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.

Human rights NGOs in Ukraine and their relations with the authorities.

Yevhen Zakharov
One of the peculiarities of the period, which Ukraine tries to survive, is universal fuzziness in all, an unstable equilibrium, when each question can be answered with "yes" or "no", with equally convincing arguments. We declare the free market and adopt laws which make honest business impossible and keep businessmen in the state of permanent fear. There are lots of lip service about social aid, but numerous socially unprotected groups of the population do not get, in fact, any aid from the state. All this looks especially disgusting on the background of strengthening ties between fat bureaucrats and new "tough guys". Great importance of the support of education and culture is loudly declared, but what the budget gives is mere chicken feed. On the other hand, it is clear that the number of people who own private property is increasing, the middle class is becoming stronger, people understand better and better that it is senseless to expect any aid from the state: one must rely only upon oneself and his kin. Culturally, the country looks alive: books are published, numerous exhibitions and festivals are held, and so forth.

The situation with public or, as they are more often called, non-government organizations (NGOs) is similar. If one takes a reference book on NGOs in Ukraine prepared several years ago by the American organization "United Way International", then it will appear that in each regional centre of Ukraine there exist tens or even hundreds of various NGOs devoted to charity, national, cultural, junior, HR protecting, scientific, sportive and other activities. The reference book was compiled by using the data on the registration of NGOs in state bodies; it was outdated already at the moment of publication, since a sizeable part of the listed organizations never operated. Very often these organizations were registered as public with the only aim: to obtain various tax reliefs that were permitted at that time in the Ukrainian laws, and thus to extract extra profits. When the tax reliefs were cancelled, the organizations disappeared. According to the data of the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice on 1 January 1996 in Ukraine there existed 829 public organizations with a republican or international status, among them 574 were public organizations, 216 charity foundations and 39 parties. All in all more then 5,000 public organizations were registered in Ukraine. At a superficial glance it seems that social movements become more and more influential and important. Nonetheless, all experts notice weakness and immaturity of the civil society in Ukraine. For comparison, in Hungary, where the population is about five times less than in Ukraine, 14,500 foundations and about 27,000 associations work at present. Unfortunately, most Ukrainian NGOs hardly survive. In order to understand this phenomenon it is necessary to turn to the history of development of civil structures in Ukraine, to investigate the state of NGOs at present, to consider relations of NGOs with authorities.


NGOs in Ukraine have a very short history, in fact, they began to appear in the beginning of 1987 (if not to take into account the period before the final establishment of totalitarianism in 1929). It should be noted that in the former USSR some public organizations existed, also of the political kind, such as the Committee for defence of peace, for example, and others, such as sportive, amateurish, hunters, etc. However, they were created by the state and they were governed by the state; according to Article 6 of the USSR Constitution they were headed by communists. From the Western point of view, such organizations are not NGOs. Alternative attempts to create civil structures from below immediately attracted attention of the former 5th Directorate of KGB, which resulted in a quick termination of activities of such organizations. Nonetheless, there were people, also in Ukraine, who without fear of repressions entered various independent associations. However, any normal legalization of activities of such organizations was out of the question. The Chernobyl camphorates led to economic, ethical and political weakening of the regime and accelerated all processes in the society. The state of affairs began to change drastically in the spring of 1987, after a massive release of political prisoners. Authorities stopped to earthenware people just for opinions. On the contrary, many began to pay attention and embody the very ideas for which people had been repressed. For the first time opportunities appeared to create open organizations and associations that could be free from the state control. Numerous public, cultural, ecological, social-political and, later, purely political organizations appeared. ’Memorial’ groups were, perhaps, the first of this kind, branches of the ’Society of friends of Ukrainian language’ appeared in various towns of Ukraine, ’Ukrainian-Helsinki Union’ was resurrected. Having started in 1987 in Kiev and Galicia, the public democratic movement grasped practically all Ukrainian towns by the end of 1989. The growth was simulated by the 1989 elections to the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the 1990 elections to the Supreme Soviet of Ukraine and local Soviets. The new-born organizations managed to promote their representatives to these Soviets on the town level, and in West Ukraine even in the village level. It should be noted that the main goals of the movement at that time was protection of national rights and liberation from the state control in various spheres of the public life, first of all, connected with mass media and religion.

