draft law that the Ministry considers “that the draft law does not need public consultation”.
Yet it is well-known that world practice for organizing the work of National Preventive Mechanisms envisages maximum involvement of a broad spectrum of society not only in the process of drawing up and introducing these mechanisms, but also in the carrying out by them of their functions.
Such a position from the Ministry of Justice is at very least surprising since the previous draft law “On a National Committee against Torture” prepared by the Ministry involved wide public discussion and well-known specialists from civic organizations took part in drawing it up.
We demand public discussion of this draft law and that amendments are made to it envisaging public participation in the system of monitoring and prevention of torture”.
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
The letter is available for endorsement here: http://helsinki.org.ua/index.php?id=1283949418
Freedom of expression
It is not only children who learn better from visual aids. Things we see with our own eyes are always more convincing than any reports or commentaries. What they convince us of depends on the divide between what was seen and those accounts. As well as on where such information is available.
Youtube, unlike the State-owned UTV-1, does not perceive a burning need to provide positive and pro-government content. Nor does it belong to the Head of the Security Service and media magnate, V. Khoroshkovsky, or other members or friends of the ruling regime.
It is on Youtube (and on one Ukrainian TV channel, STB) that you can see how police officers either used violence themselves or did absolutely nothing when thugs in black attacked peaceful defenders of Gorky Park in Kharkiv. You can appreciate the grotesqueness of a situation where the police detained the victims of this lawlessness. For want of any real excuse, they accused them of wilfully disobeying a police officer.
You can also see a fair number of attacks on Ukrainian journalists, including that by a Presidential guard on STB journalist Serhiy Andrushko in June this year. The latter has not been forgotten. We are even told about the apparent indignation of the President who “considers that this cannot just be left like that – the culprit must be punished”. Hard to take such indignation seriously when on 13 September the Kyiv Prosecutor refused Andrushko’s application to have a criminal investigation initiated, and handed the application to the Prosecutor General’s Office “after a full and comprehensive check of the journalist’s application.”
On the very next day, Youtube, as well as our legal awareness, was embellished by yet another incident. Although not everything got filmed, it is worth looking here first, since any description of the occasion has its counter-description. That’s of course if you won’t watch television alone, in which case the gapping divide between the authorities’ version and what your eyes see need not concern you.
The Head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine [CVU] and journalist from the newspaper “Vilny vybir” [“Free Choice”], Dementy Bily wanted to hear the report of Kherson’s Mayor, Volodymyr Saldo, and report on its content to the newspaper’s readers and other voters. It is, after all, those voters whom the Mayor should be reporting to. Yet it transpired that the authorities not only know what others need to be told, but also who would like to hear the report. It is unclear how exactly they selected “members of the territorial community of Kherson – teachers, doctors, scientists, businesspeople” etc. However a large number of voters, as well as two opposition deputies, who themselves decided they needed to hear the report were not admitted, even though we can see from the video clip that there were a lot of empty seats.
“After the intervention of the Head of the Kherson Regional Administration, Andriy Yatsenko, he was admitted into the hall, yet the guards refused entry to other journalists, as well as deputies from the City Council”
I am quoting the CVU, an organization which does not have the reputation, either at home or abroad, of engaging in hooliganism or provocation.
Thanks to the video, we are ourselves witnesses of the concern expressed by the Head of the Kherson Branch of CVU over disrespect for the rights of normal, not specially selected, voters and the total lack of any aggression on his part. We observe how he is shoved out into the foyer, and while the filming then stops, Dementiy’s wife and colleagues ran out and saw what happened.
Regrettably we also have the report on the official website of the City Council concerning the same Dementy Bily. “Having gone out into the foyer, he clearly provoked one of those opposite him to conflict, used foul language and then hit him with his camera on the head. The person opposite was Kherson businessman Viktor Shevchuk who received a head injury and lacerations as a result.”
A very different version of the incident can be gleaned from the statement issued by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, another organization not known for hooliganism.
Most disturbing in all this is once again the role of the police officers. The City Council website asserts that they were called, yet it is difficult to imagine that at an event of that kind, they were not there in force. Dementiy and witnesses are adamant that the police only watched, not intervening while he was being hit in the face. It was when Dementiy’s camera hit his assailant on the nose that they rushed out, called an ambulance and took the “victim” to hospital. This is presumably why we can see Dementiy Bily’s bruised and battered face on the photograph here http://vgoru.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=9553 , but have no photo of that one-minute guard, another – “Kherson businessman” who, in his own words, “did not hit (Dementiy) because he’s a journalist”. Dementiy was questioned by the police until he felt so ill that an ambulance needed to be called. It was not, as the City Council statement asserts, he who insisted on hospitalization, but the doctor. The police officers, who during the conflict stood not far away, wrote up an administrative offence protocol against Dementiy Bily over hooligan activities at a public function.
