war crimes in Ukraine

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Human rights in Ukraine – 2006. General Overview




Our report focuses on the human rights situation in Ukraine during 2006 and in the first five months of 2007.This was an extremely difficult period shaped by a struggle for power between various political forces resulting in a fully-fledged political crisis. Human rights were recalled in the main in order to legitimize the particular side’s actions, while there remained no real steps towards improving the situation. The issue of affirming and defending human rights was, in the first place, not a high priority for the government. It is also fairly difficult to do anything to achieve such an improvement in such politically unstable times when any step by the authorities, whether it be a draft law or appointment to some post is assessed first and foremost in terms of the political dividends it may bring in the political battle. The politicizing of any issue and resolving of such issues through the prism of the interests of ones own political force, and not impelled by the interests of society and of the country, led to the human rights situation either remaining unchanged or actually deteriorating during this period. Those changes for the better which did, nonetheless take place occurred largely through the efforts of human rights organizations and were less thanks to government support than despite this.

This general thesis will be developed and given specific detail throughout the sections of this report, both with regard to social processes, and in terms of specific rights and freedoms.

The political confrontation had an extremely negative impact on the independent and proper functioning of the judiciary and observance of the principles of the rule of law.

 A well-known definition of democracy is that once given by Lech Walęsa, that it is a war waged by everybody against everybody under the control of the law. We certainly notice the war of all against all however control over it was missing from October 2005 with the Constitutional Court effectively not working. The blocking of the Constitutional Court’s work was one of the most flagrant examples of the tendency to abuse the law which has gradually become endemic. Ukrainian politicians are prepared to carry out any actions which they deem politically expedient regardless of whether these violate the Constitution or laws, or the principles of the rule of law.

For example, the former Speaker of Parliament Volodymyr Lytvyn deliberately put off swearing in new Constitutional Court judges, claiming that this was in order to ensure «order» and «stability» in the country. The former Head of the Supreme Court Vasyl Malyarenko resigned for the period of the parliamentary election campaign. This was formally due to his inclusion among the first five names on the candidate list for State Deputy of Volodymyr Lytvyn’s bloc. In so doing, the former Head of the Supreme Court not only violated special legislation regarding the judiciary and political parties, prohibiting judges from any political activity, but also made his (mandatory) official appearance at the swearing in of the Constitutional Court judges impossible.

We can conclude that parliament during that period from October 2005 to April 2006 was trying to assume for itself the role of some kind of «main power» in the country. It not only failed to appoint the specified number of judges according to its quota, but also prevented the judges already appointed from commencing their duties. However severe this may sound, the actions of the Ukrainian parliament in this situation must be qualified as a dangerous encroachment on the principle of constitutional legality, and the political strategies used by former Speaker Lytvyn and former Head of the Supreme Court Malyarenko as politically motivated and a direct abuse of their official positions. And when now Volodymyr Lytvyn sharply criticizes the «political reform» [the constitutional changes from December 2004] and says that there should have been parliamentary elections at the beginning of 2005 this only demonstrates his insincerity as a politician. Another example of the same ilk is provided by the participation in the electoral campaign of the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada (the Human Rights Ombudsperson), Nina Karpachova. More detail is given in the section analyzing the work of the Ombudsperson.

The insincerity, dishonesty and reluctance shown by Ukrainian politicians to call things by their own names, their disregard for procedure, lack of respect for the court and failure to implement its rulings result in neglect of the rule of law.

There were many who hoped that the renewed functioning of the Constitutional Court in August 2006 would change the situation for the better. This is much more important than the election of the government.  Governments in Ukraine exist for a year, 18 months, no longer, while the judges of the Constitutional Court (CC) are appointed for nine years. All decisions which were taken in the absence of the Constitutional Court are basically not legitimate, and could now in theory be cancelled by the Court. It was precisely the panic-stricken fear that the CC would abolish the constitutional amendments passed on 8 December 2004 that led to the blocking of the Court’s functioning which is nothing but a usurping of power by Parliament.  This fear can also explain the naïve idea that supposedly, in accordance with the Transitional Provisions to the Constitution, Parliament has the right to interpret the Constitution in the absence of the CC. It was the same fear that prompted Parliament to pass Law №1253, which prohibits (!) the Constitutional Court from reversing the amendments to the Constitution passed on 8 December 2004. And the President, who should have used his power of veto, without a murmur signed a law which patently violates the Constitution.

