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War is undermining human rights protection
From left to right: Arkadiy Buschenko, Yevhen Zakharov, Mykola KozyrevPhoto: video screen from research presentation
From left to right: Arkadiy Buschenko, Yevhen Zakharov, Mykola Kozyrev

Ukrainian Helsinki human rights union has come to a sad conclusion that ongoing war is undermining human rights protection. Major tendencies of human rights violations in Ukraine were presented during a round table in December.

Mykola Kozyrev, head of union’s board, presented the results of research together with Arkadiy Buschenko, union’s executive director and Yevhen Zakarov, head of Kharkiv human rights protection group.  

Human rights defenders have to admit: issues of Crimean occupation, Russian separatism movement in the Eastern regions, military aggression in Donetsk and Luhansk are a priority now in Ukraine.

Maidan revolution has set a vector for Ukraine. We now know in which direction we should advance, explains Mykola Kozyrev. People are waiting for reforms and it is important to keep in mind that the rule of law should be the basis of all new legislation. All changes in the country should adhere to the rule of law principle.

Ukrainian Helsinki human rights union presented main issues with human rights in Ukraine.

Distrust in court system is a serious problem that needs to be addressed by the government.

Not a single reform (legal, education, health care) was finalized. The only reform that has started is the prosecution reform. The Law on lustration is a populist move and several of its articles are in contradiction with Council of Europe recommendations and ECHR practices. For example, this Law states that all officials have to be fired. This is unrealistic and against human rights. Several laws are focused on fighting separatism but all of them transgress constitutional norms and international human rights standards.

Poverty issue is rampant in Ukraine. Sadly, the government is not providing adequate responses to this problem. Minimal social standards were frozen in 2014 while prices have sky-rocketed due to inflation. Poor social groups are getting even poorer. The gap between rich and poor citizens is getting wider.

Several issues exist with social protection of IDPs and families of mobilized persons. Some changes were introduced in the existing welfare system, but they are not sufficient to cover all new needs of IDP and ATO soldiers. Yevhen Zakharov explains the situation with Ukrainian IDPs: current movements are the most important in Europe since Second World War. More than 550 000 IDPs are registered in Ukraine. Many families did not register so we can easily double official data. Existing legislation is not sufficient to cover all problems.

However, there are some positive moments

The Parliament adopted positive changes to the Criminal code. Prisons are now access-free to MPs and their assistants, together with doctors and journalists. Prisoners now have more opportunities to communicate with their families via phone calls and serious changes were made for people serving life sentences. They can now request long-term visits for close relatives.

Human rights defenders admit that during last months new government managed to overcome the most persistent political and economical challenges: Ukrainian army is getting equipped, security is reestablished in big cities, local self-defense forces are integrated in law-enforcement bodies, different governmental and non-governmental organizations are working together to keep Ukraine united.
A major step was the conduct of free democratic presidential elections on 25 May and parliamentarian elections on 26 October. Cooperation between NGO, municipal organizations and governmental bodies is being improved. Volunteer activity is a great example of Ukrainian solidarity.

All efforts to combat corruption and support our army

Ukrainian development is still undermined by rampant military conflict, inert political system, corruption in local councils and State administrations, lack of relevant reforms. The country is still rules by oligarch and several threats to human rights and freedoms are still pending.

Arkadiy Buschenko stresses that public organizations are still watching over State structures. Patriotism is not a shield: NGOs are watchdogs and will continue criticize bad political decisions and human rights violations. “Human rights in Ukraine, 2014” is a universal report used by national and international organizations to evaluate the situation in the country. Such report is published every year with the help of more than 30 organizations from all Ukrainian regions.

Other interesting moments from the presentations are available on video.

This article is based on Ukrainian Helsinki human rights union information.

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