The public movement in Ukraine in 1987-91 developed quite typically for the post-totalitarian space, though with some delay, so that in the middle of 1991 it was approximately on the same level as in the Baltic republics in the middle of 1989.

The August putsch and the subsequent fall of the USSR changed the situation drastically. Ukraine became an independent state, although the Ukrainian society had not been quite prepared to such a transformation. Though the results of the referendum of 1 December 1991 was quite impressive, the voters’ motives were quite different. Later the steady deterioration of the social and economic state, bureaucratic attempts to implement the Ukrainian language among russian language speakers in East and South Ukraine by purely bureaucratic methods resulted in the appearance in these parts of the country of social-political and political organizations with a distinct anti-Ukrainian attitude. Compared with the period of 1987-91 contradictions and frictions developed between various national-democratic organizations: freedom and independence soon revealed different approaches to the solution of urgent problems and difference of opinions of social leaders who had been united before by one goal and one enemy, the communist regime. During the recent four years the development of NGOs became rather erratic. On the one hand, an abrupt fall in the political activity of public organizations is observed, which is caused by economic reasons (people spend too much time and energy to earn their living, so nothing remains for public activities) and which is caused by the loss of illusions about the fast improvement of living standard, which was typical during the so-called perestroika. On the other hand, one can observe some growth of public organizations. They fill the niches left by the collapsed state, there appear republican and local HR protective organizations, analytic and investigation centres, republican and local informative agencies, newspapers and magazines, various national-cultural, charity, junior, professional organizations; the economic activities of Ukrainian NGOs that were hardly noticeable before have sizably grown now.


Discussing NGO relations with the state, one must bear in mind the objectively existing antagonism between the civil society and state. Any state (including those in civilized countries), trying to support order and stability, tends to expand the sphere of its influence, to enlarge the regulated zones by decreasing the freedom of choice for the people. Such is the nature of a state. A state bureaucrat always considers himself apriori wiser than a man in the street; the former thinks that he knows better how the latter should live. The civil society opposes this aggression. The civil society is the union of all nongovernmental bodies, it is self-conscious and has a certain structure; it makes the nongovernmental part of the people. The political pathos of the civil society consists in self-identification with the domineering factor of the social progress, in comprehending its natural superiority over the state. A developed civil society, being an intellectual opponent of the state, makes the latter pay more attention to civil interests and to the public opinion in the main aspects of the internal and external state policy. Carrying out protection functions, the civil society brings violation of human rights to the focus of public attention, thus eliminating human right abuses or reducing them to a tolerable level.

In the totalitarian Soviet Union the civil society was completely suppressed, and all people who fought for order and justice were discredited by the servile mass media and corrupted public organizations. However, when any criticism and independent thinking is prohibited in the state, then errors of the administration are rarely corrected, they keep accumulating, and at last the moment comes, when any means, including the most fierce terror, cannot keep the system from a collapse. Sooner or later, a totalitarian state is doomed. An unexpected and uncontrolled turn of this process brings a lot of suffering to people. Not in vain the Chinese have a curse: May you live at the fracture of time!

The civil society in Ukraine is too weak, now it is unable to control the situation in any extent. It is characterized by fear before the state and hypertrophied conformism. Although the state permanently declares the top priority of human rights, of individual rights compared to state interests, it all remains typical wind. What occurs in reality is further bureaucratization of so-called ’civil servants’, who are not in the least psychologically prepared to serve the civil society. In the economic respect our state is — alas — bankrupt, and in the cultural respect it is provincial. In spite of this many organizations created by citizens from the grassroots have a tendency to stick to the state, expecting to get protection and subsidies, thus becoming completely governable by it.

