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.

The right to life

An interview

We have interviewed the prior of the Divine Cathedral in Kharkov father Viktor (Marynchak).

Do you believe that the Declaration of human rights is a Christian political document, which was written and adopted by the initiative of the Western, i.e. Christian countries?

All that appears in the circle of the European culture is directly or indirectly connected with Christianity. Especially it concerns upper layers of culture, whose development is carried either in the framework of Christianity or is a strained dialog with it, even polemics, but always with Christianity. Perhaps, it is senseless to describe all the parallels in order to prove that the Declaration of human rights is a Christian document, it will suffice to remark that it could appear only in the sphere of the Christian psychology and mentality, for which personalism and humanism are natural. A Christian can display his love to God through his love to other people, through respect to their dignity and freedom, through the care about their life, about their souls, about their right to be themselves, and thus realize the destiny ascribed to them by God. May be, that is the reason why we consider the Declaration of human rights as Christian, since, in the aspect of morals and right, it embodies the Christian attitude to a human being.

The right for life is one of the most fundamental human rights. What is your attitude, as a priest, to this right?

The right for life for a Christian is something that does not belong to man, a carrier of this life. It belongs to God and no one else. That is why Christianity condemns not only attempts at life by someone else, but also suicide. Man has no right to raise hand on someone’s or his own life, since the life is created by God. Let us recall that church condemns abortion, since the mystery of germinating life is a demonstration of God’s will, for even an embryo is unique. Even the problem of contraceptives causes much strain on the side of, say, Catholic church (and partly of the Orthodox church), for it is considered to be the interference into the God’s will. I want to remind that church condemns duels too. The only right to risk our lives is when a Christian gives his soul for his friends and kin, that is for self-sacrifice, as the highest expression of love to other people and hence to God. Such a profound attitude to life is related for a Christian with the complete being here, in this world, since the post-mortem existence of one’s soul is incomplete: the completeness is attainable only in the unity of body and spirit. That is why the existence in such a unity here, in this world, has a decisive role for the eternal existence of the soul and for the soul’s salvation. It follows from here that to interrupt life artificially is prohibited. Whatever man commits here, he must be given the opportunity of further existence for resuming his link with God, humanity and human features in himself. He must be given the chance of penitence, and prayer, and mercy. An unpardonned sinner is a pray of devil. To intercept artificially the life of a person which did not attain penitence means to terminate a possible spiritual evolution. Who has the right for it, except God? Who has the right to stop man on his way in order to throw him into the hell. Other people certainly have not such a right.

Have you ever participated in public discussions about abolishing the death penalty?

I have never participated in such discussions and I think that it is unreasonable to hold such discussions. The public, the masses are not prepared to abolishing the death penalty. The responsibility for its abolishing must be taken by the legislative power, thus it is worth while to hold such discussions within the legislative power. It is necessary to find as many arguments against the death penalty as possible, and then to publish them and to press on the public thought in this direction. When one holds such discussions in public, one risks to come across people who are deeply wounded by criminals, and because of their irrational state they cannot be influenced by any rational arguments (and it would be unethical to try to convince them). The law is a sphere of the rational. The state of a person injured by a crime cannot be an argument when a rational approach is used for solving some legislative problem. That is why I think that direct public discussions are harmful. A person injured by a horrible crime must go to a priest (or a psychologist, or a doctor), but not to the legislators. The law must care about the legal and moral state of the society, about the moral, legal and psychological ‘climate’, and through it must protect a person from the attempts on the life and soul both from the side of criminals and from the side of blood-thirsty state revengers.

What is your attitude to the death penalty as a human being, not as a priest?

I hardly can separate a priest and a human being in myself. I may stress the social aspect of this problem, but all the same my attitude would be that of a Christian. A society where the death penalty exists is loaded with vestige. This is a vestige of the vendetta, but the vendetta was cancelled by the Sermon on the Mount, since revenge drives people into a vicious circle of evil, which is driven by devil. An emotion is an energetic phenomenon, its explosion negatively affects our spiritual environment. Just fancy how much terror, hate, deathly grief, desperation are felt by a condemned to death, by his relatives and friends! Just fancy what are the emotions of those who execute the verdict or have to be present at the execution! This shock can lead to suicide, as it is described in the story ‘Birthday present’ by Kotsiubinskiy. Recollect monsters with human appearance figuring in writings of L.Tolstoy and L.Andreev. In modern films of terror the condemned to death and their executors become demons, and these demons try to infiltrate into souls of all of us. The killing sacrificed by law, planned, rational, cool is, in my opinion, not much different from the killing by order. My soul cannot accept the killing which is planned coolly and rationally. The society must be protected from the remnants of the vendetta. The vendetta is characteristic of a primitive society or of criminal gangs. On the other hand, the death penalty is a vestige of a primitive interpretation of anarchism where the force dominates over the right. It is connected with the delight of power over other people’s lives. This delight is demonical by origin. Which demons triumphed when our leaders exterminated hundreds of prostitutes and thousands of priests! Which sadistic emotions were felt by the members of notorious troikas!In this context one can observe that the death penalty is a vestige of the times when a human being was treated by the authorities as chips that are not counted when a forest is cut. At last the death penalty is a vestige of the times of wars that were carried out by despots and military regimes. Despots always regarded death as the way to submit the population of the occupied countries. Thus, the death penalty is an atavism. As to myself, I, like a Christian should, identify myself not with the killer and not with his executioner. A Christian may identify himself only with the victim of the killer or of the executioner.

You are father, will your attitude change if somebody attempted at life of your children?

I am a Christian and a priest, as a latter I had to deal with parents of the killed. Every time, when I meet such people, I identify myself with them, but I try to defeat in myself all low, primitive, dark emotions. It is impossible to use Christianity as a shield protecting from terror, from tragic existence. A Christian must be prepared to meet personal tragedies. I hope that when my time to suffer comes, I shall be able to suppress dark emotions. This is done by Christians through prayers. Our consciousness must not bend under the burden of our woes. Jesus Christ taught us to hate sin, not sinners. I try my best under any circumstances to separate evil from its carrier. A criminal is already a pray of evil, when he commits his crime. I have some experience when a criminal committed some evil with respect to me, and my first reaction was: ‘Unhappy man, what has he done with his soul!’ There was another experience, a bitterer one, when for several weeks I repeated the words of Apostle Paul: ‘Mine is revenge, and I shall render’, said the God, which means that court and revenge and mercy — all of them are God’s. I always have these words in mind, and also I recollect, what God said when they hammered him to the cross: ‘Pardon them, Father, since they do not understand what they are doing’. I recommend those who suffered a trouble to pray in these words. I hope that these words will not pass me and I would be able to differ what relates to me personally and what relates to our entire society. Having experienced a personal catastrophe people must not wish all the people and all the society to experience the same. Jesus Christ taught to pray for enemies and I myself try to do this and to teach people to do this, regardless of whichever trouble they suffered.

Why in your opinion it was Western countries, especially Catholic countries, that started to abolish the death penalty? What was the reason: logical arguments, statistical arguments, cultural ripeness? What, in your opinion, was the contribution of the Christian religion?

