war crimes in Ukraine

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Statement from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, in cooperation with affiliated organizations, carried out continuous monitoring of the observance of human rights during the election campaign of 2004. We recorded flagrant violations of human rights, as well as of electoral legislation, both as regards the scale of the violations, and their consequences. The elections took place in an atmosphere of pressure on voters from the State authorities. The practice again appeared in the country of political persecution of civic activists, and for the first time since independence, international organizations announced that there were prisoners of conscience in Ukraine.

Under such circumstances, the elections which have just taken place in Ukraine cannot be considered free, honest, or transparent.

On the day of the second round of voting for the President of Ukraine, 21 November 2004, there were major violations of citizens’ electoral rights.

During the second round, misuse of power and obstruction of citizens’ expression of their will, were seen on a mass scale in the use of absentee ballot papers. In Western regions of Ukraine, state executive bodies and heads of state enterprises forced their employees to take absentee ballots from district electoral commissions (these being given usually where a voter will be away from his place of permanent residence on the day of the elections) and give them to their bosses. Such cases have been officially established, including through court procedure. For example, employees of the Mikolayivsk inter-regional State Tax Administration of the Lviv region lodged a complaint with the local court about the actions of their boss. The actions of the Head of the Tax Administration were declared illegal.

There were hundreds of similar complaints addressed to electoral commissions, law enforcement agencies, election campaign headquarters of the candidates and the mass media. In the majority of cases they did not receive proper legal assessment, and those responsible were not held legally responsible as allowed for by legislation.

In many regions of Ukraine, in particular in Kherson and Sumy regions, as well as in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, cases were established of absentee ballots having been used by one and the same people at different polling stations.

For example, a resident of the Crimea, Anatoly Shaidur received several absent ballot papers from the District Electoral Commission №60 of TED №10. He used ballot paper №057417 to vote at polling station №66 and ballot paper № 057402 when voting at polling station №67. He was also on the voter list according to his place of residence and voted at polling station №63.

In Severodonetsk a group of students were discovered who, having voted with absentee ballots at polling station №33 TED 113, went on to do the same at polling station № 30 TED 113. The complaint made about this to the Territorial Electoral Commission was, without any grounds being given, not given consideration – the commission refused to include the complaint in its agenda.

This multiple voting was on a mass scale in southern and eastern regions of Ukraine, it being this which significantly increased the percentage for voter turnout.

Human Rights organizations carrying out monitoring regularly received information that the district electoral commissions had been «provided» by the State authorities with a «plan» for ensuring participation in the elections of not less than 90% of voters in Luhansk and Donetsk regions, and that the plan was being «implemented» by the commissions with glaring infringements of legislation. During the voting, cases were recorded where members of the commissions, and other individuals who had, in breach of the law, been given voter lists at polling stations in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, and in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, telephoned people who had not yet voted, trying to persuade them to come to the polling station. Such widespread actions by district electoral commissions (DEC) exceed the authority vested in DEC by Article 27 of the Law «On the Ukrainian Presidential elections» and directly violate the requirements of Article 5 of the Law, which forbids any coercion of electors to vote. Moreover, at polling stations (or near them) there were representatives of state executive bodies, state enterprises and institutions, who noted down whether or not their employees appeared to vote.

In Luhansk, Mikolayivsk and Donetsk regions, in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea and in the city of Sevastopol, names were included on voter lists based on place of residence not only of people who could not come to the polling station due to their state of health, but also of other individuals.

District electoral commissions behaved in such a fashion because of strong pressure imposed upon them by representatives of State power to increase voter turnout.

Cases where the work of observers and representatives of the mass media was hindered by electoral commissions were recorded in the Sumy, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. There were particularly negative reactions to journalists and observers who took video footage of the electoral process on voting day. For example, an activist of a local human rights organization and journalist from the paper «Third Sector» in the Luhansk region, Oleksiy Svyetikov, was beaten up by unidentified individuals on the way out of polling station №27 TED 113. His video recorder was taken away together with a cassette of video material taken at the polling station.

We insist that all information concerning the use of violence against people who took part in the election process be immediately investigated by the law enforcement agencies and that those responsible face criminal charges. Similarly, all those who impeded citizens’ free expression of their will should be held fully liable in accordance with the law.

We have to state that State executive bodies in Ukraine took an active part in the election process, using various illegal means to hinder representatives of the political opposition from carrying out their election campaign, and, in breach of the law, giving support to the State candidate. It was specifically the local State authorities which carried out the main work in favor of the candidate for President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych.

The entire election process and all its stages, in particular, the formation of electoral committees, the running of the pre-election campaign, the counting of votes, the preparation of the reports on the results of the voting, were, in violation of the law, entirely controlled by state executive bodies, both in the centre and in the regions.

The results of our monitoring in many regions of Ukraine, especially in the Luhansk region and in the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea suggest an excessively large number of violations of electoral legislation which had a significant influence on the results of the voting.

Law enforcement agencies of Ukraine were unable to ensure the safety of voters, this being confirmed by the number of violent incidents against voters, and observers in the Sumy, Cherkasy and Luhansk regions. Of particular concern are the reports of persecution of people who took part in the elections in support of the political opposition in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

We consider that in such circumstances the Central Election Commission must not only carry out a count of the number of votes cast for each candidate in accordance with the electoral commissions’ protocols, but also take into account the circumstances under which the process of voting and the vote count took place at polling stations.

The Resolution of the Central Election Commission on the results of the elections for President of Ukraine, declared on 24 November 2004, suggests that, instead of having an objective and impartial attitude to all participants in the election process, and thoroughly studying all circumstances which could lead to a distorted result of the expression of voters’ will, this body has not fulfilled its main function as the organizer of the election process in Ukraine, but has rather served the function of legitimizing the will of those people who represent the State authorities in Ukraine.

The project of video monitoring over the observance of human rights during the presidential elections in Ukraine was carried out by the Chernihiv Civic Committee for Human Rights Protection with the financial support of the International «Renaissance» Foundation.

Participants in the Project

1. The Vinnytsa Human Rights Group

2. The Civic Committee for the Protection of Constitutional Rights and Civil Liberties (Luhansk)

3. The Luhansk Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine

4. The Institute of Socio-Economic Issues «Respublica» (Kyiv)

5. The Sevastopol Human Rights Group

6. The Institute for the Implementation of Innovations (Zhytomir)

7. The Institute for Social Research (Simferopol)

8. The Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group

9. The Kherson City Association of Journalists «South»

10. The Kherson regional organization of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine

11. The Centre for Research into Regional Policy (Sumy)

12. The Chernihiv Civic Committee for the Protection of Human Rights

13. Sumy Committee for the Protection of Human Rights

14. The Christian National Union of the Transcarpathian Region (Uzh­horod)

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