“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2012, #07
Freedom of speech in Ukraine: journalists are forced to keep silent Administrative Resource – a Threat to Honest Elections Politics and human rights
VAAD slams controversial language bill Clarification for President Yanukovych regarding the language law Freedom of expression
EurActiv: Yanukovich accused of gagging Ukrainian media ahead of poll Measures against independent TV channel and against fair elections Freedom of peaceful assembly
Pretexts for banning peaceful protest: if you could only laugh The right to health care
Ukraine’s “psycho-neurological institutions” – out of sight, out of mind … News from the CIS countries
A show trial like in the days of Stalin? Belarus: In defence of civic activists unlawfully detained Lyudmila Alexeyeva is 85 We remember
In Memoriam: Iryna Stasiv-Kalynets
Freedom of speech in Ukraine: journalists are forced to keep silent
Last week the work of independent media in Ukraine was further suppressed through direct intervention of the government. On July 18 a criminal case was filed against the editorial of the independent Internet resource Left Bank. A week earlier a criminal case was filed against General Director of the TVi stations Mykola Knyazhytskiy. Such actions of the ruling authority are testimony to the fact that it does not need independent media, particularly with the upcoming parliamentary elections.
Journalists on freedom of speech
Prior to the escalation of relations between the ruling power and independent mass media the I. Kucheriv Democratic Initiatives Foundation made public the results of a survey conducted among journalists on the topic “2012 Elections: What Can Journalists Expect from Sociologists?” in which the questions were dedicated to the problem of freedom of speech. The results of the survey of 72 journalists in the nation’s capital and the regions showed that the state of freedom of speech was graded at 4.5 points on a scale of 10. The majority of journalists surveyed are feeling the greatest pressure of censorship on the part of the government on political issues and criticism of the government by journalists. Most journalists claim that the position of the government is the greatest obstacle to guaranteeing freedom of speech and press in Ukraine.
On July 19 journalists came out in protest in front of the Prosecutor General’s Office against the oppression of journalists and freedom of speech to show their support of TBi and L.B.ua. The organization Reporters without Borders already publicly announced its position: the situation with these two media outfits is part of a major offensive against independent media.
The organization Freedom House also came forth in support of these media and appealed to the government of Ukraine to review the legitimacy of tax inspections of the TBi channel and refrain from selective inspections by the tax bodies. Freedom House officially stated that it has serious doubts that the pressure being applied to these media resources are not associated with their criticism of the current ruling authorities.
There is only one conclusion: freedom of speech in Ukraine is being severely oppressed and in the opinion of most journalists and political analysts the root of all problems lies in the actions of the government and its position on this issue.
War against independent media: prosecute them to shut them up
There is no other way to describe the current policy of the government regarding the mass media – it is a war that the ruling authority silently launched against those whose voice and opinions are a thorn in their side. By a court ruling on July 12 representatives of the tax service confiscated all financial documents of the TV channel TBi over the past 4 years to execute the instructions of the investigative body. A criminal case was filed against the TV station’s general director for tax evasion to the tune of more than UAH 3 mn or more than EUR 300, 000.
Then on July 18 a criminal case was filed against the editorial board of another independent media organization – namely, the information analysis Internet resource Left Bank or LB.ua. The accused in the case are Editor-in-chief Sonya Koshkina, Senior Editor Oleh Bazar and photo correspondent Maxim Levin. The editorial is accused of violating the confidential correspondence of state activist and MP representing the Party of Regions Volodymyr Landik, whose text message on the criminal case against his son Levin was registered in the session hall of the parliament and posted on the LB.ua website. This incident occurred on November 17, 2011 when the Landik case was not opened. Only after 8 months the prosecutor general’s office decide to reopen the case, conducted an inspection and announced the filing of a criminal case against the journalist.
War against independent media: taming of the obstinate
The objective of this article is not to analyze problems and the existence or absence of the composite of crimes as this is the job of lawyers and lawmakers. Our mission is to explain why these resources, why now and why in this way they became the objects of such actions and why there are doubts that the tax services and the prosecutor’s office are not paid off to conduct inspections and file criminal cases.
Why does this seem more like pressure on independent media than legal investigation?
First of all, the actions of the State Tax Service against the TBi television channel contradict its ruling. On March 30 the head of the STS signed a directive to cancel all inspections of the mass media as of April 1 in order to protect it from pressure of the tax authorities and create conditions of unbiased exposure of the upcoming parliamentary elections. TBi was inspected in April.
Secondly, while claims were filed against TBi for non-payment of taxes over the past 4 years, to this very day the State Tax Service has not discovered such problems during inspections and accepted all tax reports submitted by the TV channel.
Thirdly, the Internet site Left Bank or LB.ua is presumably being justifiably accused: it indeed violated the confidentially of the correspondence of a civil servant.
But journalists have an unlucky job as it is practically impossible to distinguish a professional analysis from intervention in the private life of those people that journalists write about, particularly if the topic is political, all the more in Ukraine where the majority of politicians one way or another are engaged in corrupt activities, abuse their power and can avoid being punished for such crimes. Nobody pays attention to the fact that besides their work in the parliament deputies are engaged in their own personal businesses, which is more important than dealing with legislative matters important for the country. This is a perfect example of the productivity of the work of Ukraine’s lawmakers. So, the question remains “Is there a crime or not?” The task of lawyers is to figure out whether or not this is a cover or an opportunity to deal mass media that is not controlled by the ruling authority.
Why TBi and LB.ua?
For any more or less well-informed Ukrainian it is no secret that these two channels are the most oppositional mass media to the current government. This clearly is more than enough of a pretext for taming them.
The content of the LB.ua site and the TBi television channel is the exposure of corruption and absolute ignorance of the laws in the higher echelons of power and investigative journalism that exposes the criminal acts of certain members of the government or several individuals that operate with it in a closely knit circle.
Saying that such media is in opposition to the ruling power means absolutely nothing as the exposure of illegal acts of the government and informing society about the true state of affairs is one of the main objectives of such media. Such uncontrolled and highly effective sources of information leading up to the parliamentary elections poses a problem for the current ruling authority that conveys the main message in its electoral video clips on all TV channels: there is stability in the country, the economic crisis has been overcome thanks to the efforts of the government and the people can look forward to improvement of their welf-being.
Why is the government persecuting journalists?
There are two reasons for this: first of all, everything looks more or less legal on the surface – claims are made in compliance with the laws that representatives of the mass media seemingly violated meaning that the government’s hands are clean and it can resort to unengaged work of the law enforcement bodies that try to find out who is guilty and should be punished. Secondly, in this way they send a powerful yet mediated signal to all other representatives of the media that it is better to resort to self-censorship than later face similar problems with the authorities.
Today, the formula “No people, no problems” no longer works. There are thousands of journalists in Ukraine, the majority of which have learned to work in conditions of freedom of speech, which was one of the greatest achievements of the Orange Revolution. If physical force is applied to one journalist, another one will write an article slamming the government.
After all, journalists understand perfectly well why criminal cases were opened against them, what are the main claims against them and know very well what might happen to them if they are so impudent to write and speak what they think about the government and not what the latter wants to hear.
