war crimes in Ukraine

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Against torture and ill-treatment

Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Ukraine.

05/11/2001. CCPR/CO/73/UKR. (Concluding Observations/Comments)


Seventy-third session

CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES under article 40 of the Covenant Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee

1. The Committee considered the fifth periodic report of Ukraine ( CCPR/C/UKR/99/5) at its 1957th, 1958th and 1959th meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1957-1959), held on 15 and 16 October 2001. At its 1971st and 1972nd meetings (CCPR/C/SR.1971 and 1972), held on 24 and 25 October 2001, it adopted the following concluding observations.

A. Introduction

2. The Committee welcomes the detailed report submitted on time by Ukraine. It regrets, however, that while providing information on legal norms and enactments governing Ukraine’s obligations under the Covenant, the report lacks information on the implementation of the Covenant in practice. The Committee notes the State party’s undertaking to submit additional written information in response to the Committee’s questions.

B. Positive aspects

3. The Committee expresses its appreciation for the considerable changes, which have taken place in Ukraine since the submission of the last report. These changes constitute a positive constitutional and legal framework for the further implementation of the rights enshrined in the Covenant.

4. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the new Constitution in June 1996, which gives legal recognition to human rights and freedoms of the individual.

5. The Committee welcomes the abolition of the death penalty, including during time of war. The Committee hopes that the State party will ratify the second Optional Protocol to the Covenant.

6. The Committee notes with satisfaction the State party’s ongoing efforts to reform its legislation, including the new Law on Refugees of 2001, the Law on Immigration of 2001, the Citizenship Law of 2001 and the decriminalization of libel. The Committee also welcomes the establishment of a new Constitutional Court, the adoption of a new Criminal Code, the enactment of new legislation relating to the protection of human rights and the creation of an appeal court system.

7. The Committee welcomes the establishment of the Office of the Ombudsman charged with the responsibility for protection of human rights in Ukraine.

C. Concerns and recommendations

8. The Committee is concerned that in the case of a clash between the Covenant rights and domestic laws the latter might prevail. Neither through examination of the report of the State party nor during the discussion with the delegation could the Committee obtain a clear understanding of how potential conflicts between Covenant rights and domestic laws are resolved.

The State party must ensure the effective implementation of all Covenant rights, in accordance with article 2 of the Covenant and including through independent and impartial courts of law operating in compliance with article 14.

9. While recognizing that there has been some progress in achieving equality for women in political and public life, the Committee remains concerned that the level of representation of women in Parliament and in senior positions in both the public and private sectors remains low.

The State party should undertake appropriate measures to give effect to its obligations under articles 3 and 26 so as to improve the representation of women in Parliament and in senior positions, in both the public and private sectors. The State party should consider the adoption of positive measures, including educational measures, to improve the status of women within the society.

10. The Committee notes with concern that domestic violence against women remains a problem in Ukraine.

The State party should take positive measures, including through enactment and implementation of adequate legislation and training of police officers and sensitization of the population, to protect women from domestic violence.

11. The Committee expresses concern that under the state of emergency, as envisaged in article 64 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the right to freedom of thought under article 34 of the Constitution and the right to freedom of religion could be restricted in a manner incompatible with the provisions of article 4 of the Covenant.

The State party must ensure that its framework for emergency powers during a state of emergency is compatible with article 4 of the Covenant, taking into account the Committee’s General Comment No. 29.

12. The Committee notes with concern that the Office of the Ombudsman is seriously under-resourced.

The State party should provide adequate human and material resources to the Office of the Ombudsman to enable it to carry out its work effectively.

13. The Committee is concerned about allegations of police harassment, particularly of the Roma minority and aliens.

The State party should take effective measures to eradicate all forms of police harassment, and set up an independent authority to investigate complaints against the police. It should take steps against those held responsible for such acts of harassment.

14. The Committee regrets that the delegation did not provide the requested information about measures taken to combat racism and anti-Semitic acts and publications, and about the situation of Jewish cemeteries confiscated under Nazi occupation.

The State party is requested to provide the information sought by the Committee by the deadline stipulated in paragraph 25 below. The State party should take effective measures to prevent and punish racist and anti-Semitic acts and inform the Committee by the deadline stipulated in paragraph 25.

15. The Committee remains concerned about the persistence of widespread use of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment of detainees by law enforcement officials.

The State party should institute a more effective system of monitoring treatment of all detainees, so as to ensure that their rights under articles 7 and 10 of the Covenant are fully protected. The State party should also ensure that all allegations of torture are effectively investigated by an independent authority, that the persons responsible are prosecuted, and that the victims are given adequate compensation. Free access to legal counsel and doctors should be guaranteed in practice, immediately after arrest and during all stages of detention. The arrested person should have an opportunity immediately to inform a family member about the arrest and the place of detention. All allegations of statements of detainees being obtained through coercion must lead to an investigation and such statements must never be used as evidence, except as evidence of torture.

16. The Committee is concerned at reports of bullying and hazing ( dedovshchina) of young conscripts in the armed forces by older soldiers, which in some cases have led to deaths, suicides and desertion.

The State party should strengthen measures to end these practices and prosecute offenders, and take steps by way of education and training in its armed forces to eradicate the negative culture that has encouraged such practices.

17. The Committee remains concerned about the permissible length of detention as a ‘temporary preventive measure’ (up to 72 hours) in the custody of law enforcement authorities and before detainees are informed of charges brought against them, and about the practice of extending the period of such detention for up to 10 days in certain cases on the initiative of a prosecutor. Such practice is incompatible with article 9 of the Covenant. The Committee is also concerned that no effective mechanism exists for monitoring such detention.

The State party should take all necessary measures to reduce the length of such detention and to improve judicial oversight so as to ensure compliance with Covenant rights. The Committee also requests detailed information about the composition, manner of appointment, functions and powers of the ‘body of inquiry’ referred to by the delegation, as well as information as to its actual practice.

18. The Committee remains concerned about the continuation of practices involving the trafficking of women in Ukraine.

The State party should take measures to combat this practice, including the prosecution and punishment of those found responsible, and give full effect to the provisions of article 8 of the Covenant.

19. The Committee is concerned about the continued existence of the propiskasystem, which is incompatible with the right to freedom of movement and choice of residence provided in article 12 of the Covenant.

The State party should abolish the system of internal permits and give full effect to the provisions of article 12 of the Covenant.

20. The Committee notes with concern the information given by the State party that conscientious objection to military service is accepted only in regard to objections for religious reasons and only with regard to certain religions, which appear in an official list. The Committee is concerned that this limitation is incompatible with articles 18 and 26 of the Covenant.

The State party should widen the grounds for conscientious objection in law so that they apply, without discrimination, to all religious beliefs and other convictions, and that any alternative service required for conscientious objectors be performed in a non-discriminatory manner.

21. The Committee is concerned about the intimidation and harassment, in particular by government officials, of human rights defenders.

The State party must take measures to end the intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders. Reported instances of intimidation and harassment should be investigated promptly.

22. The Committee is concerned about reports of intimidation and harassment of journalists. It is further concerned about the absence of criteria for granting or denying licences to electronic mass media, such as television and radio stations, which has a negative impact on the exercise of freedom of expression and the press provided in article 19 of the Covenant. It is also concerned that the system of government subsidies to the press may be used to stifle freedom of expression.

(a) The State party should ensure that journalists can carry out their activities without fear of being subjected to prosecution and refrain from harassing and intimidating them, in order to give full effect to the right to freedom of expression and of the press provided in article 19 of the Covenant.

(b) The State party should take effective measures to define clearly in law the functions and competences of the State Communications Committee of Ukraine. The decisions of the State Communications Committee should be subject to judicial control.

(c) The State party should ensure that clear criteria are established for payment and withdrawal of government subsidies to the press, so as to avoid the disbursement of such subsidies for the purpose of stifling criticism of the Government.

23. The Committee expresses its concern about the vague and undefined concept of ‘national minorities’, which is the dominant factor in the State party’s legislation on national minorities but does not cover the entire scope of article 27 of the Covenant. The Committee is also concerned about reports of cases of discrimination and harassment of persons belonging to minorities.

