Review of violations of civil and political rights in Ukraine

Attack on the transgender march in Kiev, a new law against the media, language patrols in Dnepr. Review of violations of rights. 12-18 November

The "Uspishna Varta" human rights platform continues to report about violations of civil and political rights and freedoms in Ukraine. Representatives of right-wing radical groups attacked the participants of a transgender march and journalists in Kiev, the Parliament plans to close media outlets for "terrorist activities", the government starts to challenge the transfer of the Pochayev Lavra of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church - the review for 12-18 November 2018 covers these and other events in detail.

FREEDOM OF PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION

On November 18, representatives of right-wing radical groups disrupted a march in defense of transgender people organised by Amnesty International Ukraine in the center of Kiev. During the event, which lasted only a few minutes, two protesters and three journalists were injured. Despite the presence of the police, the opponents of the march started to throw smoke bombs and spray gas canisters. Members of the organisation "Bratstvo" of Dmitry Korchinsky, "Tradition and Order," "Christian National Front", "Katehon", "Sisterhood of Saint Olga", and a few supporters of “C14” were seen among the opponents of the campaign. During the event the journalist from Canada Michael Colborne was hit in the face. The journalist from the “NewsOne” TV channel Bogdan Aminov and the correspondent from “Sharij.net” Antonina Beloglazova were also injured. The details can be found here.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION

People's deputies from the "Bloc of Petro Poroshenko" and "People's Front" factions registered in the Verkhovna Rada draft law No. 9725, which clarifies the concept of "terrorist activity". If the draft law is adopted, the authorities will be able to "legally" block the websites of Ukrainian media agencies that are suspected by law enforcement bodies of promoting "terrorist activities".

The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting appointed an unscheduled inspection of the “NASH” (Maksi-TV) TV channel, which was launched on November 7 by the opposition politician Evgeny Murayev. Earlier, on October 4, the Parliament voted for resolution No. 9157, which stipulates the introduction in the National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) of the issue of sanctions against the "NewsOne" TV channel, which previously belonged to Murayev, as well as channel “112”.

On November 2, in Kiev, unknown masked men broke into the premises of the Interfax-Ukraine information agency. The attackers said they were going to intervene in the press conferences on the topic “Corruption in Ukrainian football” until the speakers leave the agency. Employees of the news agency called the police. Earlier, on August 3, about 20 unknown persons attacked the “Ukrainski Novini” press center, also disrupting the press conference.

On November 16 the Korolevsky Court of Zhytomyr continued to study the evidence of the Prosecutor's Office concerning the case of the journalist Vasily Muravitsky. To prove the guilt of the journalist, the Prosecutor's Office showed a contract according to which Vasily Muravitsky was hired to work for a Russian publication. As a reminder, Muravitsky was detained by the SBU on August 2, 2017 on charges of treason, assisting terrorism, and infringing on territorial integrity. After spending 11 months in jail, on June 27, 2018, the court softened hismeasure of restraint to 24-hour house arrest. More information about the case can be read here.

On December 11 the appeal of the defense against the decision of the investigating judge to extend the period of detention of the journalist Kirill Vyshinsky will be considered. As a reminder, he was detained on May 15, 2018 in Kiev on suspicion of state treason and since then has been in jail without an alternative.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION

The situation with the process of providing autocephaly to a Ukrainian local Church is heating up. On November 13, President Poroshenko refused to attend the bishops' sobor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, insisting on the need for priests to come to a location that is convenient for him – the premises of the International Convention Center. After the members of the UOC sobor refused to do this, the police announced the beginning of the investigation into possible abuses in the transfer of the Pochayev Lavra to the use of the UOC. This is one of the three largest Lavras in Ukraine.

According to the Ternopol Prosecutor's Office, the fact of illegal actions being carried out by the state registrar, which, abusing its powers, implemented the state registration of the right to use the real estate of the Pochayev Lavra complex for the UOC, is being investigated in criminal proceedings. Simultaneously with the actions of the Prosecutor's Office, the representative of the Ministry of Culture appealed to the Ministry of Justice concerning the actions of the state registrar and demanded to cancel the decision on the state registration of the rights to the Pochayev Lavra.

DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA, AND HATE SPEECH

On November 15, the German Foreign Ministry protested against the introduction of former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder into the database of the Ukrainian "Mirotvorets" website. “We with all frankness condemn this list,” declared the German Foreign Ministry. “In the past, we have already brought our position to the Ukrainian side and insisted that the government of Ukraine contribute to the removal of this website. We're doing it right now.” In turn, “Mirotvorets” regarded the statement of the German Foreign Ministry on the need to close the website as “an attack on freedom of speech and an attempt to destroy evidence of Russian aggression against the people of Ukraine.”

In Dnepr so-called "language patrols", whose members are trying to fine citizens for talking in Russian, started to illegally operate. Thus, one of the videos shows a "patrolman" even offering to "drive to the district office" or "draw up a protocol". Videos of the events were published on the “gorsovet cite” YouTube channel. According to media reports, behind this initiative there is the people's deputy from the “Bloc of Petro Poroshenko” Andrey Denisenko. Recall that on October 4 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted linguistic draft law No. 5670-d at the first reading, according to which the Ukrainian language is approved as the only state language, and calls for multilingualism are considered to be the same as calling for a split in society. It also stipulates the creation of a National Commission for Ukrainian Language Standards and the post of the Commissioner for the Protection of the State Language.

The illegal actions and violence of so-called “activists” remains virtually unpunished both by the law enforcement bodies and the judicial system. The court acquitted 4 persons who are accused of beating up the former deputy of the Verkhovna Rada and former head of the State Forestry Committee Nikolay Shershun, and then throwing him into a dumpster during the so-called “garbage lustration” in December 2015 in Rovno. Then the "activists" pushed and hit the dumpster with the former deputy forcibly kept inside. All the defendants stated that on that day they simply walked around the Rovno Regional Council and watched the protest. Witnesses also could not indicate who exactly beat up the former deputy and put him in the dumpster, since the activists were in balaclavas. After taking into account the testimonies of witnesses and the lack of evidence, the court acquitted all defendants.

MONITORING HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

On 13 November, the Human Rights Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada, Lyudmila Denisova, said that 895 prisoners (470 from the Donetsk region and 425 from the Lugansk region) serving sentences in the prisons of the so-called "DPR" and "LPR" contacted her concerning a transfer to the territory controlled by Kiev, and Ukraine is ready to take them.

The topic of prisoner exchanges ("captives") within the framework of the Minsk process as a whole has today virtually disappeared from the public discourse. The last exchange that is known to the general public took place almost a year ago - December 27, 2017. It was held by the Ukrainian side on very questionable legal grounds and without the adoption of a special law on Amnesty. Based on the appeals of people and those cases that are available in open sources, the legal team of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform analysed the legal mechanism for the implementation of exchanges with the territories beyond the control of Ukraine that were held under the auspices of the Minsk Agreements in December 2017.

In most cases, the accused persons who went for an exchange simply had their measure of restraint changed without sentencing and their trial was thus ended. Moreover, such defendants were in Ukrainian detention centers for a long time without proof of their guilt, and for many the exchange was actually the only way to be released. As a result, those Ukrainians who were released from custody and went for an exchange with the DPR and LPR are legally under the jurisdiction of the Ukrainian court (declared as wanted) and have the status of an accused person (a suspect). And this means that if they return to the territory of Ukraine, they will be detained and arrested as persons who evade the court.

It is also necessary to pay attention to the following legal paradox.If several people were involved in the same case, but only one or several of them agreed to go for an exchange, then the accomplice who refused an "exchange" actually remains a hostage of the Ukrainian legal system. They are not released, but their case is not actually considered, and is constantly postponed on formal grounds. The cases of the doctor from Kharkov Igor Dzhadan and the resident of Bakhmut (Artemovsk) Nikolay Sidorenko are constantly being monitored by the "Uspishna Varta" human rights platform.

In order to resolve this issue a law on Amnesty should be adopted, but as is known, there is no political will to do this in the Ukrainian Parliament. Read more about the cases of Ukrainians who "disappeared" from the legal system here.

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The “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform continues to monitor the trials in cases involving national security and bearing political signs.