However hopes that the CC would exert a positive influence proved vain. It was incapable of taking a single decision over 10 months, even making a judgment on the unconstitutionality of Law No. 1253. This was as a result, firstly, of the low professional level of a large number of judges, and secondly, their dependence on the political forces behind their appointment. The amendments to the Constitution to a large extent deprived the Constitutional Court of its independence. Following these amendments, the Constitution now allows parliament and the President to not only appoint judges to their post for 9 years, as before, but also to dismiss them. Bearing in mind the highest salaries in the country – around 60 thousand UAH a month, this has made CC judges susceptible to political pressure.  Confidence in the CC was finally undermined by the accusations levelled against Judge Suzanna Stanik of corruption. We are forced to acknowledge that the Constitutional Court is at present corrupted and it is questionable whether in fact Ukrainian politicians will comply with its judgment. Ukraine at the present time cannot be considered a law-based State since it is the Constitutional Court which ensures this. This situation has continued for almost two years now. Time will tell whether the Constitutional Court will be able to regain its lost respect and authority.

One could go on and on citing examples of abuse of the law. This abuse may not be in the actions themselves, but in the failure to act. The President, for example, was simply obliged to seek the Constitutional Court’s judgment as to whether the vote for changes to the Constitution as part of a «package vote», together with changes to ordinary laws, in December 2004 had been constitutional. However political deals proved more important for him than his duties as Guarantor of the Constitution and human rights.

Since December 2004 human rights organizations have on many occasions publicly spoken about the dangers inherent in these changes. It is profoundly frustrating to see all our predictions coming true. The implementation of these amendments has led to competition between legitimate and real centres of power – the President and Prime Minister – within one executive branch of power with this leading to the country becoming ungovernable. The constitutional amendments have effectively jeopardized state sovereignty and the country’s independence altogether.  They have created a rift in the unity of foreign and domestic policy, introduced principles of the worst political collectivism, transforming Members of Parliament into voting machines, totally dependent on the will of their leaders, or one could even call them owners of their factions. The changes have significantly increased the influence of powerful financial and industrial groups on parliament while at the same time decreasing the access of the public to the authorities. One needs to recognize that a good and just aim, that being to eliminate authoritarian rule by a President through limiting his/her powers, has been achieved through inept legal means. The fatal consequences of the changes to the Constitution mean that they must be reviewed.

The old opposition of «them and us», which had slightly receded over the last two years, is again coming to the forefront. I saw this telling text in a letter from one of the rank and file members of the «Batkivshchyna» [«Motherland»]

«They’ve» taken all our national riches from us, and they’re now concentrated in the hands of several hundred families. «They’ve» taken from us the right to elect worthy people to the Verkhovna Rada. We are forced to vote for «their» party lists. «They’ve» taken from us the right to have impact on the policy of the country via the President, having taken away his powers. «They’ve» taken from us the local councils, and now, after introducing the Law «On the imperative mandate», they are overtly making them subordinate. Farewell to local self-government! The fate of any territorial community will now depend only on the will of the «party curator» of the given territory. «They» want new elections to finally get rid of all others.

Chamberlain once wrote in a work entitled «Ukraine – a subjugated nation» that the Ukrainian political elite constantly betrayed its own people. However he wrote those words about times of political lack of freedom, whereas now we are observing the moral betrayal of the Ukrainian people by the elite under conditions of State sovereignty.