I think that it was the result of the general state of the society. The Western countries have overcome totalitarian regimes, tyranny, anarchy, the prior accumulation of capital tightly connected with crime. The society demilitarized, economy became balanced, the living standard rose, the everyday culture grew, democracy developed. As to the elite culture, it was always humanitarian in Europe. For the European mentality personalism was domineering during many centuries. As a consequence, they got a good system of social protection. At last, they worked out the Declaration of human rights, there appeared a public movement of human rights protection. Besides, being secular, the European society never broke with religion. All these circumstances led to the creation of the mental, psychological, spiritual environment, for which the abolition of the death penalty was quite a natural development. I recollect a film in early 70s, titled ‘Two in a town’ with J.Gabin and A.Delon, which ends in executing one hero on a guillotine. The film is constructed in such a way that every viewer identifies himself with the executed. People should be asked if they are for or against the death penalty on viewing such a film. Christianity for two millennia through the image of Jesus Christ taught believers to identify themselves with the victim of the executioner. The Christian consciousness is governed by the commandment ‘Though shall not kill’. Revenge is unacceptable to a Christian. This can be interpreted as follows: one must not meet evil with evil, because it results in the multiplication of evil. To sum up, both on the subconscious level and on the conscious level, Christianity favor the inaccessibility of revenge; this concerns the death penalty too.

You know that in our country, by the will of the President, the death verdicts are not executed. This is not a moratorium in the judicial sense, also it is not the abolishment of the death penalty. What is you attitude to the situation as a citizen, priest, human being?

Suspension of the death penalty is a step which the circumstances demand. As a man I can sympathize with the President, as a citizen I am exasperated with the inability of the legislative power, as a priest I think of those condemned to death, who must remain in the indefinite state for years. What do they feel? Let us recall Victor Hugo’s ‘The last day of the condemned to death’. And now fancy that there are hundreds of such last days. You, human rights protectors, must try to take an interview of several such people. Maybe this would accelerate the legislative process.

Recall the case of Chikatilo or Onoprienko or cases of other serial maniacal murderers. Do such cases influence your position relative to the death penalty? Do you believe that psychiatrists are correct when they define the serial murderers as mentally healthy?

Serial murderers, maniacs are really creatures resembling humans, and from the medical point of view they may be regarded as normal, but from the point of view of religion they are penetrated with demonic forces. The church knows the phenomenon, in orthodox monasteries there are experienced ascetics who can commit exorcism. Such people could carry out a spiritual (but not psychiatric) expertise. I think that after all it may have been realized. In any case such creatures demand a specific treatment. Isolation, even for life, is unavoidable here. But who can pronounce such a final verdict? Not a man believing in God. A Christian must recollect about the possessed from whom Jesus Christ drove away a legion of demons, after which the possessed became quiet and tame, sitting at Christ’s feet. A Christian always feels the hope that it can happen with such creatures, at least on the threshold of death, but not a violent death. An execution is not a way to exorcise demons, this is a way to attract them. So, in such cases not the death penalty, but the incarceration for life under the observation of experienced ascetics is the only adequate measure.

You often cooperate with human rights protection activists. Do you find their position close to yours?

Yes, I sympathize with your attitude to a human being, to its dignity, freedom, sovereignty. After Kant, a man is a goal not a tool. Most of all, I like in your activity respect to human being, independent of the fact whether he is a personality with high morals or a hardened criminal. That is tolerance to everyone who needs help and intolerance to every evil, violation of rights, abuse of honor and dignity. This is the ability to identify oneself with those who are in trouble. This is the attitude without which beliefs remain dead. There is one more similarity between us, maybe the most important. I think we have the same attitude to the mutual relations between a person and the society. A man has duties before the society and the society has duties before a man. The mutual character of duties is the foundation of the personalist right, morals, individual behavior and public consciousness. This is personalism without egotism and egocentrism, without extreme individualism, when one’s personality is the goal of the society. This attitude is typical of a certain kind of outlook, this attitude is native for a Christian and this attitude is the philosophic background of the human rights protection movement. This attitude — and it must be specially pointed out — aids to bring together stray lonely people before their collective troubles. It is especially important in our times, because the present crisis, in contrast to the previous ones, separates, disjoins people. And human rights protection movement attempts to overcome this difficulty and join disjoint people. We, Christians, know that sins separate and God unites people.

When you think about the future, do you agree that Europe has created a unique standard concerning human rights and expands it to a larger and larger territory? This unity of approaches is positive or negative in your opinion?

Yes, there exists a unique standard or, rather, unique norm of treating a human being. This is the same goal that Jesus Christ set before his Apostles, when he said ‘Go and teach all peoples’. Christianity confirms universal moral values. It unites the humanity on the basis of the unique approach to a person, to its rights, freedom and dignity. Humanism has no different versions for different people, it either exists or not. That is why a Christian ought to assess positively the uniqueness of standard concerning human rights.

Why are we so far from the European standards and what shall be done to skip this gap?

In order to come to the new state the society must renounce its past. Germany repented its fascist past, the Catholic church renounced its inquisition. Several post-totalitarian countries renounced their totalitarian past. Our country should do something similar, but we are not yet prepared to the repentance.

To whom it would be easier for you to give absolution: to a murderer or to a judge who condemned him to death?

The pre-condition of absolution is a profound and genuine repentance of the sinner. Does the judge feel it? Or he is still sure that what he did was inevitable, was a demonstration of the right, was the victory of the good? God pardons those who repent. The absolution is independent on the concrete sin, it depends on moral and spiritual efforts of the sinner.

When a judge sentences a man to death, is it a sin?

The commandment says ‘You shall not kill’. This commandment covers all cases when man directly or indirectly causes death of another man. That is why sentencing a man to death is a sin. It is clear that the man who sentences another man is not free in his choice. This choice is determined by many circumstances: the crime, the criminal’s personality, existence of crime as such, the level of criminality in the society, the feeling of danger which, to the judge’s opinion, may be stopped only by death penalties, the thought about the victims of the criminal and their relatives, the attitude of the public that is not prepared to any changes in the laws involved, the pressure from different sides, etc. Nonetheless, these numerous pressing circumstances do not dismiss the sin. And it does not release the judge from his personal responsibility before himself, before God, before the criminal, before the victims and their relatives, before the relatives of the criminal, before the executioners, before the society. All the same the judge repent.

Why is our society not prepared even to set the question of the abolishing death penalty?

The mass psychology of our people is loaded with a number of vestiges caused by the totalitarian past, with a militarized society from the civil war to the end of perestroyka. Even now there is a large group of people who dream of the ‘strong hand’. And what is a strong hand as not an opportunity to execute those who deviate from the general line. In our mass psychology there is a frequent reaction ‘Shoot them all!’, which is rooted since the times of the anarchic Bolshevism. For a tyranny the problem of a just verdict does not exist: chips fly when trees are cut. They left surrounded armies, they shot down those who manage to run. They defeated the enemy without sparing canon flesh, they exiled entire peoples. They organized the artificial famine. They demolished ‘layer after layer’ professionals, artists, intellectuals, officers, physicians, ‘cosmopolites’. They built the Gulag archipelago, they staged mass trials of ‘enemies of the people’. They directed armies of youth to Afghanistan and so on, and so forth. All this shaped a nihilistic attitude to a human being, its rights and life. A large-scale program to get rid of the totalitarian public consciousness must be carried out. And before Bolshevism we had a Tartar-Mongolian yoke, then oprichnina, then ruining Zaporozhye Sich, then building St. Petersburg on bones of serfs and so on, and so forth. All this penetrated our consciousness, down to genes. Not many people are prepared to fight this inheritance, and human rights protection activists are leading the fight. We must fight against this past inheritance on a very wide front (by the way, it would be sensible to organize mass studies of, say, ‘sources and sense of Russian Communism’ by M.Berdiayev). Massive repentance of the people is needed. What force in the society can organize it? Perhaps, human rights protectors. Nowadays, under the conditions of the total public apathy and moral degradation the authority of morals must be revived. Here we have a shortage of public forces that could be able to renovate and spread the idea of the public responsibility before a person and the individual responsibility of a person before the public. That is what a priest must do. Our society lives in a state of religious savagery. This is the consequence of centuries of enforced planting of religion and then decades of its rooting out. If we count wide spreading of crime linked with the primary accumulation of capital, helplessness of a man in the street, perfect bureaucratization of the state, then we shall have a sketch of our public life. It is obvious that under such conditions, before such a society it is senseless to set the question of abolishing the death penalty. The road to it is shaping humane legislation, state system, civil society. Only then our people will be able to change their attitude to the death penalty.