The criminal prosecution of journalists prior to the official start of the parliamentary election campaign is an extremely alarming sign of the internal situation in Ukraine. Pressure on independent media that are openly against the ruling authority on the threshold of the most heated political period of the year – namely, the upcoming parliamentary elections – gives serious grounds to speak about restriction of freedom of speech in Ukrainian society. This is a new way of dealing with individuals that are beyond the control of the government. And the ruling power continues to turn this fly-wheel faster and faster.
From Focus on Ukraine 23 July
Administrative Resource – a Threat to Honest Elections
During their presentation of the civic movement OPORA Third Monthly Monitoring Report, cases of abuse of administrative resources were highlighted. These include involvement of public sector employees in pre-election events and the use by officials of official pretexts for campaigning purposes.
“Over the last three months both OPORA monitors and the independent media have noted dangerous tendencies suggesting a real threat that administrative resources are being used by certain potential electoral players in order to artificially reduce the level of political competition in the country. This could lead to flagrant infringements of one of the guiding European principles of electoral law – ensuring equal opportunities for all parties and candidates, and cast doubts regarding how fair the elections were in the eyes of the Ukrainian public and international community”.
Combining party and official activities is in breach of Article 4 of the Law on Political Parties. Public officials are also urged to refrain from demonstrating their political views in the Order from the Central Civil Service Department No. 241 from 4 August 2010.
A tendency seen in the parliamentary campaign is the attempt by certain political forces and potential candidates to involve public sector employers in campaigning events.
OPORA mentions the initiatives from central and local authorities to hire new temporary staff in the social services. The official grounds for expansion and increase in funding for these services Is the need to improve measures aimed at implementing the so-called “social initiatives” of the President and government.
Deputy Prime Minister Serhiy Tihipko has said that throughout the country 12, 000 temporary social workers will be trained. Each will received around 1thousand UAH more pay than others in analogous positions in the social services. Most such jobs will be created in the Poltava region (908), the least in Sevastopol (15).
This decision has provoked fierce political conflict since it carries objective risks that the temporary staff will be involved in campaigning for pro-regime candidates.
The Ternopil Regional Council, for example, refused to support the redistribution of 12 million UAH of state subsidies for the creation of 400 temporary jobs. The council’s deputies decided to check the grounds for creating new jobs and proposed introducing the project after the elections.
In the Sumy region OPORA observers recorded a case where during a visit to a 93-year-old pensioner, the social worker tried to find out the lady’s political preferences. The social worker also told her that if she supported the government she would receive a free device for digital television.
In the Volyn region local residents have approached OPORA over the “voluntary – compulsory” nature of public sector workers’ involvement in the electoral campaign of one of the candidates.
The electoral team of local benefactor and MP Ihor Palytsa with the help of school heads has been involving teachers in election campaigning.
OPORA Electoral Programme Coordinator Olha Aivazovska pointed out that potential candidates, especially current MPs are positioning themselves as lobbyists for the interests of particular electoral constituencies with respect to obtaining resources from the State budget. She says that a certain example and precedent in this has been created by the parliamentary leadership. Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn (Narodna Partia) and his First Deputy Adam Martynyuk (Communist Party) both actively use their official status when working in electoral districts.
For example, Martynyuk asserts that he “successfully lobbied for” allocation by the Cabinet of Ministers of 10.8 million UAH for socio-economic needs of the Kamin-Kashyrsk and Kivertsivsk districts of the Volyn region. Such pre-election strategy by the parliamentary leadership promotes uncontrolled use of budgetary administrative resources by other parliamentarians and officials.
Olha Aivazovska noted that members of VO Svoboda holding high posts in western regions of the country are also abusing official position for their own campaigning interests.
For example the formal agreement by the head of the Lviv Regional Council Oleh Pankivych for unscheduled repairs to a damaged road is presented as being the result of his political party’s activities.
Potential candidates are using professional holidays (medical workers’ day, journalist day etc – translator) to make themselves known to the electorate, with lavish gifts being presented.
OPORA has noted many addresses made by public officials which directly indicate their sympathies or prejudices regarding specific political parties. Such demonstrative infringement by public officials of officially affirmed standards places in question the chances of equal conditions for the activities of all political parties.
On 4 July the Verkhovna Rada voted to allocate almost 100 million UAH on installing CCTV cameras at polling booths. OPORA suggests that it would be more sensible to install CCTV not only in the rooms where District Electoral Commissions meet, but in the adjoining corridors making it possible to recording infringements (stamps from the precinct electoral commissions, empty protocol papers, readjustment of the figures). It is also important to introduce audio and video recordings of each protocol being read out and record the transcripts of important meetings of the District Electoral Commissions.
Slightly abridged from the report here http://opora.org.ua/news/1544-administratyvnyj-resurs-zagroza-chesnym-vyboram
Politics and human rights
VAAD slams controversial language bill
The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine [VAAD] states that “the vote in the Verkhovna Rada on the draft Law on the Principles of State Language Policy has, we believe, shattered public consensus regarding the language issue, led to civic confrontation and is first and foremost an attempt to gain extra votes.
VAAD feels compelled to state that in our view the draft bill does not resolve the problems faced by national minorities, while instead breaching both Ukraine’s Constitution and the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages and the Framework Conference on National Minorities.
There are indeed languages in Ukraine which require state support, however this is not Russian, but Crimean Tatar, Gagauz, Roma, Karaim and Krymchak, Urum and Rumeisk languages, as well as Yiddish. It is these as minority languages which the European Charter of Regional and Minority Languages protects. European legislation upholds linguistic diversity and is aimed at protecting disappearing languages.
The bill voted in will free the hands of those who are trying to totally remove the Ukrainian language from use in the regions where more than 10% of the population speak another language. We are convinced that this is a crime against the Ukrainian language.
The authors of the draft bill are fighting for a situation where citizens don’t speak Ukraine, don’t study it or use it, instead giving significant preferential treatment ot the Russian language. You cannot resolve the language problems of national minorities in this way.
It should also be noted that the draft Law on the Principles of State Language Policy has not received an unequivocally positive assessment either among national minorities or among the Ukrainian public as a whole. Furthermore Ukraine’s national minorities have not once discussed this draft bill in open, have not heard the arguments of its authors, and have not expressed their own views and comments.
The draft law poses a threat to Ukrainian society since it disregards the State status of the Ukrainian language, does not protect minority languages at risk and arouses dissent and tension in Ukrainian society.
The National Communities of Ukraine wish for integration into Ukraine’s civil society. They wish to build a shared home which will not be destroyed for the sake of opportunistic interests.
Clarification for President Yanukovych regarding the language law
Constitution of Ukraine
A large number of academics and civic organizations have addressed a letter to President Yanukovych in which they state the following:
On 11 July during a meeting with the Club of Chief Press Editors of CIS Countries, in answering questions regarding the prospects for the draft Law on the Principles of State Language Policy, you said the following: “The best guide in this question is the European Charter on Languages” “how much this law corresponds to that charter it is for experts to say”. Furthermore, you stated that the legislators who initiated this law have assured you that “it has undergone a Venice Commission assessment”.