The unfortunately “political reform” brought the political elite and the people into conflict. This conflict could not continue for long. Sensing that, President Yushchenko took the initiative into his own hands and called early parliamentary elections. He is also proposing that a new Constitution be created. However awkward the legal justification for these actions may be (more detail about this in the section: “The situation and trends in constitutional legislation”), from the moral point of view, we believe that the President’s moves are justified. However the conflict has not been resolved, but has moved into a passive phase. And the “scene after the battle” creates an extremely gloomy impression, with almost all institutions of power compromised. The only solution would seem to be a return to the law which in turn appears impossible without rejecting the present constitutional model, without the creation of a new Constitution and without judicial reform to ensure real independence of judges and the courts. .

A Strategy Plan for Judicial Reform to ensure fair trial in Ukraine in accordance with European standards[2] was developed in December 2005 by the National Commission for the Strengthening of Democracy and the Rule of Law. The Strategy Plan received a possible assessment from the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission and was later affirmed by the President in his adoption of an Action Plan for 2006 on reforming the judicial system on the basis of the Strategy Plan. This Strategy Plan is aimed in the first instance at improving the court system, reforming the system for selection and professional development of judges, making amendments to the system for judges’ disciplinary liability, as well as at increasing the role of self-government of judges and decreasing the administrative load of court chairpersons. The Strategy Plan separately addresses the issue of court financing.  Effectively all criticism of the Strategy Plan has come from parties defending their own corporate interests and with no interest in real reform. In our opinion, if supported by parliament, this Plan could significantly increase court defence where rights have been infringed.  The draft laws aimed at implementing the Strategy Plan were submitted to parliament by the President at the end of 2006.  Their adoption is, however, in jeopardy as a result of the political confrontation, as well as because high-level judges are trying to protect their corporate interests. It should also be mentioned that judicial reform is being hampered by the lack of clarity with regard to the status of the Prosecutor. In addition, the constitutional amendments of December 2004 also returned the Prosecutor the old Soviet general supervision role which in general runs counter to the development of a strong and independent judiciary. This is an enormous step backwards in the reform of the Prosecutor’s office to bring it into line with European standards, and is a breach of Ukraine’s commitments given when entering the Council of Europe back in 1995.

From December 2006 the situation as regards certain human rights deteriorated when compared with 2005 and the period up to autumn 2006. (this can be seen, for example, by the lack of progress in implementing recommendations from our previous report, as the table below shows). This was first and foremost in the heightening of administrative pressure on small and middle-level business due to the return of checks on businesses by the Tax Inspectorate with a previously set amount in fines which according to plan needed to be extracted (this is effectively a return to the practice in Kuchma’s time). Various factors – a business climate more typical for some third-world countries than for European states,  the lack of a tax code and the annual game with taxes; corrupt officials; constantly arising threats to the simplified system of taxation all serve to hamper the development of small business, and as a result prevent an increase in the middle class.  At present Ukraine has approximately 1 million legal entities or individuals engaged in business, and there should be four times more, if we compare these figures with the USA or other countries with a high standard of living (per head of population). In this context, one must also mention the trend towards expansion of executive bodies and controlling bodies (the Control and Audit Department, the Tax Inspectorate and others) which are controlled by one political faction – the Party of the Regions, and the restoration of old mechanisms for allowing “their” businesses to avoid paying tax, as under Kuchma.

There has been an increase in administrative pressure also on people in Ukraine as a result of substantial increases in the tariffs for housing and communal services.  Clearly, the government cannot continue indefinitely to subsidize housing and communal services, and the responsibility for these needs to be transferred to other owners, with an inevitable increase in tariffs. However this increase must be transparent, well-founded and not lead to a fall in the standard of living. Instead the new tariffs are hard to understand and the government has done nothing to mitigate their consequences. It is pointless to count on subsidies as the procedure for receiving them is extremely complicated and degrading, and a considerable percentage cannot receive them at all.  The government is violating people’s rights through their failure to provide adequate social protection for those who are unable to pay for communal services at the new rates. The changes made to the procedure for receiving subsidies are inadequate, and the process remains long and humiliating.  This is clearly a serious violation of the right to an adequate standard of living. According to official statistics, 28% of Ukrainians have an income which places them below the poverty line – 352 UH (per month). Although these statistics do not take into account undeclared income, a large number of Ukrainians are still just eking out an existence, and not living.  On top of this comes an increase in the housing and communal charges which these people will simply not be able to pay..  And this then puts property rights in jeopardy since the issue will soon arise of forcibly evicting those who can’t pay (like in Moscow where they build semi-barrack style communal accommodation with one WC for three families) on the outskirts of the city. A new law on subsidies is needed urgently in order to remove this tension and to protect the socially vulnerable. The 2007 Budget has virtually no provision for such protection.  