What you, as a priest, can say to those who believe the death penalty to be the most reliable protection from criminals?

The demon, who lives in the soul of a maniac or killer, shall, after the liquidation of the body of his carrier, look for another shelter. That is why by killing a killer we do not protect ourselves, on the contrary, we give birth to a new danger. The reasonable way to protect the society from hard criminals is to isolate for life those demonically-loaded individuals.

The number of the condemned to death is growing

Almost for two years the death verdicts have not been executed in Ukraine. The operating Penal Code determines the most severe punishment, except the death penalty, as the incarceration for 15 years. There happen crimes, for which 15 years of incarceration is the insufficient verdict, so judges have to rule the death penalty. Last year 146 persons were condemned to death. These were murderers. Taken together, they killed 170 men, 88 women and 27 children; they also tried to kill 75 persons more.

Access to information

A law must be taken on the access to information

It is necessary to adopt a special law on the access to information. This law must regulate the procedure of giving access to information for any citizen of Ukraine, thus guaranteeing his Constitutional right to free access to information. This was said by Nikolay Tomenko, the director of the Institute of Politics, at the presentation of two publications of this institute: ‘ABC of Ukrainian politics’ and ‘Prime-Ministers of Ukraine’. This law, Mr. Tomenko said, must enact the responsibility for concealing the information by people who possess it.

According to Mr. Tomenko, anyone in Ukraine has insurmountable difficulties in obtaining information. Information has become a capital, and it provides unique opportunity for state officials to earn money, selling this information.

PL commentary:
The Ukrainian law ‘On information’ contains all the necessary norms, regulating the access to information; upon the whole, it can be regarded as adequate. The main problem is not in the absence of the law, but that it is not fulfilled. Besides, it is whittled by numerous secondary acts.

Prohibition of discrimination

Physicians has gone on strike

For a long time physicians of Ternopil region have tolerated silently the violation of their Constitutional rights, but their patience ended. On 29 December 1998 they went on strike. The reasons are more than sufficient: during this year they got on the average one month salary in cash. It does not mean that the rest of the money was transferred to their bank accounts: they got their salaries by food and, including vodka, at a higher price than in shops. There are pay arrears since 1996. The total debts to medical workers exceed 26 million grivnas.

Medical workers are not alone in their fight. Strikes, hunger strikes, pickets, meetings are carried by teachers. Some of the bravest protesters handed complaints to the court. The authorities press on the most active. For example, teachers of the Buchatskiy district went on a strike. There were no lessons during four months. The region authorities came to the rebels, pressed on them properly and gave each 14 grivnas. The teachers resumed their work. It is not surprising: because of the lack of funds the school personnel is reduced and nobody wants to be sacked.

Not only physicians and teachers suffer without salaries. The total debt in salaries and wages in Ternopil region equals 162 million grivnas. Besides, the administration owes 81 million grivnas to pensioners.

Most of the pensioners in the region are peasants living in the country. Many of them do not remember how banknotes look. Nobody is going to remind.

Interethnic relations

Corruption in penitentiary establishments: where is demand, there is supply

The corruptive ties of the prison personnel with convicts and their relatives appeared long ago. But now such ties achieved such a large scale, which was unbelievable before. This is a real market with demand and supply. The newspaper „Tiurma i volia’ (‘Prison and freedom’) often tells which are the methods used by various categories of the prison personnel to earn bread and butter. In particular, the controllers, whose duty is to prevent convicts to wander from one zone to another, get tips for the free movement, they get tips for the negligent search, they take bribes for looking aside in the room were convicts meet their outside visitors, they pass parcels (partly unloading them).

According to the words of the author of the articles, he spoke with visiting relatives. They willingly informed who takes how much and for what. The information was detailed: name, rank and so on.

‘Tiurma i volia’, 27 January 1999

Everything done in the prison must be legal

For ten years I have been working in the ombudsman’s office, being responsible for the observance of human rights with respect to the incarcerated. When I just started my work, I set for myself several principles, which I found necessary in order to do my job well. The first principle is: Everything done in the prison must be legal.

The second principle is: In every convict I must see a person who, after releasing, will return to the society.

The third principle is: The relations between the state officer and a convict must be normal. A convict has lost his freedom only, but he must not loose his human rights. Earlier a convict, staying in prison, had no voice, now he has it.

It should be noted that many changes in prisons were done in spite of the opposition of the public. Many citizens believe that the more cruel is the law and conditions of upkeep, the safer will be the society. That is why it is very important to inform the public about how the prison system works and how the criminal’s life passes there. This can be done in different ways, in particular, by visiting prisons. In Poland anyone may visit a prison: a journalist, a scientist, a person who is just interested in prison life. Visiting prisons is very important for the incarcerated. The prison punishment kills man’s activity, and the incarcerated often wait for someone, who will come and help them.

The duty of the ombudsman is to monitor and control the situation. Being the ombudsman’s representative and being responsible for the observance of law, I always reminded the prison personnel about the above-formulated principles. During our visits to a prison we need a considerable quantity of information. We may come to the prison, say, select 10% of convicts and ask them whether their rights were impinged. We speak with them without witnesses.

However, we not only prompt the prison personnel where their behavior is incorrect. We work with the prison personnel, we elucidate together why this or that violation occurred and ask them to solve the problems by themselves.

The main source of our information is the complaints received by our office. At present, we consider about 3.5 thousand complaints per year. One part of them we consider ourselves, those which concern health are considered by medical specialists. In this direction we use help of 180 doctors. Having got a complaint, they study the situation just on site to conclude whether the complaint is correct. These doctors do not work at prisons, we invite them from outside and pay for their work.

The information on the conditions in penitentiary establishments comes to us from three sources. The first is what we ourselves learn about the life of convicts, the second is what convicts convey to us, the third is mass media.

What the ombudsman does when he finds out an abuse of human rights? At first, the ombudsman turns to the prison administration with the suggestion to eliminate the abuse. If the situation is more complicated, for example, if the ombudsman finds out a violation of law, then he turns to the competent penitentiary organs and to the prosecutor’s office. If it appears that there exists a law which impinges on the convict’s rights, then the ombudsman has the right to turn to the Constitutional Court with the initiative to change the law. If the law appears to be ambiguous, the ombudsman has the right to turn to the Supreme Court or to the Constitutional Court, asking them to elucidate the statements of this law. At last, if the solution of the problem does not come directly to the ombudsman’s competence, but he sees that some protective measures should be taken, then the ombudsman turns to other bodies of power or initiates some other measures. For example, the Polish ombudsman in 1993 raised a question which was discussed in detail at the conference organized by us. The question was: how to diminish the number of the incarcerated without lowering the public security.

There are other examples of the ombudsman’s successful activity. Although the prison system in Poland has been governed by the Ministry of Justice since 1956, representatives of the Ministry of Interior have the right to inspect penitentiary establishments. In 1988 it was the ombudsman who managed to cancel this procedure. Thanks to the ombudsman the law was adopted according to which any incarcerated must have not less than four square meters of area.