We would draw your attention to the following three points:
1. In the hierarchy of legal documents which define the principles of State language policy and the procedure for the use and support of languages, it is Ukraine’s Constitution and not the Charter which has the highest legal force. It is Article 10 of the Constitution, and not the provisions of the Charter, which should be the “best guide in assessing this draft law. In the view of Ukrainian specialists, the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko draft law fails on many fundamental points to comply with Ukraine’s Constitution and the Judgement of the Constitutional Court from 14 December 1999, No. 10/99 giving an official interpretation of Article 10 of the Constitution.
In contrast to Ukraine’s Constitution which defines the principles of language policy and the general procedure with respect to use of languages, the Charter merely encourages countries to freely choice the optional framework measures it lists for “the protection of the historical regional or minority languages of Europe, some of which are in danger of eventual extinction”. Moreover the Preamble to the Charter envisages that “the protection and encouragement of regional or minority languages should not be to the detriment of the official languages and the need to learn them”.
2. The Kivalov-Kolesnichenko draft law was indeed assessed by the Venice Commission, however in its Opinion from 2 December 2011 the Commission stated that the content of the document, despite the aims and principles declared in Article 5, shows that the actual draft law contains mechanisms for the domination of the Russian language at the expense of Ukrainian as State language.
The Venice Commission called on the authors of the bill to make a thorough review of terminology and use it consistently in the text, and mainly to achieve “a fair balance between the protection of the rights of minorities, on the one hand, and the preservation of the State language as a tool for integration within society on the other” (66, 68).
Thus, according to the Venice Commission assessment, the draft law needs further fundamental work on it. This same view was held by all profile institutions of the Academy of Sciences (the Institute for Language Studies on 16 September 2011; the Ukrainian Language Institute on 22 September 2011; the Institute for Political and Ethno-National Research on 22 September 2011; and the Institute for State and Law on 5 September 2011); the Central Legal Department of the Verkhovna Rada; as well as the Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Spiritual Matters (23.09.2011); on the Budget (03.11.2011) the Ministry of Finance (09.09.2011); the Justice Ministry (27.09.2011); the Ukrainian Language Information Fund (O9.09.2011); the Higher School of the Academy of Sciences (16.09.2011); the Kyiv National University Institute of Language and Literature (20.09.2011).
The Kivalov-Kolesnichenko draft law was devastatingly criticized in the conclusions of the Ministry of Finance (09.09.2011); the Justice Ministry (27.09.2011); the Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Spiritual Matters (23.09.2011) on the Budget (03.11.2011); and in the conclusion of the Central Legal Department of the Verkhovna Rada from 23 May 2012.
At the hearings held by the Parliamentary Committee on Culture and Spiritual Matters on 20 June 2012 the draft law on the Principles of State Language Policy was found to not comply with Ukraine’s Constitution and to be in need of radical conceptual reworking.
3. From when the draft law was tabled in parliament, it was accompanied by systemic and flagrant infringements of Articles 82 and 84 of the Constitution and the Law on the Verkhovna Rada Regulations. The draft law was registered in breach of Article 91 §§ 3 and 6 of the Law on the Verkhovna Rada Regulations since its authors had failed to provide financial-economic justification and a comparative table with the outlined amendments to current laws, set out by Section 11 of the Transitional Provisions of the draft law.
During consideration of the draft law in its first reading on 5 June Article 102 of the Verkhovna Rada Regulations was infringed since the draft law was voted on without discussion of its fundamental principles, provisions, criteria and structure.
The vote was also held in breach of Article 84 of the Constitution which demands that MPs vote in person.
During the evening session of the Verkhovna Rada on 3 July, the First Deputy Speaker Adam Martynyuk encouraged infringements of the Regulations through his manipulative “technology”. Without a decision from the Coordination Council and consideration of the numerous amendments submitted by MPs, he put to the vote the question of whether to add Draft Law No. 9073 on the Principles of State Language Policy to the agenda. This move failed with only 219 votes in favour.
The second vote concerned his proposal to return to the only just rejected issue on changing the agenda, with the result this time in favour being 241. After this, Adam Martynyuk did not put the question of whether the draft law should be added to the agenda to the vote, but when straight, without even defining the version which was to be voted on to a vote as to whether to pass Draft Law 9073 in its entirety (with 248 votes registered as for this). The law was thus voted on without even being included on the agenda, and mainly without being prepared for the vote.
From the legal point of view, there was no discussion, vote and adoption of the language law in its second reading and could not be on principle since the chief committee in accordance with Article 31 of the Verkhovna Rada Regulations was continuing to work on its preparation for its second reading in connection with the huge number of amendments (over 2000). For this very reason the draft law was not (and could not be!) stamped by the head of the profile committee, the head of the secretariat of that committee and the heads of the legal and editing offices of the Verkhovna Rada as required by Article 117 § 1 of the Regulations, and was also not (and could not be!) handed out to MPs at least 10 days before consideration at a plenary session of the Verkhovna Rada. Due to the lack of a draft law prepared for its second reading, it was impossible to carry out the requirements of Article 119 of the Verkhovna Rada Regulations regarding article by article discussion and voting on the amendments on the basis of a comparative table and agreement of the final version of the law. Thus the MPs voted for a document which simply didn’t exist, for a phantom document, and one moreover in breach of Article 84 of the Constitution.
You thus have no grounds for considering the decision of the Verkhovna Rada on 3 July regarding the draft Law on the Principles of State Language Policy as the adoption of a law since there was no such law. as Guarantor of Ukraine’s Constitution you should take all measures to ensure that the anti-constitutional Kivalov-Kolesnichenko draft law which has stirred up the public, divides Ukraine and is an attempt upon its constitutional order is withdrawn altogether.