The State party should ensure that all members of ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities enjoy effective protection against discrimination, and that members of these communities can enjoy their own culture and use their own language, in accordance with article 27 of the Covenant.

D. Dissemination of information about the Covenant

24. The Committee calls upon the State party to publicize the text of these concluding observations in appropriate languages, and requests that the next periodic report be widely disseminated among the public, including non-governmental organizations operating in Ukraine.

25. Pursuant to rule 70 (5) of the Committee’s rules of procedure, the State party is invited to provide, within a period of 12 months, information about steps being taken to address the issues raised in paragraphs 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19 and 23 of the present concluding observations.

26. The Committee requests the State party to submit its sixth periodic report by 1 November 2005.

Ukraine got a bad mark in the UNO Human Rights Committee

As to me such an assessment is easy to obtain analyzing the conclusions of the UNO Human Rights Committee on the fifth periodical report of Ukraine (the fourth report was presented in 1995) about the actions to realize the obligations in compliance with the International UNO Covenant on civil and political rights. It is not so important that respectable Western institutions stress again that the system of using torture is preserved in our country for obtaining evidence, and that it is very difficult to punish the law-enforcers, who commit this crime, that journalists are harassed and intimidated, that the rights of the institutions of alternative service are very restricted, etc. It is essential that the Human Rights Committee initiated the procedure of oversight that demands from a state to report periodically on the measures as to the implementation of the recommendations given by the Committee. In a year Ukraine must inform about the practical measures of solving problems of domestic violence against women, police harassment of the Roma minority and dark-skinned aliens, racism and anti-Semitic acts and publications, establishing the effective system of control over the treatment of detainees, decreasing the permissible length of detention as a ‘temporary preventive measure’ (up to 72 hours), providing the freedom of movement and choice of residence provided in article 12 of the Covenant and then effective protection against discrimination. Implementation of this procedure gives sufficient grounds to affirm that the state of human rights in Ukraine is disturbing.

In what follows we present the conclusions of the Committee on the fifth periodical report. One of the last paragraphs attracts attention: about publicizing the concluding observations of the Committee and the obligation of disseminating the periodical report among the public. The latter demand is very actual: our country is unfortunately unaccustomed to make public their reports to international institutions about the fulfillment of her obligations in the sphere of human rights. We hope that these practices will be changed, first of all, that the Ukrainian society will demand the reports to be open.

Conclusions and Recommendations of the UNO Committee against Torture : Ukraine.

21/11/2001. CAT/C/XXVII/Concl.2. (Concluding Observations/Comments)


Twenty-seventh session

12 – 23 November 2001


Conclusions and Recommendations of the Committee against Torture


1. The Committee considered the fourth periodic report of Ukraine ( CAT/C/55/Add.1) at its 488th, 491st and 499th meetings (CAT/C/SR.488, 491and 499), and adopted the following conclusions and recommendations.

A. Introduction

2. The Committee welcomes the punctual submission of the fourth periodic report of Ukraine. It notes that the report was not submitted in total conformity with the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of State periodic reports. The Committee also notes that the report mainly addresses legal provisions and lacks detailed information with respect to some articles of the Convention as well as information on the follow-up to the recommendations it made after the examination of the third periodic report. However, the Committee wishes to express its appreciation for the extensive and informative oral answers given by the delegation of the State party during the consideration of the report.

B. Positive aspects

3. The Committee notes with appreciation:

The ongoing efforts by the State party to reform its legislation, including the adoption of a new Criminal Code, which contains an article qualifying torture as a specific crime, the establishment of a new Constitutional Court, the enactment of new legislation relating to the protection of human rights and the adoption of a new Law on Immigration.

That although Ukraine is not a party to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, nor to its Protocol, it has adopted a new Law on Refugees in June 2001 that adheres, inter alia, to that Convention’s definition of ‘Refugee’. The Committee also welcomes the adoption of a new Citizenship Law of January 2001, which enables formerly deported persons to return to Ukraine and obtain Ukrainian citizenship.

The removal from the ‘State Secret Act’ of offences concerning breaches of human rights.

The abolition of the death penalty.

The information included in the report that, by Act of 5 November 1998, Ukraine acknowledged the Committee’s jurisdiction, as provided for by articles 21 and 22 of the Convention.

The establishment of the Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsman), charged with the protection of human rights in Ukraine, who can visit and have full access to all places where persons are deprived of liberty.

The assurances given by the Head of delegation that the reports of the three visits of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, which took place in 1998, 1999 and 2000 respectively will be published.

C. Subjects of concern

4. The Committee expresses its concern about the following:

The numerous instances indicating that torture is still being regularly practiced in the State party and that, according to the Commissioner for Human Rights, 30% of prisoners are victims of torture.

The forced deportation of four Uzbek nationals, members of the Uzbek Opposition, who were at high risk of being subjected to torture and whose case was subject of an urgent appeal by the UN Special Reporter on Torture.

That judges are sitting in the newly formed "co-ordination committees on crime fighting" jointly with the representatives of the Ministry of Interior, a situation which is contrary to the principle of the separation of powers and may affect the independence of the Judiciary.

The numerous cases of convictions based on confessions and the criterion for promotion of investigators said to include the number of solved crimes, which can lead to torture and ill-treatment of detainees or suspects to force them to "confess".

Failure on the part of the authorities to carry out prompt, impartial and thorough investigations into allegations of such acts and to prosecute and punish those responsible.

The information received by the Committee that relatives and lawyers are informed about the detention only after the arrested person has been transferred from police custody to a pre-trial detention facility, a process that usually takes not less than two weeks. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of clear legal provisions about the exact time when a detained person could exercise his right to a defence counsel, medical examination and to inform a family member of his detention.

The duration of pre-trial detention, which can last for up to 18 months according to the law but that in practice can be extended for up to three years, the administrative detention for up to 15 days and the detention of "vagrants" for up to 30 days.

The long-term prison sentences for non-violent dissemination of ideas and information.

The reported threats and harassment including ill-treatment of independent journalists and others who have raised allegations of abuses by officials.

The overcrowding and lack of access to basic hygiene facilities and adequate medical care, as well as the high incidence of tuberculosis in prisons and pre-trial detention centres.

The lack of adequate training of police and prison personnel on their duties under the law and on the rights of detainees.

Despite certain progress made, the practice of bullying and hazing (dedovshchina) of young conscript soldiers is still widely practised in the armed forces.

D. Recommendations

5. The Committee recommends that the State party:

Take effective measures to prevent acts of torture and ill-treatment in its territory, in view of the persistent reports that torture is still regularly practiced.

Deposit with UN-Secretary-General its declaration accepting the Committee’s competence with respect to articles 21 and 22 of the Convention and the removal of its reservation in regard to article 20.

That the principle enshrined in article 3 not to expel, return or extradite a person where he/she might be subject to torture be strictly observed by the competent authorities in the State party.

Establish its jurisdiction over offences of torture even if the offender is not a national of the State party, but is present in any territory under its jurisdiction, and in the case it does not extradite him.

Clarify and reconcile the sometimes contradictory provisions pertaining to the timing when a detained person has the right to a defence counsel and to ensure that this right is exercised from the moment of arrest.

Ensure that there is a legal prohibition to carry out interrogation of detainees without the presence of a defence counsel of his choice.

Take appropriate measures to ensure the independence of the Judiciary and counsel for defense as well as the objectivity of the Procuracy in the performance of their duties in conformity with international standards.

Ensure in practice absolute respect for the principle of the inadmissibility of evidence obtained through torture.

Take effective steps to establish a fully independent complaints mechanism to ensure prompt, independent and full investigations into allegations of torture, including numerous detailed allegations received from various non-governmental organizations, both national and international.

Take effective measures to improve conditions in prisons and pre-trial detention centres, including space, facilities and sanitation, and establish a system of inspection of prisons and detention centres by independent monitors, whose findings should be published.