Problems of reforming the penitentiary system of Ukraine and the draft of the Penal Code

Ukraine is one of the European champions in the number of the incarcerated. According to Ivan Shtanko, the head of the Penitentiary Department, there are 32 preliminary prisons, 129 penitentiary establishments for adults and 11 colonies for minor criminals. On 1 July 1998 these establishments contained 236 thousand, which makes 472 per 100 thousand of population (see the newspaper ‘Den’ of 13 August 1998). Not long ago, in 1994 there were 161 thousand of the incarcerated, i.e. 310 per 100 thousand. This growth is due, in our opinion, to the escalation of the economic crisis and the general tendency of making the penal policy more cruel, as a reaction to the growth of crime. A vicious circle appeared: in order to diminish crime the state uses more and more cruel measures of punishment, which result in the growth of the number of convicts, in the deterioration of living standards in penitentiary establishments, which results in the growth of recidivism and in a more cruel society, as a whole, which results in the further growth of crime and so on. The society lacks resources for the construction of new penitentiary establishments, and the inadequate financing for the existing establishments is not given in the planned quantities. That is why all our discussions on the reformation and humanization of the penitentiary system will remain empty words, until the penal policy is as cruel is it is and the penitentiary establishments are given the duty to reform and correct the convicts. I believe that penitentiary establishments must execute punishment, i.e. carry out a complex of restrictions relative to the convicts and minimize the damage done. As to correcting and reforming convicts, this is the task for the entire society, not for the prison personnel. To facilitate the participation of the society the penitentiary system must become more open. What concerns minimizing the number of the incarcerated, it is the task of the legislator, who must change the Penal Code and the judicial practice by introducing alternative punishments.

Yuri Kravchenko, the Minister of the Interior, once said that preliminary prisons contain two times more prisoners than their capacity allows and that the colonies of the strengthened regime contain 13 thousand extra convicts. According to the data obtained by us from the Ministry of Interior, on 30 January 1994 30 Ukrainian preliminary prisons, with the total capacity of 11300, contained 38900 prisoners, i.e. 3.44 times more than according to the norms. Since that time the situation has hardly improved, since the number of criminal cases considered by courts increases every year. Aleksandr Ptashinsky, deputy head of the Penitentiary Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, quoted such data: on 1 February 1997 32 preliminary prisons contained 43700 prisoners. He mentioned that 3 preliminary prisons with the total capacity of 1800 convicts had been opened during the last five years (the newspaper ‘Den’ of 26 March 1997). It follows from here that the problem of overcrowding preliminary prisons remains very pressing.

Colonies are overpopulated too. By the data on 1 February 1997 about 173000 convicts filled 137 colonies of the total capacity of 166000 (the newspaper ‘Den’ of 26 march 1997). These are average data, and certainly in several places the situation is much worse. For example, in the colonies of strengthened regime of Donetsk region the ratio of the incarcerated to the nominal capacity is 1.73. Such conditions result in the growth of diseases. The only realistic way out is not to build more prisons, but to apply alternative kinds of punishment. Even in the opinion of the prison personnel more than 30% of the incarcerated should have been punished otherwise. According to Aleksandr Ptashinsky, 85800 criminals out of 242100 condemned were incarcerated, 56.6% of them for short terms. It can be concluded from here that the proportion of those, who can be punished without incarceration, is rather large. What concerns overcrowding preliminary prisons, the administration of the penitentiary system believes that about 57% of the inhabitants of preliminary prisons could have been released on bail.

The Supreme Rada adopted in the first reading the modified draft of the Penal Code. It is important to understand what positive changes the draft contains. To our pity, we have to say that the new Code is, upon the whole, more cruel than the operating one, and the upper limits of incarceration are longer. Nonetheless, the variety of punishments is greater in the new Code, so the situation in penitentiary establishments will much depend on the judicial practice. The draft contains no mention of probation; among new measures of punishment the arrest from 1 to 6 months is mentioned and the restriction of freedom, which is explained as follows: ‘A person is kept in penitentiary establishment of the open type without the isolation from society, under observation and with the compulsory duty to work’. This kind of restricting freedom may be applied for the term from 1 to 5 years. According to the authors of the draft, this measure will be introduced instead of the existing colonies-settlements. No other details of such punishment are given in the draft. To our pity, the draft considers reforming and correcting convicts as one of the goals of the prison personnel, which imposes on the personnel the function beyond its strength.

There is one aspect more concerning the topic under consideration. The draft of the Penal Code does not stipulate responsibility for such a crime as torture. In the conclusions and recommendations of the UNO Committee against torture of 30 April 1997, which are based on the 3 rdperiodical report of Ukraine on executing the UNO convention, it was clearly and distinctly suggested to define the notion of torture in the legislation and to stipulate responsibility for torture. On 4 November 1998 the European Committee on torture considered the report on the visit of Committee delegation to Ukraine, and soon we shall learn about the conclusions of European experts. I believe that the conditions of upkeep in some penitentiary establishments will be regarded as torture. Our supposition is based on conclusions of the Special reporter of the UNO Commission on human rights Nigel C. Rodley, who visited Russia on the invitation of the Ministry of Interior in order to inform him on the course of the court reform and measures taken to improve the status of convicts. Mr. Rodley made the following report (Document E/CN.4/1995/34/Add.1). In the Section ‘Conclusions and Recommendations’ Mr. Rodley wrote the following:

‘The conditions of upkeep of inhabitants of the Butyrskaya prison and in the preliminary prison ‘Matrosskaya Tishina’, especially in so-called common cells, are terrifying. It seems they are not unique in Russia in this respect. I would need the poetic talent of Dante and the artistic mastery of Bosch to depict the hellish conditions which I observed in the cells. It revolted my fealings of smell, touch, taste and vision. The conditions are cruel, inhumane and degrading; such standard of living is a torture. In the preliminary prison people are kept with the purpose of forcing them to confess. It is equivalent to torture.’

Alas, Ukrainian conditions do not differ much from Russian ones.

As we have pointed before, the Ukrainian legislation does not contain a definition of torture or cruel and degrading treatment. Something similar is listed in the articles for misuse of power followed by ‘violence, applying of weapons, or actions which torment and insult the victim’ (Article 166 of PC of Ukraine, Part 2), thus forcing to confess the suspect, ‘combined with application of violence or mockery and insulting the interrogated’ (Article 175 of PC of Ukraine, Part 2). These crimes, according to Article 7-1 of PC of Ukraine, are grave; they remain grave in the draft of the new Code. Nonetheless, the absence of clear and distinct definitions of torture and degrading treatment harasses the qualification of some actions of state officers. Owing to this, many criminal actions of state officers remain unpunished and, what is worse, are understood as normal.

It should be noted that the prison personnel is a hostage of the situation because they themselves cannot improve the conditions of upkeep of prisoners. Nonetheless, the existing objective reasons which cause inhumane conditions in penitentiary establishments (such reasons as insufficient financing due to the economic crisis) cannot be regarded as mitigating. The references to the public opinion as the basis for making penal legislation more cruel are incorrect. Cruelty breeds more cruelty and this escalation of cruelty is one of the reasons of the growth of crime. Changing the situation needs, first of all, the comprehension of the problem and the political will of the legislators. It is necessary to break the vicious circle.

Do we still have the Gulag?

Solzhenitsyn listed three features characteristic of the Gulag in contrast to other prison systems. The first feature is that the prison personnel is prepared in militia schools, whereas in the normal prison it is social officers who do the work. The second feature is that prison guard consists of the military. The third feature is that Gulag incorporates preliminary prisons for those who are still awaiting their verdict, whereas a normal prison must contain only those who were arrested in the courtroom after the verdict was declared. We have the system meeting all these features. In the pre-war Lithuania the prison system was governed by the Ministry of Justice. When our independence was gained in 1991, one of the first demands was to transfer the prison system back to the Ministry of Justice. During 40 years of the occupation our old traditions and laws are still alive in our memory. Nonetheless, we have not yet transferred from the Ministry of Interior. I believe that this is due to the fact that certain bureaucrats are afraid to loose their ranks and privileges. However, maybe such a transfer will at last be made this summer.

