Political and civil rights in Ukraine. Monitoring compliance in 2018

In 2018, the trends in systematic violations of politicaland civil rights and freedoms persisted in Ukraine. Against the background of the military conflict in the East of the country, measures to limit rights were justified by the political leadership of the state by referring to the need to combat Russian aggression and separatism within the state. In fact, this restriction was aimed primarily at the political opponents of the current government, as well as organizations and social groups that broadcast alternative views and values in relation to the current government.

According to the results of monitoring in 2018, the "Uspishna Varta" human rights platform recorded 197 cases of violations of political and civil rights and freedoms.

Political and civil rights in Ukraine. Monitoring compliance in 2018

Report “Political rights and freedoms in Ukraine: Monitoring compliance in 2018” from Правозащитная платформа «Успішна варта»


In 59% of recorded cases (116) the right to freedom of speech and opinion was violated; in 54 cases (27%) - the right to association and peaceful assembly; and in 27 cases (14%) – the right to freedom of conscience and religion.

Journalists, bloggers, and individual media companies (46% of all cases), as well as public activists, human rights defenders (18%), political parties (13%), and religious organizations and communities (12%) remain the most vulnerable to violations of their rights in Ukraine. It should be emphasized that the facts and cases of the rights of journalists and the media being violated are, as a rule, widely covered in the media space. But other categories of persons whose rights have been violated either do not have the opportunity to make such cases public or prefer not to do so.

In 32% of recorded cases (62) rights were violated as a result of the activities of right-wing radical groups, such as C14, National Corpus, and Bratstvo. In these cases, law enforcement bodies are also responsible for their inaction and/or lack of response towards these offences In 26% of cases (52), the violation of rights was caused by the actions of law enforcement bodies themselves (Security Service, Prosecutor's Office, police).

In the regional aspect, more than half of all violations were recorded in Kiev (101 cases), as well as in Odessa (23), Dnepr (17) and Lvov (8).

Under the aegis of the fight against "Russian hybrid aggression", the Ukrainian Parliament during the year considered legislative initiatives aimed at restricting freedom of speech and opinion (extrajudicial blocking of online resources, fines and deprivation of licenses for TV and radio channels, blocking the work of media agencies by law enforcement bodies). In practice, the mandatory language quotas for the Ukrainian language on television and radio were implemented. Significant restrictions for the media can also be introduced in the event that the "language law", which obliges the print media to publish exclusively in the Ukrainian language, is adopted at the second reading.

Deputies adopted draft laws that significantly limit the right to freedom of conscience and discriminate against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC). However, the law on peaceful assemblies and the electoral code, which would ensure observance of the right to peaceful assembly and the right to political participation, respectively, have not been adopted in four years.

The Security Service of Ukraine and law enforcement bodies continue to apply the so-called "separatist articles" of the Criminal Code (state treason, aiding and abetting terrorism, overthrowing the constitutional system) against journalists, bloggers, participants of peaceful assemblies, representatives of opposition parties, organizations, and even ordinary users of social networks expressing an alternative position on the political and social situation in the state. In 2018, these articles also started to be applied to the clergy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. At the same time, the official Ukrainian government does not recognize the existence of political prisoners in the state who were detained and/or convicted for their political views and stance (journalists R. Kotsaba, V. Muravitsky, D. Vasilets and E. Timonin, P. Volkov, K. Vyshinsky, etc.).

In 2018, there was a high level of intolerance at the social level. Numerous and systematic acts of physical violence and threats made by ultra-right groups against individuals and organizations belonging to independent media agencies, political parties, and public organizations possessing an alternative ideology and value paradigm, as well as the religious communities of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and ethnic minorities (Romani) were recorded.

Law enforcement bodies do not obstruct, but even encourage extreme right-wing groups. According to experts and the public statements of representatives of the most right-wing radical groups, they coordinate their activities with the Security Service of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

High-profile murders of journalists and politicians (O. Buzina, P. Sheremet), committed by representatives of these groups, among others, remain uninvestigated or disproportionately lenient court sentences are passed. There has been no significant progress in ensuring accountability for grave human rights violations during the killing of Maidan protesters and the 2nd May 2014 violence in Odessa.

Despite the numerous notes of protest of world human rights and journalistic organizations, the website "Mirotvorets" still functions under the informal auspices of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, publishing the personal data of Ukrainian and foreign journalists, political and public figures, lawyers, and representatives of religious communities who are regarded by the authorities as ideological opponents.