Once again, after a year and a half’s break, the problems of poverty and social inequality have risen to the fore.  There is, unfortunately, a very dangerous trend emerging in the ever rising divide between rich and poor.  The principle formulated by John Rawls in his work “The Theory of Justice”, that inequality is beneficial for al, that if one person has become richer, then others will benefit at least a little, is not the case in Ukraine. At least one fifth of the population finds it very hard to get by. In comparison with economically developed countries the income of the poorer in society is 7-10 times lower than that of the rich. A country cannot be prosperous where many people can scarcely make ends meet. This generates considerable inequality where poor families are not able to give their children a decent education, while an illness can be like the end of the world. And what kind of equality can we seriously speak of when an unemployed former parliamentarian has gained the right to receive on a monthly basis approximately four times the salary of a current member of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, or approximately 6 times the salary of a highest level professor in a Ukrainian university, or 12-13 times the salary of a top-category doctor, or around 20 times the salary of a highest level school teachers?  One current Deputy costs the Ukrainian State as much as eight members of the Academy, or 12 professors, or 26 surgeons, or 40 teachers in secondary schools. The pension of a former National Deputy (MP) wavers between 80-90% of that which s/he received when in office. The wage differential for all those working in state-funded institutions is equivalent to 1:40. This data is concealed in documents on limited access not available to the public. For comparison, in the Western Europe the ratio is 1:4, in the USA – 1:5 and these figures are open and stipulated by law.  And this very parliament voted in a Budget for 2007 which suspends the force of laws on benefits for the majority of categories of people receiving such subsidies which is a clear violation of the Constitution. 

The problems of poverty and inequality are exacerbated by the often almost feudal nature of the relations between employers and their staff. Here all depends on the particular qualities of the owner who in his/her whims experiences virtually no constraints. The spread of poverty and inequality is also fostered by the government’s attitude to education which has effectively been left to fend for itself. This is perhaps the greatest mistake of the Ukrainian political elite. It is especially rural education which is suffering. A sober assessment is needed of the level of knowledge being provided by secondary and higher education. There is every reason to fear that the conclusions of such an evaluation would be devastating.

We did not observe any attempts to crush political opponents or use of law enforcement agencies as instruments of political struggle  During the political crisis of April – May 2007 there were such attempts, however the law enforcement agencies avoided actions which could have been interpreted in that way.

The harsh criminal-legal policy remains a major problem. The National Commission for the Strengthening of Democracy and the Rule of Law has prepared a progressive Concept for reforming criminal justice. The reaction of the management in the law enforcement agencies to this Concept was typical. Each praised it in general, yet suggested retaining the status quo as regards their patch. The same was true of the draft Criminal Procedure Code. The one draft which has been under review for many years now does not comply with international standards, and the other which is being drawn up by a working group from the National Commission is at the stage of final touches and agreeing it with experts. One may hope that this new draft will meet modern demands, yet what its fate will be is difficult to predict, all depending very much on the political circumstances. Without changes to legislation, certain practices also remain. There is still widespread use of detention without court sanction. Although according to the Constitution this should be used only in exceptional circumstances, it is in fact detention with a court warrant that is rather the exception. Law enforcement agencies still widely apply remand in custody as a preventive measure. Effectively, as a result of shortcomings in legislation and practice, people are helpless before the law enforcement agencies and totally subject tot heir will, especially in the first hours after being detained. Human rights organizations continue to receive complaints alleging torture and ill-treatment during the detective inquiry stage and pre-trial investigation. Effective measures for countering the use of torture by the police have still to be introduced. Complaints about the behaviour of law enforcement officers are, as a rule, considered by the Prosecutor in a cursory and biased manner. The number of people acquitted by the courts remains pitifully low: in 2006 177,578 people were tried, with only 910 defendants acquitted, and on sentences which had already come into force, even less – only 516 people.[3].