The letter is signed by three Professors from the Kyiv Mohyla University: Volodymyr Vasylenko, Larysa Masenko and Volodymyr Panchenko,
The list of endorsees is given below in Ukrainian. It includes
The Congress of National Communities of Ukraine;
The Kharkiv Human Rights Group;
The Association of Jewish Organizations and Communities of Ukraine;
The Association of Ukrainian Writers;
The Secretariat of the National Union of Writers of Ukraine;
The Taras Shevchenko Prosvita Society
The Centre for Civil Liberties
The Artists’ Association Last Barricade
And a large number of others
The list in full:
професор Національного університету
«Києво-Могилянська академія», доктор юридичних
наук, один із розробників Закону «Про мови
в Українській РСР», Надзвичайний і Повноважний
професор Національного університету
доктор філологічних наук
професор Національного університету
«Києво-Могилянська академія», доктор філологічних
наук, народний депутат України першого скликання
• Координаційної ради з питань захисту української мови при Київській міській організації товариства «Меморіал» ім. В.Стуса;
• Всеукраїнського Комітету на захист української мови;
• Народного комітету захисту України;
• Конгресу національних громад України;
• Спілки офіцерів України;
• Всеукраїнської громадської організації «Громадський рух «Не будь байдужим!»;
• Громадянського руху «Відсіч»;
• Харківської правозахисної групи;
• Київської міської організації товариства «Меморіал» ім. В.Стуса;
• Асоціації єврейських організацій та громад України;
• Ліги українських меценатів;
• Всеукраїнської громадської наукової організації «Експерти України»;
• Руху добровольців «Простір свободи»;
• Всеукраїнської громадської молодіжної організації «Національний Альянс»;
• Всеукраїнської молодіжної громадської організації «Дебатна Академія»;
• Секретаріату Національної спілки письменників України;
• Асоціації українських письменників;
• Міжнародної громадської організації «Конгрес захисту української мови»;
• Фундації ім. Олега Ольжича;
• Громадського руху «Вільний простір»;
• Всеукраїнської профспілки «Народна солідарність»;
• Громадського об’єднання «Українська справа»;
• Всеукраїнського товариства «Просвіта» імені Тараса Шевченка;
• Центру громадянських свобод;
• Київського благодійного фонду імені О. Гірника «Українським дітям – українське слово»;
• Мистецького об’єднання «Остання барикада»;
• Громадської організація «Вікімедіа Україна»;
• Центру громадських ініціатив «Інформаційне суспільство»;
• Самоврядної альтернативної мережі (САМ);
• Комітету захисту українських журналістів;
• Об’єднання «Своя правда»;
• Товариства української мови Київського національного університету імені Тараса Шевченка;
• Громадської ініціативи «Кіно-переклад»;
• Центру UA;
• Холодноярської ініціативи;
• Громадської організації «Мамай» (Мобільна Аґенція Мистецьких АкціЙ);
• Фонду розвитку аудіовізуальних мистецтв «Кришталеві джерела»;
• Об’єднання студіюючої молоді «Зарево»;
• Громадської організації «Кримський центр ділового та культурного співробітництва «Український дім»;
• Фонду національно-культурних ініціатив імені Гната Хоткевича (м. Харків);
• Інформаційної агенції культурних індустрій ПРО;
• Харківської крайової організації Спілки української молоді;
• Харківського українського культурно-мовного клубу «Апостроф»;
• Донецького обласного об’єднання Всеукраїнського товариства «Просвіта» ім. Тараса Шевченка;
• Донецького обласного Товариства української мови імені Т. Г. Шевченка;
• Луганської обласної філії Асоціації дослідників голодоморів в Україні;
• Українського медійного центру (м. Харків);
• Конгресу Українців Севастополя;
• Громадського комітету «Український Севастополь»;
• Громадської організації «Центр політичних інновацій»;
• Асамблеї громадських організацій малого та середнього бізнесу;
• Луганського міського товариства української мови ім. Тараса Шевченка;
• Незалежної профспілки «Підприємці Луганщини»;
• Громадської організації «Правовий простір» м. Сіверодонецька;
• Донецької обласної громадської організації «Народний контроль»;
• Донецького Інституту соціальних досліджень і політичного аналізу;
• Громадсько-патріотичної організації «Східне Козацтво України»;
• Луганського обласного відділу «Союзу українок»;
• Луганського обласного об’єднання Всеукраїнського товариства «Просвіта» ім. Тараса Шевченка;
• Харківського обласного об’єднання громадян «Українська родина»;
• Союзу українок м. Севастополя;
• Спілки об’єднань громадян «Трудовий рух «Солідарність» у Луганській області;
• Конфедерації вільних профспілок Луганської області;
• Громадського об’єднання «Наш вибір»;
• Громадської організації «Луганці»;
• Луганського обласного осередку Всеукраїнського педагогічного товариства ім. Григорія Ващенка;
• Луганської обласної правозахисної жіночої організації «Чайка»;
• Громадської організації «Схід України»;
• Біловодської районної правозахисної жіночої організації «Первоцвіт»;
• Новопсковської районної правозахисної жіночої організації «Чайка».
Freedom of expression
EurActiv: Yanukovich accused of gagging Ukrainian media ahead of poll
Four months ahead of a crucial parliamentary election, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich has moved to shut down two independent news organisations, including Lb.ua, a reputable online news website.
Sonia Koshkina, considered one of Ukraines most talented journalists, told EurActiv that she and her editorial team have chosen exile, because each of them could face a seven-year prison sentence, the same as former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The Ukrainian media announced last week that Yanukovich had asked the prosecutor general to open criminal investigations against Lb.ua (Levyi bereg, or Left Bank), as well as TVi.
On 12 July, tax investigators raided the offices of TVi and its chief, Mykola Knyazhitsky, is accused of tax evasion - a charge he denies. Press freedom groups say the station on its management have faced months of harassment from tax investigators.
Yanukovich blamed Lb and TVi, both known for their independence, for alleged lack of balance in their reporting.
“Pluralism of opinions in the press – this is the guarantee of the democratic expression at the forthcoming election. The authorities must do everything to defend the media and the right of voters, ” Yanukovich was quoted as saying by the website Rbc.ua.
Lb.ua now displays on its homepage the photos of four government officials - the head of the presidential administration, Sergei Lavochkin; First Deputy Prosecutor General Renat Kuzmin; First Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy and presidential counsellor Andrey Portnov - with the inscription: “Ask them where is Lb.ua”.
“If you go to our homepage you will see those who, as we believe, are the immediate oppressors of our site, ” Koshkina told EurActiv.
Too risky for us to go back to Ukraine
Koshkina (a pen name; her real name is Ksenia Vasilenko) said that the editorial team was now looking for opportunities to re-launch the site from abroad, possibly a European country.
“Four chief members of the editorial team, including me are refugees abroad. It is too risky for us to go back to Ukraine. If we cross the Ukrainian border, it is more than likely that we will be arrested at the airport, our passports taken away and we will be deprived any possibility of leaving the country, ” Koshkina told EurActiv.
“It is noteworthy that we are in danger of being sentenced to seven years of prison, the same term that Yulia Timoshenko has been sentenced to. It is clear for us and our colleagues in Ukraine that accusations against us are artificial and have political rationale. They are taken out of the blue, ” she said.
Koshkina said the only explanation for the media crackdown is the upcoming parliamentary election due on 28 October.
“The Ukrainian authorities want to eliminate independent media. Our situation is a worrying precedent of open pressure against the media which remain not under control of the authorities, ” she said.
On Friday, a group of MPs protested the crackdown on Lb.eu. The MPs said the website, one of the most popular in Ukraine, was famous for its balance, as it presented both the position of the government and the opposition.
MPs said they turn to the Council of Europe as well as the NGOs Reporters Without Borders, Freedom House and the world community to stand in defence of the free Ukrainian media. Rerporters Without Borders on 19 July condemned the raids on TVi.
The statement was signed by MPs Alexander Abdulin, Elena Kondratyuk, Yuriy Stets and Viktor Ukolov.
Koshkina was in Brussels last year, where she spoke at an event organised by the EU-Ukraine Business Council and attended by Ukrainian diplomats. There, she exposed what she described as the Ukrainian plutocracy.
In response to media reports about the case against LB.ua, First Deputy Prime Minister Valeriy Khoroshkovskiy said: “I firmly believe that recent attempts at accusations and insinuating remarks against me that have arisen in the media in connection to the ‘LB’ Internet-portal are signs of unsubstantiated yet orchestrated political provocation. Freedom of speech and media are core elements to democratic values of any European state. That is why I will always remain an ardent proponent of free and independent media in Ukraine. … I insist that the Office of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine takes urgent measures to revise [the] legality and adequacy of criminal action against [the] ‘LB’ Internet-portal. The field prosecution office that initiated the criminal case should refrain from further legal action until such revisal is completed.”
The United opposition in Ukraine stated that with the crackdown on independent media in the country, the authorities had crossed the border line between democracy and totalitarianism.