The next day, 15 September, the Suvorovsky District Prosecutor in Kherson initiated a criminal investigation over the inflicting of mild bodily injuries to the Head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters and Editor of the newspaper “Vilny Vybir”.
One would like to believe that the case will not be quietly shelved, and that hard-hitting questions will be asked as to why the police once again, as in Kharkiv, served the authorities, not citizens. It wouldn’t hurt to also ask who exactly the authorities think they are there to serve.
There are,, unfortunately, no grounds for optimism with all too many examples of lawlessness and impunity having accumulated.
In Kharkiv despite international criticism and outrage over the totally unlawful tree-felling and construction work, and the no less unacceptable actions and failure to act of the police, neither the Ministry of Internal Affairs nor the prosecutor’s office have found any violations by police officers. Nor should this be viewed as merely a case of colleagues at local level closing ranks. The Minister of Internal Affairs, A. Mohylov actually called the decision of the Kharkiv authorities regarding the Park lawful, and effectively justified all actions by the police.
At the present time the local authorities in Kherson have issued scurrilously defamatory claims about Dementiy Bily, television channels have kept the whole subject quiet and those in power are pretending they know nothing.
There is surely no need to remind the authorities that impunity spreads like a disease. Unless of course they are endeavouring to catch up with and overtake neighbouring Belarus, then it is to be hoped that they will prove capable of understanding that there is always a limit to lawlessness, as well as to people’s patience.
UHHRU demands swift and independent investigation of the assault on Dementiy Bily
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is outraged over the brutal beating of Dementiy Bily, journalist and Head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (which is a member of UHHRU).
UHHRU has today called on the Prosecutor General and the Minister of Internal Affairs to ensure a swift, independent and efficient investigation of this assault.
Yesterday, 14 September 2010, the City Mayor Volodomyr Saldo, who is standing for re-election for the third time from the Party of the Regions, was giving his report in the Kherson Theatre. There had been no announcement of the event either in the media or on the City Council’s website. There were rumours that invitations were being issued to those specially chosen, and leaders of civic organizations were not among them.
There were two burly guys at the doors allowing in only those who had invitations. Dementiy Bily first endeavoured to enter simply as a citizen and voter, then as journalist from the publication “Politichna Khersonshchyna” [about events etc in the Kherson region], for which he had the relevant journalist ID. Neither he nor other civic leaders were allowed in, with Saldo’s Deputy overseeing this process. It was only when the Deputy Head of the Regional Administration intervened that they were able to enter.
When Saldo’s address was already in progress, it became clear that the guards were not admitting two members of the City Council in opposition to Saldo. Dementiy Bily first tried without success to convince Saldo’s deputy that this was illegal and that they needed to be admitted since the Mayor was reporting to voters and deputies. He was ignored.
He then walked to the middle of the theatre, took a microphone and demanded that Saldo stopped and issued an instruction for all those to be admitted who wished to hear his report. He repeated this several times until Saldo stopped, however the moderator immediately turned to this largely selected audience saying “Let’s support our mayor”. Most began clapping.
Dementiy was pushed out of the hall by the Deputy and four burly men in plain clothes, where three of them twisted his arms behind his back and held him, while the other hit him on the face and head. The police stood and watched. When Dementiy broke free and tried to fight back, the camera hanging from his arm hit the forehead of the person who had been hitting him, and lacerated his skin. The police immediately appeared, called an ambulance for the “victim”, and took him to the hospital.
Dementiy’s wife, Halyna Akhmatov and colleagues who were in the hall, ran into the foyer during the fight and managed to film some of it. Dementiy’s face was covered in red blotches, yet Saldo’s deputy and the others are still trying to accuse him of assault.
Dementiy gave his testimony to the police, however he began feeling much worse and an ambulance was called. In the hospital he was diagnosed as having an internal skull injury and medium severity concussion. The doctors are insisting that he stay in hospital for observation. He is in one ward, the “victim” in the next.
Some of what happened in the hall can be seen here: http://youtube.com/watch?v=rF2RqM0VkqQ.
Since local officials were clearly implicated in the beating, we are convinced that this investigation by the local police is most unlikely to be independent. We demand that the central authorities ensure objective investigation of the public assault on a well-known human rights defender.
UHHRU Executive Director
Journalist and Civic Activist Dementiy Bily badly beaten up by Kherson Mayor’s guards
Journalist, head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine and human rights defender, Dementiy Bily, was yesterday beaten up by the security guards of Kherson’s Mayor, Volodymyr Saldo, who is standing for re-election as candidate from the Party of the Regions in October.