As a result of legislative decisions, government practices, and the activities and acts of inaction by the Security Service and law enforcement bodies, the principle of pluralism of opinions and political competition, which are the most important basis for democratic foundations of society, is jeopardized. With its statements and state policy, the Ukrainian authorities are fuellinghate speech, intolerance of dissent, xenophobia, and interfaith conflict in society.

These trends threaten constitutional democracy, the rule of law and inclusiveness, and may lead to a narrowing of the democratic/civil and political space throughout Ukraine. Given the fact that the 2019 parliamentary and presidential elections are nearing, it is extremely important to increase the attention that the Ukrainian and international community is paying to the situation with respect to political rights and freedoms being the most important basis for the functioning of the democratic system in Ukraine.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO PROTECT THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION

To ensure the right to freedom of speech and opinion, enshrined in Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine, as well as Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the State of Ukraine should adopt the following measures.

  • Remove from the agenda of the parliament a number of legislative acts that , if adopted, can become a tool for the government to put additional pressure on independent media outlets. In particular, draft laws No. 6688 and No. 9725, which stipulate the extrajudicial blocking of online resources; draft laws No. 9139 and No. 9200, which introduce the concept of the “Russian world” and the “imperial ideology of the aggressor state” in Ukraine, etc. The introduction of a moratorium on media checks during the 2019 presidential election campaign.
  • Require the National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting to be guided by objective criteria when deciding on imposing fines and media licensing, and not by political expediency;
  • Stop the Security Service of Ukraine and other law enforcement bodies interfering in the work of editorial boards and journalists for the purpose of censoring materials and voiced opinions.
  • Require law enforcement bodies to apply the provisions of anti-separatist legislation strictly in accordance with the obligations of states under paragraph 1 of article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and not to use it to stifle or criminalise oppositional opinions or criticism.
  • Abandon the practice of deporting and banning the entry of foreign journalists in Ukraine, regulated by the decisions of the National Security and Defence Council and implemented by the Security Service of Ukraine, which is a violation of Ukraine’s international obligations in the field of human rights.
  • Recognise the existence of political prisoners in Ukraine and stop the persecution of those whose cases are in the courts or at the stage of pre-trial investigation; promote the amnesty and rehabilitation of already convicted political prisoners.Recognise the existence of political prisoners in Ukraine and stop the persecution of those whose cases are in the courts or at the stage of pre-trial investigation; promote the amnesty and rehabilitation of already convicted political prisoners.
  • Restore the right to freely exchange information and remove all restrictive measures, including bans and restrictions on the importation of Russian books, the broadcast of Russian films, and the entry of Russian actors, imposed by the Ukrainian parliament in 2015-2017. In order to restore freedom of speech and the exchange information on the Internet, the bans on access to social networks and online marketing introduced by the decrees of President Poroshenko in May 2017 and May 2018 should also be lifted.
  • Ensure a transparent, timely, and effective investigation into attacks on media editorial offices, journalists, and bloggers committed by right-wing groups and others.
  • Provide an immediate, effective, and impartial investigation into the activities of the “Mirotvorets” website and its leaders.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND WORLDVIEW

In accordance with its international human rights obligations, the state of Ukraine should not only ensure the right to profess religion and belief, but also take effective measures to ensure that no one is discriminated on the basis of religion or belief by the state, institutions, and group of persons or individuals.

In order to ensure the right to freedom of conscience and worldview, enshrined in Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine, Article 9 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the State of Ukraine should adopt the following measures:

  • Recognize as inadmissible the interference of state officials in the internal affairs of the church, which is not only separated from the state, but also has the right to maintain its status, includinglegal and canonical status. Stop actively putting political and administrative pressure on priests and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for the purpose of forcing them to accept the project of creating a local church..
  • Revise in parliament law 2662-VIII on changing the name of religious organizations due to it being discriminatory against one of the religious organizations in Ukraine (UOC). Refuse to consider draft laws No. 4128 (on changing the subordination of religious communities) and No. 4511 (on the special status of religious organizations), which directly violate Article 35 of the Constitution of Ukraine and the right of citizens to freedom of conscience and ideology.
  • Oblige the Ministry of Culture to provide the status of a legal entity within the time limits established by law and ensure the registration of changes to the charters of legal entities, including those established by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
  • Stop the process whereby the Ministry of Culture challenges the registration of the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (Kiev) and the Svyato-Uspensky Pochayev Larva (Ternopol region).
  • Stop the systematic exertion of pressure by the Security Service of Ukraine on the priesthood of the UOC in the form of carrying out searches and issuing summons for interrogation.
  • Stop putting pressure on UOC parishioners for the purpose of transferring religious buildings to the confession of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine of the Constantinople Patriarchate; implement court decisions on temples that have become the subject of a conflict between the UOC and the UOC-KP-UAOC, and then the OCU;
  • Protect parishioners and religious buildings of the UOC and other religious communities from the acts of vandalism and physical aggression of right-wing radical groups (“C14”, “Svoboda”, “Right Sector”, etc.), and conduct an objective investigation into the attacks based on documented facts.
  • Give a proper legal assessment of the hate speech and incitement of interfaith discord that is sounded by government officials, representatives of local authorities, and the mass media.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE PROTECTION OF THE RIGHT TO FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLIES AND ASSOCIATIONS