“The criminal proceedings against journalists in Ukraine is the signal of for all independent media, political experts and activists, who should realise that from now on any person, who considers himself or herself free, who cherishes the principles of democracy and freedom of expression, can be subject to criminal charges, under any kind of far-fetched pretext, ” the United opposition stated.
The press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on 19 July: “This latest form harassment of the independent television station TVi is absolutely unacceptable. While we appreciate the importance of tax controls, we deplore the way the tax police raided TVi. We call for an investigation into the legality of this operation and we urge the authorities to respect media independence in the run-up to elections.”
The European Commission is paying very close attention to all issues which are involving media, Peter Stano, Spokesperson to Enlargement and neighbourhood policy Štefan Füle said today (23 July).
“I will not go in the details of the cases, as apparently there is an investigation going on […] But what I can say with relation to the TVi case, because there was a tax raid carried out a few days ago, we consider that such tax inspections need to be pursued with great care in this period, in particular in this pre-electoral period. And in this context we would like to recall the position of the Verhovna Rada (the Parliament) of Ukraine from February this year, which recommended to government bodies, that means also state tax services and the Ukrainian national television and radio broadcasting Council, not to inspect media outlets in the pre-election period.”
Stano also said that the Commission would take into account the views of the relevant journalistic organisations with respect to the case of lb.ua and TVi.
“We don’t rely solely on the official authorities as the only source of information, ” he said.
“This situation, particularly in the context of the next parliamentary elections and current problems in Ukraine regarding the judiciary system, rightly worries the international community, ” said MEP Pawel Kowal, the Chair of the Delegation to the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee.
“The image of Ukraine suffers from it. Because of that, Ukrainian citizens cannot benefit from the Association agreement”, Kowal continued, adding: “I would also like to recall the resolution adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament which guarantees the media freedom during the electoral period from 9 February 2012. This resolution recommends that the public administration, the tax authorities and the radio broadcasting Council do not open inquiries on media in the pre-election period, ” the MEP stated.
28 Oct.: Parliamentary elections to be held under international watch.
Measures against independent TV channel and against fair elections
Less than 4 months before the October parliamentary elections in Ukraine, the tax police have descended heavily on TVi which has over the last two years become one of the last television channels willing to broadcast views critical of the government. A criminal investigation has been initiated against the Director of the company Mykola Knyazhytsky over what the tax authorities allege was tax evasion. Since the amount in question is 3 million UAH (305 thousand EUR), the charges could carry a prison sentence, though most observers on Thursday were more inclined to see this as an attempt to silence a channel known for its critical stance. It would be difficult to call TVi fully balanced, but it has consistently allowed different voices to be heard, and has given coverage to protests, high-profile scandals, government corruption deals and socio-political issues. These are all either presented in manipulative fashion or assiduously avoided on the increasingly sycophantic national television channels.
With regard to the criminal investigation just initiated, Mykola Knyazhytsky is categorical that it has no basis. He says that the case involves alleged non-payment of VAT, and that it has been initiated after the channel won the relevant court case. When they started out in 2008, they needed to buy all the equipment and paid VAT on it, even though it was exempt from the tax. The authorities did not wish to return the VAT, so the channel deducted this amount when settling their tax accounts. According to Knyazhytsky, all tax checks up till now have confirmed that this was legitimate. For that reason he is adamant that the latest tax police visitation is aimed at silencing critical voices and is an assault on freedom of speech.
There would certainly seem to be grounds for concern since this is not by any means the first visit by the tax authorities, and the pretexts for the others have been different. For example, on 14 April Mykola Knyazhytsky publicly stated that TVi was facing pressure from the tax authorities and called on the Ministry of the Interior and the Tax Administration to deal with the situation. He reported that they were facing another tax inspection just months after the previous one. The Tax Administration then claimed that the new check was at the request of a police investigator.
The close interest of the tax authorities follows previous conflict. TVi was one of the two – most independent - channels whose frequencies were radically cut in 2010. The alarm bells which began ringing and prompted comments from EU structures, international media watchdogs and others were only compounded by the role played by the Security Service, then headed by Valery Khoroshkovsky. The latter also happened to own the media holding which most benefited from the reallocation of broadcasting frequencies.
The latest action against TVi closely follows worrying moves involving threats of criminal prosecution against the Chief Editor and other journalists from the website Levy Bereg (www.lb.ua ). The situation is not entirely clear, and the Prosecutor’s statements have been contradictory, however it is difficult to feel it coincidental since Levy Bereg is also known for its critical, hard-hitting articles.
The timing in both cases is of major concern given the close proximity of elections. On 9 February this year the Verkhovna Rada finally passed a resolution on measures to stop checks by various authorities and State institutions. At that time the Tax Administration stated that they would not be scheduling checks from the second quarter of 2012, i.e. from 1 April.
This all makes the assertion on Thursday by a spokesperson from the Tax Administration that the check on TVi was carried out before the moratorium on media checks was announced on 25 June baffling.
One civic activist from Kryvy Rih had in the last week written to TVi asking how he could protest against the sudden disappearance of the channel from the normal, albeit restricted, slots where it was broadcast. It is difficult to know how many other people have been experiencing such problems of late.
It is, unfortunately, much easier to predict how many people will lose access to independent news coverage and free exchange of views if a clear message is not given to the authorities regarding the latest measures against TVi. They are entirely inappropriate just months before the parliamentary elections. It is vital that the international community makes it clear that fair and democratic elections must include full respect for freedom of speech and access to all information, including that critical of the government.
Freedom of peaceful assembly
Pretexts for banning peaceful protest: if you could only laugh
Maxim Sereda and Tetyana Pechonchyk have examined the ever-increasing number of occasions where totally peaceful protests are banned in Ukraine, and the pretexts offered.
According to the Single Register of Court Rulings, in the first half of 2012, there were at least 81 court rulings regarding applications to restrict freedom of peaceful assembly. Courts allowed the authorities’ applications in 74 cases; standing up for freedom of peaceful assembly in only 7 cases.
The reasons are sometimes truly absurd.
A recent example they site was the ruling of the District Administrative Court in Kyiv which from 4 to 9 July banned peaceful gatherings in the centre of Kyiv, this including the protest outside Ukraine House [Ukrainsky Dim] against the Kivalov-Kolesnichenko language law (considerably increasing the role of the Russian language). The judges claimed that the use of megaphones and other sound amplifying devices would cause inconvenience to ordinary citizens. The authors ask why, using such logic, the courts did not ban the Euro 2012 Championship which not only made a lot of noise, but closed metro stations. They point out though that the judges are “improving” the grounds they give since they mention “European standards”, and even use a letter from the US embassy as a reason.
They quote a court ban based on the notorious Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR (!) which tried to justify this by citing practice of the High Administrative Court, explanations from the Supreme Court and – most unconvincingly the European Court of Human Rights.
Pure absurdity was seen in one of the reasons given for banning peaceful assembly in Kyiv at the beginning of July, this being the celebration of Independence Day in the USA. The court pointed to the importance of this holiday and “the real threat of terrorist attacks”. It asserted that the US Embassy in Ukraine had sent a letter to the Kyiv City State Administration asking for it to help ban the holding by other organizations of public events and demonstrations around the residence of the US Ambassador.
Some administrative courts, the authors note, are more concerned about protecting the local authorities, than people’s rights and liberties.