The event on Tuesday in the Kherson Theatre, where Saldo was to report on his work, was not advertised either in the media or on the City Council’s official website. There were rumours that invitations were being issued to those specially chosen, and leaders of civic organizations were not among them.
Dementiy Bily first endeavoured to enter simply as a citizen and voter, then as journalist from the publication “Politichna Khersonshchyna” [about events etc in the Kherson region], for which he had the relevant journalist ID. Neither he nor other civic leaders were allowed in, with Saldo’s Deputy overseeing this process. It was only when the Deputy Head of the Regional Administration intervened that they were able to enter.
After Saldo had begun his address, it became clear that the guards were not admitting two members of the City Council in opposition to Saldo. Dementiy Bily first tried without success to convince Saldo’s deputy that this was illegal, then walked to the middle of the theatre, took a microphone and demanded that Saldo stopped and issued an instruction for all those to be admitted who wished to hear his report.
He repeated this several times until Saldo stopped, however the moderator immediately turned to this largely selected audience saying “Let’s support our mayor”. Most began clapping.
Dementiy was pushed out of the hall by the Deputy and four burly men who proceeded to beat him up.
“I was just stunned that in a theatre in broad daylight they beat somebody up, with the police walking around to boot … Those unidentified men, I don’t even know who they were, not police, some kind of private guards”, Dementiy Bily told “Telekritika”.
Dementiy was taken away by ambulance with dizziness and hypertensive crisis, and is at present in a district hospital where the doctors are checking whether he has concussion.
From information received from Dementiy’s colleagues and a report here: http://telekritika.ua/news/2010-09-15/55838
Police continue to put pressure on Kharkiv civic organizations
The Kharkiv law enforcement bodies are putting pressure on activists from “Zeleny Front” [Green Front] and the civic group “Prorvyomsya!” [“We’ll break through”]. On Thursday, at around 10 a.m. police and Special Force “Berkut” officers detained around 30 young people who were handing out leaflets with the title “Huge lies” in the city centre. According to Sergei Chetverikov from “Prorvyomsya!, who was himself detained, seven of them were taken to the Dzherzhynsky Police Station, the others were taken by Berkut officers to different district stations. He adds that the activists were detained without any accusations being laid. All leaflets, however, were removed with the officers claiming that it is not allowed to hand out material to passers-by in Kharkiv.
The lawyer for those detained was not allowed into the Dzherzhynsky Police Station for around an hour even though it was visible through the window that the activists were being questioned. The activists, however, used their right to remain silent. After some time they were released.
This is the second time in a week that the leaflet “Huge lies” has figured on the TV news and Internet. On Tuesday morning, 31 August, officers from the Frunzensky Police Station, without a search warrant from the court tried to get into the garage of one of the leaders of Green Front and “Prorvyomsya!”, Andrei Ilgov. The police said that they had received a report that in this garage Ilgov was taking apart stolen cars for spare parts.
Ilgov refused to let them in. After his lawyer arrived, the police changed their tactics with Ilgov being told that there was a bomb in the garage. A bomb disposal unit arrived, together with the management of the Frunzensky Police Station, including the Head of the City Police, Alexander Baranyk who is presently on leave. The police marked the garage off with red tape and moved journalists and television cameras out of filming distance, while not evacuating people from the block next door.
Ilgov and his lawyer, Tetyana Vishnevskaya were taken by the police to the Frunzensky Police Station. Ms Vishnevskaya says that the police used force to get her in the car.
On his return, after being held at the police station without any charges being put forward, Ilgov discovered that 7 thousand leaflets “Huge Lies” had disappeared from the garage. He informs that on Monday, 30 August, two activists handing out that same leaflet were detained. They were held for three hours in the Dzherzhynsky Police Station and released.
Access to information
Security Service picketed by opponents of a return to 1937
A demonstration was held on 15 September outside the central office of the Security Service [SBU] to protest against persecution of historian Ruslan Zabily who works with declassified documents. The protesters demanded the dismissal of the management of the SBU and that the process of declassified documents about the repressions and liberation movement in Ukraine, stopped by the new regime, be resumed.
The most active of the protesters demanding that they be arrested as the “third party” since they wanted to receive the documents which Zabily had been carrying (the SBU have claimed that he was trying to pass them to a “third party”).
More than 500 people gathered, carried national symbols and flags of right-wing political parties. There were a number of well-known former political prisoners and dissidents including Levko Lukyanenko, Stepan Khmara and Vasyl Ovsiyenko.
Banners read “Zabily was carrying documents for me”; “The SBU is a branch of the FSB [Russian Security Service”; “Khoroshkovsky [Head of the SBU] – take up cosmetology”; “This is the KGB. It bites and stinks”.
One of the organizers of the demonstration, former Head of the SBU Central Archive, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, says that the Ukrainian historians working with archival documents stand accused of divulging State secrets unlawfully.
