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The Third Ukrainian Human Rights Organizations Forum (20 -21 May)

Yury Chumak, KHPG

The primary aims of the Forum were:

-  to present the results of civic analysis of state policy regarding human rights in 2005;

-  to discuss vital human rights problems in Ukraine and ways of overcoming them;

-  to clearly define directions for joint programs by human rights organizations on monitoring observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the regions and in the country as a whole;

-  to develop strategies for cooperation between these organizations during the coming year.

More than 150 representatives of human rights organizations from all regions of Ukraine were presented, together with international consultants, representatives of donor organizations, the diplomatic corps, partner organizations from countries of Central and Eastern Europe, civic figures from abroad and journalists.

Participants also took part in the beginning on 21 May of the Third Human Rights Documentary Film Festival, “Ukrainian Context”. 

Another main event of the Forum was undoubtedly the presentation of the second nationwide report of human rights organizations “Human Rights in Ukraine – 2005” The Report gives a detailed analysis of the situation with observance of more than 20 rights and freedoms, and is based on the investigations of nearly 30 Ukrainian and international human rights organizations, as well as of a large number of specialists and civic activists. The book presents an overall assessment of state policy regarding human rights, and an analysis of current legislation which can lead to infringements of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Recommendations are given for rectifying the problems identified.

Human rights organizations drew attention to generally positive aspects as far as certain rights were concerned. One area which warranted mention was the absence of pressure by the authorities on society and the individual which was then manifested in the presence of political opposition, freedom of speech and restrictions on the use of the law enforcement bodies for political purposes. Certain progress was also noted in reforms of the judiciary.  

However, many participants in the Forum considered the situation as regards some rights had even worsened. Freedom of peaceful assembly was particularly mentioned where violations had actually exceeded the number in 2004. Other problems which remained extremely serious were criminal legal policy, the lack of reform of the criminal justice system and the absence of nationwide programs for fighting the use of torture. Furthermore, state policy with regard to affirming and safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms continued to be unsystematic and chaotic.

“We are forced to acknowledge that most regrettably the process of “dekucmization” in Ukraine has not taken place. The hopes for a swift start to reforms and moral cleansing in society have not proved founded”, the Co-Chair of KHPG and Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Yevhen Zakharov stated.

«However people have stopped being frightened, they turn to the court with appeals against illegal actions or inaction of state bodies and bodies of local self-government.  The possibility still remains for quick progress on effective reforms in all areas of life. It is exceptionally important that the Constitution and principles of the rule of law be scrupulously observed. Only under such conditions can the changes for the better with human rights become irreversible”, he stressed.

Human rights activists from all over Ukraine agreed to carry out joint activities on the program for ensuring access to information. A decision was also taken to publish a collective statement to state bodies and to the public, with a small group mandated to draw this up (the statement can be read on this site).

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