In Cherkasy a court concluded that “holding a peaceful meeting aimed at fighting corrupt actions by the Head of the Cherkasy Regional State Administration would lead to false information being spread which would adversely affect the image of the authorities”. Another gem: the law “does not envisage the right of the public to hold peaceful gatherings as a measure for preventing or countering corruption”.
A Kyiv court in turn banned meetings citing visits to Ukraine of foreign guests since “holding … mass events outside the President’s Administration will adversely affect the image of Ukraine’s capital, which will cause the high-ranking officials from foreign countries to have a bad impression of the country as a whole”.
The authors quote the European Court of Human Rights which, to put it mildly, views the situation in a different light.
In another case, a Kyiv court actually said that a meeting in the centre of Kyiv could obstruct the official visit by the President of Slovakia “which could lead to a worsening of diplomatic relations between the countries”. The court referred to a risk to the interests of national security.
In March this year there were two court rulings from a Mykolaiv court banning peaceful assembly and citing the European Convention on Human Rights as providing justification for this. The court first banned a protest where destruction was planned of the portraits of President Yanukovych and a lawyer.
The court found that this “contradicts the moral principles of democratic society, demonstrates disrespect for social rules and norms of behaviour since the President is not merely one of the highest public officials of the country but personifies the country in foreign and internal relations”. It goes on to cite Article 105 of the Constitution regarding particular protection for the honour and dignity of the Head of State.
The authors cite international documents regarding freedom of peaceful assembly, and also point out that it is not illegal in Ukraine to destroy the portrait of the President or any other person.
The next time, a demonstrator decided to throw a portrait of the Prosecutor of the Mykolaiv Region in the rubbish. The court prohibited him from doing so asserting that this “violates the moral principles of democratic society, creates a real threat to public order, protection of health or morality, and the protection of the rights and freedoms of other people, and the given actions could lead to disturbances between the protesters and other individuals”.
The European Court of Human Rights’ position is quite clear on this point. Peaceful gatherings cannot be banned because they may offend or annoy people holding different views.
These are just some of the examples given – and refuted through reference to the European Court of Human Rights and other international documents in the article by Maxim Sereda and Tetyana Pechonchyk from the Centre for Political and Legal Reform published here.
The right to health care
Ukraine’s “psycho-neurological institutions” – out of sight, out of mind …
Andriy Chernousov has written a shocking analysis of the situation with Ukraine’s so-called “psycho-neurological institutions” for people with serious psychological disorders usually making them unable to cope by themselves. There are 151 such institutions in Ukraine with their residents forgotten and helpless. The author writes that the public have fenced themselves off from them through physical distance, fences, and labels.
Most of such institutions are a considerable distance from the regional centre with the average distance between 83 kilometres. Only 43 of the institutions are actually in cities, with the other 108 in rural areas or small towns.
Andriy Chernousov gives a brief historical account which shows how the distancing and general attitude to people with special needs goes back to the period immediately after the Second World War, when the “solution” to large numbers of people with disabilities, psychological disorders was to effectively pretend that they didn’t exist. They were taken as far away as possible. This, he says, was effectively the beginning of a system for keeping people with special needs far from the workers, so that they didn’t mar the image and didn’t get in the way of those “building socialism”.
Sixty years on the set up for those with permanent psychological disorders has changed very little. While there are a few whose directors manage to wangle proper medical and rehabilitation equipment etc from the State or benefactors, the majority - 108 out of 151 remain in isolated rural or small settlement areas, and provide residents with no more than a roof over their heads and minimum sustenance. Relatives have enormous problems visiting with some of the villages where such institutions are located not having any proper bus or coach connections. There are no facilities for relatives to stay for more than a few hours. Families are often quite poor and not in a position to take the person to their homes for visits.
In such conditions of isolation, rights violations are rampant. Ill-treatment is for many people in such institutions the everyday reality. Nor the author stresses is this because the people who work there are real sadists, but they have absolutely no training in working with people with special needs. For that reason injections of sedatives are widespread, as well as tying patients to their bunks or isolating them in rooms by themselves.
Most of the staff lack even the most minimum training for working in the social sphere or providing medical services. These are people who once worked on the land. When the collective farm system collapsed, they needed to find some kind of employment. Work in such institutions became a major employer, and if the pay was bad, at least it was stable.
The level of requirements as far as medical knowledge was also very low. This is also connected, however, with the fact that such institutions are under the Ministry of Social Policy, not the Health Ministry.
Most such institutions are supposed to be socio-medical, with round-the-clock medical care available, and all types of necessary equipment – from hearing devices to wheelchairs and frames, as well as all necessary medication.
This is all theory, however, with the practice quite different. The author writes that full medical examination will be confined to once or twice a year, while the rest of the time there would be emergency care, absolutely basic medication (painkillers, etc) and little more. There is no question of any real treatment, therapy etc.
The reason is brutally simple – inadequate financing. The amount per person per day is horrifically small. The directors of such institutions say that if there is an acute worsening of their condition, they will be sent to a psychiatric hospital (under the Health Ministry) for a time, but otherwise they’re basically left to live out their days with illnesses taken on a chronic nature.
There is not enough equipment and what is available is obsolete, with even simple devices to enable walking a rarity. And in fact the conditions are often simply not suited: there aren’t any ramps, or residents can’t get down flights of stairs, the roads are not asphalted etc.
An added problem is the lack of medical personnel. Not every institution has the correct number of doctors, and there is typically no psychologist, therapists, physiotherapists, dentists, as well as a shortage of junior nurses. The staff often lack any training in working with people with disabilities. While the doctors and nurses themselves acknowledge the need for such training, few directors of such institutions provide it.
Not only are the institutions physically isolated, but they are also cut off from the world through lack of websites, etc. The public do not know of their problems, or how they could help, nor do they hear of positive cases involving such help.
Andriy Chernousov writes that the institution’s openness to cooperation with institutions of civil society is largely dependent on the administration. Some actively seek support and help wherever they can – from the authorities, the local community, NGOs, etc. Others are passive.
The author sees one possible solution to the present situation as being to optimize the system, merging institutions which have less people than they’re set up for, in order to focus on institutions in regional centres or major cities. This would also make it possible to involve them more in the life of the community and enable people willing to help to play a role, all of this helping to humanize society.
Much abridged from the article by Andriy Chernousov in Dzerkalo Tyzhnya
News from the CIS countries
A show trial like in the days of Stalin?
It is one of the most controversial cases in a long time: the Moscow trial against punk band Pussy Riot. The three young musicians face seven years in prison for staging an anti-Putin protest in a church.
The Cathedral of Christ the Savior is a massive building adorned with golden cupolas at the bank of the Moskva river not far from the Kremlin. It is the largest church in Russia, but was rebuilt only in the 1990s - the communists blew up the original 19th century church in 1931. For the Russian Orthodox Church, the cathedral is a symbol of its resurgence after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is here that the Patriarch holds his Christmas and Easter mass. President Vladimir Putin a regular guest.
But for about five months, the church has been at the heart of a scandal about church, politics and freedom of expression in Russia. The trial, which begins in Moscow on Monday, is seen as one of the most controversial in Russia in years. Some critics - like Moscow-based journalists Masha Gessen - compare it to the show trials of the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. All court sessions will be broadcast live on the Internet - a novelty in Russia.
