Civil and political rights in Ukraine

Martial law, searches in the Lavra, and the slander draft law. Civil and political rights in Ukraine. 26 November-2 December 2018

MARTIAL LAW IN UKRAINE

In accordance with the Law of Ukraine "On the approval of the Decree of the President of Ukraine ‘On the introduction of martial law in Ukraine’” (No. 2630-VIII), adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament on November 26, martial law was introduced in 10 regions of Ukraine and in the internal waters of the Azov-Kerch water zone from 14:00 on November 26th to 14:00 on December 26th 2018. Published on the President's website, decree No. 393/2018 "On the introduction of martial law in Ukraine" states that during the period of the legal regime of martial law the constitutional rights and freedoms of humans and citizens enshrined in articles 30-34, 38, 39, 41-44, and 53 of the Constitution of Ukraine may be limited.

The human rights activists of the "Uspishna Varta" platform are deeply concerned about the risk of the status of martial law being used by the authorities to commit further attacks on the rights of Ukrainians to freedom of speech, opinion, peaceful assembly and association, conscience and religion, as well as participation in political life, which are all guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

Human rights activists call on international organisations and foreign diplomatic missions to strengthen control over the observance of human rights in Ukraine for the period of martial law. The details can be found here.

Restrictions on civil rights and freedoms have already been recorded since the introduction of martial law:

  • Restriction on freedom of movement. On November 30 it became known that the State Border Service of Ukraine forbade male citizens of Russia aged 16-60 from entering the territory of the country. It is noted that this decision was made in connection with the introduction of martial law in some regions of the country.
  • The State Border Service of Ukraine said that foreign journalists, as well as human rights activists and representatives of humanitarian missions, will be able to enter the Crimea and Donbass from the territory of Ukraine only with special permits issued by the State Migration Service. In each case, exceptional decisions will be made directly at the entry and exit control points.
  • Restriction on the right to vote and to be elected. The Central Election Commission (CEC) declared the absence of an opportunity to hold local communal elections in 10 regions, since according to the law the elections planned for December 23 cannot take place during a military regime. The position of the CEC was explained via its press service. Thus, due to martial law, the 45 first and 7 additional elections scheduled for 23 December, as well as the 19 mid-term elections that were supposed to take place in the coming weeks, will not take place. On 30 November, the CEC demanded an end to campaigning in regions with martial law and decided to return to the state budget the funds that were sent for these local elections, which were supposed to be held on 23 December in united territorial communities.

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION

On November 29, after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko addressed to Ukrainians. "Moscow - a state and a Russian church, FSB officials and clerics, people in uniforms, cassocks, crosses, lampasse - were ready to stoop to anything to disrupt this decision," he said in his statement. See his speech here.

On November 30, the Security Service of Ukraine carried out searches at the place of residence of the vicar of Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, Metropolitan Pavel of Vyshgorod and Chernobyl. The searches were carried out "within the framework of a case concerning the incitement of interfaith hostility" (article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). Based on the court’s ruling, criminal proceedings were initiated after one of the interviews of Metropolitan Pavel. Earlier, at a briefing on November 29, the Metropolitan spoke about being put under pressure by the state authorities and noted that he doesn't exclude that the Ukrainian special services will carry out searches.

Earlier, on November 28, representatives of the Ministry of Culture began an inventory of property in the Kiev-Pechersk Lavra. On the same day, the Cabinet of Ministers ordered to include the Pochayev Svyato-Uspensky Lavra (Ternopol region) in the Kremenets-Pochayev reserve. These are the two largest shrines of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine.

It should be emphasised that earlier the official authorities and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate repeatedly stated that there is a need to transfer the Lavras to the united local church created under the patronage of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and also encouraged hate speech towards the clergy and parishioners of the only Canonical church – the Ukrainian Orthodox Church [Moscow Patriarchate - ed].

The hate speech voiced by representatives of the state against the Ukrainian Orthodox Church gave rise to a wave of aggression and vandalism against the clergy and religious buildings of this denomination. Thus, on the night of November 26 unknown persons threw red paint at the building of the Rovno diocesan administration and left provocative slogans. The vandals left graffiti on the walls with the inscription: "FSB Agents - the blood of our sailors is on your hands".

On December 1 the Ukrainian Orthodox Church reported that a significant number of priests of the diocese of Sarny, as well as 20 priests of the diocese of Rovno, received a summons to the Security Service of Ukraine for questioning as a witness, without an explanation concerning what they have to testify about. According to the head of the Legal Department of the UOC Archpriest Aleksandr Bakhov, "taking into account their systematic, simultaneous, and mass character, these actions are aimed at bishops and seek to pressure them into participating in the so-called 'unification sobor'.