This is not surprising. We all, without exceptions, are Soviet people, we all are poisoned with the paternalistic mentality, to get rid of which is very difficult. The traditional Ukrainian ’slukhnianist’ (obedience) plays here an important part. All of us should relax, stop to fear freedom, learn to love it and thus to get rid of the internal submissiveness before the state. Our state can become stronger only in this way. However, if the civil society in Ukraine cannot overcome the archaetype of submissiveness, then our young state will ossify in a very unpleasant shape. Then the oligarchy and bureaucracy will grow, contradictions inside the society will become greater and will explode the existing order. In other words, either Ukraine step by step (and the steps will be long and painful) will become a democratic civilized state, or it expects the destiny of the USSR and Yugoslavia.

Bearing in mind these general recirculates, we believe that the relations between the civil society and authorities should have the form of a dialog, and, which should be emphasized, the dialog must be earnest and tolerant. Two principles can be laid into foundation of this dialog. The first principle was well formulated by the prominent Russian HR protector Sergey Kovaliov who wrote in the magazine 㤜th century and the world’ (1988) about ’the earnest cooperation of the sides who think not alike’: I agree to cooperate with the authorities when I agree with them, I will oppose the authorities, using legal methods, when I disagree with them. The second principle — one of the main in conflictology — is the distinct understanding that harmony in a society exists not when the interests of all people coincide (this is impossible and unnatural), but when interests of all interested sides are respected and accounted for in equal degree.

So which are the forms of relations between NGOs and authorities? They must differ for various NGOs and various branches of power (legislative, executive and forensic).

NGOs must have the right to initiate laws. By laying down a law and suggesting them to the Parliament NGOs can defend the opinion of the civil society concerning regulating some processes. NGOs can also carry out analysis of the operating laws and lobbying proper changes. It should be noted that state bodies do not object against the participation of NGOs in law making. Drafts of many laws have been developed in cooperation with NGOs: the law on trade unions — with various trade unions, the law on auditing — with the Union of auditors of Ukraine, many laws concerning economy — with Ukrainian Union of businessmen, etc. Permanent commissions of the Supreme Soviet often send law drafts to public organizations, to learn their opinion. At the same time many ministries and departments issue laws taking into considerations only their own interests, without accounting for the interests of the public. Most frequently it is done by the General Procurator’s office, Ministry of defence, Ministry of internal affairs. As a result, the Ukrainian Supreme Soviet has adopted some laws which rigidly protect state interests at the damage of citizens.

Besides, the above-mentioned ministries and departments remain closed to public control, they refuse to provide information to public organizations, thus violating Article 5 of the Ukrainian law ’On information’. For example, the Ministry of defence refused to make public the number of servicemen who were dismissed from service for bad health, the number of killed, etc.; the Main military procurator’s office refused to answer the questions on the criminality level in the army, on the number of criminal cases connected with ’dedovshchina’ (maltreatment of servicemen by other servicemen of older age or higher rank), on the mortality rate in the army and its reasons; the Ministry of internal affairs agreed to supply data by the date 1/02/94 on the structure of the penitentiary system and the number of convicts, but it refused to give similar data for 1995. Other ministries that are not related to traditionally closed (the Ministry of health and the Ministry of education) also ignored public requests. They did not give the data on the children mortality rate, the number of orphans and orphanages, about the financial funds for supporting the latter, the number of children-invalids and special homes for them. Quite unexpectedly the Ministry of nationalities and national minorities declared the information on refugees and migrants to be classified and not permissible to be given to public.