In order to respect the right to freedom of association, enshrined in articles 36-37 of the Constitution of Ukraine, as well as in Article 11 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the following measures should be taken:

  • Consider in Parliament and adopt a special law on peaceful assembly, taking into account the recommendations of the Venice Commission. The law should regulate such issues as guarantees of the right to spontaneous and peaceful assembly and to counter assembly; contain an exhaustive list of the grounds for limiting assemblies; stipulate the duty of the police to ensure the safety of participants in peaceful assemblies. An appropriate legal basis should also be created for the courts to consider issues related to the prohibition of assemblies and the application of administrative liability for violations of the procedure for holding peaceful assemblies;
  • Ensure, at the level of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, a transparent procedure and equal opportunities for registering political parties and public associations, regardless of their ideological position and attitude to the current Ukrainian government. Discrimination against certain parties and organizations during the application stage of this procedure for political reasons is unacceptable; withdraw the lawsuits of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine to ban a number of political parties since it is a disproportionate measure that significantly limits the right to freedom of association and freedom of speech;
  • Apply, at the level of security apparatus, the provisions of anti-separatist legislation strictly in accordance with the obligations of states under paragraph 1 of Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and not use them to stifle or persecute opposition parties and organizations, as well as participants of peaceful assemblies and rallies that express alternative views on issues of public policy and on the situation in the country.
  • Representatives of the prosecutor's office should, as soon as possible, complete its investigations and abandon the unmotivated detention of suspects during pre-trial investigations and court sessions in the so-called “dispersal of Maidan case” (article 430 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine);
  • The Ministry of the Interior and the National Police should ensure that law enforcement officers involved in maintaining order at public gatherings know and apply international human rights standards and take all necessary measures to ensure the security of such gatherings without discrimination, including those belonging to minority groups;
  • Give a proper legal assessment of the actions of right-wing paramilitary organizations and ensure an objective and comprehensive investigation into their activities. The existence of any paramilitary forces within parties and public organizations, in accordance with Article 37 of the Constitution of Ukraine, should be prohibited. Law enforcement bodies should stop cooperating with paramilitary groups: both public projects, including the “Munitsipalnaya Varta” project for the protection of public order, and tacit coordination of the exertion of pressure on other organizations and parties.
  • Conduct a thorough investigation and bring to justice those responsible for the attack on all public activists, including those whose views and opinions do not coincide with the ideological position of the authorities.

RECOMMENDATIONS TO PROTECT THE RIGHT TO PARTICIPATE IN POLITICAL LIFE

To ensure that Ukrainian citizens have the right to participate in political life, including the right to elect and to be elected, as well as the right to equal access to public service, which are guaranteed by Article 25 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 38 of the Constitution of Ukraine, the State of Ukraine should take the following measures:

  • Finalize the draft Electoral Code and complete the reform of the electoral system in order to harmonize electoral legislation governing the holding of all types of elections. The reform process must be inclusive and completed well in advance of the next elections. When drafting the Election Code the legislation should be brought in line with international obligations and good practice and take into account OSCE/ODIHR recommendations for lifting restrictions on the right to elect and be elected.
  • Consider and put to a vote in Parliament the draft law on ensuring that internally displaced persons have access to their electoral rights (No. 6240);
  • Consider appeals on the issue of compliance with the Constitution of the Law “On the purification of power”, the provisions of which are discriminatory against certain categories of citizens.
  • Quickly, independently, and impartially investigate cases of physical violence and threats against participants in the electoral process. Provide all campaigners with the opportunity to have equal access to voters without the threat of violence or punishment.

Download Political and civil rights in Ukraine. Monitoring compliance 2018.

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