“Implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights: there is progress at the level of legislation, but it lacks practical application”, reads UHHRU report

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union prepared an alternative report to the UN Human Rights Committee on the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by Ukraine over the past few years.

The document studies the implementation by the Ukrainian government of 15 Committee recommendations provided after the examination of Ukraine’s previous report submitted in 2013. “Generally speaking, positive trends persist in Ukraine, particularly with regard to freedom of peaceful assembly and adoption of necessary legislation. There is a problem with implementing these laws, however, and our key recommendation is to ensure a proper environment for this,” said Olena Semyorkina, analyst of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, during the report’s presentation at the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center on August 8, 2018.

The Committee’s first recommendation for Ukraine was to raise awareness among law enforcement agencies, judges and society as a whole regarding the Covenant, to encourage the police and judges to use the Covenant’s provisions. UHHRU experts drew attention to the fact that the study of the Covenant is still not included in the training program of police and judges, unlike other international documents. According to the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine, over the past 4 years, Ukrainian courts have referred to the Covenant in 14 thousand judgments.

Olena Semyorkina, analyst of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

The next recommendation concerns the need to introduce additional grounds for review of judgments by the Supreme Court of Ukraine. In 2015, such a bill was indeed registered, with a proposal to recognize as binding not only decisions of international judicial institutions, but also those of international organizations. However, the bill was sent for elaboration, with the justification that documents of international organizations are merely recommendations.

The Committee’s recommendation to increase funding and human resources for the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights has not been implemented, according to human rights defenders; in fact, the Ombudsperson’s institute is weakening. “There are reasons to doubt the legitimacy of the Ombudsperson’s appointment. […] Taken together, these circumstances threaten the future of the Ombudsperson’s work,” said Taras Tsymbrivskyi, head of USAID Human Rights in Action Program implemented by UHHRU.

Taras Tsymbrivskyi, head of USAID Human Rights in Action Program implemented by UHHRU

According to UHHRU experts, the least amount of progress has been made in the field of anti-discrimination legislation and protection of citizens who suffer from such offenses. The sensitivity of this topic for Ukrainian society causes bills on this issue to be stalled, as well as the ratification of the Istanbul Convention on prevention of domestic violence.

Challenge remain with ensuring universal enjoyment of human rights and prevention of discrimination in the context of LGBT and Roma people. The problem now includes hate crimes, but despite the fact that the police was briefed on this issue, this aspect is often ignored during registration of offenses, which are instead classified as hooliganism. “If we take government statistics and information from human rights organizations, the former only shows 1-2 cases of hate crimes and attacks based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Human rights organizations, on the other hand, recorded 226 incidents of threats, humiliation and physical attacks in 2018 alone,” said UHHRU analyst Olena Semyorkina.

Major problems remain with the implementation of the recommendation on the prevention of deaths in prisons and with investigation of such cases. “In the first quarter of 2017, 144 detainees and convicts died in Ukraine, compared to 116 deaths in the first quarter of 2016. This situation is caused by the poor quality of medical care and the reorganization of the penitentiary system. […] The mechanism for release of convicts due to health reasons hasn’t worked for some time now”, said UHHRU lawyer Olena Protsenko. Deaths of convicts in the combat zone, or injuries sustained due to shellings are not always recorded. In Ukraine is also currently the leader in Europe when it comes to suicides in penitentiary institutions.

Olena Protsenko, lawyer of UHHRU

Cases of torture and ill-treatment, as well as attacks on human rights defenders and journalists are not properly investigated.

There is progress at the legislative level with the recommendation on greater representation of women in government bodies and equal rights and opportunities: the post of the Government Commissioner for Gender Policy has been established, and a 30% gender quota for MP candidates introduced. There are problems with implementation, however. The Parliament includes 371 male MPs and 52 female ones. This is partially due to the decision of the Central Election Commission that failure to comply with the gender quota is not grounds enough to deny a candidate. Out of 17 State Secretaries, only two are women; and there are only 5 women in the 35-person composition of the central government bodies. At the rayon level, out of 75 administration heads, only 17 are women.


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