The relations of the executive power and NGOs are rather ill-matched. On the one hand, in several questions the authorities ignore the public opinion. For example, the Commission of mercy at the Presidential administration ignores the appeal of public organizations, sending them formal and meaningless answers. This Commission consists only of officials of law enforcing bodies and several deputies of the Supreme Soviet. Public organizations are excluded from the work of this Commission, it is rather difficult even to get some information. Here are some very characteristic figures: 6 convicts sentenced to the capital punishment were mercied in 1992, only 1 in 1993, and 2 in 1994. On the other hand, on many occasions the executive power cooperates with public organizations, jointly solving many problems. For example, members of ’Memorial’ entered the commissions of restoring rights of rehabilitated prisoners (in many towns they were taken to the staff); this commissions were organized to realise the Ukrainian law ’On rehabilitation of victims of political repressions’. By the way, this law was created also with the direct participation of ’Memorial’. In many towns this society takes an active part in creating ’Books of memory’, jointly (or directly) working with editing groups for the preparation of the series ’Rehabilitated by history’. Many projects in the social sphere are carried by the authorities jointly with NGOs. Such are invalid problems (in particular, the creation of republican and regional sport centres for invalids), labour protection (public commissions of labour protection are created at enterprises), environment protection (public inspectors and controllers), living accommodation construction (creation of youth living complexes), health (efforts of the psychiatric association of Ukraine in reforming the system of psychiatric help, the improvement of qualification of psychiatrists, etc.), protection of consumers’ rights and others. Often these attempts appear to be fruitless because of the passivity of public organizations.

It is possible to demonstrate many examples of successes and failures in the cooperation of Ukrainian NGOs and authorities in other spheres of activity. Let us consider, in particular, the cooperation with law enforcing bodies. According to Article 265 of the Criminal Procedural Code (CPC) of Ukraine, representatives of the public organizations can be admitted to the participation in the trial as public prosecutors or public advocates. Some public organizations use this right, participating both in civil (illegal dismissal, deprivation of living accommodation, libel) and in criminal proceedings (’dedovshchina’, protection from arbitrary acts of state officials, etc.). Unfortunately, some public organizations try to inflict pressure on the court in the forms forbidden by CPC: they picket courtrooms, carry insulting slogans, start arguments with judges during the trial, objecting opinions and resolutions of the judge. As mitigating circumstances they name impotence of the court, its notorious corruption, etc. We believe that such forms of pressure on the court are quite unacceptable.

Some public organizations cooperate with penitentiary bodies, they organize sending humanitarian aid to special colonies where sick convicts are kept; they also organize contacts with Western colleagues. Sometimes they achieve the conditional release or the replacement of the punishment for a less severe one, since, according to Article 52 of the Criminal Code (CC) of Ukraine the court may accept a request from a public organization, and the experience shows that commissions in the penitentiary and forensic systems pay attention to the opinion of public organizations. A public organization may also take on bail people who committed a crime for the first time, provided that the crime was of no great social danger (Article 51 of CC), request for a release before the time (Article 55 of CC) and so on. It should be noted that the penitentiary establishments became much more open than before: they can be visited by priests of various confessions and by representatives of public organizations.


We shall try to classify and review NGOs activities, regarding them from different viewpoints.

All NGOs, from a legalistic point of view, are usually divided into two large groups: associations and foundations. An association is a group of people which joined voluntarily for the achievement of some purposes. A foundation is an organization which accumulates funds for the achievement of some purposes. Associations need money to insure their existence and foundations need suitable people who can achieve goals set by the foundation and efficiently use the money. Rina Shashois-Hasson singles out six main principles that regulate NGOs activities and are reflected in international agreements, national constitutions and laws, statutes of associations and foundations. They are as follows:

- freedom of associations and peaceful gatherings, this freedom also means that the membership must be purely voluntary;

- independence of organizations from the state, this regulation must be reduced only to checking information on obvious violations inside this organization;

- inner democracy, taking resolutions according to the principle ’one member — one vote’

- distinguishing between the legal identity of the organization and legal identity of its separate members;

- absence of egotistical and mercenary motives in the membership, voluntary work;

- openness, responsibility and controllability.

Undoubtedly these principles are realized incompletely in Ukraine. Since June 1992 the law ’On unions of citizens’ has begun to operate. This law regulates the activities of social-political organizations, parties and politically neutral public organizations. The law makes no distinction between NGOs protecting public interests and NGOs protecting interests of their members only. The notion ’foundation’ is not defined in the law, in Ukraine there is no special law on charity and charity foundations; what we have is ’Temporal rules for registering charity foundations’ active since the end of 1994. Besides, the foundations are very few, most of them are established by the state, whereas private foundations that were created from grassroots for the support of NGOs one year ago could be counted on fingers. After the well-known President’s Edict of 12 August 1995 was issued, many foundations started to appear, only in 1995 about 100 of them was registered. In our opinion many of these funds serve to cover business organizations that set up this foundations to extract some profits. The same can be said about many newly-formed associations: when an opportunity appear to get money from Western charity foundations, our business began to adapt.

