Ukrainian Public Safety Police issue warning notes to political activists
In an article entitled “Greetings from the Past”, Dementiy Bily reports on a new and extremely worrying encroachment on civil liberties. He notes that the local authorities have a track record for trying to restrict the rights of citizens to hold peaceful demonstrations, resorting to idiotic arguments or formal loopholes. Unfortunately the local courts for the moment take the side of the local authorities and ban peaceful gatherings. He notes that the court’s arguments can border on the comical, as with the recent ban on a picket of the Kherson City Council by environmentalists trying to save Dubovy Hai [Oak Grove]. The action, according to the court, “can inevitably lead to the disorganization of the work of bodies of local self-government , military units, a considerable number of enterprises, institutions and organizations”. Dementiy Bily notes that there are no military units around at all, while the considerable number of enterprises etc is also seriously exaggerated.
All of this, he stresses, has been seen before, however now the law enforcement agencies have gone further in their efforts to obstruct citizens from taking part in peaceful events.
Just before Unity Day on 22 January, the Public Safety Police distributed among activists from opposition political parties an official paper headed “Warning Precept. In it, the police state that on the basis of Article 11 Item 20 of the Law on the Police, the specific person full name, date of birth and place of residence are given) is being issued the Warning Precept “in connection with their intention to take part in the holding of mass events”.
They are warned, if they take part in mass events with infringements of current legislation or the blocking of transport, of the “possibility of being held criminally liable, pursuant to Articles 279 (blocking transportation); 295 (calls to actions which threaten public order” of the Criminal Code or to administrative liability according to Article 185-1 (Infringing the procedure for organizing and holding rallies, meetings, street processions and demonstrations); 185-2 (creating the conditions for organizing or holding rallies, meetings, street processions and demonstrations with infringements of the established procedure); 152 (Infringing the rules for public planning and layout) or 186 (wilful behaviour) of the Code of Administrative
Article 11 Item 20 of the Law on the Police speaks of the police’s right to “temporarily restrict or ban access of citizens to specific areas or buildings in order to ensure public order, public safety, protect life and health”. This is how, without a court order or similar “hassles”, “suspicious” rights of the public to demonstrations, rallies and other “disruptions” are restricted.
According to information from the regional branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine, such Warning Precepts were received by large numbers of members of Batkivshchyna (Tymoshenko’s party); the Ukrainian Republican Party “Sobor” and the Congress of Ukrainian Nationalists. Information regarding members of other parties is presently being checked. On the basis of specific data about the addressees, one can conclude that the law enforcement bodies hold personal databases on activists of legal political parties and gather information about their place of residence, date of birth, and political affiliation. Furthermore, the recent case with Kherson delegates sent to the congress of the VO Svoboda [Freedom] party (Tyahnybok’s rightwing party) in Kyiv indicates that the law enforcement bodies do not only gather information about activists of political parties, but carry out surveillance. On 24 December a Senior Lieutenant turned up in their railway compartment and held a “prophylactic talk” (!), taking a commitment from them to not take part in protests.
Extremely disturbing conclusions
The police are firstly engaged in activities the legality of which must be checked (collecting information based on people’s political convictions; surveillance over activists, etc.
The police are guilty of infringing the presumption of innocence with respect to activists of legal political parties, who have not taken part in any of the above-listed unlawful activities
Thirdly, we know of no cases where the police have issued such “Warning Precepts” to members of so-called pro-regime political parties which suggests political selectiveness in the police activities. This can therefore be deemed obstruction of political activities and threats against citizens for their wish to take part in peaceful rallies, gatherings and demonstrations.
The Head of the Kherson Regional Department of the Police, Valery Lytvyn spoke of the Warning Precepts to the Kherson Regional Council on 21 January 2011: “We wanted to help, including those who take part in such actions here, and those who go to Kyiv. We’re not talking about rallies, but damaged property, the blocking of roads. We really wanted to help.
To be continued?
From the report by Dementiy Bily