Human rights are differently protected in the West and the East of the country

On 26 September 2006 the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union presented the results of a study: “Regional aspects of the human rights situation in Ukraine” carried out over the year in cooperation with regional human rights organizations, with the financial assistance of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Volodymyr Yavorsky, UHHRU Executive Director explains: “Such a study had not been carried out by any human rights organization.  We approached the task with total objectivity, although our experts had to work both with facts and with myths.

The study was aimed towards developing state policy in the area of human rights in order to unite the country and overcome the divide between East and West.

As well as providing an analysis of types of violations and examples of such, the study also presents recommendations to state bodies on ways of improving the situation.  incidents

The following are some of the conclusions reached

  • The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is infringed equally around the country;
  • Freedom of conscience and religion is also infringed equally in various regions of the country, in favour however of different religious denominations;
  • The right to a fair trial is better ensured in the West of the country;
  • The right to personal security is observed better in the West: the actions of law enforcement agencies are more aggressive in the East of the country, with a higher level of application of physical coercion, a greater number of cases where official duties are exceeded, as well as more unlawful detentions;
  • Freedom of speech is more weekly ensured in the East due to a significantly smaller number of competing media outlets and the considerable influence exerted by the authorities via the municipal and state-run media. According to regional breakdowns, in the eastern and southern regions freedom of speech continues to be significantly limited in the local media;

The consequences of problems with access to information are clearly seen through sociological surveys which often fail to reflect the actual state of affairs. For example, it is strange to see that the population of the eastern and southern regions consider themselves to be the poorest, whereas theirs are the richest regions.  The population of the western regions, on the contrary, regards itself as more socially secure although at state level they are the poorest.

The same can be found when it comes to observance of political and civil rights and freedoms. In the East and South, according to sociological surveys, people consider that there are not many violations, yet the facts suggest quite the contrary. And in the West in exactly the opposite way people exaggerate the problems in this sphere.

Between western and eastern regions of Ukraine there is real socio-economic disproportion and also regional disintegration which are seen in the differences in levels of economic development of these regions, as well as in the degree of cooperation between East and West of the country.

One should also note problems of social provisions which in many cases fail to take the specific features of eastern and western regions of Ukraine into account, this creating many problems in social protection of employees of large enterprises, miners and also agricultural workers.

One must also mention the high level of unemployment and the low number of jobs created in the western regions of Ukraine, the high percentage of the population of those regions who seek work abroad. At the same time, the eastern regions of Ukraine have no less pressing problems of indebtedness against wages for employees of state enterprises, inadequate protection of the interests of those working in large enterprises and the mines by the official trade unions, together with obstructions to the work of independent trade unions.

In the East of Ukraine protection of the right to peacefully enjoy ones possessions remains a problem in the majority of case through shortcomings in legislative regulation of nationalization, privatization of property in Ukraine, and also through the existence of laws which obstruct the payment of wages to employees of state enterprises.

In the West of the country the functioning of rural education remains a burning issue, especially in “mountain” regions. The poor financing of the infrastructure of rural schools and of their staffing is leading to the effective destruction of education in rural areas. At the same time, for eastern regions there is a problem with libraries which needs to be resolved in order to provide the possibility for self-education and academic activities of the inhabitants of the regions.

One should however note that the population of western regions is less economically dependent on the state than in eastern regions. Thanks to the division of land into private property for a large percentage of the rural population, these people lead a largely autonomous style of life and depend less on state police. In the West however with a predominantly urban population, this dependence in the first instance on the social policy of the state is much greater. This explains the much higher popularity in the East who exploit social populism.

All of the above-mentioned problems are exacerbated by an extremely strongly developed clan system of administration at local level. Covering one another, representatives of the authorities often quite cynically and openly violate human rights, and ordinary citizens find justice neither in the courts, nor from law enforcement bodies.

The report can be found in English at: index.php?id=1159392030

The report in MS Word format: doc-file (534.528 kb)

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