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Yushchenko ignores human rights activists and consents to the creation of a state special communications service

31.03.2006    source:
Human rights groups call for legislative amendments to protect the privacy of all citizens, and not money-wasting and futile efforts to protect an elite of civil servants and officials

According to his Press Office, President Yushchenko has signed the Law on the State Service for Special Communications and Protection of Information, passed by the Verkhovna Rada on 23 February this year.

The Law is aimed at creating a State Service for Special Communications and Protection of Information on the basis of the department of special telecommunication systems and protection of information, and the relevant subdivisions of the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU), Interfax-Ukraine was informed by the Press Office.

The Law defines the status, main objects and principles of activities, structure, staff numbers, powers and rights, as well as the financial, material and technical provisions for the Service. It states that this state body is designed to provide for the functioning and develop of a state system of governmental communications, a national system of confidential communications, the protection of state information resources in information communication systems, cryptographic and technical protection of information. The body is not a military formation, and it will be staffed by managerial and general employees who will receive special ranks from rank and file employees to lieutenant general. The Law also allows for measures of legal and social protection for the said personnel.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has on many occasions drawn the attention of state executive bodies to the importance of ensuring the privacy of ALL Ukrainian citizens. In its last appeal to the Prime Minister, Yury Yekhanurov, on 14.10.2006, it stated the following:

"We understand that this decision was in response to mass wiretapping and the heated dispute over the whole issue of wiretapping which has been of real interest to the Ukrainian public for several years. However this response is nonetheless startling.  In addition to the inequality it creates of citizens and the setting apart of the cast of civil servants, such a method of protecting confidentiality has several obvious drawbacks.  Instead of ensuring the privacy of ALL Ukrainian citizens,

you have worried only about the privacy of civil servants

We are categorically against this new measure and would stress the need to introduce systematic amendments in the sphere of investigative operations (which include wiretapping), and for this it is vital to first of all amend existing legislation.
We are convinced that without legislative amendments, the unfounded surveillance of citizens will continue even if people have mobile phones and coded signals.  While all this is under the control of the SSU there can be no question of ensuring confidentiality and the protection of citizens. Only the creation of a system of independent control over phone tapping and other forms of electronic surveillance can rid Ukraine of the shameful practice of intruding into people’s private lives and illegally monitoring the communication of businesspeople, civic and political figures.  (…)

We consider that such a plan can only result in a senseless waste of a considerable amount of state funding so something which is doomed to failure. In Ukraine we have had many such regrettable examples, such as the creation of a single passport system into which extraordinary amounts of funding have been poured over the years with absolutely no result.

Without the changes mentioned, the practice in Ukraine of surveillance, wire tapping and interception of information from channels of information in relation to politicians, businesspeople and civic activists will continue unabated since the system of surveillance and monitoring is a relic from Soviet times, and in its present state will never be able to ensure observance of human rights and fundamental liberties".

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