On trial are Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich. All three are in their early 20s and members of the provocative punk band Pussy Riot, which spreads political songs with Internet videos.
Their most controversial performance was on February 21, 2012, in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior just before the presidential election. An Internet video shows a group of women in short dresses and wearing colorful balaclavas, dancing in front of the altar and shaking their fists. The video is accompanied by a punk prayer, a song calling on Mary, mother of God, to chase away Putin. Authorities managed to identify three of the women and for five months they have been held in custody. They’re accused of "hooliganism" - the prosecution is asking for a seven-year prison sentence.
The trial is getting a lot of attention and causing heated discussions. Typing the term Pussy Riot into Russia’s biggest search engine Yandex leads to a staggering nine million results. The video in question has 1.5 million hits on YouTube. The number of commentaries on the two-minute clip is growing by the day and currently is about 30, 000. The opinions are evenly divided. "It is as if someone would smear my home with filth, " an anonymous user complains. Another though says the case looks like an act of political revenge: "The three girls are being treated as if they’d prepared a terrorist attack."
Russian society seems to be divided. A recent poll suggests some 39 percent think that several years of prison would be just punishment for the young women. Almost the same number - 37 percent - are against a prison sentence.
Human rights groups and artists demand release
Human rights activists for months have been calling for the release of the three Pussy Riot members. Amnesty International describes the women as "political prisoners." Lyudmila Alexeyeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Watch group says it is a "political trial." What is undisputed is that the trial is conducted in the midst of a tightening of laws that observers see as an attempt to curb political protests in Russia.
Even the Russian art scene is united over the case. Writers, musicians and actors might have different opinions on the whether the punk prayer in the cathedral was a good or a bad idea. But most of them reject a severe punishment. In an open letter to the highest court of Russia, more than 100 prominent Russian artists have called for the band members to be released.
Solidarity from Germany
There is also growing support for Pussy Riot among western artists. Anthony Kiedis, singer of US rock band Red Hot Chili Peppers wore a shirt with the name of the Russian band at a concert in Russia. British singer Sting addressed the crowd at a Moscow gig calling for a release of the three women. German punk icon Nina Hagen told DW that she hoped there would not be a tough sentence. "I call upon the Russian government and my Orthodox brothers and sisters to show mercy." She said she still believed in the "Russian heart."
Younger German artists have also demonstrated solidarity with Pussy Riot. Berlin punk bands Radio Havanna and Smile and Burn are joining forces with US band Anti-Flag and set up a benefit gig in Berlin on July 31. "For me, the trial is a clear sign of the government’s oppression of its own people, " Oliver Arnold of Radio Havanna told DW. The proceeds from the gig will be sent to the incarcerated band members.
A few days before the trial, the Pussy Riot members sought to calm the situation. "Maybe some think our behavior is shameless. But that is not the case, " they said in an open letter to the media. They expressed thanks for the support they’d received and called upon their supporters to seek dialog with their critics.
Belarus: In defence of civic activists unlawfully detained
Belarusian human rights activists have issued an appeal calling on the Supreme Court and Prosecutor General's Office to discuss situation with illegal preventive detentions of civil society activists
Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus
22 vul. Internatsyianalnaya, 220030, Minsk
Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus
28 vul. Lenina, 220030, Minsk
We, Belarusian human rights activists, are writing to you, heads of government bodies in charge of supervising the rule of law in the country and the legality of judicial decisions.
In recent years in Belarus on a regular basis ahead of mass events or arrivals of high-ranking officials of foreign countries there have been numerous arbitrary detentions of civil society activists and representatives of youth opposition groups. They are usually accused of disorderly conduct, and then on the testimony of the police courts punish them with administrative arrests. It is evident that such methods are used to preventively isolate the activists at the time of certain socio-political events.
In particular, Ivan Amelchanka, Raman Vasilyeu, Dzmitry Kremianetski, Uladzimir Yaromenak and Mikalai Dzemidzenka were sentenced to administrative arrests ahead of the arrival of Vladimir Putin in Minsk (May 31, 2012). Vital Vasilkou, Ivan Amelchanka, Pavel Vinahradau and Aliaksandr Artsybashau were arrested on the eve of the national holiday of Independence Day (July 3, 2012). Katsiaryna Halitskaya, Raman Vasilyeu, Uladzimir Yaromenak, Ivan Amelchanka, Andrey Ozharovsky, Tatsiana Novikava, Irina Sukhiy and Mikhail Matskevich were convicted ahead of Dmitry Medvedev’s visit (July 18, 2012).
The practice of detentions that constitute a flagrant violation of the rights of Belarusian citizens guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Belarus and the country’s international human rights commitments has become systemic and must be qualified as arbitrary detentions. These actions are contrary to the principles of the rule of law, involving police officers and judges in political persecution of citizens.
We are asking you to arrange a meeting with the Prosecutor General of the Republic of Belarus and Chairman of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Belarus to discuss the situation and prevent illegal practices and bring the perpetrators to justice.
Aleh Hulak, chairman of the Belarusian Helsinki Committee
Valiantsin Stefanovich, deputy chairman of the HRC "Viasna"
Ina Kulei, chair of the Committee for the Protection of the Repressed "Solidarity"
Alena Tankachova, chair of the Centre for Legal Transformation
Raisa Mikhailouskaya, chair of the Center for Human Rights
During the first half of 2012 administrative sentences under Article 17.1 of the Administrative Code ("disorderly conduct") affected the following persons:
Ivan Amelchanka: administrative arrests; 15/05/2012 - the court of Leninski district of Minsk; 25/05/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk (without being released from prison); 26/06/2012, 11/07/2012, 17/07/2012, 29/07/2012 – the court of Leninski district of Minsk;
Pavel Vinahradau: administrative arrests; 30/12/2011, 21/02/2012, 02/03/2012 – the court of Maskouski district of Minsk; 24/04/2012 – the court of Savetski district of Minsk; 21/06/2012 - the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk;
Raman Vasilyeu: administrative arrests; 21/02/2012 – the court of Vitsebsk district; 26/04/2012 – the court of Savetski district of Minsk; 14/05/2012 - the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk; 26/05/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk; 17/07/2012 - the court of Kastrychnitski district of Minsk;
Uladzimir Yaromenak: administrative arrests; 21/02/2012 - the court of Vitsebsk district; 27/04/2012 - the court of Savetski district of Minsk; 16/05/2012 - the court of Frunzenski district of Minsk; 23/05/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk; 17/07/2012 - the court of Kastrychnitski district of Minsk;
Mikalai Dzemidzenka: administrative arrests; 26/04/2012 - the court of Savetski district of Minsk; 14/05/2012 - the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk;
Mikhail Muski: administrative arrests; 21/02/2012 - the court of Vitsebsk district; 07/04/2012 - the court of Leninski district of Minsk; 26/04/2012 - the court of Savetski district of Minsk; 11/05/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk;
Pavel Siarhei: administrative arrests; 16/05/2012, 21/04/2012 – the court of Frunzenski district of Minsk;
Dzmitry Kremianetski: administrative arrests; 21/02/2012 – the court of Vitsebsk district; 07/04/2012 – the court of Leninski district of Minsk; 27/04/2012 - the court of Savetski district of Minsk; 14/05/2012 - the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk; 24/05/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk;
Katsiaryna Halitskaya: administrative arrest; 17/07/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk;
Vital Vasilkou: administrative arrest; 30/06/2012 - the court of Frunzenski district of Minsk;
Andrey Ozharovsky, administrative arrest; 18/07/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk;
Tatsiana Novikava: administrative arrest; 18/07/2012 - the court of Maskouski district of Minsk;
Irina Sukhiy: fine; 18/07/2012 - the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk;
Mikhail Matskevich: administrative arrest; 18/07/2012 - the court of Tsentralny district of Minsk.