At present Lithuania has 14 thousand of the incarcerated, i.e. 325 incarcerated for 100 thousand population. In all the Scandinavian countries rolled together the number of the incarcerated is less. This fact testifies of some abnormality.

What can NGOs do to change the situation? Some of them go in for charity, distribution of food rations, of clothing, but this solves only a small part of the problems. We understand that out prisons now are opened for NGOs. Unfortunately, some visitors come to prisons as tourists. There are few organizations that understand prison problems.

Our organization has existed since 1991. We try our best to affect the situation in prisons. We publish a magazine, a quarterly, and distribute it among politicians, newsmen, MPs, and so forth. One issue was devoted to the death penalty. The chairman of one of parliamentary committees handed this magazine to all members of the committee before discussing the death penalty. We also published a newspaper for the incarcerated during four years, but we had to terminate it because of financial difficulties. We managed to introduce our representative into the commission of mercy at the President’s administration and we try to influence decisions of this commission.

Unfortunately, we are unable to solve certain important problems, for example, such as preparation of the law draft: it demands very high qualification.

Something has been changed in our prison system: public telephones and TV sets appeared, it is permitted to receive more parcels and wear civil clothing. Nonetheless, the incarcerated regard all these changes as make-up, which does not change the essence of the things.

Show me your prisons and I shall say in which society you live

When revolutionary processes started in Estonia, the first step after getting independence was an attempt to integrate into European structures. Experts from the Council of Europe visited Estonia in order to inspect how human rights are observed in Estonia, what kind of prisons we have. Once Winston Churchill said: ‘Show me your prisons and I shall say in which society you live’. The experts from the Council of Europe stated that our prisons do not obey the European standards and that we must change the situation. This was one of the conditions of the integration, and the integration guaranteed the survival of Estonia as an independent state. One of the political decisions to promote the reforms was the transfer of the penitentiary system to the Ministry of Justice.

I would not like you to think that this transfer was an important element of the reform. It was merely a political decision. The essence of the reform was not to change the signboard but to carry out real actions that could lead to new results.

To make changes was difficult. After the perestroyka in Estonia the situation was such that old laws did not operate and new laws were not adopted yet. However, the criminals did not take it into consideration: the criminals committed crimes and the courts continued to try them. We decided to start the reform with adopting new laws, with developing a new concept of the penal-executive system. We did all to make Estonia find a new, European face.

Our reform has three main directions, which, I think, every post-totalitarian country ought to pass.

The first direction is the reform of prison legislation. We have an Executive Code in Estonia, which has been already changed and is being changed now. Many new concepts has been introduced into practice with difficulty because new social conditions are lacking, because the society has not ripened to the level of many demands which Europe set for our prisons. But we have introduced the changes, which were ahead of reality, and by and by the gap began to narrow, because new opinions on the prison system began to grow in our society.

The second direction is the reform of prisons. Our colonies remained without work — they had no orders. Our country was left by internal troops of Soviet Union, which guarded the colonies. We had to create our professional prison guard service within a month. This forced us to change our concept of the prison system. We passed to the model of the cell-type prison. This also solved the problem of high level of security. The transfer from colonies to cell prisons demands a large amount of money and time. We managed to convince the society to create new expensive cell-type prisons. During recent 5-6 years we have built four new buildings of the European type. There is hot water and electric heating of floors. It is pleasant to see such a cell, it resembles a hotel room. We have to explain to public and to public organizations why we did it. Up to now newspapers attack us for creating better conditions for jail-birds than for an average citizen at large.

The third direction is the reform of the prison personnel. When we started revolutionary transformations in 1990, we abolished shoulder straps, military ranks of the personnel, we left only uniforms. This reform demanded large expenditures, in particular for creating a training center for retraining of the old and training of the new guards.

Beginning the reform of the prison system the state must understand its specific features. Recently we have declared to our members of Parliament that if within a year the personnel does not get the proper wages, they will get the deficit money from the prisoners, which means that they will take bribes.

Passing to the topic of the transfer of the prison system to the Ministry of Justice, I would like to point out that this is a political step which makes the basis for the new attitude of the society to the prison system. For a long time the prison system was a part of law-enforcing agencies, now it is becoming close to a human rights protection structure. The attitude of the society to prisons must stop to be negative. For many years the prison structure lay under the curtain of state secrets. Now we have got rid of the secrecy. The society must regard prisons as a necessary component of the state.

For a long time we have been talking about fight with crime, now we can speak about the work with the criminals. We must not fight, we must not be in the state of civil war with a part of our population. In any civil war victors do not exist, all become defeated. The new situation stops the war, it diminishes the strain between the society and the prison system. After the transfer to the Ministry of Justice the punitive system obtains a human face. Simultaneously, this is a way to the European prison system, to accepting the European prison philosophy. The punitive system becomes more flexible, the law-enforcing structures can operatively react to the political, economic and criminal situation in the country.

The transfer of the prison system under the Ministry of Justice opens new levels for prisons. There is an opportunity to reintroduce such forgotten organizations as municipal or local prisons. The local administrations are interested in building such prisons, since the prison system becomes a part of civil administration.

If to speak about the history of the transfer, the prison system was first passed under administration of the Minister of Interior, avoiding the control of departments. Somewhat later the system was governed simultaneously by the two ministers: of interior and of justice. Then, in the course of creating the legislative basis, the system was finally transferred to the Ministry of Justice.

It is necessary to introduce into our practice a new prison philosophy. We would like the public organizations not to confine themselves, focusing their interests on ‘opening prisons for informing the public and for visiting by representatives of NGOs’. We were convinced by our experience of interrelations with Estonian public organizations that, having got the information on prisons, the public organizations try to use it for the fight with prisons. We have no KGB, we have no Gulag. There exists a new legislation, a new state service, but, nevertheless, some public organizations continue to compare our system with that former period. Respected public organizations, help the new prison system to become open and comprehensible to society, try to see and understand our viewpoint. This is the first.

The second is visiting prisons. I would like to ask a question from the respected ladies and gentlemen representing public organizations: why they want to visit prisons? A prison is not a zoo and not a theatre. If you want to come and work, please, come and work. In Estonia there are many public organizations that do not visit in order to stare. They keep religious services, grant humanitarian aid, etc. That is the right way.

We try to create the conditions of upkeep in prisons similar to those available at large. Three years ago we terminated to feed prisoners, accounting only the norms of nourishment. We introduced menus. Each incarcerated gets on his tray not just food, but the first, second, course and dessert, they get the food which about 40% of population cannot afford. Estonia is a small country. The incarcerated must not be treated as beasts. Sooner or later they will leave the prison, and they must be trained to live with other people. I have a daughter. May be, she will soon marry a former convict. I do not want to have a wolf of a son-in-law. The public must understand why our relations with the incarcerated are so soft.

One of the elements of our reform is creating a social service in prisons. We prohibited our social workers to pronounce such words as ‘breeding’, ‘correction’, ‘reforming’. We say that the process of staying in the prison is education. If during the prison term a convict gets enough knowledge for living and working at large, it will mean that the prison fulfills its task.

It is nor sufficient to open prisons for the public. The public must be open to accept the prisoners too. For example, it concerns liberation before the appointed term. The public must agree that a killer sentenced to 15 years may be released in 8 years.

Recently our MPs cancelled restrictions for the conditional early liberation. Then 472 incarcerated (out of 705 whose requests were backed by prison administration) were released. Quite recently one of these released killed two people. The public protested so loudly that the Prime-Minister of Estonia suspended the pre-term liberation and pointed out that in future such decisions will be issued after a long and serious analysis.

