Civil and political rights in Ukraine

Priests being searched and interrogated by the SBU, journalists being banned from entry, and the failure of peaceful assembly. 3 - 9 December 2018

FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION

On 3 December the SBU and the National Police conducted 8 searches in the churches and homes of priests of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC): in Kiev, Zhytomyr, Ovruch, and Korosten. In the diocese of Ovruch, law enforcement bodies searched the Svyato-Preobrazhenskiy Cathedral and the premises of the diocesan administration, as well as the house of the abbot of the Svyato-Krestovozdvizhensky Cathedral of the Zhytomyr diocese of the UOC. Among the persons of the oracle clergy of the UOC law enforcement bodies were looking for materials that could ignite "religious enmity and hatred". The police reported that the searches took place in the framework of the investigation concerning the same criminal case that was initiated under the article on the incitement of ethnic hatred. As a result of the search law enforcement officers seized 75 copies of a brochure titled “Ukrainian Orthodox Church: relations with the state. The attitude towards the ATO and the Church schism. Questions and answers”.

On the 5th of December 14 priests of the Rovno and Sarny dioceses of the UOC were summoned for interrogation by the SBU. As the vicar of the Rovno diocese, the Bishop of Dubensky Pimen, reported, the clergy are charged in cases under Article 111 (State treason) and Article 161 (“actions aimed at inciting religious hatred”) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. In the opinion of the secretary of the Rovno diocese, employees of the SBU increased their interest in the priests of the UOC against the background of the desire of the President of Ukraine to create a United Local Church with the aim of forcing the clerics of the UOC to participate in the "unification Sobor".

On December 7 the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church stated that its episcopate, clergy, and believers were put under pressure and subjected to criminal prosecution after the Council of Bishops of the UOC (Moscow Patriarchate) held on November 13 of this year. In particular, the bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are summoned to "talk" with the Security Service of Ukraine, and proverbial obstacles are created that prevent them from crossing the state border of Ukraine. Among other facts, the cancellation of the decision to register the right to use the complex of buildings of the Svyato-Uspensky Pochayev Lavra, the Commission's inspection of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine concerning the cultural values in the Svyato-Uspensky Kiev-Pechersk Lavra, searches, and summonses for questioning on the territory of different dioceses, etc. were mentioned. The UOC stated that the groundless criminal prosecution and exertion of pressure on the episcopate, clergy, and believers of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is being done by state bodies in order to force them to take part in the so-called unification Sobor. The UOC considers that such actions are a violation of the constitutional right of Ukrainian citizens to freedom of religion.

FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION

The National Council for Television and Radio Broadcasting continues to put pressure on opposition Ukrainian TV channels. On 6 December the Council rejected the request of the TV channel "NASH" to re-register its name and the concept of its broadcasted programs. The management of the channel said the decision of the National Council is illegal, biased, and politically motivated. The TV channel intends to sue the National Council because of its decision.

Earlier, on December 3 several dozen radicals from the “UNA-UNSO” group came outside the “NASH” channel and tried to block its work. The “protesters” tried to cover the building in which the channel was located with barbed wire, but they did not succeed.

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Impunity when committing crimes against journalists remains a serious problem. On December 5 in Rovno the police only at the second attempt initiated a case concerning the legitimate professional activities of the journalist website "ChaRivne.info" being impeded. This concerns an incident that took place on 28 November in the city maternity hospital, where the staff didn't allow a journalist to make a story and thus pushed her out of the office, trapping her hand in the door. The victim went to the police, but information about the incident didn't appear in the unified register of pre-trial investigations. The police decided to reconsider their actions and initiated a criminal case under article 171 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine only after the incident was widely publicised and colleagues from other media agencies intervened.

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Over the past week 6 journalists from Russia were denied entry across the Ukraine-Russia border. This concerns the employee of the publication "Staraya Rus" Elena Nikolaeva and Yuliya Nikitina from "Fontanka". In addition, border guards didn't let the correspondent of the newspaper "Moy Raion" Elena Vladykina and the journalist from the network "SCOOP" Anastasiya Drozdova enter the country. The reason why the journalists were denied entry were not explained. On December 4 two more journalists from Russia were also not allowed to enter Ukraine. According to them, in both cases the reason that they were refused entry is because "they didn't confirm the purpose of their visit".

