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Civic society calls for an independent Human Rights Ombudsperson

On 9 January press conferences and roundtables were held throughout Ukraine as part of the civic campaign to ensure that the next Human Rights Ombudsperson is honest, independent and totally committed to defending human rights and civil liberties in Ukraine

On 9 January press conferences and roundtables were held throughout Ukraine to find out about Yevhen Zakharov’s program and thoughts about the role of the Authorized Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada (the Human Rights Ombudsperson) and to express support for a candidate who has no political affiliations  

The number of civic and human rights organizations who have come out in support of Yevhen Zakharov’s candidacy has been staggering. Well over 300 organizations have expressed their support and their concern that the next Human Rights Ombudsperson be honest, independent and totally committed to defending human rights and civil liberties in Ukraine.

Yevhen Zakharov, Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Co-Chair of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group,  was put forward as candidate for the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson by hundreds of Ukrainian civic organizations (the list in Ukrainian is available at

Thanks to their determination and the coordinated work of civic activists, the requisite number of State Deputies (MPs) put forward Yevhen Zakharov as official candidate.

The campaign has united activists of civic and human rights organizations from all over Ukraine, from Transcarpathia in the West to Luhansk in the East, from Sumy to the Crimea.

Members of the public, aware of how their interests are best protected, wish to see the position of Human Rights Ombudsperson held by a person who is honest and independent, as well as having more than 30 years experience of effective work defending human rights and civil liberties.

Yevhen Zakharov has the support of the following:

-  Public figures and former political prisoners during the 1960s – 1980s: Zinoviy Antonyuk, Mykola Horbal, Josif Zisels, Larisa Lokhvytska, Myroslav Marynovych, Leonid Mitlyavsky, Leonid Plyushch, Hryhory Prykhodko, Yevhen Sverstyuk, Inna Chernyavska-Naboka and others;

-  Writers and poets: Yury Andrukhovych, Tymofiy Havryliv, Georgy Hrabovych, Iryna Zhylenko, Oksana Zabuzhko, Moisei Fishbein, Mykhailyna Kotsyubynska, Andriy Kurkov, Kostyntin Moskalets and others;

-  Scientists and academics: Iryna Bekeshkina, Natalya Belitser, Yevhen Bystrytsky, Ihor Burakovsky, Tamara Hundorova, Ivan Dziuba, Yury Drozd, Volodymyr Kadets, Georgy Kasyanov, Serhiy Kvit, Viktor Lysytsky, Oksana Paklyovska, Vsevolod Rechytsky and others;

-  Journalists and public figures: Kyrylo Bulkin, Taras Voznyak, Olena Zvarych, Vakhtang Kipiani, Bohdana Kostyuk, Nataliya Ligachova, Rostyslav Martynyuk, Andriy Mokrousov, Volodymyr Pavliv, Olena Prytula, Andriy Pavlyshyn, Taras Ratushny and a huge number of concerned citizens (there is a very large on- and off-line petition).

-  Support for Yevhen Zakharov has also been expressed by the world-renowned human rights defender, member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and one of the authors of the Polish Constitution Andrzej Żeplinski, human rights defender and Andrei Sakharov’s widow, Yelena Bonner and the first Human Rights Ombudsperson of the Russian Federation Sergei Kovalyov who addressed an appeal to Deputies of the Verkhovna Rada.

During a press conference in Kyiv,  Council of Europe’s Human Rights Commissioner Thomas Hammerberg stated: “Our experience shows that a Human Rights Ombudsperson works effectively only when s/he is independent, and that includes independence from political forces, because s/he has no right to represent a particular part of society

Sociologist Iryna Bekeshkina comments that one of the three main positive events of the past year was “the proposal as candidate for the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson of Yevhen Zakharov by civic organizations, the support given his candidacy by the political factions “Nasha Ukraina” and the Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) and, most importantly, the decision by the profile committee of the Verkhovna Rada. This little publicized event proves that Ukrainian civic society has already reached the level where its views are taken into account by politicians, and not only during the times of Maidan [i.e. events like those of the Orange Revolution – translator]. It is absolute clear (it was obvious already after the Orange Revolution) that it is the decent people from the civic sector who are able to rescue our politics.”

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