Lyudmila Alexeyeva is 85
Lyudmila Alexeyeva, Russian veteran human rights defender and one of the founding members of the Moscow Helsinki Group (in 1976) turned 85 on 20 July. Together with all her many friends in Russia – warmest wishes!
Lyudmila Mikhailovna continues to be one of the leading figures in the Russian human rights community
She was born on 20 July 1927 in the Crimea, then part of the Russian SSR.
The following is abridged from the biography at Wikipedia
Alexeyeva’s worldview was significantly affected by the Khrushchev Thaw that lasted from the mid-1950s through the early 1960s. She belonged to the group of people, mostly intellectuals, who formed the dissident movement in the USSR in the 1960s. In 1966, Alexeyeva campaigned in defense of Daniel and Siniavsky, the writers who were arrested and tried for publishing their works abroad. In the late 1960s she signed petitions in defense of other dissidents who were prosecuted by the Soviet authorities, including Alexander Ginzburg and Yuri Galanskov. In April 1968, Alexeyeva was expelled from the Communist Party and fired from her job at the publishing house. Nonetheless, she continued her activities in defense of human rights. In 1968-1972 she worked clandestinely as a typist for the first underground bulletin “The Chronicle of Current Events” devoted to human rights violations in the USSR.
In early 1976, Alexeyeva became a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group. As a member, she signed a number of documents issued by the Group, helped compose some of them, and collected information for some of the documents. Her responsibilities also included editing the Group’s documents and hiding copies of them from the authorities.
In February 1977 Alexeyeva was forced to emigrate from the USSR. She and her family settled in the United States, where she continued her human rights activities as a foreign representative of the Moscow Helsinki Group. She regularly wrote on the Soviet dissident movement for both English and Russian language publications in the US and elsewhere, and in 1985 she published the first comprehensive monograph on the history of the movement, “Soviet Dissent”
In 1989 she again joined the Moscow Helsinki Group that was restarted after its dissolution in 1981. In 1993, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, she returned to Russia and became a Chairperson of the Moscow Helsinki Group in 1996. In 2000, Alexeyeva joined a commission set up to advise then-President Vladimir Putin on human rights issues, a move that triggered criticism from some other rights activists
In December 2004, Alexeyeva co-founded and co-chaired, with Garry Kasparov and Georgy Satarov, the All-Russian Civic Congress which Alexeyeva and Satarov left due to disagreement with Kasparov in January 2008. Subsequently, she co-founded the All-Russia Civic Network with Satarov. As of February 10, 2009, Alexeyeva joined the Council for Promoting the Institutions of Civil Society and Human Rights under the President of the Russian Federation.
Alexeyeva has been critical of the Kremlin’s human rights record and accused the government of numerous human rights violations including the regular prohibitions of non-violent meetings and demonstrations and encouragement of extremists with its nationalistic policies, such as the mass deportations of Georgians in 2006 and police raids against foreigners working in street markets She has also criticized the law enforcers’ conduct in Ingushetia and has warned that growing violence in the republic may spread to the whole Russian Federation In 2006, she was accused by the Russian authorities of involvement with British intelligence and received threats from nationalist groups
Since August 31, 2009, Lyudmila Alexeyeva has been an active participant in Strategy-31 – the regular protest rallies of citizens onMoscow’s Triumphalnaya Square in defense of the 31st Article (On the Freedom of Assembly) of the Russian Constitution. Since October 31, 2009, she has been one of the regular organizers of these rallies. On December 31, 2009, during one of these attempted protests, Alexeyeva was detained by the riot police (OMON) and taken with scores of others to a police station. This event provoked strong reaction in Russia and abroad.
In Memoriam: Iryna Stasiv-Kalynets
Iryna Stasiv-Kalynets, poet, artist and former political prisoner has died at the age of 71. Active in the Ukrainian national liberation and human rights movements, she was a person of strong convictions and steadfast commitment.
Iryna Stasiv was born on 6 December 1940 into a family of believers of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and many of her relatives were connected with the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists. Seeing mass deportations of Ukrainians to Siberia after the War, she became and remained passionately committed to Ukraine’s independence.
She studied at the Language and Literature Faculty of Lviv University and then worked in schools and youth clubs, but was forced to leave after telling the students about the history of the national liberation movement. From then on she was able to get only temporary jobs, or manual labour.
She and her husband, Ihor Kalynets, were actively involved in the Shistdesyatnyky (sixties) movement.
In July 1970 she was one of 9 people from Lviv who signed a letter of protest against the arrest of Valentin Moroz, and was active in other efforts on his behalf. In December 1971 she signed the statement announcing the creation of the Public Committee in defence of Nina Strokata.
Both she and her husband were arrested in 1972. Iryna Stasiv-Kalynets was sentenced in early August under Article 62 § 1 (“anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda”) to 6 years labour camp and 3 years exile. Six months later her husband received the same sentence. Their small daughter was separated from her parents for 9 years.
Stasiv-Kalynets served her sentence in the Mordovian political labour camps together with Stefania Shabatura, Nadia Svitlychna and Nina Strokata.
She took part in all collective protest actions held in the women’s political prisoners’ camp. She signed a letter to the Prosecutor’s office accusing the camp authorities of preventing prisoners celebrate Easter; a letter to the Secretary General of the UN asking that he take measures to ensure the conducting of fair trials in the presence of representatives of the UN; a collective letter in support of Andrei Sakharov, an appeal to the camp administration for permission both to make donations to the Support Fund for victims of the Pinochet coup in Chile, and to send delegates to the Congress of the International Women’s Democratic Association. She took part in a hunger strike demanding that they be given political prisoner status, refused to do hard physical labour in connection with International Women’s Year, wrote a letter to the UN Human Rights Committee protesting at the camp conditions and asking for a representative to be sent to the camp, and held hunger strikes in protest at refusals to allow visits from relatives and friends. For such actions, she was frequently subjected to vicious repressive measures by the camp authorities.
She spent her term of exile together with her husband in the Chytynsk region, working milking cows and painting houses.
From 1987 Iryna Stasiv-Kalynets took an ever more active role in the revival of free cultural and civic life in Lviv. In November 1987 she and her husband became founding members of the Ukrainian Association for the independent creative intelligentsia. She was also active in creating and working with the group “Yevshan-zillya” in publishing an independent cultural journal, as well as in the creation of the Association of the Ukrainian Language, “Memorial” and the Popular Movement of Ukraine (Rukh). Stasiv-Kalynets was also involved in the movement for the revival of the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church (
She believed that the rights of the nation are given priority over the rights of the individual.
She published several books of poetry, prose, as well as works on literary and historical subjects.