“Some material in the SBU archive may be secret, however in no way historical documents. If we speak of the archive where Ruslan Zabily worked, hundreds of other Ukrainian and foreign historians work there, so there can’t be any secret documents. What is in question is solely documents of the Cheka or NKVD which tell of the repressions in Soviet Ukraine and the fight against them”.
Protest: “Is this Volodymyrska St or Lubyanka?”
35-year old Lviv historian and Director of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho”, Ruslan Zabily was detained by SBU officers on 9 September. He says that after an interrogation lasting many hours, his laptop and two hard disks with archival material declassified over recent years were removed.
Volodymyr Vyatrovych assumes that the SBU officers who removed the archival data simply don’t understand what constitutes a state secret, and offers to organize a seminar for them on the subject.
Can you count the entire Ukrainian nation as a “third party”?
Most of the demonstrators, however, are convinced that the SBU management is in this way, on the orders of the regime, deliberately putting pressure on historians researching the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists [OUN], Ukrainian Resistance Army [UPA] and other liberation movements fighting the Soviet regime. This is the view of Oksana Zabuzhko, the well-known writer who took part in the demonstration: “The former chief customs officers instead of a list of goods not allowed into the country has given his subordinates a chekist instruction book. However they are declaring war not only against the dead. They are declaring war against us. This is our history, our families, this is the memory of each Ukrainian. Regardless of which side they were on”.
The most active of the demonstrators sat down right under the SBU doors and chanted “Arrest us”. They maintain that the information which Zabily was supposedly carrying for “third parties” was addressed to the entire Ukrainian nation.
The SBU promise to look at the documents and return them
SBU spokesperson stated at a briefing that the statements made at the demonstration were not correct.
“The position of the SBU with regard to reinstating historical justice and honouring the victims of repression remains unchanged. The documents removed are State property and they will in no way be lost. Experienced specialists are working with them. The documents will be returned in the same condition that they were taken in”.
The SBU states that following Zabily’s detention, a criminal investigation was initiated on charges of attempting to pass information containing state secrets to third parties.
Attempts to once again classify archival documents might not have happened if former President Yushchenko had completed this task, Vakhtang Kipiani, journalist and specialist on issues of reinstatement of historical memory, is convinced.
“The key point is that Yushchenko is all to blame. If he had transferred the archive of essentially historical documents from SBU jurisdiction to, say, the Institute for National Remembrance or an other, non-enforcement, institution, there would not be any problems over repeated classification of this information.
At the same time he predicts that any attempt by the authorities to put pressure on historians and once again classify documents on the liberation movement will be doomed to failure.
Petition by historians in response to detention of their colleague Ruslan Zabily
The following open letter was addressed to the State Security Service on Sept. 15.
On 9 September 2010 SBU agents detained the historian Ruslan Zabilyi and confiscated his research material. Now the SBU is seeking to launch a criminal case against him. Whether we share Ruslan Zabilyi’s views or not, we consider it absolutely impermissible for a security service to harass researchers and obstruct intellectual activities.
Many of us are signing this petition in spite of the fact that we seriously disagree with Ruslan Zabily’s politics and his views of Ukrainian history. Even while we abhor the politicization of history that has become so evident in the recent years of Orange versus anti-Orange debates, we believe that the resolution of scholarly disputes depends upon the free flow of ideas, and free access to historical sources no matter how controversial they may be.
We believe that a truly democratic and independent Ukraine needs and facilitates full and free inquiry into its history. Such an enquiry can only take place with the broadest access to Ukrainian archives.
Given the record of denial of access to archives and libraries, suppression of dissenting views, denial of academic freedom, and isolation of Ukraine from the international scholarly community in the past, any Ukrainian government must be especially vigiliant not to revive such practices.
Against this background, the treatment of Ruslan Zabilyi points to a reversion to regrettable and dangerous practices of the totalitarian past. We find this incident extremely worrying, especially in view of earlier illegitimate uses made of the SBU in the realm of academia and civil society under the new Ukrainian government.
Even strong disagreements about Ukraine’s past and its politics of memory and history cannot be solved by methods that amount to harassment and intimidation. Ukraine’s reputation is also bound to suffer very severely from such methods.
We call on the SBU and the Ukrainian government to show responsibility.
We call on Ukraine’s public and its scholarly community not to tolerate the intrusion of blatant police methods where research, scholarly dispute, and public debate should be the means of resolving – or living with – differences. We urge the Ukrainian public and the Ukrainian and international scholarly community to join us in supporting Ruslan Zabilyi and in censuring the use of police methods to try to quash scholarly discussion.
