war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

KHPG: On the Armed Forces Headquarters initiative seriously restricting freedom of movement in connection with mobilization

Kharkiv Human Rights Group statement against attempts by military headquarters to require men of mobilization age to receive permission from military recruitment offices for travel outside their administrative districts

Since the end of January there have been statements made in the media by individual members of the Armed Forces Headquarters, certain politicians and the Defence Minister saying that soldiers must have a document from the military registration office to travel abroad or even beyond the boundary of administrative districts.  The statement have also suggested that amendments must be made to legislation in order to introduce such restrictions. Such statements are, in our opinion, irresponsible.  The proposed changes are in breach of the Constitution and current legislation, violate human rights and could cause great damage to Ukraine’s national interests.

Article 33 of Ukraine’s Constitution states that everybody legally present on the territory of Ukraine is guaranteed freedom of movement, free choice of place of residence, and the right to freely leave the territory of Ukraine, with the exception of restrictions established by law.

Serious restriction of freedom of movement in connection with mobilization is a violation of Article 33 of Ukraine’s Constitution; Article 2 of the Fourth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights; to the Law on Freedom of Movement and Free Choice of Place of Residence in Ukraine; On Ukrainian Citizens leading and entering Ukraine; as well as the Law on mobilization training and mobilization.

Attempts to restrict freedom of movement by making amendments to legislation are a direct violation of Article 22 of Ukraine’s Constitution which states that “the content and scope of existing rights and freedoms shall not be diminished in the adoption of new laws or in the amendment of laws that are in force”.

The Deputy Head of the Central Department for Defence and Mobilization Planning Major General Volodymyr Talalai informs that at the present time around 78 thousand men obliged to do service have received notification of mobilization. According to the Deputy Defence Minister Ivan Rusnak, approximately 7.5 thousand cases have been initiated against people trying to avoid mobilization. That means that the number of such draft avoiders is less than 10%. On the other hand, Stepan Poltorak says that over 20% of those mobilized are volunteers.  In the conditions of armed conflict in the East of Ukraine that demonstrates a high level of fighting spirit among the population and the success of mobilization.

Attempts to carry out mobilization by force will in no way increase our country’s defence capacity, nor will it improve anything in our armed services but the call-up statistics of the military recruitment offices. It remains unclear what the point could be of having potential saboteurs and traitors in the armed services’ ranks during a period of real military action.

At the same time Ukraine has a strong interest in free movement of people, goods and capital. Our businesspeople, civic activists, artists and scientists travel the world; visit business forums, conferences, artistic events, and so forth.  They break down Russian myths about a “bloody Nazi junta”; counter Russian propaganda and promote Ukraine’s European integration. Significant restriction in freedom of movement will pose serious obstacles for such trips and damage Ukraine’s national interests in all spheres.

It is also worth noting that any mood of panic over a supposed disruption to mobilization is more likely a consequence of the information war than the result of real processes underway in society.  By analysing the timing of reports, one can conclude that it was Russian President Vladimir Putin who first spoke of forced mobilization in Ukraine.  These statements unfortunately find fertile soil in the minds of some of our military people and politicians. It would be worth them remembering that resistance to destructive mental attitudes imposed from outside is no less important than armed resistance to aggressive on the battlefield.

We demand an end to policy infringing freedom of movement which is effectively caused by Russian propaganda and clearly damages Ukraine’s national interests.

Yevhen Zakharov

Director of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group

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