war crimes in Ukraine

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Appeal to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada

Evhen Zakharov, the Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki union of human rights
The Ukrainian Helsinki union protests against persecution of opposition and use of law enforcement organs as a tool for the political struggle.

To Head of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine V. Litvin

Respected Mr. Litvin!

In the course of last sitting of the Public Council at the Head of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, chief executive of the Ukrainian Helsinki Union of human rights Volodymir Yavorskiy presented the review of violations of human rights during the election campaign-2004. The events that have happened since that time evidence on the essential deterioration of the situation with observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

The practice of persecution of opposition and use of law-enforcing organs as a tool for the political struggle is restored in Ukraine. The human rights protecting organizations of Ukraine are anxious about the mass detentions and arrests of activists of youth organizations, who peacefully spread the agitation materials, openly express their political views and realize their constitutional right for freedom of peaceful assemblies. Realization of these rights, fundamental for a democratic state, come across the systematic confrontation on the side of law-enforcing organs. Every day scores of people are detained in Ukraine, who have no connection with any offences, but are persecuted only for the expression of the critical opinions about the executive power.

Such assessment of the situation in Ukraine is shared by influential international human rights protecting organizations. This is confirmed by the statements of our partners from the International Helsinki Federation of human rights. The most competent and known in the world human rights protecting organization «Amnesty International», in its official statement of 16 July, stated that, for the first time during the years of independence, the prisoners of consciousness appeared in Ukraine. This was told about six persons condemned by the district court of Sumy to 10 days of administrative arrest, who had demanded to make public the official protocol about the results of voting at an election station in accordance with corresponding norm of the Law «On election of the President of Ukraine». These people were condemned at a closed court sitting, without advocates, relatives and journalists.

Brutal violations of the constitutional right to liberty and personal security are committed now in many regions of Ukraine.

The mass detentions that took place on 16 November in different Ukrainian towns: Lugansk, Kherson, Nikolayev and others, may be regarded as a peak of cynicism and neglect to constitutional rights of citizens. The students, who came to district militia stations and presented orange roses to law-enforcers, had to spend 6-8 hours behind the bars.

The mass detentions by law-enforcers of public activists during the visits of Prime Minister V. Yanukovich to different regions have become the everyday practice. Before the first tour of voting, on 18 and 19 October, during V. Yanukovich’s visits to Chernigiv and Poltava, 17 persons were detained, who took part in distribution of printed materials critical regarding the Prime Minister of Ukraine.

In the majority of cases the protocols about detention are not compiled. The law-enforcers advise the activists to keep aloof from politics. In some cases the militiamen threaten that they will find the grounds for bringing the activists to criminal responsibility. For instance, in Chernigiv Oleksandr Kovalenko, an activist of «PORA!», was accused of distribution of counterfeit money. Others were intimidated with accusations of stealing of cell phones, rape, storage of narcotic drugs with the aim of selling, etc.

In most of cases, thanks to active interference of human rights protecting organizations and rendering of legal aid in time, the accusations presented by law-enforcing organs were not confirmed in courts, and the detained were released. However, the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine does not stop, but even widens the practices of mass arrests of public activists. The persecutions become more and more brutal and illegal. On 16 and 17 November the wave of repressions against the activists of «PORA!» was observed in Kharkiv. Some strangers in civilian clothes, who did not show their documents, detained two young activists of this campaign Ruslan German and Anton Vlasov, when they were distributing the agitation materials for candidate to presidency Viktor Yushchenko. The detained were made to get into two cars. On the way to the militia station the attackers took away passports from the young men and tore out the 11th page with registration from the passports. Then the boys were taken to the Leninskiy district militia station, where they stayed for about six hours without any explanations and without compilation of protocol. At that the militiamen confiscated from them all informational materials. After the interference of lawyers of the Kharkiv headquarters of «Our Ukraine» the detained were released. They complained to the prosecutor’s office against the illegal actions of the officers of the Leninskiy district militia station.