Reforms have still not been made in the State Department for the Execution of Sentences [the Department]. It remains closed to public control, both parliamentary and non-parliamentary and has absolutely no system for reviewing complaints about the behaviour of penal administration staff. According to a letter from the Department dated 20 September 2006, during 2005 and the first six months of 2006, the number of complaints received alleging unlawful behaviour by staff of penal departments and institutions was 295 and 178 respectively. However the information in these cases was not once found to be warranted. Cases where employees faced disciplinary or criminal proceedings were not registered.  For comparison, we can give figures provided by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). In 2006 the MIA received 5,128 complaints alleging unlawful behaviour. Of these, 455 were accepted as having substance (8.5%, which is approximately the same percentage of cases found to be justified as in developed democracies. At the same time, we are aware of numerous attempts at suicide or self-mutilation after which the media reported that the prosecutor’s office had found violations by personnel. Of concern are the brutal actions of the spetsnaz [special forces) created within the Department and which are effectively under no external control. A confirmation of the fact that the practical use of special “anti-terrorist” subdivisions is fairly entrenched within the Department can be seen by the letter of the Head of the Department from 20 December 2006 in which he acknowledges that over 9 months of 2006, the special unit had carried out tactical and special training 9 times, and in 43 cases had been involved in carrying out searches of prisoners and premises, in rounds of the living and work zones in penal institutions and pre-trial detention centres [SIZO]/ .

The Head of the Department Vasyl Koshchynets claims that the “anti-terrorist” special unit was used only for carrying out searches. However the letter does not mention that the unit’s members wore masks during these operations. This is confirmed by all reports which mention large-scale beatings of prisoners by the special units. Such testimony would also fit with general practice in the case of anti-terrorist units of hiding the identity of officers to protect them and members of their families. In our opinion, the use of special anti-terrorist units to carry out searches is entirely senseless since the crushing of an armed threat by terrorists or quashing of a prison riot require totally different training than that need for carrying out a search. It is therefore difficult to believe that personnel trained in the effective use of force are being used not as intended, but in order to undertake searches.  The very existence of special units within the State Department for the Execution of Sentences is ludicrous. The Department must at long last turn into a civilian service as in all European countries.

Unlawful force used against those suspected of having committed a crime, or against prisoners serving sentences engenders an attitude to brutality as to something acceptable which can be applied if for a good purpose. However brutality leads to even more brutality and the level of violence in society increases. It can very quickly move from criminals to all others.

Overall, the level of violence has risen if compared with that in 2005 and the first half of 2006. Political confrontation leads to an increase in aggression and the tendency to look for enemies. There have been several cases where monuments have been desecrated and there has been a rise in inter-denominational and inter-ethnic conflict. From September 2006 the number of cases of violence on racial or ethnic grounds has risen significantly, mainly in the East of the country. .  There were several reported killings, although only one was in fact confirmed. Foreign nationals studying in Ukraine speak of real psychological terror. The facts suggest that these phenomena (for example, marches by skinheads at night with candles which end with them beating all “non-Russians”) are most likely instigated from outside. One has the impression that some protest actions which have a clear xenophobic odour are not only organized, but also paid for from outside. This includes, for example, marches in the evening near hostels housing students from other countries in Kharkiv. The marchers chanted “Ukraine for Ukrainians” and other aggressive slogans (in Russian, incidentally). Both the government and society must take a much more active and uncompromising stand against those who incite all forms of enmity.  Changes are clearly needed to Article 161 of the Criminal Code which covers incitement to inter-ethnic and inter-religious enmity and insults, etc on these grounds, since in its present form it is not leading to convictions for such crimes. We would note that the concept of “discrimination” does not appear in Ukrainian legislation.  There is no clearly specified concept in law of either direct or indirect discrimination, and without this the general statements in the Constitution and legislation cannot be used to bring a person to answer for such crimes.