Foreign foundations operating in Ukraine are not numerous; their number does not exceed twenty. Nonetheless, their activity is quite noticeable, their expenditures are comparable with the state expenditures on education and culture. For many NGOs foreign charity foundations make the main source of financing.

Another major source of financing is the state budget. It finances those NGOs that take on themselves the execution of some functions of the authorities and assist the fulfillment of problems having high priority from the viewpoint of the state. Such are many organizations granting social aid, veteran organizations, mass media, cultural, educational, creative organizations, such as ’Prosvita’ or, so-called creative unions — of writers, artists, composers, and many others.

One more, typical for the Western world source of supporting NGOs — voluntarily donations of juridical and physical persons inside the country is practically non-existent in Ukraine. Big and middle businessmen supporting NGOs with their money are a rarity. This is due to the insufficient development of the second sector in Ukraine and to the incompleteness of needed laws. These reasons suppress such a source of financing as the money earned by the organization as a result of its economic activity. Unfortunately, the law does not single out nonprofitable organizations that indulge in economic activity and spend the profit for the achievement of their statutory goals only: all organizations getting any income are regarded as profit ones. That is the reason why many organizations set up by citizens and pertaining to education, culture, public health, such as schools, hospitals, museums, libraries, are not regarded in our country as NGOs, although from Western standpoint they are typical NGOs.

According to the goals that NGOs set before them, the organizations can be divided into two big groups: NGOs serving the public interests in the broad sense of the word and NGOs that are set to support interests of their members. This division ought to be fixed in the law, but, for the time being, it is absent. The first group comprises NGOs operating in the spheres of public health, education, science, culture, art, help to the poorest, environment protection, religion, common humanity values, social prosperity, human rights. The second group unites labor associations, professional associations, political parties, unions of businessmen, entrepreneurial associations, social clubs, brotherhoods, sportive associations, chambers of commerce, credit unions, agricultural organizations, veteran organizations and so on.

According to the sphere of activity NGOs can be classified into such groups:

- political NGOs, including: political parties, social-political movements, NGOs mainly dealing in elections and referendums, human right protecting NGOs, law-making NGOs;

- economic NGOs, including: entrepreneurial, privatization, investment, credit, trade unions;

- NGOs dealing in the spiritual life of society, in such spheres as: religion, creative activity, culture, national-cultural relations, language, education, printed mass media, electronic mass media, authors’ right protection, science and technology, inventions;

- NGOs operating in the social sphere, in particular: family and marriage, children, youth and students, physical culture and sport, public health,environment protection, labour, living accommodation, consumer’s rights, right abuses, leisure.

As to the territory where NGOs function, they can be divided into districtal, town, regional, interregional, Ukrainian and international.

NGOs can be also classified by the social and professional features of their members:

- servicemen;

- Chernobyl rescue team members;

- participants of the Afgan war;

- invalids (with further subdivision into blind, deaf, children suffering cerebral paralysis, etc.);

- veterans;

- persons belonging to peoples deported in Stalin’s time;

- rehabilitated convicts;

- persons deported to Germany during WW2;

- professional unions, such as mathematical, physical, chemical, biological, geographical, juridical, medical, etc.


Regardless of the classification principle, public organizations represent certain interests of some population layers. In this respect human right protecting NGOs have the goal to protect human rights of any individual according to the Right, i.e. the idea of justice which has established in the given society. Human right protecting NGOs represent a typical product of the well-developed civil society. In fortunate countries the main function of human right protecting NGOs is to control state bodies for guarantying and realizing human rights, and this function is confirmed in the law. We think that in Ukraine the special role of such organizations should be reflected in the law, and not only in a special law, but in the Constitution. We believe that the Constitution ought to contain a special part on control mechanisms over state bodies, and in this part the role of human right protecting NGOs in guarantying human rights by the state should be mentioned.

