Human rights in Ukraine: Government & NGO reports differ radically


Ukraine’s Universal Periodic Review took place in Geneva on 24 October.  The UN was to hear Ukraine’s Government Report on Human Rights.  As reported, human rights groups have prepared alternative reports on various aspects of human rights and hope that their view will also be heard.

The Government’s Report was presented by the Government’s Representative on European Court of Human Rights Matters, Nazar Kulchytsky, while the UN Committee was also expected to hear the report presented by the current Human Rights Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska.

In May this year there was a breakfast for diplomats where representatives of a coalition of 40 Ukrainian NGOs provided the UN with 12 shadow reports on different aspects of human rights

Spot the differences

The documents are radically different.  According to Maxim Shcherbatyuk from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union who coordinated the shadow reports, the government is silent about inconvenient aspects and talks a lot about achievements. This mainly applies to the adoption of various laws. He says that the Government talks a lot about laws on discrimination, on combating human trafficking, and access to public information, however officials don’t mention that most of the laws are not in practice working or are not fully applied.

He says that there are lots of plans and laws, however is skeptical that they are helping to improve the human rights situation. The alternative reports record a considerable deterioration in this sphere, including in the right to fair court proceedings, protection from torture and freedom of speech.

As reported here, the Human Rights Education Centre together with the Social Action Centre carried out a survey to ascertain which rights ordinary Ukrainians felt were most violated. They were shocked by the results with almost 23 percent of the respondents saying that their main concern is the low level of social payments and pensions; 13 % – corruption; and 10% – poor medical care. Tetyana Pechonchyk, Director of the Human Rights Education Centre points out that people see their social rights as most important and do not necessarily see the link between fundamental human rights and social rights. If you’re hungry, you’re not going to prioritize freedom of speech or of peaceful assembly.  She also travelled to Geneva to hand the results of the survey to the UN and to convince them of the need for a more critical resolution and recommendations regarding human rights in Ukraine. “There is a clear disproportion between what people want and what the government structures will present”.

Over the four years since Ukraine’s first report, there has been minimal progress, human rights workers say. Maxim Shcherbatyuk estimates that “Ukraine has carried out about 20% of the last recommendations despite the fact that there weren’t many recommendations and that they were either too easy or too vague. We hope that the UN will make up to 200 recommendations which will provide real help in improving the human rights situation in Ukraine”.  Human rights workers acknowledge, however, that non-implementation will not result in any real sanctions, except perhaps that international donors could refuse to provide financial assistance.

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