The problems remain of surveillance by the enforcement agencies over members of the public and interference in their private lives. Serious violations of the right to privacy are linked with the wish of the government to introduce a single universal code according to the concept of a Single State Automated Passport System (SSAPS) which will be used in all 14 registers kept by government bodies. SSAPS is being de facto implemented despite the lack of a law on maintaining registers and a basic law on personal data protection.  This will lead to the creation of a shared database with which in a matter of seconds it will be possible to obtain data about any individual, information about marital status, income, taxes, property, credit history, trips, whether the person has a criminal record, etc. A country which introduces such a system can only be described as a police state. In February 2007 parliament adopted a resolution which approved the Regulations on new passports[4] . The Regulations make it possible to add to the passport a person’s tax identification number and place a chip with biometric details. It is at present unknown what specific information will be included. These actions are unlawful. The Resolution was adopted deliberately, since had this been a law as it should have been, the President would have undoubtedly vetoed it. This practice, incidentally, of parliament to pass resolutions instead of laws so that the President cannot use his power of veto is entrenched and also speaks volumes about abuse of the law. We would note also that these resolutions, according to current legislation, cannot be appealed in court.

There are also infringements of confidentiality of communications as a result of a considerable degree of interception of messages (landline and mobile telephones, email, monitoring of traffic in real time). Again there is no law allowing for such measures, while the scale of such activities is extremely large – over the first 9 months of 2005 there were 11,000 warrants for interception of communications channels, whereas criminal proceedings were launched only in a few dozen cases. This means that the effectiveness of investigative operations is extremely low. Yet the statistics for such investigative operations are classified.  Is this not to conceal from the public the helplessness and unlawful activities of operational units?  Numerous statements from government figures that they are being watched or that their phones are being tapped remain without any follow-up. It is not known whether such wiretapping had official sanction. It should be mentioned that this issue has been under the constant attention of the President who has repeatedly stressed that unlawful surveillance and who signed Decree № 1556 on 7 November 2005 on measures to prevent it. We feel, however, that the enforcement agencies are not in a hurry to support the President in this. On the contrary, there have been no measures whatsoever which would make the law enforcement agencies accountable to the public, including on issues of control over sharing of information. The Security Service [SBU] is still continuing to introduce a system of monitoring of telecommunications through several Internet providers who control more than half, and in the regions, more than two thirds of Ukrainian traffic.

There has been an increase in infringements of freedom of speech and journalists’ rights, especially at the regional level.  There were considerably more assaults on journalists in 2006 and the first half of 2007 than in the previous year and a half. The National Deputy from the Party of the Regions Oleh Kalashnikov who assaulted members of a TV STB filming crew in July 2006 has still not been punished and continues to represent his faction. As in Kuchma’s time, the local authorities put pressure on media outlets.  The latter are subjected to attempts at control either by the authorities, or by their owners who are often closely connected with local politics. As a result of this, the media often produce material to order under the guise of news or information. This undermines the authority of the mass media in a democratic society and poses a real threat to freedom of speech. This was particularly noticeable during the 2006 parliamentary election campaign when it was virtually impossible, without financial support, to get news coverage even where such coverage was entirely warranted. The creation of public broadcasting is being stalled, and a clear position has yet to be developed on privatizing State-owned and municipal media outlets. This process is being held up also by journalists themselves who don’t want to lose the special perks they have for working in such media outlets, since their salaries are calculated as for civil servants. Most frustratingly, journalists of private media outlets are asking for the same benefits, seemingly not understanding that this is just a way for the authorities to keep control over journalists.