In conclusion I address my colleagues from various countries: let us communicate. Prison systems throughout the world have one goal and the same problems. We understand each other perfectly. We stand on some kind of barricades. The incarcerated sooner or later will leave this barricade and return home, but we shall continue to stand on the barricade.

Court practices

Soldiers perish in peaceful time

In mass media we often, too often for peaceful time, come across with information on killed servicemen.

When a young man dies, this is tragic and unfair. When a young soldier dies, then usually there must be someone to blame. Ukraine is really a peaceful country, one of a few in the post-Soviet space. We are exasperated when we observe the economic and political chaos, unemployment and poverty, but we have peace. One must have a talk with representatives of the Russian Union of soldiers’ mothers in order to understand how well it is not to have conflicts similar to those in Chechnya, Tadjikistan, Abkhazia or the Dniester region. Russia has numerous victims in any of the listed regions, but, thank God, Ukraine is quiet.

Nonetheless, in out peaceful country young men continue to die in our army. Their parents have united into a public organization in order to attract attention of our society and authorities, in order to prove that death of young men in peaceful time is unnatural. Very often parents of the perished servicemen cooperate with the Union of soldiers’ mothers.

We remember the women who gathered in late 80s on the Red Square, under the walls of the ‘White House’, where the 1 stCongress of people deputies worked. Mothers demanded from the newly-elected deputies, from the President the truth about how and why their children perished, perished not in Afghanistan, but in the native country in peaceful time. Few of them learned this truth: a system, which does not value human life, does not contain a mechanism of protecting citizens.

When the USSR disintegrated and the republics declared their independence, much might change. As we have said above, there are no territorial, interethnic and other mass conflicts in Ukraine. Nonetheless, the parents of the perished servicemen created a Union, and this union is too numerous. We, Ukrainian citizens, have the right to ask ourselves and our authorities what kind of army we would like? And another question: what must we do to alleviate the grief of those people who lost their children?

First of all, let us have a look how are these people socially protected. The parents of the perished servicemen have certain privileges. They have the right of free transportation within a town, they are given old-age pensions five years before the usual term. Nonetheless, I have a complaint in my desk from T.Donchenko, the mother of a perished serviceman. She complains that controllers in the town transport very often do not want to consider her certificate as satisfactory for free transportation. Often parents of the perished do not get the money for the burial, although by law they must get the material aid, generally and for the burial. They also infrequently get the results of the qualified investigation concerning the cause of the death.

To make the matters worse, in 1996 our legislators made some changes in the law on pensions to servicemen.

Up to 1996 all families, whose sons perished during military service, got 50% extra to their pension, provided that the death was not related to a violation of the Penal Code by the serviceman. Parents, whose children perished in performing their duties, got the same addition to their pensions. After making changes in the Ukrainian law on pensions to servicemen the parents of the perished are divided into two categories. Now in social provision departments they ask the question: ‘What was the reason of the death of your son?’ And if the young man perished from beating, committed a suicide or died of an unidentified disease, the addition to the pension is reduced or cancelled. It does not matter that the version of a suicide cannot stand any criticism, and the death because of some exotic infection occurred in the place where some new weapon was tested, like in Siberia, in 1988. If in the documents there is no note that the death occurred in performing service duties, then the unfortunate parents loose the addition to their pensions.

‘Performing the service duties’ for a soldier lasts around the clock. And if a sick adolescent was recruited, and he died because of negligence or incompetence of physicians, or committed suicide because of dedovshchina, then the parents have the right to ask: what have done those officials and officers who had to be responsible for the life of their son?

A guide of a group of tourists, a teacher, an engine- or a bus- driver are responsible for the life of people in their charge. Officers, as a rule, are not responsible. At least, we do not know of any case when they have been punished for their irresponsibility.

We appeal to the MPs elected in Kharkov region with a request to raise the question of ‘the amendments’ on the pension additions to the parents whose children perished during their service in the army, regardless of the cause, except when a serviceman committed a crime proved at court.

We suggest to introduce into the new Penal Code an article on the criminal responsibility of officers for death of their subordinates. This will certainly lead to diminishing the number of deaths in the army.

Pay attention to the health of recruits

Soldiers, who deserted from their units because of dedovshchina, or their parents often turn to the Kharkov region Union of soldiers’ mothers. During the last 8 months we obtained 11 complaints.

After a cursory analysis of the causes that forced servicemen to desert it becomes obvious that the most frequent reason of this dramatic events is an incorrect notion of recruits and their parents of the army service, their legal illiteracy, their incomplete understanding of their rights and duties.

Either recruits or their parents often conceal their illnesses from the medical commission. Then the recruit experiences the cruel reality of the military barracks, his disease becomes more acute, the life become unbearable and he deserts.

A sick recruit becomes an even sicker soldier. He cannot bear physical and psychic load of the service. Military doctors, because of lack of funds, often cannot help, they even cannot prescribe dietetic nourishment. The economic crisis that is raging in the country did not bypass the army. Those parents who hope that the army will correct their children’s behavior and health, make a grave mistake.

Sick soldiers in the army suffer much and make suffer the society, since the society, the tax payers, maintain the army, and the diseases of servicemen cost immensely.

That is why we, representatives of the Kharkov region Union of soldiers’ mothers, appeal to the parents, whose children are registered in recruiting commissions. We ask parents to come to recruiting commissions together with their children and tell the medical staff on the diseases of their children. It must be done because youths, that register by groups or classes, are often shy to tell a doctor about their diseases in the presence of their classmates. The parents must bring to the medical commission certificates on their sons’ diseases and psychological peculiarities. We recommend not to conceal from the medical staff that the potential recruit has abnormal behavior or if he is registered in militia. The latter factors make the basis for the additional investigation of the recruit by psychologists and psychiatrists. The parents must not be afraid of psychiatrists, as it often happens. A specialist can find out what is not understandable for parents and their children. An honest psychiatrist will not send to the army a youth with behavioral deviations: he knows too well how it can finish for the serviceman and his colleagues. Such a diagnosis will not prevent the young man to get education for a profession not connected with heavy psychological load.

We also appeal to teachers asking them not to write formal characteristics and to describe in detail psychological features of their pupils. It will help to improve the further investigation of the health of recruits.

Certain parents, knowing the diseases or behavioral deviations of their sons, think that their sons must not go to the army. We have come across the cases when young men dodge recruiting commissions, do not live at home, do not get their military cards. From the talks with such young men and their parents we learn that they do not expect that medical commissions will pay attention to their complaints. Nonetheless, without proper documents they will not find a legal job, will not get a profession, will not enter a vocational school or a college. The absence of the legal social status may push the youth to criminals. Such problems must be and can be solved in a legal way.

Those parents who are afraid that their sick son may be taken to the army must come with the recruit to the district recruiting commission and inform the medical staff on the recruit’s sickness, better in writing, and ask to direct him for the medical examination to the proper hospital. If their request is refused, they may turn with a written complaint to the region recruiting commission, to region health department, or to turn to our organization.

The parents, who will not agree with the results of the medical examination, may insist on the more detailed examination. The parents even can sue the recruiting commission. That is why there is no necessity to dodge recruiting, thus violating the law.

We have much more rights than we think, and we can and must protect our rights by legal methods.

Public human rights protection organizations exist in all countries of the world and the higher the development of the country, the higher is the juridical culture of the population, the greater the number of public organizations. In our country, under the economic crisis, people often have no money to pay advocates’ services. That is why citizens must know that there exist public organizations that grant consultations free of charge.

Parents and teachers, take care of out boys, we are all interested in it!

