“If the Ombudsperson is chosen illegitimately, he or she will not have the trust of international organizations, human rights defenders and society as a whole”

This was stated by representatives of human rights organizations during the press conference “Transparent election of Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights: mission impossible?” that took placed today at the news agency Glavcom.

“A national human rights agency, which is the Ombudsperson’s Office, is guided by international standards, namely Paris Principles, which require the Ombudsperson’s Office to be an independent body that responds to unlawful actions on the part of the government or its representatives in the field of human rights. It’s an essential detail, since the process that is happening right now is alarming. First and foremost, this is about two main issues. The first one is that officially this procedure should have been performed on 6 June last year, but there was no voting, which makes everything after that date illegitimate. The second one is the existing legislative conflict. There is a special law that determines the Ombudsperson’s activities. It requires voting by secret ballot when electing the Ombudsperson. However, last year a law on the Parliament’s regulations was passed which, in violation of proper procedure and regulations, established open voting for the Ombudsperson,” shared Olexandra Romantsova, deputy head of the board at the Center for Civil Liberties.

Olexandra Romantsova (Center for Civil Liberties), Olexander Pavlichenko (UHHRU) and Oksana Pokalchuk (Amnesty International)
Olexandra Romantsova (Center for Civil Liberties), Olexander Pavlichenko (UHHRU) and Oksana Pokalchuk (Amnesty International)

In addition, according to the activist, there is a problem with the candidates. The political bargaining we are currently witnessing also violates the principles of an independent national human rights agency.

Olexandra Romantsova presented the petition of the Human Rights Agenda, a coalition of human rights organizations, addressed to the Parliament of Ukraine, regarding the procedure for the Ombudsperson’s election.

In particular, the petitioners demand that the nomination of candidates initiated on 28 April 2017 should be stopped and started anew. It has been suggested that the three previously nominated candidates should withdraw from the process that will lead to an illegitimate Ombudsperson. The Parliament of Ukraine is advised to stop the current election process and report it through official channels, and also to define the election process by voting on the draft law 7018-1: “On Introducing Amendments to the Law of Ukraine “On Regulations of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine” (regarding the appointment and dismissal of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights), which will address existing legislative conflicts and bring back secret ballot.

“We once again stress that it is unacceptable to politicize the Ombudsperson’s post, and condemn all political arrangements as to the “right” candidate. We need to start the nomination and election process again: to announce the call for candidates and the timeframe, as well as include in the process an interview with a commission of civil society and human rights community representatives,” reads the petition.

Human rights activists also reported that based on the countrywide survey “Human Rights in Ukraine”, the Ombudsperson’s Office currently has the more trust of the population than any other state agency.

“We are aware how important the Ombudsperson’s role is today in the issue of persons imprisoned in eastern Ukraine and Crimea, we know about the results of the implementation of a national preventative mechanism, access to public information, protection of IDPs’ rights and others things. This makes it all the more important to uphold these high standards of human rights protection earned by the current Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and officials of the Ombudsperson’s Office,” said Olexander Pavlichenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

Oksana Pokalchuk, executive director of Amnesty International Ukraine, noted that transparent election of the Ombudsperson would have a positive effect on Ukraine’s international image.

“Influential international organizations, such as the Council of Europe, UN Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, Freedom House, Amnesty International and European Network of National Human Rights Institutions have already expressed their alarm at the situation and asked to rectify it and return it to the plane of law. The situation with the Ombudsperson’s election is having a huge impact on Ukraine’s image as a country that strives for democratic changes and European standards,” said Oksana Pokalchuk.

Source – Ombudsperson’s Facebook page

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