The unwarranted classifying as secret or restriction of access to official information remains a problem. There have been no legislative changes in this area. Changes which were supposed to improve the Law “On information” were never in fact passed. The prosecutor’s office remains the least open state body in the country. Its normative acts are not registered by the Minister of Justice and are often entirely unknown since they are not published (for example the Instruction on Procedure for working with citizens’, or the List of data which is classified as being information on restricted access and which receives the stamp “For Official use only” (including, “Special reports about catastrophes, accidents and natural disasters”?!). These documents of the Prosecutor General became publicly known entirely by chance.

The lack of openness of information, transparency and accountability of the regime to society, the unwarranted classifying of information and limitation of freedom of exchange of information must be viewed as among the most dangerous for the future of the country in comparison with other violations of human rights.  The issue is not even only that this creates the right conditions for the spread of corruption. The information sphere is the main field on which all political, administrative, economic and quite simply any other decisions in the fields of human activity are based. , The more information is used in taking these decisions, the better motivated and more effective they will be.  The most important political decisions are usually consolidated at the legal level and enshrined in various normative acts. . In this way, we have a three-tier system for decision-making: information, politics and legislation.  One can use the metaphor of a tree: roots, trunk and crown.  The more developed the root system, the stronger the tree. And when at the legislative (third) level acts are passed which prohibit or limit access of the participants in controversial political debate (the second level) to information (to the first level), then the quality of the political decisions will inevitably deteriorate.  The unnatural situation arises where the crown does not let its own roots nourish the tree. This happens particularly often in cases where there are attempts by the State executive or even parliamentary institutions to limit and control the information flow. This is usually done with the best intentions, yet societies thus blighted by isolationism end up in stagnation, their intellectual elite emigrating and their economic complex turning into a supply of raw materials for their more open and therefore more dynamic neighbours. It is vital, therefore, to reassess present priorities in information policy and to strengthen the openness of information at the legislative level.

Our analysis indicates that the situation as regards certain human rights and fundamental freedoms has deteriorated since December 2006. The implementation of previously developed reforms – concepts for judicial reform, free legal aid, the reform of the criminal justice system, adoption of progressive draft laws on interception of telecommunications, on personal data protection, and changes to the Law “On information” – have stalled. The measures planned for implementing the EU-Ukraine Action Plan on affirming democracy and the rule of law have effectively not been carried out. Implementation has also been stalled of Presidential Decree №39 from 20.01.2006 on meeting Ukraine’s commitments to the Council of Europe and other human rights-related Decrees.

The Gongadze case remains unsolved since neither the organizers nor those who ordered the killing have been brought to justice. There has been no official confirmation of the authenticity of Melnhychenko’s tapes which could serve as vital evidence in the cases of Gongadze, Yelyashkevych and many others of prominence from the Kuchma period.  There has been no breakthrough in the investigation into Yushchenko’s poisoning, or the beating by “Berkut” forces of Yushchenko supporters during the early hours of 23 October 2004 near the Central Election Commission [CEC] headquarters although the entire attack was recorded on video, nor into the interference with the CEC server or the manipulations during the vote count on 21 November, as well as other serious charges involving vote-rigging during the 2004 Presidential elections.

In concluding, we would note that government policy on affirming and safeguarding human rights and fundamental freedoms remains unsystematic, chaotic and ineffective. Furthermore political expediency and the internal interests of government bodies are given significantly more weight than the interests of the public, and therefore the activities of these agencies are largely aimed not at affirming human rights, but at pursuing ephemeral governmental or personal interests

We are once against forced to note that all modern history demonstrates that a political regime which violates human rights and the rule of law ever more overtly is sooner or later doomed.


[1] By Yevhen Zakharov, Co-Chair of KHPG and Head of the Board of UHHRU

[2]  The text of the Strategy Plan has been placed (in Ukrainian) on the official website of the Ministry of Justice:

[3] Letter from the State Judicial Administration №14-3554/07 from 08.06.07

[4]  The original specifies passports for travel abroad. In Ukraine, a person’s identification document is also called a passport.  The biometric details discussed here are only for passports for crossing State borders (translator)

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