Despite publicly declaring its commitment to international law and European standards, Ukraine's state policy in 2018 was de facto aimed at creating a ...
The human rights platform "Uspishna Varta" continues to report about the violation of civil and political rights and freedoms in Ukraine. The open aggression of right-wing radical groups against lawyers and journalists in a courtroom, the continuation of the systematic pressuring of independent media companies by the authorities and the new cases of the churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Western Ukraine being captured are all featured in the details in the review for September 24-30, 2018.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION
Attacks against civic "activists". On 27 September 2018 in Kiev, representatives of right-wing radical groups C14, Nazionalny Korpus and several liberal activists who supported the 2014 Euromaidan organized protests near the administration of president Poroshenko, demanding the investigation of attacks against civic activists. According to the protesters, there were over 50 such incidents, including the attack against Yekaterina Gandziuk in Kherson.
Earlier, the police detained suspected attackers of Oleg Mikhailik, head of Odessa branch of Syla Lyudei party; the attack took place on 22 September 2018. Former servicemen of Azov who are suspected of attacking Vitaly Ustimenko, head of Odessa branch of Avtomaidan, on 5 June 2018, were arrested by a court order. According to media reports, both suspects are former Azov servicemen AWOL, who became Nazionalny Korpus members
While the "activists" were protesting, US Embassy in Ukraine expressed its concern over numerous attacks against civic activists and called on the authorities to react properly. The statement was released through the Embassy's Twitter account.
At the same time, other attacks committed by the right-wing radical groups remain unnoticed. Thus, on 28 September 2018,representatives of C14 led by Yevgeniy Karas and Sergei Mazur (charged with organization of Roma camp pogrom in Kiev on 21 April 2018) beat lawyer Andrey Gozhiy and local journalist Andrey Loktionov in Korolevsky courtroom in Zhitomir during the hearing of the case of Ukrainian journalist Vasily Muravitsky, defended by Mr. Gozhiy. More details here. We also recommend viewing the full video of the events in the Zhitomir court.
It should be reminded that Mr. Muravitsky was detained by SBU on 2 August 2017 on the charges of treason, accessory to terrorism and infringement of territorial integrity, with possible sentence of up to 15 years of imprisonment. After 11 months in jail, on 27 June 2018 the court put him under full-time house arrest. At the court session of 28 September the prosecution was to demonstrate experts whose conclusions led to charges of treason for the journalist. However the experts failed to appear in court, again. The judge decided to extend the house arrest of Mr. Muravitsky for another two months. The next session is scheduled for 26 October 2018.
27 September will mark one year since journalist Pavel Volkov was placed in Ukrainian jail. For his professional activity he is charged under paragraph 2 Article 110 (infringement of territorial integrity of Ukraine by a group of people) and Article 258-3 (miscellaneous accessory to terrorism) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The judges extend his pre-trial custody every two months citing the absence of alternative pre-trial measures for these articles of the Criminal Code. The hearing of his case scheduled for 25 September 2018 was cancelled due to judge's sickness. The hearing of Volkov's case was postponed indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the term of journalist's pre-trial custody expires on 25 October 2018 and, unless the judge recovers by that date, there is a risk that the hearing will restart with a new judicial assembly. The journalist remains in jail, his health rapidly deteriorating. More details about Volkov`s case here.
Another judge's sickness caused the cancellation of the hearing of the case of murder of Ukrainian journalist and publicist Oles Buzina, scheduled for 26 September 2018. The defendants - C14 representatives Andrey Medvedko and Denis Polischuk - and their lawyers failed to appear in court. The next session is scheduled for 23 October 2018. It should be reminded that Oles Buzina was a publicist known for his criticism of the government who was shot on 16 April 2015 in his courtyard in Kiev. The defendants are charged with "premeditated murder by a group of individuals in collusion" and "illegal possession of firearms" with maximum penalty of 15 years or life in prison.
Kirill Vyshinsky, Chief Editor of RIA Novosti Ukraina remains in Kherson jail. On 26 September 2018, the journalist was not brought to a court for a hearing of his appeal. The hearing was rescheduled for 2 October. The journalist's lawyer stated that the conditions of custody of Kirill Vyshinsky in Kherson jail would amount to torture in civilized nations; there are no window glasses in cells and interrogation rooms. In view of falling temperatures and worsening weather, the chances of becoming sick become much higher. It should be reminded that Kirill Vyshinsky was arrested on 15 May 2018 on charges of treason (Article 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine), with maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. On 25 September 2018 SBU reported that the investigation of Vyshinsky case was complete. The materials of the case are being prepared for submission to the court.
