war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Open Letter to the President of Ukraine

An Appeal from members of the human rights movement of the 1960s to 80s and former prisoners of conscience to the President of Ukraine, calling on him to use the powers vested in him by the People, to prevent dangerous amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine.

To the President of Ukraine

Viktor Andriyovych Yushchenko

8 November 2005

Your Honour, Mr President,

We are turning to you with profound concern that the future democratic development of Ukraine is in jeopardy, and in the shared conviction that urgent measures must be taken to overcome the danger. An extremely serious threat to the very foundations of our State and to the development in Ukraine of a free, open and democratic society is, in our opinion, posed by the “political reform” – the result of dangerous agreements which lack transparency and are incomprehensible to the people who voted for you as President and then defended their victory. The flaws of this “reform” have been repeatedly demonstrated by specialists in constitutional law.

For us it is quite clear that the “political reform” (Law №2222-ІV of 08.12.2004 “On amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine”) was adopted as a condition, in a package with other documents and therefore in flagrant violation of Section XIII of the current Constitution, the Regulations of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and without the repeat expert assessment of the Constitutional Court of Ukraine required.

For us, as for every thinking Ukrainian, it is obvious that the amendments to the Constitution, which were approved by illegitimate means and are ill-considered, risk introducing disarray to the functioning of the State mechanism and, at the same time open the way for virtual rule by financial and industrial groups and clans who, as a result of this “reform” will be able to take exclusive control over Ukrainian political life. We consider it absolutely unacceptable and inappropriate, given the real demands of the time, that the “reform” effectively runs counter to the will of the people who voted you President for the whole constitutional term and with the powers set out by the current Main Law (the Constitution).  In so doing, the Ukrainian people vested in you responsibility which you may neither legally nor morally relinquish.

Your agreements with the leaders of the opposition may in no way go beyond the framework of the mandate which you received from the people, just as these agreements cannot narrow your democratic mandate.

Mr President, in turning to you, we are united in our conviction that Ukraine will not become a law-based and democratic State if this “reform” is allowed to mutilate our Constitution. Political expediency, power games or immediate interests can in no way serve to justify constitutional ruins.  You are aware what price our people paid during the period of parliamentary rule of the Central Rada[1] and the subsequent experiments speculating on “expediency”. The road to the abyss always begins with one first step. Unfortunately, the “political reform” may become precisely such a step, and therefore, you, as Head of the Ukrainian Nation and Guarantor of its Constitution, must act to avert this.

We call on you to do this solely in accordance with your powers as President and with your duty as a thinking citizen of Ukraine, and to act to defend our democracy and constitutional legality.

Yours respectfully,

Participants in the Ukrainian Human Rights Movement of the 1960s – 1980s (the signatures were confirmed by telephone or email)

Zinoviy Pavlovych ANTONYUK

Mykola Andriyovych HORBAL

Bohdan Mykolayovych HORYN

Mykhailo Mykolayovych HORYN

Mykhailyna Khomivna KOTSYUBYNSKA

Vasyl Vasylyovych LISOVY

Myroslav Frankovych MARYNOVYCH

Nina Mykhailivna MARCHENKO

Vasyl Vasylyovyc OVSIYENKO

Zoryan Volodymyrovych POPADYUK

Petro Pavlovych ROZUMNY

Raisa Panasivna RUDENKO

Yevhen Oleksandrovych SVERSTYUK

Nadiya Oleksiyivna SVITLYCHNA

Oles Yevhenovych SHEVCHENKO

Osyp Stepanovych ZINKEVYCH

Josef Samuilovych  ZISELS



In our view, the necessary and legally correct solution to this problem would be for the appropriate parties (the President, 45 State Deputies of Ukraine, etc) to submit a petition to the Constitutional Court of Ukraine for an official interpretation of Articles 154-159 of the Constitution;  to determine whether the voting for amendments to the Constitution as part of “a package”, that is, together with ordinary draft laws, is in compliance with procedural norms of Section XIII of the Constitution.  If the Constitutional Court declares the voting as part of “a package” unconstitutional, then there will have to be another vote on the “political reform” in the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

A Brief explanatory note

The new constitutional amendments introduce the possibility of removing State Deputies from their (elected) office in the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament) if they refuse to follow their faction’s line, or indeed, leave their faction.

They also reduce the powers of the President and allow for a situation where some members of the Cabinet of Ministers answer to the Prime Minister and Parliament, and others to the President.  Particularly in the light of the recent crisis in the government, there seems good cause to fear that such a division of roles will lead to more conflict and bargaining between different factions, and will be less likely to serve the people.

There are a number of further reasons for concern, not least, the increased powers of control given to the Prosecutor’s office. 

The above Appeal also highlights the doubts over the manner in which such significant amendments were brought in as a “compulsory extra” to vital electoral changes needed to ensure that the rerun of the manifestly rigged Presidential elections on 26 December were fair and democratic.

It is also worth noting that most of those who have signed the appeal given above were prisoners of conscience under the Soviet regime.

  Translator’s note

[1]  The Central Rada, social-democrat in leanings, came to power in February 1917. Besieged by opponents from all sides, it first sought to cooperate with the Bolsheviks, then, having declared the Ukrainian National (or Popular) Republic in January 1918, looked for support to oust the Bolsheviks from Imperial Germany.  The general chaos in government and in the country led to a serious drop in popularity. (translator’s note)


 Share this