On November 9, a regular hearing of the Central District Court of Nikolaev concerning the defendants of the “May 2” case Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov was supposed to be held. The agenda included the interrogation of 10 prosecution witnesses, but the hearing did not take place due to the fact that Mefedov was not brought to the court. The hearing was postponed to November 21. As a reminder, Dolzhenkov and Mefedov are accused in the case of the organisation of the Odessa-Nikolaev rally on March 28, 2014. Prosecutors insist that via their participation in the rally they committed violent acts aimed at seizing and altering the territorial integrity of Ukraine (articles No. 109 and No. 110 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Dolzhenkov and Mefedov have been in a Ukrainian prison since May 2014. Read more about this case here.

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On November 13 the Kamenka-Bugsky district court of the Lvov region made the decision to leave the public activist Oleg Litvinenko in custody until November 28. The decision was made despite the fact that the accused is sick with Hepatitis-C and his health requires urgent medical intervention. According to the SBU, Litvinenko organised an unauthorised protest, during which about 200 people holding posters bearing the inscription "Poles are our brothers" blocked the road in the village of Gryada (Lvov region). Litvinenko has been in custody for more than 20 months, and legal proceedings concerning his case have not yet taken place. More about this case can be read here.

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On November 15, the Shevchenkovsky Court of Kiev, during a hearing on the case of General Aleksandr Shchegolev, heard the next 3 witnesses. Like before, these witnesses are not personally acquainted with the accused, and are not even familiar with the indictment. On the whole, 43 out of the 143 witnesses of the Prosecutor's Office have been heard to date. The next hearing on the case will be held on November 22. General Shchegolev has been in the pre-trial detention center for over 3 years now. He is charged with illegally obstructing the holding of peaceful assemblies, rallies, and demonstrations, and of abusing his powers during the events of February 2014. More about this case can be read here.

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The next court session on the case of the former head of the Krasnogorsk village council Vladimir Azaryants, who is accused under article 258-3 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine ("Aiding a terrorist organization"), took place on November 4 in Bakhmut (Donetsk region). The court refused the request of the defense to initiate criminal proceedings against the judges who sentenced him to 8 years in prison in 2015. Earlier, on March 16, 2018, the Court of Appeal released Azaryants from custody, and he remains in the status of an accused person. In total, Azaryants was held in prison for 1009 days.

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On November 13 in the Zavodsky district court of Kamenskoye (Dneprodzerzhinsk) a debate on the case of the communists Sergey Tkachenko and Denis Timofeev took place. The two members of the Communist Party were detained on September 1, 2014, spent almost two years in jail, and were then released from custody in May 2016. They are charged under article 109 (actions aimed at violently changing or overthrowing the constitutional system) and article 263 (illegal handling of weapons) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. The Prosecutor requested that the court convict the accused for 5 years of imprisonment each and to destroy the material evidence. Lawyers argue that destroying the material evidence is unthinkable, since it is proof of the illegal detention of the accused and the fabrication of the case, because it was planted during the search. The announcement of a verdict concerning the case of Tkachenko and Timofeev is scheduled for December 19. The defence hopes that the court will take into account the numerous procedural violations in this case and the violation of the right to a defence.

ABOUT THE ACTIVITIES OF “USPISHNA VARTA”

European politicians should pay attention to the serious violations of human rights and the lack of the rule of law in Ukraine. Being guided only by communication with the authorities and "pocket" civil society financed by grants, Europe risks losing touch with real Ukrainians. This was stated by Nataliya Natalina, the head of the board of the "Uspishna Varta" human rights platform, following the results of the annual "Berlin Autumn Talks 2018" conference that took place on November 14th in Berlin. The event discussed the need to develop and find viable solutions for civil cooperation after the end of the armed conflict in Donbass. More details can be read here.

On November 12 a meeting of the journalistic community was held in Lvov. During the meeting the participants discussed the code of journalistic ethics and the challenges facing journalists on the eve of the elections. The coordinator of "Uspishna Varta" in Lvov Galina Chaika took part in the event "Journalism: conversation PRO in Lvov" together with representatives of regional media and journalists.


Remember that you can contact the human rights defenders of “Uspishna Varta”:

by calling the toll free hotline number: 0 800 20 40 04

by sending an email to: info@uspishna-varta.com

by sending a message to the social network page: facebook.com/UspishnaVarta

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