Meanwhile, St. Andrew's Church (Kiev) was transferred to the permanent use of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The relevant resolution was adopted at the meeting of the government on November 28. As was previously reported by the human rights activists of "Uspishna Varta", the transfer of St. Andrew's Church to the Patriarchate of Constantinople is contrary to the Constitution and Ukrainian legislation.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION

On November 20 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine introduced draft law No. 9306 on amendments to the Criminal and Criminal Procedure Codes of Ukraine regarding the establishment of responsibility for slander. The authors of the draft law (deputies from the Bloc of Petro Poroshenko) propose to supplement the Criminal Code with article No. 151-2 "Slander". If slander, or deliberate distribution of knowingly false statements, is carried out "via the public demonstration of works, in the media, or on the Internet", then deputies propose to impose a fine in the amount of 8,500-25,500 hryvnia, corrective work for a period of one to two years, or restriction of freedom for a period of two to five years. The National Union of Journalists of Ukraine said that this is a ban on the profession and called for a boycott of the draft law. The details can be read here.

The State Committee of Television and Radio of Ukraine banned the import of five books from the territory of the Russian Federation, including "Guide to Goa", "Book about delicious and vegetarian food", "Barcelona", and others. The books allegedly contain "signs of propaganda of the aggressor state and its imperial geopolitical doctrines." In total, as of October 10, authorized officials of the State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting drew up 21 official reports concerning the imposition of administrative fines on business people totalling 781,830 hryvnia for the importation of prohibited Russian books.

PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION

During the monitoring period several protests involving the use of force against the participants were recorded. Thus, on November 26 in the Volyn region at the Yagodyn checkpoint the police applied stringent measures against the so-called "euro platers" - the owners of used European cars - who blocked the road in protest against the payment of customs duties. Initially, the police did not intervene, however, when the conflict between protesters and drivers began to deteriorate, the police special forces dispersed the protesters, pushing them off the roadway.

On November 28 in Odessa police officers used force against individual participants of a protest action against construction work in the green zone of inhabitants of the district of the Gagarin plateau. According to the protesters, they wanted to stop the developers, having blocked off the entrance to the construction site used by equipment. Arriving at the scene, the police crudely dispersed the protest and detained one participant. The press service of the National Police said that the police officers who arrived at the scene explained to the participants of the action about the inadmissibility of blocking traffic and thus violating the rights of other road users. As was stated by the protesters, the police justified their actions by referring to the regime of martial law.

A number of peaceful assemblies were disrupted by unknown people. Thus, about 30 unknown persons in masks disrupted the radio speech of the leader of the party "Civil Position" Anatoly Gritsenko in Odessa. A group of athletically built people at first blocked the politician’s entrance to the premises of the radio station, and then attacked his entourage. Three people – two party members of "Civil Position" and an activist - received severe injuries. The police initiated a criminal case under part 4 of article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (hooliganism). On November 30 the Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said that five attackers had been identified and detained by the National Police, and procedural decisions will be made concerning 12 people.

On November 26-27 representatives of the right-wing radical group "Sokol" blocked the entrance to one of the shopping centers of Kiev. They covered the front door of the mall with tyres and painted the doors and windows. Despite the fact that law enforcement bodies were in close proximity to the incident, they didn't intervene in the situation and didn't stop the actions of radicals. The reason for the “rally” was the alleged Russian citizenship of the owners of the mall. The "activists" demanded to "stop Russian businesses on the territory of Ukraine". The representatives of this group already attacked this mall back in July 2018.

MONITORING OF HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

On November 26 a regular hearing on the case of "Groisman’s translator" Stanislav Ezhov took place in the Goloseevsky district court of Kiev. The court examined the evidence of the Prosecutor in the form of an audio recording of allegedly secret talks between 3 unknown persons about the position of Ukrainian officials on general topics. Ezhov's defence claims that all the information in the case did not have a "classified" stamp and was in no way hidden. The next court hearing is scheduled for December 17. As a reminder, Stanislav Ezhov, the translator of the Prime Minister of Ukraine Vladimir Groisman, was charged with state treason (part 1 of article 111 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). He was detained on December 20, 2017 by the SBU and has been in custody for more than 11 months. More details about Ezhov's case can be found here.

In the Shevchenkovsky court of the city of Zaporozhye the hearings ended on the case of journalist Pavel Volkov, who spent more than a year in jail on charges of treason for his professional activities. During the hearings the videos presented by the prosecutor's office that allegedly prove the guilt of the journalist were seen on November 26-27. In particular, a fragment of a rally in Zaporozhye in 2013, and also an interview with Pavel Volkov filmed at the office of the "Ukrainian Choice" social movement in 2012, in which historical and cultural and philosophical questions were discussed, were shown. The defence noted that the case file contains evidence that is not relevant to the prosecution. The next court hearing will be held on January 9, 2019. More details about Volkov case can be found here.

On November 28 a regular hearing was held in court on the case of the public activist Oleg Litvinenko, who is accused of encroaching on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine via his participation in a protest rally. The activist has been in jail for more than 20 months. During the hearing, the court granted the Prosecutor's motion to extend the measure of restraint imposed on the accused in the form of detention for another 2 months, despite the statements of the defense about the absence of risks and the deterioration of Oleg Litvinenko’s health. More details about his Litvinenko’s case can be here.


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

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