Felix Ackermann, European University Viadrina Geschichtswerkstatt Europa
Tarik Cyril Amar, Assistant Professor, Columbia University
Melanie Arndt, Dr., Zentrum für Zeithistorische Forschung, Potsdam
Jars Balan, Kule Ukrainian Canadian Studies Centre, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta
Omer Bartov John P. Birkelund Distinguished Professor of European History, Brandeis University
Jan Behrends, Research Fellow, Social Science Research Center Berlin
Karel Berkhoff, Associate Professor, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Amsterdam
Martha Bohachevsky-Chomiak, Professor Emeritus, Manhattanville College and Johns Hopkins University
Tim Buchen, Center for the Research on Antisemitism, Technische Universität Berlin
Jeffrey Burds, Associate Professor of Russian & Soviet History, Northeastern University
Tetyana Bureychak, Associate Professor, Department of History and Theory of Sociology, I. Franko National University, Lviv
Marco Carynnyk, Writer, Toronto
Istvan Déak, Seth Low Professor Emeritus, Columbia University
Roman Dubasevych, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald
Oles Fedoruk, Research Fellow, Taras Shevchenko Institute of Literature, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Rory Finnin, Lecturer in Ukrainian Studies, University of Cambridge
Michael S. Flier, Director,Oleksandr Potebnja Professor of Ukrainian Philology, Ukrainian Research Institute, Harvard University
Elena Gapova,Associate Professor, Western Michigan University/European Humanities University
Alexandr Gogun, PhD student, Humboldt University, Berlin
Semion Goldin, The Chais Center for Jewish Studies in Russian, The
Hebrew University in Jerusalem, Israel
George G. Grabowicz, Professor, Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures, Harvard University
Sofia Grachova, PhD Candidate in History, Harvard University
Andrea Graziosi, Professor, University of Naples
Borys Gudziak, Rector, Ukrainian Catholic University
Mark von Hagen, Professor, Director, SHPRS, Arizona State University, President of the Association for Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Studies
Lubomyr Hajda, Associate Director, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
Elizabeth V. Haigh,.Professor Emeritus, Saint Marys University Halifax, Canada
Karl Hall, Associate Professor, Director of Undergraduate Programs,
Central European University, Budapest
Patricia Herlihy, Professor Emerita, Brown University; Louise Wyant Professor Emerita, Emmanuel College, Boston; Adjunct Professor, Watson Institute for International Studies,Associate, Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute
Alexandra Hrycak, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Sociology
Reed College, Portland, Oregon
Halyna Hryn, Editor, Harvard Ukrainian Studies
Dr Liudmyla Hrynevych, Institute of History,National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Dr Vladyslav Hrynevych, Professor, Senior Researcher, Institute of Political and Ethno-National Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Yaroslav Hrytsak, Professor, Ukrainian Catholic University, Director, Institute for Historical Research, Lviv University
Maciej Janowski, Professor, Institute of History, Polish Academy of Sciences, Warsaw/Central European University, Budapest
Oksana Kis, Historian, Senior Reserach Fellow, Institute of Ethnology, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Bohdan Klid, Assistant Director, Canadian institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta
Zenon E. Kohut, Professor, Department of History and Classics, Director, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies
Boris Kolonitskii, Professor, European University, St. Peterburg; Institute of History, St. Peterburg Branch, Russian Academy of Sciences
Ihor Kosyk, PhD student, Vienna University
Mark Kramer, Director, Cold War Studies Program, Harvard University
Alexander Kratochvil, PhD, Exzellenzcluster "Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration", Universität Konstanz, Konstanz
Kravchenko, Volodymyr, Professor, President of the International Association for the Humanities
Sergei Kravtsov, Senior Researcher, Center for Jewish Art, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Serhiy Kudelia, Assistant Professor, National Univeristy "Kyiv-Mohyla Academy"
Serhij Kvit, Rector, National University “Kyiv-Mohyla Academy”
Maria Lewicka, Professor, University of Warsaw
André Liebich, Professor, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, Geneva
Torsten Lorenz, Institute of History, Humboldt University, Berlin
Paul Robert Magocsi, Professor, University of Toronto
Еmil Majuk, Stowarzyszenie “Panorama Kultur”, Poland
Liudmyla Males, Associate Professor, Sciology, Taras Shevchenko University, Kyiv
Ihor Markov, Political Scientist, Director of the Department for Ethno-National Studies, Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
David R. Marples, Distinguished University Professor, Department of History & Classics, University of Alberta
Terry Martin, George F. Baker III Professor of Russian Studies, Department of History, Harvard University
Igor Martynyuk, Ph.D. Ab Imperio Quarterly
Jarred McBride, PhD Candidate (UCLA)
Askold Melnyczuk, Associate Professor,University of Massachusetts, Boston
Oleksandr Melnyk, PhD Candidate, University of Toronto