The systematic pressure on the independent media companies by the government continues. On 20 September 2018 Maxim Burbak, leader of Narodny Front parliamentary faction, speaking from the parliamentary tribune, demanded from SBU to investigate information made public by Espresso TV channel (the channel is close to Narodny Front) regarding alleged financing of NewsOne TV channel by Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. Later on, it turned out that the "investigation" by Espresso channel was based on a tip-off from a subscriber of YouTube channel of media expert Anatoly Sharij. The information received by Espresso channel was totally fake; it was an orchestrated prank. The journalists of the channel didn't verify it and made it public. Yevgeniy Muraev, Ukrainian politician and previous owner of NewsOne, sued Espresso channel and Maxim Burbak for their "investigation" of NewsOne financing.
The statements by government representatives regarding the independent channel cause a wave of aggression against its journalists and endanger them physically. As we reported earlier, on 17 September 2018 NewsOne journalist Darina Bilera was attacked; the prosecutor's office ultimately brought charges against right-wing activist Yelena Slyusar who hit the journalist while she was covering the event live, but only considerable public outcry and numerous requests of the lawyers.
Law enforcement agencies put pressure on the channel as well. According to an official letter published in the press, SBU views several statements by NewsOne hosts as "cliches of the Russian propaganda" that "may contain indications of "tacit call for aggressive actions"". The security service listed such expressions as "party of war", "party of peace" and "Russia protects its interests". A representative of SBU also claimed that he heard expressions "fratricidal war", "mechanism of schism of Orthodoxy" and "the world doesn't recognize Russia as aggressor" in the broadcast, aimed at the implementation of the"destructive moods" in the society.
Against the background of the general situation related to NewsOne TV channel, human rights activists are also seriously concerned with bill #9068 registered in the parliament by representatives of government factions. The bill contains a prohibition for TV and radio broadcasters to "broadcast statements justifying or recognizing as legitimate the occupation of the territory of Ukraine, provided that such broadcast aims at incitement of enmity or hatred". If adopted, the bill will authorize the National TV and Radio Broadcasting Council to impose fines and, subsequently, to withdraw licenses from TV and radio for calls for violent change of constitutional order of Ukraine, unleashing of aggressive war or its propaganda and/or incitement of ethnic, racial and religious enmity or hatred etc. Human rights campaigners are concerned with virtually unlimited opportunities to press and even close TV and radio companies targeted by the government, including NewsOne channel, vested with the National Council in case of passing of the bill. More detailed analysis of bill #9068 can be found here.
Limitations of freedom of speech and opinion are imposed not only on media companies, but also on individual users of social media.Thus, a resident of Melitopol received 3 years in prison for reposting a publication named "South East, follow me to Russia" in Vkontakte social network. The defendant fully admitted her guilt in court. The court sentenced her under paragraph 1 Article 111 (dissemination of materials calling for wilful acts to change the borders of Ukraine's territory in violation of the procedure established by the Constitution of Ukraine) of the Criminal Code. As Uspishna Varta human rights activists noted earlier, defendants charged under "separatist" articles for posts and reposts mostly recognize their guilt fully. The frequency of inducement to plea agreements leads to opinion that the prosecution simply has no evidence to prove the charges in court. According to SBU, 388 so-called "perpetrators" related to administering and moderation of "anti-Ukrainian" Internet resources were detained by the end of 2017.
Last week, the State Concern for Radio Broadcasting, Radio Communication and TV switch off analog broadcasting of the "UA:Pershy" Public TV and Radio Company of Ukraine because of debts. It is reported that 220 million UAH are critically missing until the end of 2018. "UA:Pershy" broadcasts "Schemy" anti-corruption investigations show. Harlem Désir, theOSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, called on the Ukrainian government to restore the broadcast of the TV company urgently, fully and in all regions of the country, as well as to ensure proper funding of the company's operations.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION AND PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY
On 26 September 2018, representatives of Nazionalny Korpus group broke into the office of Rozumna Syla political party in Pokrovsk (Donetsk Oblast) and wreaked havoc. The party reports that about a hundred representatives of the group tore a party banner, bashed office equipment and set ablaze party documents. Following that, they went to the house of the party branch leader, shouting threats and obscenities. His pregnant wife was inside the house at the moment. Earlier, on 6 July 2018, a meeting of regional representatives of the party in Kiev was attacked by C14 "activists". Attacks by right-wing groups against opposition political forces have become systematic in the last four years, as the radicals' actions remain unpunished and none of them has been brought to justice yet.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
The Right Sector representatives seized the Holy Trinity Church of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Bogorodchany village, Ivano-Frankivsk Oblast on 28 September 2018, injuring two parishioners. During the attack, the attackers broke doors and windows, and, having broken into the building, inflicted bodily damage to believers. According to the information from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, one man got brain concussion, another'sarm was broken. Archpriest Vladimir Shuvar, vicar of the church, suffered from the attackers' actions as well.