Shorten the current 72-hour pre-trial detention period during which detainees may be held in isolation cells prior to being brought before a judge.

Expedite the process of training of law enforcement and medical personnel, as to their duties to respect the rights and dignity of persons deprived of liberty.

Take effective measures to prevent and punish trafficking of women and other forms of violence against women.

Adopt a more effective system to end the practice of bullying and hazing ( dedovshchina) in the armed forces, through training and education, and prosecute and punish offenders.

Establish a procedure for providing redress for victims of torture, including fair and adequate compensation.

Continue the program against Tuberculosis in prisons and pre-trial detention centers.

Widely disseminate the Committee’s conclusions and recommendations, in all appropriate languages, in the country.

Cruel torture is a routine in Ukraine.

PL publishes the summary of the report of the Kharkov Group (KG) for human rights protection and the unedited version of the document ‘Conclusions and Recommendations of the UNO Committee against Torture’, which was approved by the Committee on 21 November. The KG report and the materials of the discussion of the fourth periodical report of Ukraine help in Geneva on 14-15 November we plan to publish fully in the second edition of the book ‘Against torture. International instruments of preventing torture and cruel treatment’.

Since April 1997, when the third periodic report was considered, a number of positive changes have occurred in Ukraine. The death penalty was acknowledged by the Constitutional Court as contradicting the Constitution, the incarceration for life was introduced instead. Torture is defined as a separate corpus delicti in the new Criminal Code of Ukraine (CC), which came into effect on 1 September 2001. The new CC extended the application of sanctions not connected with incarceration, which permits to hope that in future the number of the incarcerated will diminish. The Provisional statements of the Constitution were cancelled on 28 June 2001; this introduced some changes into the criminal and procedural legislation, which are very important for the prevention of torture. The Department in penitentiary matters was created on the basis of penitentiary directorate of the Ministry of Interior. Later the Department was transferred from the Ministry of Interior and became a separate organ of the executive power, penitentiary establishments became more open. Owing to the principal position of the Ministry of defense and the Main military prosecutor’s office, the extension of their co-operation with human rights protection organizations the notorious ‘dedovshchina’ in the armed forces has weakened. Due to efforts of human rights protection organizations the problem of torture and cruel treatment moved to a focus of attention of mass media, especially „Mirror weekly“ and „Kievskie Vedomosti“.

At the same time, it is obvious that the cases of applying torture in Ukraine during inquiry and preliminary investigation become more often, and actions of militia become crueler. Some facts of death as a result of torture are known. As before, no system exists of independent investigation of complaints against cruel actions of militia. Service investigations are carried out by officers of another directorate of the Ministry of Interior and they are not fast and efficient. It is next to impossible to make prosecutor’s office start a criminal case. The court control over the activities of law-enforcing organs is not efficient, and the public control is rather fruitless.

Unfortunately, alleged offenders, prohibited by the Article 28 of the Ukrainian Constitution, often evade a punishment, and even worse, their acts are considered to be normal.

We think the following violations of the Convention against torture are systematic and large-scale:

- cruel, inhuman treatment of suspects under inquiry and preliminary investigation;

- conditions in detention blocks, preliminary investigation cells and some prisons;

- so called ‘dedovshchina’ in the army, i.e. torturing of younger soldiers by older servicemen.

Kharkiv Group for Human Rights Protection prepared the commentary to the 4 thperiodic report and appendix to the report (this is a rather thick book containing information in Russian and Ukrainian)

In the appendix to the report (this is a rather thick book containing review of messages on torture and cruel treatment in Russia and Ukrainian), we shall present data on 174 conflicts during inquiry or preliminary investigation in which, in our opinion, the actions of militiamen should be classified as torture, in 26 cases the torture resulted in the death of the suspects, and data on 27 conflicts, where the actions of militiamen may be classified as cruel and inhumane treatment. Judging by complaint of citizen about the actions of law-enforcing organs and judging by publications in mass media, the illegal methods of ‘getting’ evidence are applied most often on the stage of inquiry, before the accusation is presented.

It is next to impossible to manage law-enforcers to be punished. In the 202 cases described in the appendix the guilty were punished only in quite obvious and most scandalous situations, only 17 law-enforcers were incarcerated, practically all according to Article 166 of the CC ‘Misuse of power’. Ombudsperson Nina Karpacheva stated that during 11 months of 2000 the Lviv oblast prosecutor’s office started 14 criminal cases concerning torturing of the detained. Yet, only seven such cases came to courts. On the other hand, 129 complaints against militiamen remained without response. 575 such complaints were handed to the Kharkov oblast militia directorate in 2000, 50 of them were completely confirmed, 102 were confirmed partly, 76 militiamen were brought to disciplinary responsibility, 3 persons were condemned for misuse of power.

The problem of overcrowded preliminary prisons and penitentiaries of strong regime remains very acute, though new preliminary prisons are built and new cells are introduced. The data given by Ivan Shtanko, the then head of the penitentiary department, are the following on 1 January 2000: 222.3 thousand prisoners were kept in 180 penitentiary establishments of the department, among them 171 thousand stayed in 128 colonies, 3.3 thousand minors stayed in 11 colonies for minors, 46.2 thousand persons – in 32 preliminary prisons and 1.8 thousand – in anti-alcoholic correction colonies. Nonetheless, now the input to penitentiaries much exceeds the output, in spite of the annual amnesties, in which about 35 thousand convicts are released on the average. Thus, for example, in 1999 83 399 people were incarcerated, while 60.2 thousand were released. The proportion of those, whose terms were three years and less, was about 59% during all these years. Yet, for the time being the repressive mode of the criminal-legal policy remains unchanged as a whole. That is the reason why the proportion of verdicts of ‘not guilty’ steady equals 0.33-0.35% all the recent years. As before the proportion of people imprisoned for three years and less staying in penitentiaries is about 30% of the total number of the incarcerated. Other reason of cruel treatment of convicts is catastrophically insufficient, especially if one takes into account the number of the prison personnel, according to the law, may not be less than one third of the total number of convicts. The average cost of the upkeep of one imprisoned was in 1998 – 70 UAH per month, in 1999 – 78, in 2000 – 77 and in 2001 – 115. Yet, the existing objective reasons of the cruel conditions of the upkeep may not be recognized as an excuse in this situation.

Although penitentiaries became more open than before, the penitentiary system remains, upon the whole, closed. For example, it is rather difficult to communicate with convicts face to face. Besides, when one gets complaints about cruel treatment of convicts, it is difficult to understand the situation in reality. The requests addressed to the Penitentiary Department are usually fruitless: ‘facts are not confirmed’ and the author of the complaint is punished in this or that way. It is necessary to establish special commissions for inspecting penitentiaries, consisting along with officers of the Department, prosecutor’s office and ombudsperson’s office also members of non-governmental human rights protecting organizations.

The problem of cruel treatment of younger soldiers by older ones, so called ‘dedovshchina’, remains acute. Yet, according to our data dedovshchina becomes weaker. Mass media also frequently wrote about the phenomenon. So, for example, according to Aleksey Protsenko, the head of the main directorate of indoctrination work of the Ministry of Defense, the number of crimes connected with dedovshchina has diminished by 69% from 1995 to 2000. In our opinion, the improvement of the situation is due, first of all, to the principal position of the Ministry of Defiance, which thoroughly investigates all complaints, actively and benevolently co-operates with human rights protection organizations, in particular, with regional branches of the Union of soldiers’ mothers. Consultants in charge of legal and social protection of servicemen have appeared in oblast recruiting commissions; almost everywhere this position was given to activists of the Union of soldiers’ mothers. Representatives of public organizations may now visit military units, meet with soldiers and their commanders, conduct polls, etc. To put it briefly, the commandment of the Ministry of Defense does not hush-hush the problems, but is open for their discussion. One could only dream about such a level of openness in the penitentiary system.