Joanna B. Michlic, Ph.D.,Director Project on Families, Children and the Holocaust, Brandeis University
Marina Mogilner, PhD, Editor for Russian and NIS, Ab Imperio, Kazan
Alexander Motyl, Associate Professor of Political Science, Rutgers University, Deputy Director of the Center for Global Change and Governance Co-Director of the Central and East European Studies Program
Iryna Musiienko, Associate Professor, National Technical University "Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute"
Krzysztof Michalski, Professor, Director of the Institute for Human Sciences, Vienna
Eleonora Narvselius, Centre for European Studies, Lund University
Larissa Onyshkevych, Ph.D.,Princeton Research Forum
Vitalii Perkun, Research Fellow, Insitute of History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Yohanan Petrovsky-Shtern,Associate Professor, Director, the Crown Family Center for Jewish Studies,Northwestern University
Dieter Pohl , Professor, Institut für Geschichte, University of Klagenfurt, Austria
Antony Polonsky, Albert Abramson Professor of Holocaust Studies at Brandeis University and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Andriy Portnov, Ukraina Moderna Journal, Kyiv
Anna Procyk, Professor, City University of New York
Roman Procyk, Ukrainian Studies Fund, New York
Wojciech Przybylski, Res Publica Nowa, Chief Editor
Robert Pyrah, CEELBAS Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London
Vasyl Rasevych, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Ukrainian Studies, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Shimon Redlich, Prof. Emeritus of History, Ben-Gurion University, Beer-Sheva
Inna Reut, PhD student, Graduate School for Social Research, Warsaw
Bohdan Rubchak, Professor Emeritus, Unversity of Illinois at Chicago
William Risch, Associate Professor, Georgia College and State University
Malte Rolf, Osteuropäische Zeitgeschichte, Leibniz Universität Hanover
Per Anders Rudling, Ernst-Moritz-Arndt-Universität Greifswald
Natalka Rymska, Essayist, Translator, Lviv
Roman Senkus, Director, CIUS Publications Program,Toronto Office, University of Toronto
Ostap Sereda, Senior Research Fellow, Institute of Ukrainian Studies, Lviv, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Viktoria Sereda, Assistant Professor, Ivan Franko University
Oxana Shevel Assistant Professor Tufts University, Department of Political Science
Christopher Stroop, Ph.D. Candidate,Stanford University
Andrzej Szeptycki, Dr., University of Warsaw
Volodymyr Sklokin, kandydat istorychnykh nauk, International Solomon University, Kharkiv
Iryna Sklokina, Ph.D. student, V.N.Karazyn Kharkiv National University
Ihor Skochylias, Dean, Ukrainian Catholic University
Regina Smyth, Associate Professor of Political Science, Indiana University
Timothy Snyder, Professor, Department of History, Yale University
Mykola Soroka, PhD, Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta
Myron Stachiw, Historian, Director, Fulbright Program in Ukraine
Lidia Stefanowska, Assistant Professor, Warsaw University
Jan Surman, MMag., PhD Student, Institute of History, University of Vienna
Frank Sysyn, Director, Peter Jacyk Centre for Ukrainian Research,
Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, University of Alberta
Roman Szporluk, Professor emeritus, Harvard University and University of Michigan
Philipp Ther, Professor, European University Institute, Florence
Iryna Vushko PhD, Yale University
Anna Wylega, PhD student, Graduate School for Social Research, Warsaw
Theodore Weeks, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale
Amir Weiner, Associate Professor of Soviet History, Stanford University
Andrew Wilson, School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London/European Council for Foreign Relations
Dr. Sergei Zhuk, Associate Professor, Ball State University,
Muncie Arsen Zinchenko, Insitute of History, National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine
Protest Action: “SBU! Your duty is national security, not persecuting historians”
“Zabily was carrying information for us, the People of Ukraine”; “History is for the people, not the Security Service”; “SBU! Your duty is national security, not persecuting historians”: these are the banners which will be seen on Wednesday, 15 September. From 1 to 2 p.m. the Kharkiv Human Rights Group will be holding a picket of the Kharkiv Regional Department of the SBU [Security Service)
The action is in protest at the detaining and questioning for 14.5 hours by SBU officers of historian Ruslan Zabily, Director of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv. The action will also highlight unlawful classification of publicly important information about Ukraine’s history.
Wednesday, 15 September at 2 Myronosytska St.
Stop the Persecution of Historians!
The President, V. Yanukovych
The Prosecutor General, O. Medvedko
The Head of the Security Service, V. Khoroshkovsky
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Kharkiv Human Rights Group demand that the Security Service of Ukraine stops its persecution of historians
At 7.30 a.m. on 8 September on his arrival in Kyiv by train from Lviv, Ruslan Zabily, historian and Director of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv was detained by six (!) officers of the Security Service [SBU] and taken to the SBU building on Volodymyrska St.