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On December 3 the State Committee for Television and Radio-broadcasting decided, based on the conclusions of the expert council, to ban the import of 8 more books from Russia. "Clear signs of Russian propaganda" were allegedly found in the books. The list of books can be found here.

THE RIGHT TO PEACEFUL ASSEMBLY AND ASSOCIATION

On December 5 in Rovno a group of 10 people blocked the entrance of the "INFOHUB" room, trying to disrupt the event "more equality! Feminism in everyday life". The attackers introduced themselves as "concerned citizens of Ukraine" and demanded to disrupt the event as it is, in their opinion, "Ukrainophobic". The patrol police arrived at the scene. The participants of the attack wrote a statement to the organisers of the event.

On December 6 in Lvov investigators from Kiev, in accordance with the ruling of the investigative judge of the Podolsky district court of Kiev, carried out searches at the homes of the activists Taras Bogay and Oleg Kordiyaka, who are members of "Environmental Platform" and the anarchist movement "Black Flag". They are suspected of attacking in Kiev in May 2018 a veteran of the ATO from “Right Sector”, which has close ties with the right radical organization "C14". At the same time, searches and detentions connected to this case took place in Kiev, Dnepr, and Rovno. Activists from "Environmental Platform" and the anarchist movement "Black Flag" are known in Lvov for their environmental and oppositional activity, as well as their anti-fascist position. In addition, they actively opposed racial discrimination during the attack on, and pogrom of, the Romani camp by far-right organisations in Lvov. The details can be found here.

THE RIGHT TO ELECT AND BE ELECTED

The text of presidential draft law No. 9357 was submitted to the Verkhovna Rada, and in the event that it is passed, united territorial community elections scheduled for December 23 will take place on the entire territory of Ukraine. In particular, it is proposed to not apply the effect of part 1 of article 19 of the law that prohibits the holding of local governmental elections in conditions of martial law to the holding of local elections scheduled for December 23, 2018. The document was sent to the committee.

As a reminder, earlier the Central Election Commission stated that there was lack of opportunities to hold the local community elections in 10 regions that are planned for December 23. By law, elections cannot take place during martial law.

DISCRIMINATION, XENOPHOBIA, HATE SPEECH

On December 7 the Ivano-Frankovsk regional council announced a moratorium on Russian films and music. The decision was supported by 68 deputies. Thus, the Ivano-Frankovsk region joined the Ternopol, Lvov, and Zhytomyr regions, which previously introduced a moratorium on the use of the "Russian-speaking cultural product".

MONITORING OF HUMAN RIGHTS CASES

On December 18 the Court of Appeal of Kharkov will hear the case of the 84-year-old Kharkov citizen Mekhti Logunov, who in July 2018 was sentenced to 12 years of imprisonment on charges of treason (article 111) for allegedly collecting for Russia classified information about the defense orders of Ukraine. The coordinator of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform talked to the defendant's lawyer Dmitry Tikhonenkov about the details of the case, the reliability of the evidence base, and the validity of the charges, as well as the state of health of the accused and the prospects of his treatment. We published the full text and video of the lawyer's comment on the YouTube channel of "Uspishna Varta". More details about the case of Mekhti Logunov can be found here.

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The human rights activists of "Uspishna Varta" studied the case of the shoe designer Vyacheslav Chumak, who for more than 3.5 years has been in custody in a Kharkov jail without an indictment. He is charged with sabotage under Article 113 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. Hearings on "Chumak's case" take place once every one and a half months in the Kominternovsky district court of the city of Kharkov. At one of the last hearings the panel of judges satisfied his challenge. Now the case of Vyacheslav Chumak will be considered from the beginning. The details of the case of Vyacheslav Chumak can be found here.

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On December 4 the Starobilsk district court of the Lugansk region decided to extend the measure of restraint in the form of detention imposed on the former chairman of the Lugansk regional state administration Aleksandr Efremov until January 31, 2019. During the court hearing the politician fell ill. Doctors diagnosed signs of hypertensive crisis and coronary heart disease. Despite the fact that the doctors insisted on his urgent hospitalization, the judge forbade it. Also, the lawyers of Aleksandr Efremov publishedphotos of the marks left by the handcuffs on the accused. The photos show how he was thus "delivered" from the ambulance to the courtroom. The case of Aleksandr Efremov and the information about the refusal to hospitalise him was sent to the European Court of Human Rights. More details about the case of Aleksander Efremov can be read here.




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