Taking into consideration the special role of human right protecting NGOs in a civil society, let us consider in more details such organizations, their problems, goals, principles, and directions of activity.

First of all, it is necessary to point out the difference between human right protecting NGOs and other political NGOs. The goal of the latter is to win and use power or back up politicians who strive to win power. Human right protecting organizations by their very essence cannot set such a goal. The activity of politicians and human right protectors must strongly differ, which becomes clear if to scrutinize the principles of human rights protecting movement.

First of all, this movement is open and nonviolent. Figuratively speaking, human rights protection is like extinguishing fires, this is an attempt to lower the level of violence in the society. Another important principle — ’never inflict harm!’ — follows from here.

Further, the human right protecting movement is principally not party oriented. The party attitude usually expresses certain interest of a certain population layer. But people are complicated beings. One loves freedom, another equality, one wants to be a leader, another wants to execute resolutions taken by others, most do not take part in any public activities. For a human right protector this is a question of principle to support in the public life leftish and rightish, all directions of the political spectrum and public activities. Our understanding of human rights must be independent of the political conjuncture. A human right protector must, maybe unwillingly, protect abused rights of an individual independent of his convictions, nationality, religion and party sympathies.

The human right protecting movement must be independent not only of political situation, but of the public opinion as a whole, disregarding the scale of differences. A glaring example here is the attitude to the death penalty. The public opinion in any country backs up the capital punishment, whereas most human right protecting organizations condemn it and fight for its abolition.

The next important principle is the maximal veracity according to the English court formula: ’To tell the truth, only the truth and nothing but the truth’. It is typical for a politician to tell the truth, only the truth, but by far not all the truth. The information that may appear harmful for the party may be put under the table. Roosevelt’s famous formula: ’He is a sonofabitch of course, but he is our sonofabitch’ is absolutely unacceptable for a human right protector.

Finally a somewhat fuzzy principle of modesty must be mentioned. Unfortunately, there appeared people, who call themselves human right protectors and attempt to spend most time in the West, there appeared organizations, which call themselves human right protecting and permanently hold conferences with luxuriant banquets. In the pauperized country it looks abominable.

It is necessary to point out that human right protecting organizations must be independent of the state. I am sure that human right protecting organizations must not be subsidized by the state and must not get any special privileges, except those given to all NGOs. However, the independence must not turn to confrontation. I do not like the prosecuting tone addressed to the state which is used by many human right protectors, I find incorrect the eagerness to blame authorities in all cases. The source of human right abuses is man and those structures that he created. But people have the tendency to find the cause of their troubles not in themselves but elsewhere. It must be noted that a human right protector has to be a state supporter, since human rights protection is a duty of the state. As one prominent American human right protector said, ’Without just laws, independent courts and professional lawyers the fight for human rights is an elementary fight for the openness: publishing information about crimes in the hope to stir remorses or at least to disquiet the authorities’. That is why until the state is capable to dialog, human right protecting organizations should lead it. The character of the dialog is determined by the above-mentioned principles of ’Honest cooperation between the sides thinking not alike’ and satisfying interests of all groups, and its topic is actual insurance of human rights by the state which declared the priority of these rights. Ukraine tends to become a law-abiding democratic state, she undersigned 16 out of 25 international conventions by the UNO on human rights, which became internal laws of the country after she became a member of the Council of Europe, and this makes us to follow the norms of the European right in law-making and law-applying practice. In spite of the declarativity of these announcements and gestures they create the basis for cooperation. That is why the old formula that was right in the totalitarian period: ’Protection of citizen’s rights from the organized violence on the side of the state’ must be complemented with ’and assistance to the state in protecting citizens’ rights’.

The relations of human right protecting organizations with the rest of the civil society are very specific and they can be far from unclouded. Any NGO protects interests of a certain population group, conflicts of interests in a society are unavoidable, and human right protecting organizations, by their nature, must smooth these conflicts. Actually, human right protecting organizations must play the role of a buffer between the society and state, as well as between various groups of society. It could be compared to the immune system of the public body. Generally speaking, it can happen that human right protectors would defend state interests in the case of aggression of some radical groups of the civil society.