Ukraine needs a professional army

The Kharkov branch of the all-Ukrainian organization ‘The young Rukh’ started a long-term action ‘Ukraine needs a professional army’. Young boys and girls picket the organs of the state power which carry out recruiting. They also distribute posters and leaflets. The action is attracts many supporters, which is not surprising since, according to the data in the newspaper ‘Den’, sociological polls confirm that about 76% of the Ukrainian population support this idea.

Our informant


Kharkov human rights protection group handed a complaint to the ombudsperson

The Kharkov human rights protection group receives many complaints from people who were beaten in militia precincts and preliminary prisons. In particular, the complaints were sent from Artemovsk, Shakhtersk and Druzhkovka, all of Donetsk region. Donetsk region holds now the first place as to the number of such complaints. In this connection the Kharkov human rights protection group handed a complaint to Nina Karpacheva, the ombudsperson of the Supreme Rada of Ukraine.

Our informant

Civic society

If to call a spade a spade

Everyday scores of people come to the waiting room of the Dnepropetrovsk branch of the International Union of human rights. Among the visitors come unfortunate mothers whose children committed crimes and became convicts. But a mother’s heart cannot agree with the verdict of the court and with the opinion of the people. Mothers are looking for ways to alleviate the lot of their flesh and blood.

L.I.Praslova came to us not only with this grief. From a transmission of the ‘Deutche Welle’ she learned about the existence of the Odessa human rights protection group headed by V.Denda. She asked him to mitigate the lot of her son. Having looked through the materials of the case, Mr. Denda directed the complaint to the European Court of human rights in Strassbourg. He did not work too much to find proper arguments, so, as a result, he received the answer that his complaint was not sufficiently motivated. I believe that a human rights protector must do his best to aid a complainant and, certainly, he must be competent. The medical principle ‘do not harm’ must also become the ethical principle of human rights protectors too.

Mr. Denda instead asked L.I.Praslova to prepare a complaint which he would forward to Strassbourg. He also demanded to send him a noticeable sum of money. It goes without saying that a human rights protector must help people without remuneration. Such people are known in Dnepropetrovsk: R.Mukhamedjanov, M.Radko, T.Shkrium aid many people, alleviate their troubles without asking for any remuneration. Besides, they are competent unlike V.Denda. If he attentively considered the case, he would immediately see that the answer from Strassbourg should be negative. He even did not know the rules how to determine the time when the appeal may be handed. L.I.Praslova complains that she more than once sent to Denda paper, envelopes and 60 grivnas for counseling. V.Denda did not answer his client until he got our letter in January 1999. So he lost the chance to turn to the ombudsperson which could be done by May 1998.

I think that the problem is how to protect unfortunate people, who need juridical aid, from further exercises of an illiterate and dishonest ‘counselor’.

P.S. Andrey Sukhorukov, the chairman of Ukrainian branch of the International Union of human rights, more than once asked Denda not to use the logotype of his organization on Denda’s blanks. At last V.Denda obeyed. The last letter to our address Denda sent on a blank of the Odessa branch of ‘International human rights protection assembly’.

The human rights protection extortion, quite a new kind of extortion, is going on.

PL commentary.
We believe that a public organization cannot pretend to be named a human rights protection one if it demands remuneration from the people whose rights are abused. We ask readers to express their opinion on this question.

Point of view

More on libel cases

Vitaliy Boyko, the chairman of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, made a speech at the joint meeting of the Presidium of the Supreme Court and the Council of Judges. He remarked that sometimes courts rule inadequate decisions on the libel cases against mass media.

‘It is especially obvious, when the size of the moral damage caused by a premeditated murder is estimated in several thousands grivnas, while the moral damage in libel cases against mass media is estimated in several millions of grivnas. Such decisions are ruled, in my opinion, because the law has not set the limit size of the moral damage and did not give constructive criteria for its assessment. There is a tendency to make mass media bankrupt by recovering the moral damage. Courts must not permit to attract themselves into political fights, that unfortunately exist in our society.’

Judge Boyko said that a libel fine for a publication in mass media rather often is ‘unreasonable’. In judge Boyko’s opinion, this is permitted by drawbacks in the work of legislators and in the work of the Plenum of the Supreme Court of Ukraine, which also did not give a constructive procedure of calculating the moral damage.

Judge Boyko appealed to his colleagues to cooperate with mass media in a more active manner. ‘Hands of some judges begin to tremble when they see a dictaphone’, — said judge Boyko — ‘This is abnormal. The growth of the authority of the judicial power considerably depends on the work of journalists’.

Ukraine does not fulfil the obligations before the Council of Europe

‘Ukraine has done practically nothing in order to fulfil her obligations before the Council of Europe’. That was said by Sergey Golovaty, a member of the Supreme Rada delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, in his interview in Strasbourg. According to S.Golovaty, Ukraine practically has not adopted a single legislative act concerning her obligations; the only exception is the adoption of the Constitution. Mainly formalities were fulfilled: the conventions were signed and ratified. However, Mr. Golovaty pointed out, these documents are not used as elements of the national legislative system.

Mr. Golovaty, the former Minister of Justice, heads now the Ukrainian juridical foundation and the public union ‘My’, which stands in opposition to the current power. He added at his press conference that the executive power ‘deceives the public that the membership of Ukraine in the Council of Europe hinges upon the law on the death penalty’. But this obligation is only one of many, which is not fulfilled by Ukraine.

The Council of Europe is troubled by insufficient democracy in Ukraine, by the facts that the executive power interferes into the activities of the legislative and judicial power, represses some mass media and infringes upon the local self-rule in a number of cities, said Mr. Golovaty.

Victims of political repression

The third Ukrainian competition for the best essay on Human Rights

On 29 of March the victors and participants of the finals of the Third Ukrainian Competition of students of high and higher schools on human rights were awarded. The competition was dedicated to the 50-th Anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) by the UNO. The competition was organized by the Ukrainian Branch of the International Union for human rights aided by the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection, the Centre of information and Documentation of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, several activists of the Ukrainian branch of Amnesty International, several well-known lawyers. Andriy Sukhorukov, the Head of the Ukrainian branch of the International Union for human rights was the motor of the competition.

At the first stage (in October 1998) the Organizing Committee prepared and distributed the information on the competition and the topics of the essays. They were:

UDHR: Which rights as a citizen have I in Ukraine? Which rights as a child I actually have?

UDHR and the Constitution of Ukraine: what is common and what differs?

UDHR and the European Convention on human rights: what is common and what is especial in these documents?

UDHR ideas in national and international literature.

How I understand the UDHR goal?

A free topic concurrent with the general idea of the competition.

At the same stage the Organizing Committee received the claims and placed the information on the contestants in the database which was created with the help of Microsoft Access, then the Committee organized printing and distribution among the contestants of the European Convention on human rights with additional protocols (the first 300 orders were satisfied). Upon the whole the Committee received 1817 claims and 997 essays, mainly from Ukraine (882 essays); 13 came from Russia, 11 from Belorus and 1 from France. Pupils of 9-11 grades of the high schools, gymnasiums and lyceums sent 685 essays, students of colleges and vocational schools sent 60 essays, students of higher schools sent 158, and working young people - 4 essays. The higher activity of school pupils can be explained by the fact that the two previous competitions were held exclusively for school pupils. It was for the first time that we invited college freshmen to participate.

Different regions of the country are represented in the competition not in the equal degree: 58 essays came from the Autonomous Republic of the Crimea, 19 - from Vinnitsa region, 12 - from Volyn region, 104 from Dnepropetrovsk, 103 from Donetsk, 22 - from Zhytomir, 2 - from Transcarpathia, 77 - from Zaporozhye, 61 - from the city of Kyiv, 47 -from Kyiv region, 33 - from Ivano-Frankivsk region, 1 -from Kirovograd, 21 -from Lugansk, 70 from Lviv, 14 - from Nikolaev, 64 - from Odessa, 20 -from Poltava, 7 -from Rovny, 36 from Sumy, 40 from Kharkov, 4 -from Kherson, 31 - from Khmelnitskiy region, 22 -from Cerkassy, 8 -from Chernovtsy, 5 - from Chernigov. Not a single essay came from Ternopil region.