Somehow, prosecutor’s offices do not hurry to inform the public about their successes in the surveillance over the legality of the activities of law-enforcing organs. So, reacting to our request to the General Prosecutor’s office about the number of militiamen, who were condemned by Articles 166 and 175 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine of 1960, we were politely sent to the Ministry of Justice. Most oblast prosecutor’s offices did not answer our requests about the number of complaints against militia in 1998-2000 and the first half of 2001, the number of satisfied complaints and the number of militiamen, who were punished administratively. This certainly rudely violated the law ‘On information’. Prosecutor’s office of the Crimea and Sevastopol answered that this information must not be divulged, since it is classified as ‘For service use only’. So the data about the legal violations committed by militia is a secret guarded by laws. Nonetheless, most oblast militia departments, unlike prosecutor’s offices, answered these questions. All this creates an interest pattern, which is worth of a separate publication. Upon the whole, we get an impression that the new administration of the Ministry of Interior is willing to change to the better the shameful situation with torture. In particular, it is confirmed by the joint order of the Ministry of Interior and the Penitentiary Department about measures of controlling the legality. Yet, it needs control of an independent organ. It is obvious that nowadays prosecutor’s offices fulfil these functions unsatisfactorily.

In order to correct the situation it is necessary to change the operating laws and law-applying practices:

to make more exact the definition of torture in the CC of Ukraine agreeing it to the definition given in Article 1 of the Convention against torture;

to make sure that every detainee is informed promptly of his or her rights, especially the right to complain against cruel treatment;

to ensure that relatives of a detainee shall be informed of his or her detention immediately;

to establish legally that anyone may not be interrogated at any stage of investigation without an advocate;

to impose strict legal limitations on preventive detention;

to enact stern legal limitations on the terms of preliminary detention and trial, in particular, to diminish the maximum term of preliminary detention from 18 to 9 months and to limit the total time of keeping under custody during the investigation and trial down to two years, after which the incarceration must be exchanged for another preventive measure not connected with imprisonment;

to adopt a law, which would prohibit judges to use as evidence the confessions obtained under duress;

to adopt the new Criminal-Procedural Code, which would guarantee the right for defense at all stages of a criminal investigation and efficient court control over inquiry and investigation;

to ensure to everyone, who claims to have been tortured, the opportunity to get impartial medical inspection within a reasonable time;

to carry on independent legal expertise of internal rules in the field of inquiry, preliminary investigation and punishment;

to improve the court practices, making common alternative punishments;

to adopt the new Correctional Labor Code will be in compliance with the international standards for penitentiary establishments;

to remove the label ‘for service use only’ from the information about complaints against illegal actions of law-enforcing organs and about the results of consideration of such complaint, to publish such data every half a year;

to create a curriculum of professional training for law enforcement and military officers that should include a course on human rights with especial stress on documents against torture and cruel treatment;

to familiarize law enforcement personnel and military officers with the provisions of the UN Convention against torture;

to publish the reports of the CPT on visits to Ukraine in 1998, 1999, 2000;

to ensure legal grounds for court and civic monitoring of the activities of law-enforcing organs.

Against torture.

On 14-15 November 2001 the UNO Committee against torture reviewed the fourth periodic report of Ukraine on the measures for realizing the obligations of Ukraine according to the UN Convention against torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. The control mechanism of the Committee requests reporting one tome per four years of all state-members of the Convention on measures devoted to prevention of torture, such as: changing a legal acts, reviewing a legal practice, humanizing the execution punishment system and so on.

Since April 1997, when the third periodic report was considered, a number of positive changes have occurred in Ukraine. The death penalty was acknowledged by the Constitutional Court as contradicting the Constitution, the incarceration for life was introduced instead. The Ukrainian Parliament signed and ratified Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention on human rights, Protocols Nos. 1 and 2 to the European Convention on preventing torture and inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment, the reservation was removed concerning Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the UNO Convention against torture, which meant the prohibition to consider by the UNO committee against torture of individual complaints of victims of torture and investigation such complaints by the committee. Torture is defined as a separate corpus delicti in the new Criminal Code of Ukraine (CC), which came into effect on 1 September 2001. The new CC extended the application of sanctions not connected with incarceration, which permits to hope that in future the number of the incarcerated will diminish. The Provisional statements of the Constitution were cancelled on 28 June 2001; this introduced some changes into the criminal and procedural legislation, which are very important for the prevention of torture. The Department in penitentiary matters was created on the basis of penitentiary directorate of the Ministry of Interior. Later the Department was transferred from the Ministry of Interior and became a separate organ of the executive power, penitentiary establishments became more open. Owing to the principal position of the Ministry of defense and the Main military prosecutor’s office, the extension of their co-operation with human rights protection organizations the notorious ‘dedovshchina’ in the armed forces has weakened. Due to efforts of human rights protection organizations the problem of torture and cruel treatment moved to a focus of attention of mass media.

At the same time, it is obvious that the cases of applying torture in Ukraine during inquiry and preliminary investigation become more often, and actions of militia become crueler. Some facts of death as a result of torture are known. As before, no system exists of independent investigation of complaints against cruel actions of militia. Service investigations are carried out by officers of another directorate of the Ministry of Interior and they are not fast and efficient. It is next to impossible to make prosecutor’s office start a criminal case. The court control over the activities of law-enforcing organs is not efficient, and the public control is rather fruitless. The efforts of the state organs to distribute the information about international mechanisms of preventing torture and cruel treatment are insufficient. Unfortunately, these problems are not even sketched in the fourth periodic report of Ukraine. Instead the report abounds in declarations that Ukraine steadily follows the policy of the priority of observing interests of individuals. That is why it is meaningless to comment the fourth periodic report, instead the Kharkiv Group for Human Rights protection (KG) has attempted to conduct an independent analysis how the UN Convention against torture is observed.

This report has been prepared on the basis of available official documents, analysis of the Ukrainian legislation, the KG experience in legal aid to persons, whose rights were violated, reports of Ukrainian NGOs (the Sevastopol and Vinnitsa human rights protection groups, regional branches of the association ‘Zeleny svit’, Donetsk and Lviv ‘Memorial’, Lugansk public committee for protection of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, Lugansk branch of the committee of voters of Ukraine, committee ‘Helsinki-90’, Ukrainian section of the International society of human rights, regional branches of the Union of soldiers’ mothers of Ukraine and other similar organizations) and publications in mass media on facts of torture and cruel treatment of the suspects, convicts, servicemen, refugees and other groups. The review of these information sources is presented in addition to the report, which was published as a separate book (272 pages) „Against torture. Review of the information sources on cruel treatment and torture“. The KG sent the report in Russian and English to the UN Committee against torture and other international institutions that are issued the problem of torture and interested in receiving such information.

In addition, the KG prepared and published the second book „Against torture. International mechanisms on prevention of torture and cruel treatment“. It includes the European Convention on Human Rights and Additional Protocols for it, materials on preparation of appeals to the European Court on Human Rights, European Convention on prevention of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, UN Convention against torture, the third periodic report of Ukraine (1997) and materials of discussion on this report in the UN Committee, commentaries to the third periodic report of the Amnesty International and the Ukrainian NGOs, fourth periodic report of Ukraine.

It should be noted that state officials prepared the fourth periodic report and other like documents without participation of public. In our opinion, it is obviously to open a process of preparation of state reports on human rights and to publish all reports. That is why the KG together with the Information Office of the Council of Europe in Ukraine organized and held the seminar „European legislation on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and improvement of the Ukrainian law“ on 17-18 October in Kyiv. The seminar is financed by the Directorate on Human Rights of the Council of Europe and the National Endowment for Democracy (USA). On 19 October the KG held a press-conference in the information press-center IREX ProMedia devoted to torture and cruel treatment.