On September 29 the appointee of the Svyato-Uspenskaya Pochayev Lavra (Ternopol region) Metropolitan Vladimir, against the background of the capture of the church in Subcarpathia, appealed to all Orthodox Christians to help to protect the Lavra. "Taking into account the situation that has developed, the information that we have, and the threats of punishment that are still being spread, it is seen that we will have to endure something," he noted. More details here.
Earlier, on 26 September 2018, Metropolitan Onufriy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and several other priests of the canonical Orthodox church were listed at Myrotvorets website. The Facebook page of the scandalous resource strongly advised the priests to leave Ukraine.
HATE SPEECH, XENOPHOBIA AND DISCRIMINATION
An attack against vehicles of staff and management of Rossotrudnichestvo [Russian Cooperation] took place in Kiev. "Activists" from radical groups tore off license plates and poured several buckets of feces on cars belonging to Russian diplomats, including the car of Rossotrudnichestvo head Constantine Vorobiev. These attacks by "activists" can be qualified as group hooliganism under paragraph 2 Article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The Russian Embassy in Ukraine stated on 28 September 2018 that patrol police and National Guard officers who arrived at the scene watched the incident silently and without any interference. The Embassy said they "expect from the Ukrainian Side a public condemnation of that barbarian behavior".
MONITORING OF HUMAN RIGHTS CASES
Yefremov case. Hearings of the case of politician Alexander Yefremov continued at Starobelsk Court of Lugansk Oblast. The politician was arrested on 30 July 2016 and has been kept in Starobelsk jail ever since. Yefremov is charged with treason, infringement of territorial integrity, creation of a terrorist organization and seizure of government buildings. In his interview to Uspishna Varta human rights campaigners, Mr. Yefremov said that the case against him was formed overnight. The case includes materials from absolutely different cases unrelated to charges against Mr. Yefremov.
Later, the author of this interview and the representative of the "Legal Control of Ukraine" organisation Artur Zhurbenko reported that on the night of September 29 unknown persons burned his house in the Zhytomyr region. The police qualified this case as arson. The journalist links this incident to his recent investigation into the property of the judge Aleksandr Pelikh involved in the case of Aleksandr Efremov.
Savchenko-Ruban case On 25 September 2018, investigating judge of Shevchenkovsky district court in Kiev turned down the prosecutor's request to limit the terms of familiarization with materials of the case by Vladimir Ruban and Nadezhda Savchenko. The hearing took place in the absence of Mr. Ruban's lawyer, which is a grave violation of the Criminal Procedure Code of Ukraine.
General Schegolev case. Hearing of the case of SBU Major General Alexander Schegolev continued on 25 September 2018 atShevchenkovsky district court in Kiev. He is charged with illegal obstruction of peaceful assemblies, meetings and rallies, and with abuse of power during the eventsof February 2014. Two victims were interrogated during the session, but their testimonials contradicted the essence of charges, as they didn't know anything about the defendant. The Schegolev case lists 136 victims; in the three years of hearings, only 21 of them have been interrogated by the court. More information about this case here.
Freedom of Speech and Opinion in Ukraine: Threats and Opportunities side event was organized by Uspishna Varta on 11 September 2018. The event took place in the framework of the annual Human Dimension Implementation Meeting (HDIM), held by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) in Warsaw between 10 and 21 September 2018.
Full text of the side event speakers in English is already available on our website. We recommend it to better understanding the situation with human rights in Ukraine.
The attack of C14 on a lawyer in the courtroom, pressure on NewsOne TV channel, the capture of churches in Western Ukraine. Review of Violations of Civic and Political Rights in Ukraine. 24-30 September 2018
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