At the second stage (November - January) the essays received were divided among 25 experts: professional layers, teachers of law in high and higher schools, NGO activists. At first 65 essays were selected which later were read and assessed by every of 11 members of the jury. They were: P.M.Rabinovich, a Corresponding Member of the Law Academy of Ukraine, Professor of Lviv University (the Head of the Jury), O.P.Bukalov, the Head of the Donetsk branch of ‘Memorial’, V.F.Dubrovsky, Candidate of Pedagogical Science, L.G.Zablodska, Candidate of Law, Deputy Director of the Ukrainian Centre of human rights, E.E.Zakharov, Candidate of Technology, a Co-Head of the Kharkiv Group of human rights protection, E.O.Kravets, a member of the Ukrainian Branch of the International Union of human rights, T.P.Kudlay, Doctor of Law, Professor, N.D.Kusaikina, Executive Director of the Kharkiv educational centre in human rights, L.T.Masenko, Candidate of Philosophy, V.M.Siniov, Doctor of human rights and liberties law, Professor, I.B.Usenko, Academician of the Pedagogical Academy of Ukraine, Candidate of Law, Head of the Department of the Institute of state and law (National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine). On 17 February an open conference of the Jury was held which selected the best 15 pupils’ essays, 5 students’ essays and victors in two nominations: ‘the best pupil’s essay’ and ‘the best student’s essay. All the codes of the authors of 65 best essays were decoded. According to the Jury’s decision, the victors among pupils became Nadiya Trach (the village of Zadnistriansk of Galych district of Ivano-Frankivsk region), Irina Narayevska (the village of Kalynivka of Makarivsky district of Kyiv region), Volodymir Brushchenko (the town of Donetsk). Among the students the victors were: Marina Laktionova (the town of Berdiansk), Maksim Bespalov (the town of Lugansk), Dmitro Lapko (the city of Kharkov). The three pupils and Marina Laktionova were awarded with a journey to Vienna with visiting the UNO offices in April 1999.

The Kharkiv Group of human rights protection gifted to every from 20 laureates and to teachers-consultants of 15 laureates a small library of books on human right and related topics, including brochures „Human Rights. Actual Sheets“, the collection „Freedom. Equality. Human Rights“, the American manual „National Standards of Citizen’s Right and the State“ in the Ukrainian translation and the collection of best essays of the first and second competitions titled „Human Rights: my own opinion“, Evhen Sverstiuk’s „At the Holiday of Hope“, a collection of poetry „Goldylocks“ by Vasyl Stus, a collection of articles „Ukraine: a Road through Desert“ by Myroslav Marynovych. Besides, the Kharkiv Group awarded Nadiya Trach for a high artistic level, Olexandr Gulak (from Makarivska secondary school No.2) for profound understanding of the idea of human rights and Nadiya V.Ashchenko (a teacher from the same school) for high achievements in education of socially conscious members of civil society. They were given a three volume collection of Albert Camus, books from the series „Ukrainian Literature of the 20 thcentury“ - a three-volume collection of culturological works by Yuri Sherekh (Sheveliov), a thick volume of poetry „The Everlasting Word“ by Igor Kalinets, and a two-volume novel „Path in the Grass“ by Valery Shevchuk. The majority of the above-listed books was published by the Kharkiv Group.

Advocate’s arrest

Roman Romanov, Sebastopol

We remind the readers that recently general-lieutenant of militia Vivat Beloborodov, the head of the Sebastopol Directorate of the Ministry of Interior, interrogated two 17-year-old youths. During the interrogation the general started shooting, having killed one and having gravely wounded another.

Valeriy Paliy, a well-known advocate, consented to grant free juridical aid to Andrey Shevchenko, the survival of the shooting match. Advocate Paliy was not shot on the spot.The procedure of his pacifying seems to be more complicated.

As the first step, on 13 February 1999 Leninskiy district court of Sebastopol issued a ruling, where Valeriy Paliy was found guilty in a crime stipulated by Article 185-3 of the Ukrainian code on administrative felonies (disrespect of court). The punishment was ten days of administrative arrest.

Meanwhile a criminal case was started against Andrey Shevchenko, who was accused of attacking a militia officer. The operative and detective activities were carried out by the city prosecutor’s office. At this time the culprit was treated in the city hospital No.1. His relatives were not allowed to see him by militia guards who guarded the ward. Somehow they did not prevent the investigating officer to interrogate the wounded at night without his advocate.

In the course of the court session that considered the case of Paliy it was convincingly proved that the bulk of the materials is falsified, among them the extract from the minutes of the court session where Paliy allegedly demonstrated disrespect to court. It also appeared that the case was not registered in the court office. Valeriy Paliy’s request to have an advocate of his own choice was not satisfied. The court seemed somewhat biased because judge Burchuladze considered the case till late night of 12 February and on the day off of 13 February, which is, perhaps, an unprecedented phenomenon for the Ukrainian judicial system.

Paliy was detained by militiamen at 21:11 hours on 11 February. According to the witnesses and Paliy himself, those who detained him referred to the order issued by general Beloborodov. During the trial Paliy requested to summon Beloborodov as a witness. The request was refused ‘as immaterial’. During two days Paliy was kept in the cooler of the district precinct (with seven other inmates — the cell’s the capacity is four). The detained advocate was kept without sleep and food. The latter is unimportant since Paliy went on hunger strike at the moment of his detainment. On 16 February his health deteriorated to such an extent that motor ambulance was summoned to help him four times. On 17 February Paliy’s advocates managed to meet their client. They insisted on medical expertise, and later Paliy was taken to the same ward of the city hospital, where some time before his client had been kept. The court ruling is still in force: having left the hospital, Paliy must be arrested for the remaining four days.

Paliy says that he has been warned that he will have ‘troubles’ with law-enforcing agencies. Sebastopol militia started to gather information against him without opening the operating file, thus violating the law on the ODA. Some top brass form Sebastopol militia phoned to the author of this note and asked for the information of all participants of the picket, which was organized by the Sebastopol human rights protection group. My refusal astonished the investigator.

Advocates of the city held a meeting where they unanimously condemned the actions of the Sebastopol militia and court. Many speakers gave examples from their own practice, when militia exerted pressure on the advocates in connection with their professional activities. The behavior of the local mass media is rather characteristic. They are silent about the events connected with Paliy’s arrest. In private conversations some newsmen say that Sebastopol advocates are too weak, and it is not worthwhile to quarrel with militia because of them. Others confess that they are afraid of militia and ask pay for the fear.

Now the Ukrainian militia is very active, purging the local authorities in the Crimea. They declare that they are capable of fighting efficiently with any forms of crime at any level. It would be grand if they could fight the crime within militia on the general’s level.

News from the CIS countries


The Kharkov human rights protection group is prepared to distribute the bulletin ‘Human rights’ by E-mail. We ask the readers, who want to receive the bulletin in this way, to inform the editorial board by the address: [email protected]. If you want to receive the bulletin in the hardcopy too, write about this.


In February 1999 a new monthly ‘Prava ludyny (civil education)’ was printed. Beside other materials, the issue contains a Ukrainian translation of the American introductory manual ‘We, people: a citizen and Constitution’ and recommendations of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe titled ‘On teaching human rights at school’

Editor in charge of the issue - Evhen Zakharov

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 1999, #03