Four foreigners (two represented the Council of Europe, two represented the embassies of USA and French) and 88 citizens of Ukraine took part at the seminar. 46 out of 88 Ukrainian participants are lawyers, including 13 juridical higher school teachers (from the National Juridical Academy, from the Advocate Institute at Kyiv University, from the Ukrainian Security Service Academy, from the National University of „Kyiv-Mohyla Academy“, from the University of Interior and others), 3 workers of the Academy Law Sciences and 7 advocates-practitioners. 18 participants are state officials (7 from the Ministry of Justice, 3 from the Security Service of Ukraine, 2 from the Supreme Rada and ombudsperson’s office, one representative was sent by each of the following organizations: the President’s administration, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, the General Prosecutor office, the Main State tax inspection). 37 out of 88 Ukrainian participants are human rights activists. 16 participants are journalists, 3 from them represented juridical editions: magazines „Law of Ukraine“ and „Practice of the European Court on human rights. Decisions. Commentaries“ as well as the newspaper „The Juridical Gerald of Ukraine“.

Each participant was given the above-mentioned information materials.

The seminar commenced with the report of Tatiana Termacic, who pointed out that the considered topic was very urgent, and that the efforts of non-governmental organizations, which collect, publish and analyze the data on applying torture in Ukraine, was very important. The report of Oleksandr Pavlichenko, the head of the Informational Office of the Council of Europe in Ukraine, was devoted to the co-operation of Ukraine with the Council of Europe. Various aspects of the activities of the European Committee for preventing torture, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment were elucidated in the reports by Mark Kelly and Vladimir Evintov, the vice-president of the Committee, a Doctor of Law. Mark Kelly made a stress that Ukraine did not agree to publish neither of the three reports of the Committee about its visits to Ukraine in 1998, 1999 and 2000. This position of Ukraine, Mr. Kelly remarked, harms her reputation in Europe and confirms the negative attitude to Ukraine as to a country, which does not want to advance in the sphere of human rights. In his other report Mark Kelly reviewed the practices of the European Court of human rights according to Article 3 of the European Convention on protecting human rights and basic freedoms that protects from torture and cruel treatment. The reports of Roman Romanov, the executive head of the Sevastopol human rights protecting group, and of Yuri Zaytsev, the editor-in-chief of the magazine ‘Practices of the European Court of human rights. Decisions. Comments’ (published in Russian), were devoted to the court practices according to Article 5 of the Convention. Oleksandr Tolochko, an assistant professor of the National juridical academy, a candidate of law, told about the directions of the improvement of criminal-procedural laws. He made a stress on the fact that the right of a detained to turn for medical aid is not even mentioned in the laws, and the law drafts being prepared do not contain it either. Yevgeniy Zakharov made the brief survey of the UNO Convention against torture and its fulfillment in Ukraine.

The participants of the seminar expressed solidarity that the problem of applying torture requires a serious attention both of the state organs and of the society, that changes in laws are needed, in particular, introduction of the independent organ for checking complaints about torture, the legislative prohibition of interrogating a detained without an advocate, the prohibition to use in court the confessions made under duress, etc.

The seminar became a stimulus for discussing the problems in the Ukrainian mass media. The two all-Ukrainian TV channels -- ‘1+1’ and ‘New channel’ – informed the public about the seminar and showed the interview with Yevgeniy Zakharov, a co-chairman of the Kharkiv Group for human rights protection. Large articles were published in central and local editions (‘Den’, ‘Kievskie vedomosti’, ‘Yuridichny visnyk Ukrainy’, ‘Kryviy Rig vecherniy’, ‘Tiurma i volia’ – Donetsk, ‘Sobytie’ – Kharkov; all publications are appended).

Freedom of expression

The appeal of the collective of the Lugansk TV company ‘Efir-1’.

We, the personnel of the Lugansk TV company ‘Efir-1’ appeal to everybody, for whom the words ‘freedom of speech’, ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ are attractive, to everybody, who believe that we live in a law-abiding state.

The TV company ‘Efir-1’, which always makes its best to realize citizens’ right for obtaining truthful, unbiased and timely information, for the recent six months is an object of attacks, pressure and persecutions on the side of the people, who grabbed the power in Lugansk. Ukrainian mass media more than once informed about the attempts to liquidate our TV company, about threats and physical violence directed at our journalists.

As is known, the liquidation of the TV company ‘Efir-1’, which had been initiated by the town administration (whose legitimacy is now discussed in court), was suspended according to the operable laws. It was made because the complaint against the court decision on the liquidation is also considered in court and up to now the consideration is not finished.

Having exhausted all possible tricks to close our company, from the intimidation of the personnel to the dismissal of the manager with the formula ‘… in the connection with the liquidation of the company’ (the liquidation was suspended according to Article 284-4 of the Civil-Procedural Code), the ‘liquidators’ undertook one more illegal action against ‘Efir-1’.

On 1 November 2001 at 19:00 the broadcasting of the TV company ‘Efir-1’ was interrupted. Features of the Lugansk cable television began to be transmitted on our frequency. The former deputy manager of out TV company, dismissed before, appeared on the screen and declared that the TV company ‘Efir-1’ went bankrupt and that this channel would be used by the Lugansk cable television.

This man – Vasiliy Dunin – was appointed the acting manager of the TV company ‘Efir-1’. It was done by the decision of the liquidation commission (whose activities, we remind, were suspended because the decision on liquidation is now being considered in court) and another illegal act: the order of the mayor, signed by the secretary of the town council. We learned that the newly appointed acting director sent a letter to the administration of the transmitting radio and TV center about the translation of the features of the Lugansk cable television on the ‘Efir-1’ frequency, stamping his signature with the seal of the TV company ‘Efir-1’.

These actions inflict a considerable damage to the material state of ‘Efir-1’ (since we violate our obligations before advertisers and other customers) and harms its reputation in the eyes of the potential advertisers and rank-and-file viewers (features, scheduled before, do not come to the screen). The company administration cannot be responsible for the features translated on our channel under our logotype since 19:00 of 1 November 2001.

In the evening of 1 November Dunin for several times repeated his speech, where explained that ‘Efir-1’ went bankrupt and so cannot prepare its own features. We regard such statements as discrediting our collective, since they are completely untrue.

We are sure that all the actions of the Lugansk town council and the liquidation commission directed at the liquidation of the TV company ‘Efir-1’ and any personnel changes in our company are illegal, according to Article 284-4 of the Civil-Procedural Code, until the court decision is taken.

For the time being we refuse to obey any decisions and orders of the liquidation commission and the town council making use of our rights stipulated by Article 19 and 60 of the Ukrainian Constitution, which read that nobody is obliged to obey illegal orders.

The collective of the TV company ‘Efir-1’ is convinced that the decision on the liquidation of our company is caused by the factors, which are unrelated with the economic activities of the company, but is an execution of a mass medium, which objectively elucidated the events that brought about the scandalous change of power in the town and the split in the town council.

As we learned, Vadim Zhelezny, a representative of the Lugansk oblast administration, took part in the seizure of the transmitter and the frequency channel of ‘Efir-1’.

The obvious disrespect of laws on the side of the oblast administration officers and the executive committee of the Lugansk town council, as well as the absence of any reaction to our numerous complaints and appeals directed to the town and oblast prosecutor’s offices, inflict damage to the reputation of our state and personally to the President of Ukraine.

The execution of the TV company ‘Efir-1’ on the eve of the 10 thanniversary of the Ukrainian independence is a cynical triumph of lawlessness and permissiveness of the corrupted political swindlers in Lugansk and the oblast.

Personnel of the TV company ‘Efir-1’

Tel.: (0642) 53-54-42; 53-53-90; Tel./Fax 53-32-31, [email protected]  

Is our society respectful?

Recently, at a seminar devoted to the freedom of speech held in Kharkov, a participant from Kyiv, a well-known journalist in the past and now an official of a rather high rank, answered a question about major Melnichenko’s audio records with an ironic smile: ‘Such questions are not asked in a respectful society’. Everyone stayed silent.

More than a year has passed since Georgiy Gongadze disappeared, just one year has passed since the cassette scandal burst out. The open political opposition was defeated. The power instinct of President Kuchma appeared stronger than the freedom instinct of all Ukrainian politicians rolled together. Leonid Kuchma demonstrated tremendous political activity in this extreme situation, he managed to attract to his side many potential opponents. To all his interlocutors he said what they wanted from him, giving out promises hard or impossible to fulfil, but he won the time. In future, he hoped, there will be some ways to explain failures. So he issued the decrees on the land reform, on the freedom of the press, promised the warriors of the UPA to acknowledge them as a warring side, supported the former political prisoners, made some steps for reunification of Orthodox churches and so on and so forth. Even the visit of the Pope became another political victory of the President.