In detaining him, none of the officers identified themselves or showed any documents. Mr Zabily was simply asked to “come to the car”. Nor was he told the reason why he was being detained. The SBU officers had no detention order. Mr Zabily was not informed of his rights when being detained, not allowed to make any phone call, except to his wife, and his request for a lawyer was also ignored.
The interrogation last fourteen and a half hours, being carried out by SBU officers who did not identify themselves or show any documents.
Such actions by the SBU are a clear violation of Article 29 of the Constitution and criminal procedure legislation.
During the interrogation, without any legitimate grounds, the SBU officers tried to persuade him to voluntarily hand over his laptop and two external hard disk drives. These had copies of historical material and his academic research. The historical material comprises 16 thousand archival documents declassified in 2009 which have already been passed to public computer libraries, for example, the Kyiv Mohyla National Academy and the Lviv Ivan Franko National University. These documents have thus not been classified as secret for a long time.
Having failed to persuade Zabily to sign a document agreeing to voluntarily hand over his laptop and disks, the SBU officers, without any court order and with numerous infringements of legislation, drew up an act of confiscation of the laptop and two hard disks. Neither the laptop nor the disks were sealed making it possible to insert any information on them.
Zabily now has grounds for fearing that they could add any information to his computer needed to persecute him.
It was only after the news of his detention was made public on 9 September that official information from the SBU appeared.
“The Security Service has initiated a criminal investigation over plans by an SBU employee to divulge information which is a State secret, i.e. over elements of the crime set down in Articles 15 § 1 and 328 of the Criminal Code.
It has been ascertained that SBU employee R.V. Zabily collected information which constitutes a State secret without authority in order to pass it to a third party. On 8 September 2010, he was detained on his arrival in Kyiv from Lviv with this information.
At the present time the circle of people for whom the said information was intended is being ascertained.
Such reports must be viewed as an infringement of the presumption of innocence since they assert, before any court ruling, that a specific person has committed a crime.
There was also extraordinary speed in coming up with the assertion that they had found material on Zabily which are state secrets. Have they really carried out an expert assessment of several gegabytes of information removed and established that these documents are state secrets?
On 9 September it was also learned that instructions had been issued by the Head of the Lviv Regional Department of the SBU to not allow the Directorate and employees of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” to their work places and work computers. In 2009 the SBU handed over the premises of the former KGB prison for the creation of the museum.
UHHRU and KHPG are concerned by the overt disregard for criminal procedure legislation by SBU officers whose actions are more reminiscent of those of the KGB in Soviet times.
UHHRU and KHPG believe that further harassment of historians, removal of historical documents and the retention of “secret” classification on a considerable percentage of such documents is a step towards a totalitarian future, where a history is artificially constructed with no basis in real facts and historical events. It is inadmissible that what constitutes the history of our country should be determined by the Security Service and politicians, and not historians and researchers.
The 16 thousand SBU archival documents declassified in 2009 are only a small percentage of the overall number of documents held in the archives. Millions of documents held there have yet to be declassified although for many of them the maximum term envisaged by law – 75 years – has long passed. For example, there is no access at all to the Ministry of Internal Affairs archive which contains hundreds of thousands of archival files of those subjected to “dekulakization” in 1930-1931. Ukrainians remain a people effectively without their own contemporary history since access to its sources is closed. In light of this, such “special operations” against historians seem like barbarism, all the more so since we are talking about documents classified by a country which has long not existed – the USSR, which in this way simply concealed its crimes against the Russian, Ukrainian and other nations which had the misfortune to live under its jurisdiction.
In view of this, we demand:
- That the President carries out a check of the lawfulness of the actions of the SBU officers, and also of the grounds for suspending the work of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv;
- That the Prosecutor General check whether R. Zabily’s detention was legal and his right to liberty and personal security observed; whether procedure was followed during his interrogation; whether his right to defence was ensured; whether it was legal to remove his laptop and two external hard drives and warranted to initiate a criminal investigation;
- That the SBU carry out an internal check of the legality of the SBU officers’ actions, as well as returning the laptop and two hard disk drives removed;
- That the SBU fully restore the activities of the work of the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv.
Executive Director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Yevhen Zakharov, member of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and Member of the Board of the International Memorial Society
Ukraine’s Case of the Historians
It would seem that in Ukraine a case has been initiated, very similar to that in Russia, against historians studying the history of political repression.
35-year old Lviv historian Ruslan Zabily has for over a year and a half headed the National Memorial Museum of Victims of the Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” (the building had previously been a Ukrainian Security Service [SBU] remand unit which was handed over to the Lviv public and since June of last year it has been a museum marking the history of political repression. Ruslan Zabily is an SBU employee and had access to information which is classified.