So what are concrete tasks of human right protecting organizations?

One of the main tasks is, as before, the protection of citizens whose rights have been abused, public investigation of such facts, gathering and distributing information about them. This tasks are executed by regional branches of the Ukrainian section of the International Society of human rights, as well as many regional human right protecting organizations in Kiev, Kharkov, Lvov, Odessa, Dnepropetrovsk, Donetsk, Zaporozhye, Simferopol, Sebastopol, Mariupol and other Ukrainian towns; regional branches of the All-Ukrainian Committee of human right protection.

It is also important to anticipate the threats for human rights. To this end, it is necessary to study tendencies in the development of society, to carry out sociological studies, to get expert opinion on law drafts, to gather honest and objective, maximally reliable information on the situation with human rights and to pass this information to everybody who needs it, including the international public organizations. This work is permanently done by the Ukrainian-American Bureau of human right protection, the research centre ’Democratic initiatives’, the Democratic reform centre ’Demos’, the Ukrainian independent centre of political investigations, the Kievan centre of political studies and conflictology, the All-Ukrainian Committee of children right protection, the Kharkov right protecting Group, the UNIAN and UNIAR information agencies, and some others.

As we have mentioned, Ukraine is a participant of many international instruments on human rights. Finding inconsistencies of the inner law and international obligations, modernizing legislation, monitoring law-applying practice are all rather substantial tasks of human right protecting organizations. This is mainly done by the Ukrainian law foundation, Ukrainian-American Bureau of human right protection, Kharkov juridical society, ’Right for Ukraine’ foundation and some other organizations. It should be noted that international organizations encourage this analytical work. Moreover, periodic reports of the states that undersigned international conventions by the UNO on human rights must be accompanied by reports of NGOs, since it is assumed that they give more objective and honest information than state officials. The experience of handing such a report to the UNO Committee on children rights prepared by a number of NGOs under the supervision of Natalia Petrova, chairperson of the All-Ukrainian Committee of children protection, showed that such practice must be encouraged and greeted. The UNO documents on the fulfillment of the Convention on children rights by Ukraine promoted the development of the national programme ’Children of Ukraine’, and for the first time in this sphere public organizations were invited to develop this programme.

Maybe, the most urgent task of human right protecting organizations is upbreeding of civil mentality, of respect to the law and of advancement of citizen’s knowledge of their rights. It is necessary to get rid of the paternalistic mentality, characteristic of our people, when they believe not in the law, but in the sacral personality (tsar, general secretary, president and the like), who will resolve all the problems. It is also necessary to overcome unbelievable ignorance of citizens, state officials, deputies and especially officers of law-enforcing bodies in the sphere of human rights. Unfortunately, the state practically does nothing of the kind, and a number of public organizations try to fill the gap. Among them are regional branches of the Ukrainian association ’Amnesty International’, Ukrainian-American Bureau of human right protection, Ukrainian Centre of human rights, Ukrainian Section of the international society of human rights, Kharkov human right protecting Group and other organizations.


Public organizations in Ukraine are weak and, with a few exceptions, unprofessional. They do not exert yet a profound influence on the state of affairs in the country. Their members, retaining the paternalistic mentality, have not understood yet that a civilized pressure on the state should be inflicted, they lack passion and doggedness. The state also is absolutely unprepared to be a servant of the people, it does not perceive the civil society as an equal partner in the dialog. Both the society and the state are ill-educated and provincial. At the same time, successes of separate organizations, the aid of Western charity foundations, understanding of the necessity, opportunity to obtain high-quality education, all this inspires hope that the third sector in Ukraine will strengthen, its role and influence will grow.


In this article we have used materials of the Moscow Helsinki Group seminars by the syllabus ’Law culture’ and articles from the magazine ’Human rights in Ukraine’ by members of the Public Council of Ukrainian-American Bureau of human right protection Zinoviy Antoniuk, Miroslav Marynovich and Vsevolod Rechitsky, to whom the author is greatly indebted.

May 1996
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