As a result, our servile ‘respectful society’ pacified itself with the version about the intrigues of enemy special services and preferred to ignore the questions, which still have no convincing answers. Do Leonid Kuchma and other top authorities have a finger in the disappearance of Georgiy Gongadze? Are special services used to fight the opposition and the press, and in which specific ways? What are the grounds to accuse the President and his camarilla of corruption and stealing the national property? Who and what is our political elite, and is the style of communication of the top authorities is so vulgar? It is difficult to hide from all these somber questions, they are braking our progress as lead weights, impeding our life and work. Being the chairman of a public human rights protection organization I cannot make myself, although it happens to be necessary, to write to the President, who, according to Article 102 of the Ukrainian Constitution, is a guarantor of citizens’ rights and freedoms. With some effort I make myself write the word ‘President’ with a capital letter. But after all my reactions are not so important. The more important question is: what are we, what is our society, may we respect ourselves, if we stand our government without convincing ourselves that it not involved in crimes? The more so that the very course of investigating Gongadze’s case is increasing doubts. And the indefatigable major throws in new accusations, thus increasing convictions of some people in criminality and immorality of the top authorities and convictions of other people that the operation of mysterious foes to discredit Ukraine is going on.

The mentioned questions and many similar ones must be answered. That is why both the supporters and the opponents of the President try to attract independent experts. Yet, in my opinion, the expertises like the one conducted by the private agency ‘Kroll’ (by order of the party ‘Trudiva Ukraina’) only discredit the President because its conclusions are very doubtful. What is the convincing force of one of the arguments: Kuchma refused from critical remarks ascribed to him, whereas the experts did not manage to meet with the other participants of the recorded talks; moreover, the President asserts that the fragments of his speech were taken out of context and concatenated, and there no witnesses, who can refute him. On the other hand, nobody can confirm his arguments. Taras Chornovil, Mikhail Sirota and others recognized their voices on the cassettes, and the President confirmed the authenticity of the fragments by saying that he has ‘similar vocabulary’. This means that at least some part of Melnichenko’s records is genuine! So, the problem remains unsolved: either the entire record is genuine, or it is a mixture of genuine and faked parts.

Since it has become clear that a technical expertise of the cassettes cannot solve the problem, the most adequate method from the legal point of view is, in my opinion, an independent parliamentary investigation to check the events mentioned in the records. The special parliamentary commission must get the broadest rights (the scarcity of the rights was the reason of the failure of the previous commission headed by Aleksandr Lavrynovich). This investigation shall not remain any questions unanswered, and the report on the investigation must be made public. Leonid Kuchma is the one, who must interested in such course of events most of all, since it is the only way to prove his innocence in the disappearance of Georgiy Gongadze and in other crimes, of which he is accused together with some other top authorities. On the contrary, his resistance to the investigation will increase the suspicions. On the whole, an independent parliamentary investigation is a dignified way out of the scandalous situation as to the image of Ukraine abroad, since there independent parliamentary investigations are common practices. Here is one example. When in 1989 it became accidentally known that Switzerland police wiretapped the telephone of an advocate, a so-called ‘catalogue scandal’ burst out. The special parliamentary commission was created that found out that the political police compiled for decades dossiers of opposition MPs, journalists, trade union leaders and human rights protectors by wiretapping their telephones. There were several thousands of such dossiers. Then the parliament adopted the special law on wiretapping and some documents stipulating the control over the police actions and informing people, whose telephones were tapped about the tapping, if it appeared that the suspicions were untrue.

One of the objects of the suggested parliamentary investigation must be using by the executive power the law-enforcing organs, such as the Ministry of Interior, USS, prosecutor’s office, tax militia and the like. Even the small part of the records that was published gives a lot of food for ruminating. I personally am most interested in the existence of secret special services, whose activities are not regulated by laws adopted by the Parliament, and who, according to Melnichenko’s version, execute special tasks, such as physical extermination of disagreeable people (remember a voice on the tape: ‘I have such a department, there are no moral considerations in their methods’?). The existence of such organs in a state, which pronounced itself as democratic, civilized and law-abiding, is absolutely impermissible. Nonetheless, such organs were sometimes created in some countries (e.g., Spain), and the Byelorussian President is still blamed for having killed his political opponents. Unfortunately, even the short 10-year existence of our country gives grounds to suspect such that secret services existed before and, possibly, exist now; that they carried and carry out secret operations inadmissible in a law-abiding state and impermissible for legally acting security services. Many rumors are circulating in the country about this, and many rumors seem quite plausible. I would like to mention some of them as examples of what the parliamentary commission must investigate. I understand that the examples need additional confirmation, but I believe that I must give the examples, since the problem is extremely important.

1. When the program ‘Clean hands’ for fighting the corruption was adopted, the secret department was created, whose task was fighting organized crime in the law-enforcing organs. It happened in the brief period of friendship of the President with Grigoriy Omelchenko, who allegedly headed this department. No legal acts to regulate the work of department were adopted, it seems, the department was appended to the General Prosecutor’s office. This information was obliquely confirmed by a criminal case considered in the Kharkov. In this case our organization defended the accused K., who disarmed a drunken man. The latter, waving his gun, demanded some special brand of beer from a frightened salesgirl. The drunken man appeared to be an USS colonel C., who later complained that he was beaten and his service gun was taken away. During the trial it became clear that the department, where C. served was disbanded. C. carried a service gun and the invalid USS ID that he handed back to the Kharkov Group for human rights protection directorate only after this accident. According to the reference from the saving bank, C. was a pensioner since his department was disbanded. Being asked by the judge how C. could manage to get salary being a pensioner, C. answered that he worked in a secret unit, which fights the organized crime, and that he ‘gets pension instead of salary’. We requested the USS Directorate in charge of personnel about the existence of such unit. The answer read that there exist no parallel organizations, unmentioned by Ukrainian laws, which fight the organized crime. Contrariwise, the commander of C.’s department, placed in Kharkov at a quite definite address and having a service car, declared to the judge that his unit was secret and was subordinated to the General Prosecutor’s office. The General Prosecutor’s office, being requested by the court about C.’s job, gave no answer at all.

2. For the first time I learned about the existence of state killers in summer 1998 from the interview of Sergey Golovaty, the former Minister of Justice, given to radio ‘Liberty’. Several weeks later there was an attempt at the life of well-known opposition political figure Sergey Odarych. Odarych declared that he had no ties with business and that there exist only one opponent, who would profit from his killing – President Kuchma. According to my observations, this statement did not cause any reaction of the authorities and the society, no comments or refutations followed. On 24 October 1998, speaking at the seminar in Kharkov, at the National institute of interior, devoted to the 50 thanniversary of the Universal Declaration of human rights, where several MPs and other well-informed persons were present, I mentioned this example and told that a convincing refutation of this statement must be made, otherwise Ukraine may be considered as a police state. I remember quite well that the seminar presidium and the audience were embarrassed, but nobody raised an objection. In the lobby one of the MPs told me that a libel case was started against S. Golovaty, but later I heard nothing about this criminal case.

3. In the 7 thand 8 thextracts from the first published fragment of major Melnichenko’s records one can hear voices similar to those of President Kuchma and Leonid Derkach, the then head of the USS. They speak about opposition editions, in particular, about the newspaper published in Kremenchug by Grigoriy Omelchenko with caricatures of the President. Among other things it was said: ‘Do not you know the proper methods, applied throughout the world?’ and ‘Then what, cannot the security service together with the prosecutor’s office start a criminal case?’ They meant the Kremenchug weekly ‘Informational bulletin’, which supports G. Omelchenko and strictly opposes Leonid Kuchma. Indeed, the newspaper underwent strong pressure. There was an attempt to start a criminal case against the newspaper, printing shops, one after another, not only in the Poltava oblast, but also in the neighboring regions and the capital, refused to print the bulletin. As Tamara Prosianik, the editor-in-chief of the weekly, affirmed, she was permanently tailed, her phone was wiretapped, and the entire run of the 39 thissue of the bulletin was confiscated from a Kyivan printing shop by USS officers. Frankly speaking, I did not believe Tamara Prosianik at first, since her accusations of the USS looked quite fantastic. Yet, I had an opportunity to be convinced, when the next run of the weekly was also confiscated by USS officers in the same fashion, but in another place. Certainly, these episodes should be investigated.

