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Parliamentarians refuse to consider draft law on civic organizations

This extraordinary behaviour is in contravention both of parliamentary regulations and of Ukraine’s international commitments

On 22 September 2009 the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy refused to give any consideration at all to the draft law “On civic organizations” (registration No. 3371, from 14.11.2008). This was announced by the Head of the Committee Serhiy Mishchenko (BYuT – Bloc of Yulia Tymoshenko).

It is worth noting that the draft law in question was prepared and submitted to the Verkhovna Rada under the premiership of Yulia Tymoshenko in implementation of Item 1.1 of the Action Plan for the Cabinet of Ministers [CMU] “Ukrainian breakthrough: for people, not politicians”, approved by CMU Resolution No. 14 from 16 January 2008.

Mr Mishchenko asserts that the Committee is dependent on the position of Deputy Olena Lukash from the Party of the Regions [PR].  He says that of 14 members of the Committee, only seven at present take part in meetings (two from “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence”, two from PR and three from ,BYuT.  The others – four from PR, including V. Yanukovych, one each from BYuT and “Our Ukraine – People’s Self-Defence”), as well as the Leader of the Communist Party, P. Symonenko.  He maintains that it is dependent on Ms Lukash whether they have a quorum. Yet this right is already allowed for by the current law “On citizens’ associations”, and Article 21 of the Constitution prohibits a narrowing of the content and scope of existing rights and freedoms when passing new laws.  The Party of the Regions Programme, which Ms Lukash should support, directly envisages the creation of a proper legal basis for the development of civic society. Draft law No. 3371 received positive assessments from the Central Scientific Expert Department of the Verkhovna Rada, the UN Representation in Ukraine and complies with the Fundamental Principles on the Status of Non-governmental Organizations in Europe (adopted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers on 16 April 2003). However appeals explaining all this have not swayed Ms Lukash’ position.

The Regulations of the Verkhovna Rada do not allow the Committee to leave a draft law without consideration, but oblige it to review it within 30 days and take a decision as to whether the Verkhovna Rada should consider it.

The actions of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy are also in contravention of Ukraine’s international commitments. In April 2008 the European Court of Human Rights found that Ukraine’s Law “On citizens’ associations” does not comply with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Eights and Fundamental Freedoms with regard to defending the right to freedom of association and called on Ukraine to improve legislation in this area.

A coalition of civic organizations is preparing an open appeal to the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada Volodymyr Lytvyn, the Head of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy Serhiy Mishchenko, the Head of the BYuT faction, Ivan Kyrylenko, the Head of the Party of the Regions faction Viktor Yanukovych and the Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko demanding that a new law “On civic organizations” be immediately considered and passed, taking into consideration the public’s suggestions.

There can be no compromise in the struggle for freedom.

Maxim Latsyba, Ukrainian Center for Independent Political Research

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