On 8 September he arrived by train in Kyiv at 7.30 a.m. Six SBU officers came up to him on the platform and asked him to come with them. He was held in the SBU building on Volodymyrska St until 22.10 without a detention order. He was not allowed to inform his family. He refused to hand over his laptop and external memory, but they were taken away anyway, despite there being no warrant. The 14.5 hour detention and removal of equipment were thus carried out without a court order and were therefore illegal - his procedural rights were violated.
According to Ruslan Zabily and the Ex-Director of the SBU [Security Service] Central Archive, Volodymyr Vyatrovych, a part of the external memory contained copies of 16 thousand archival documents declassified in 2009 which have already been passed to the Kyiv Mohyla National Academy, the Lviv National University, the Research Centre of the Liberation Struggle and all regional SBU archives where they are available for general use, as well as other declassified archival documents.
The laptop holds private information and academic works, including Mr Zabily’s thesis which he does not have a copy of anywhere else. There were no documents stamped as on restricted access containing state secrets.
Today’s press release from the Research Centre of the Liberation Movement states that “the grounds for the detention and removal were a verbal instruction from the Head of the SBU Valery Khoroshkovsky in order to obstruct, using trumped-up grounds, work with previously declassified material and in this way restrict their circulation”. On 9 September an instruction was given by the Head of the Lviv Regional Department of the SBU to not allow the Directorate and employees of the Museum to their work places and work computers. On 9 September Ruslan Zabily submitted a complaint, addressed to the Head of the SBU: “I demand an explanation from Mr Valery Khoroshkovsky for the actions of Security Service employees and that my private things – computer and external memory devices – are returned immediately. They hold only copies of historical documents, my academic research and private information. I would ask journalist to help through united efforts to stop censorship and pressure which has already extended to history and historians.”
The Security Service’s response was posted on its website:
“The SBU has initiated a criminal investigation over plans by an SBU employee to divulge information which is a State secret, i.e. over elements of the crime set down in Articles 15 § 1 and 328 of the Criminal Code.
It has been ascertained that SBU employee R.V. Zabily collected information which constitutes a State secret without authority in order to pass it to a third party. On 8 September 2010, he was detained on his arrival in Kyiv from Lviv with this information.
At the present time the circle of people for whom the said information was intended is being ascertained.”
Museum staff members assert that the Director is a law-abiding person, and extremely careful and scrupulous research and that he would never have secret documents on his equipment, that this is out of the question.
We would remind the reader that the 16 thousand SBU archival documents declassified in 2009 are only a small percentage of the overall number of documents held in the archive. Millions of documents held there have yet to be declassified although for many of them the maximum term envisaged by law – 75 years – has long passed.
For example, there is no access at all to the Ministry of Internal Affairs archive which contains hundreds of thousands of archival files of those subjected to “dekulakization” in 1930-1931. Ukrainians remain a people effectively without their own contemporary history since access to its sources is closed. In light of this, such “special operations” against historians looks like barbarism, all the more so since we are talking about documents classified by a country which has long not existed – the USSR, which in this way simply concealed its crimes against the Russian, Ukrainian and other nations which had the misfortune to live under its jurisdiction.
Law enforcement agencies
Tax police fire on workers in Berdyansk
A YouTube video (http://youtube.com/watch?v=CvwYGZMCxNc&feature=player_embedded) shows Ukrainian tax police firing rubber bullets during a confrontation with workers from Berdyansks Raiagropromsnab [commerical agricultural depot] on 24 September. The six-minute clip contradicts the official version that the workers fired first on police, precipitating the conflict. At least four workers were wounded, two seriously enough to be hospitalized, and no police officers were reportedly injured.
The incident occurred on Sept. 24 as plant employees arrived at work.
"No one prevented tax officials from entering the grounds of the enteprise," Raiagropromsnab representative Elena Nikitina told the information agency Interfax-Ukraine.
"Enterprise executives attempted only to unblock the work of the enterprises not mentioned in the search order [of the tax authorities] and let workers enter the premises to go to work. The complex where the conflict took place is located on a 12-hectare plot occupied by some 20 enterprises. Tax agents fired on workers attempting to gain entry to the plant. Four workers were injured. Shots were fired only by the tax police officers," Nikitina said.
Of the two wounded and hospitalized, "one worker was admitted on Saturday," a doctor said. "He was shot in the nose and needs an operation."
Mykola Volchenko, a wounded worker, gave this account: "We came to work on Friday [Sept. 24], and they did not let us in. They werent dressed like riot police, but they behaved rudely. When we said, Excuse us, let us pass, they responded, Dont move! Lie down! They shot three holes in me. What is this? They shot at [me] the biggest person."