It should be noted that nowadays both parliamentary and non-parliamentary control over the legality of activities of the USS and other law-enforcing organs is extremely weak, and it remains to hope for the personal qualities of the heads of these organs. We shall hope that now, when Vladimir Radchenko, who tried his best not to meddle the USS into political struggle, returned to his post, the security service will act according to laws.

To sum up, it is difficult to give an unambiguous answer to the question of the heading. The society is split: the majority, caring about their personal prosperity and relative freedom, prefer not to notice the persecutions of the President’s opponents, the minority, in its turn, does not want to put up with it. Yet, both the opposition, as well as the President, does not want to use laws, it prefers to use political technologies, its activities are frequently senseless and destructive. The opposition’s motto is the Voltaire’s appeal: ‘Crush the serpent!’, but the present status quo is determined not only with personal qualities of Leonid Kuchma. In my opinion, the main task of the society must become the change of the present political and legal system, the main principles of which are irresponsible behavior and absence of control, which makes possible to grow monsters out of political leaders. Yet, the change of the political and legal system only will not be worthwhile, until we understand that our main enemy sometimes are we ourselves, and that the moral and transparent policy must become the everyday routine. Only then, I think our society will have the right to be called respectful.


Leaders’ school for human rights protecting NGOs.

On 25-28 October the Kharkiv human rights protection group (KhG, in what follows) prepared and held the Leaders’ school for activists of human rights protecting NGOs. The school was endorsed by the Program of the European Union in the framework of the program of micro-projects of the European initiative of development of democracy and human rights protection in the Central and Eastern Europe, CIS and Mongolia. This is the second similar school held in the current year. The first one was held with the support of the National Endowment for Democracy (USA) in June, 2001. The KhG already has a noticeable experience of such activities. So, in 1996 and 1997 seminars of regional human rights protection groups of Ukraine were held, where human rights protection activists could perfect their knowledge, exchange their experience and agree on cooperation. For the first time similar seminar was organized by the KhG as early as in 1992.

The announcement about the School, its agenda and the participant’s application form were distributed in the beginning of September among readers of the bulletin ‘Prava ludyny’, placed on the web-site of the KhG and in the electron bulletin of the NGO ‘Gurt’. We received 367 applications for the participation in the School. The applications were received by fax, e-mail and snail-mail. We had to decide the question of selecting 50 participants. This was a difficult choice, since the need of enlightening NGO activists is very urgent. First, we rejected the applications of those pretenders, who had already taken part in the KhG School, secondly, we declined the applications from those, who are not members of NGOs, thirdly, we did not accept the applications of the members of those NGOs, which do not regard human rights protection as a dominating task. Yet, even after this primary selection more than 200 applications remained. The cooperation with human rights protection groups, which work in small towns or villages, is the top priority task for the KhG. So, we preferred to satisfy the applications from the members of such organizations first of all. However, we had another task: to provide the communication of well-experienced human rights protection workers with novices. That is why, after long and sometimes hot discussions the KhG Council made the final choice. In our opinion, the choice was successful. Various regions of Ukraine, small towns and the capital were represented. Along with members of the organizations, which try to make their first steps, the activists of well-known NGOs were present. All age groups were represented as well. All the participants are members of the registered NGOs, in whose statute the human rights protection is defined as the main direction of the work. Only one exception was made: the head of the NGO (from the settlement of Zachepilivka of the Kharkiv oblast), which is just being registered, was invited. The exception was made because not a single human rights protection organization is registered in Zachepilivka, and the only advocate, who had there a consulting office, died this year. When the participants list was already compiled and approved, the KhG got a phone from Crimean advocates, whoa asked to permit them to attend the School at their own account. Certainly we agreed.

We believe that the agenda of the School appeared attractive for a large number of people, since, along with theoretical questions, the agenda included discussions, exchange of experience, as well as purely practical questions of fund-raising, which are infrequent in agendas of seminars for NGOs, especially free seminars.

All participants of the School got a package of literature published by the KhG: ‘International instruments of human rights protection’, ‘Orison reform: search and achievements’, ‘Turning to the European Court of human rights’, ‘Observance of human rights in Ukraine in 1999’, ‘Observance of human rights in Ukraine in 2000’, ‘International cooperation of Ukraine in the legal sphere’, ‘Against torture’ in two volumes, collection of the essays of the participants of the 5 thall-Ukrainian competition ‘Human rights: my own opinion’, ‘The European Court of human rights. Decisions concerning Ukraine’, collection of the UNO brochures ‘Human rights. Presentation of facts’, International Bill on human rights, the European Convention on the protection of human rights and basic freedoms, the Convention in children rights, all issues of the KhG bulletin ‘Freedom of speech and privacy’ for 2000-2001. The following materials were printed specially for the School: article by E. Zakharov ‘What is human rights protection?’, an example of monitoring of the freedom of access to information in the possession of the organs of executive power and local self-rule, as well as the following instructions for training in fund-raising: ‘Ten commandments of fund-raising’, ‘What to do and what not to do in relations with sponsors’, ‘Principles of preparing claims for financing projects of human rights protecting NGOs’, format of the claim, addresses of the funds that work in Ukraine.

The agenda of the School were fulfilled completely. The lectures on the following topics were delivered: ‘Conception of human rights’, ‘What is human rights protection?’, ‘Sources of the Ukrainian constitutionalism’, ‘Protection of human rights in court under the conditions of the new judicial system’, ‘Application of international instruments of human rights protection by NGOs’, ‘Protection of human rights by NGOs. Public reception offices’, ‘The Ukrainian Constitution in modern context’, ‘Basic hints on fund-raising’, ‘How to prepare a project’, ‘Internal management. Preparation of reports’. One hour for discussing was envisaged after each lecture. As always the speeches and remarks of Vsevolod Rechitskiy, an assistant professor from the National Juridical Academy of Ukraine, the KhG constitutional expert, were bright. Some Kharkiv activists, who were not participants of the School, came to hear his lectures.

Many topics for discussion in some sections interested the participants. Some people were at a loss, since they had to choose only two sections, while they wanted to participate in all. So, the information on the results of discussions in the sections was of a great interest.

Certainly, the training in fund-raising was interesting to everybody. Most of recently registered NGOs have no financing at all or it is obviously insufficient. After the theoretical debates some real projects were discussed and some test claims were compiled.

The School was described in mass media. So, the Kharkiv TV-channel ‘Simon’ informed about the beginning of the School in TV news. Some participants described their impressions in various regional editions.

The School participants filled in the questionnaires, where they assessed the organization, the level of lectures and practical training, expressed their wishes and gave proposed the measures for improving such actions.

The question ‘Were your expectation about the School satisfied?’ most of the participants answered positively, only one answer was negative. Most of the participants were satisfied with the format of the School, with the level of organization and the quality of lectures. Many respondents indicated topics of lectures, which they were willing to hear in future.

Taking into account the wishes of the participants of the previous School, an excursion around the city was organized.

All the participants got certificates of attending the School

The KhG plans to hold the similar School next year, taking into account the shortcomings of the present attempt. Upon the whole, we believe that such forms of enlightenment for NGO members must become regular. We plan to organize more special seminars for getting more profound knowledge in separate branches of human rights protection.

Deported peoples

25 years to the Ukrainian Helsinki Group.

The jubilee of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group (UHG) that was celebrated on 8-10 November of this year in Kyiv is an event simultaneously joyful and sad. Not only I got this impression, but all other present at the celebration members of the Kharkov Group (KhG), which was one of the organizers of the meeting.