On the same day, about 19:00, the strangers in civilian clothes encircled apartment No. 3, 17Б Girshmana St., rented by activist of «PORA!» Viktor Kharchevskiy, where some students, the activists from Kyiv and the Kyiv region, temporarily lived. Six sturdy-built men tried to force their way into the flat, threatened and demanded to open the door. Some time later two militia officers, a major and a senior lieutenant, came. The activists of «PORA!» invited a representative of the Kharkiv group for human rights protection and journalists of media-group «Objektiv». After the arrival of the KhG representative the attackers disappeared. Major Markin, a deputy head of the CID of the Kyivskiy district militia station, explained that he was on duty and got the order to check, who and on which grounds lived in this flat, since the workers of the dwelling service insisted that nobody had paid for the flat for 18 months. Well, it is a somewhat strange work for criminal investigation department. Viktor Kharchevskiy was persuaded to go out with his passport, the major wrote down his data in presence of the journalists, and the militiamen went away.

However, later, about 11 p.m., four men in civilian again resumed the attempts to break into the flat. The students barricaded the door, and the attackers waited near the door during the whole night and morning. The activists of «PORA!» managed to leave the flat only on 17 November at 12:00, after they called the journalists with video cameras. Yet, one or two hours later Viktor Kharchevskiy and five other activists of «PORA!» were detained on the central square of the city, where they distributed the agitation leaflets. The protocol about administrative offence was compiled, and the youths spent the evening and night in the Dzerzinski district militia station. Thanks to the professional defense of their interests by advocates of the KhG they were released by court, and consideration of the case was postponed to 25 November.

During the evening and half of the night representatives of the KhG tried to find two boys from this group: Oleksandr Korol and Oleksandr Nedashkovskiy, who had gone to spread the leaflets of «PORA!» and did not return. The officers of the Kyivskiy district militia station answered that these boys had not been detained, the officer-on-duty of the regional department of the Ministry of Interior also told that neither the Kyivskiy district station nor other district militia stations had detained them. Yet, at about 1:30 a stranger informed by phone that both Oleksandrs were kept in the Kyivskiy district militia station. In the evening of 18 November we still knew nothing about them. And only in the morning of 19 November, after numerous requests of the KhG, the law-enforcers informed that Nedashkovskiy had been released, and Korol still stayed behind the bars, but nothing concrete was said about the reasons of his holding in custody.

On 16 November 2004 seven students of economic faculty of the Lviv national university: Yuri Pshevolodskiy, Ivanna Paliyvoda, Tetiana Artemonova, Ulyana Okolovich, Andriy Karas, Roman Vozniy and Oleg Boriychuk were detained in Vinnitsa, where they stayed in a private dwelling. All detained were the activists of public campaign «PORA!», who came to Vinnitsa for conduction of agitation work. The students appealed to citizens to check the lists of voters before the second tour of the election. Three of them (R. Vozniy, O. Boriychuk and A. Karas) were detained at night, when they painted graffiti on a wall at the Kyivska Street in Vinnitsa, four others were detained at home by militiamen of the Vinnitsa town Department of the Ministry of Interior. During the detention the apartment was searched, a militia officer found a small package with a matter resembling grass, and the students were detained on the suspicion of «storage of narcotic drugs». The detained were transported to the Leninskiy and Zamostianskiy district militia stations. No accusations were brought against them, they were not taken to court. Yet, on the next day, 17 November, all of them were transported, according to prosecutor’s sanction, to the special detention center of the Ministry of Interior of Ukraine in the Vinnitsa region, where they were illegally kept for several hours, although they had documents, and keeping of persons with documents in such centers is strictly prohibited.

Only thanks to the efforts of MP V. Skomarovskiy, advocate V. Multian and Vinnitsa human rights protecting group all detained were released in the evening of 17 November.

We reckon that the practice of mass short-term arrests of representatives of opposition, which arrests last not longer than 72 hours (until the moment of bringing of accusation), has nothing common with the conduction of free election, is incompatible with the principles of democracy and must be immediately ceased.

The above-described facts, in our opinion, vividly evidence that the activities of law-enforcing organs of Ukraine have the obvious signs of political persecutions of public activists, are not grounded on laws, contradict the provisions of the International treaty on civil and political rights and the European Convention on the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms.

We are turning to you with the appeal to use the powers, given to you by law, and the authority of the supreme organ of state power for termination of mass violations of constitutional rights of citizens for free expression of their views, for liberty and personal security, for free movement.

Human rights protecting organizations of Ukraine will continue to take all possible measures for struggle against the repressive actions of the executive power and the protection of persons, who would become the victims of illegal detentions, arrests and other forms of political persecutions on the side of law-enforcing organs.

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