On 8 November a press conference was held in the building of the informational press center for journalists of IREX ProMedia. Representatives of practically all nation-wide TV companies and many printed mass media gathered in the hall. The journalists communicated with Mykola Rudenko and Levko Lukyanenko, the founders of the UHG, Vasyl Ovsienko, a long-term prisoner of consciousness, Osip Zinkevich, a USA correspondent of the UHG, the manager of the publishing house ‘Smoloskyp’ (in 70sp-80s he was known under the penname Bogdan Klen), and Evhen Zakharov, the executive manager of the Kharkov Group for human rights protection. Ovsienko, Zakharov, Zinkevich and UHG member Josip Zisels were organizers of the celebration.

The journalists, mainly young people, were sitting in the hall side by side with old political prisoners. Some of them did prison terms counted in decades. The total prison term of 43 members of the UHG is more than 550 years. Such figures were unthinkable of in any other republic of the former Soviet Union. On the one hand, the reason was the extreme cruelty of the Ukrainian KGB, on the other hand – the intrepid courage and self-sacrifice of the UHG members. In fact the UHG members firmly knew that they would be arrested and convicted. Even those, who were ill and physically weak, for whom a prison term meant a death verdict – Marchenko, Stus, Tykhiy – entered the group without hesitation. They did it to inform the whole world the neither the freedom of speech, nor the freedom of public organizations, not the rights of national organizations existed in the USSR.

The UHG considered the problem of national and cultural rights as a basic one. The UHG members fought with russification, insisted on the right of free emigration from the USSR, protected rights of national minorities and ‘refuseniks’, mainly Jews, who wanted to go to Israel.

From the very beginning of the press conference it became obvious that our society is badly informed about what were the UHG tasks. The young journalists knew rather vaguely what the Group was doing. In between the young people the real heroes, veterans of the movement, were sitting, such as P. Sichko, B. Rebrik, V. Striltsiv, who spent the best years of their lives – youth and ripe age -- in prisons and concentration camps. The journalists tried to understand how the former members of the UHG influence the present state of human rights in Ukraine, they were interested in the attitude of the former dissidents to the present power. They vaguely understoof what was the role of the UHG in the creation of the independent Ukrainian state. The reason, maybe, was that, unlike the Moscow Helsinki Group that also celebrated its 25 thanniversary this May, the Ukrainian Helsinki Group stoped to be an acting organization. Many former UHG members went to politics, some part of them left political and public activities or joined other public human rights protecting organizations. So, Levko Lukyanenko and late NRU leader Viacheslav Chornovil became founders of the largest social-democratic parties, Myroslav Marynovich founded the Ukrainian section of Amnesty International, V. Ovsienko is an active member of the Kharkov human rights protecting Group, and so on. However, as an autonomous organization the UHG does not exist now. That is why every speaker at the conference evaluated the current situation in his own way. Many UHG members, such as M. and R. Rudenko, P. Rozumny, V. Ovsienko, answering the question of journalists, if they regard that the UHG achieved its goals, responded positively. Yes, they said, Ukraine exists as an independent state with democratic institutions and has the chance to develop into a full0fkedged European democracy. Other UHG members, such as Levko Lukyanenko and P. Sichko, sharply criticized the situation in the country, affirming that they had fought for quite another state and public order. The members of the group now have very different judgements and social status, so it is not surprising that the journalists could not come to similar conclusions about the opinions of the former UHG members.

In order to assist the public to learn more about the connection of the UHG with the modern times the seminar ‘Human rights in Ukraine: yesterday and today’ was organized on 9 November in the building of Kyivo-Mogylianska Academy. Nina Karpacheva, the Ukrainian ombudsperson, and representatives of Ukrainian public organizations, such as Amnesty International, International society of human rights, association ‘Zeleny svit’, KhG and others, took part in the seminar. Yet, both at the seminar and at the celebration devoted to the UHG jubilee (held in the same evening) the same phenomenon was observed: differences in the assessment of modern times, power and its officers, of the potential of the Ukrainian state.

The celebration held in Kyivan House of Teachers (former House of Central Rada) is an extraordinary event in our life. The hall with the capacity for 500 people, where once hetmans declared their edicts, was overcrowded. The UHG members, who could come to Kyiv, made speeches. They were 14 out of 29 members, who are still alive. Other 14 members died before the jubilee… Among them there were such figures as Valeriy Marchenko, Vasyl Stus, Oleksa Tykhiy, Yuri Litvin, tortured to death in Soviet concentration camps, Mykhaylo Melnik, who committed suicide after the confiscation of the 800-page manuscript in Ukrainian history and on the eve of inevitable arrest, Volodymir, the Holy Patriarch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyivan Patriarchy), who died under doubtful circumstances in summer of 1995, Viacheslav Chornovil, the acknowledged leader of national-democratic movement, who also perished under obscure circumstances and many others. Everybody felt that the UHG members are bright personalities today too, who are somehow pushed out by the modern establishment.

The portraits of the dead UHG members were exhibited on the stage. The meeting began with a one-minute silence for each of them. We understood that each original of the portraits is acutely needed by the modern Ukraine, which is so short now of bright, independent and active people. Those present were a few, who managed to survive under duress, although the communist authorities did everything possible to destroy them physically. 14 out of 29 is not so few, taking account of the fact that some former UHG members live abroad and others could not come because of bad health: old age, prisons, concentration camps and the hard life now did not add health to the former political prisoners. The most interesting were the speeches of Irina Senik, Petro Sicko, Petro Rozumny. I. Senik stayed in prisons and concentration camp for the total term of 34 years, P. Sichko – 15 years.

When these people spoke, the audience unconsciously stood up. Pretty words, as a rule, are worth little, but in this case I cannot say otherwise. We saw real heroes, so infrequent in our non-heroic life, they were so pure morally that the contrast between them and the rest of the audience was striking. That is a pity that not a single TV feature devoted to this action could not express this difference. The public got informed about the jubilee, but it hardly got the lesson of morals.

Each UHG member got commemorative medal from radio ‘Liberty’ and Amnesty International, commemorative diplomas from the publishing house ‘Smoloskyp’, a 4-volume collection of documents and materials of the UHG, published to the date by the KhG. The relatives of the late members got the same presents.

N. Karpacheva, present at the celebration, handed the commemorative address and her first report (the book devoted to the state of observation and protection of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine) to Mykola and Raisa Rudenko.

Some speakers told that the authorities did not notice and did not celebrate the UHG jubilee (although MPs A. Matvienko, L. Taniuk and others were present at the meeting). However, it seems to me that if the authorities took part in the celebration, it would put the UHG members in a embarrassing position, since very few of the present assessed the current situation in Ukraine as positive. As we have said, the most positive evaluation was made by Rudenko and Rozumny: ‘Thanks God, the independent Ukraine exists, now we must make her such as we want and always wanted to see’.

If the celebration was supported by the authorities, that if would be even less comprehensible for the Ukrainian citizens, who could hardly understand for what purpose the group was created, what were its goals and tasks. Yet, the UHG jubilee did not pass unnoticed, and it is good! It is also good that people, who stayed in prisons together for years, could gather, recall the past and, on 10 November, visit the cemetery and to express their respect to those, who gave their lives for their convictions. Funeral prayers sounded in the Baykovo cemetery over the graves of Yuri Litvin, Oleksa Tykhiy, Vasyl Stus, Ivan Svitlychny, Viacheslav Chornovil and Oksana Meshko. Then the participants went to the village of Gatne to the grave of Valeriy Marchenko.

It is very sad that the history of the dissident movement in Ukraine, in particular the history of the UHG, has not yet become a part and parcel of the history of our people, which would be known, learned, on which the public thought could refer, which would form the public consciousness. Today the history of the dissident movement continues to be the history for a few, namely the Ukrainian intelligentsia. Yet, the maturity of a democratic state is determined by the proportion of its citizens, who know the history of their country.

“Prava Ludiny” (human rights) monthly bulletin, 2001, #11