Memorandum on the Creation of a Coalition for the Protection of Civil Society in Ukraine

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union joins the Memorandum

We, representatives of non-governmental organizations, human rights defenders, civil society activists, members of the press, lawyers and other active citizens, express deep concern with the trends threatening civil society in Ukraine and the attacks on freedom of assembly and association.

Civil society, as a community of active citizens and voluntary non-governmental organizations, plays a key role on the path toward the democratic development of our country in upholding the rule of law and ensuring respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. The work of civil society activists is important for the fight against abuse of power, for oversight of the government and promotion of reforms in Ukraine.

Instituting financial control over anti-corruption activists at the legislative level, in conjunction with criminal liability and attempts to introduce further unjustified and disproportionate restrictions for the activities of all public associations, as well as numerous cases of persecution of non-governmental organizations and individual activists, including trumped-up criminal charges and defamation campaigns aimed against influential organizations and activists, threats and physical attacks against activists, in the absence of efficient investigation of such cases, hinder the development of civil society and jeopardize democratic aspirations of Ukraine as a European state.

We urge the Government to immediately take all necessary measures to put a stop to all instances of persecution, which violates Ukraine’s international commitments to uphold freedom of assembly and association and protect the rights of human rights defenders, members of the press and anti-corruption activists.

While the whole world celebrates the 20th anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, which declares protection of human rights the right of every citizen, the Ukrainian Government, which has agreed to respect and protect human rights and to provide the conditions for their enjoyment, is itself responsible for violating them. Moreover, the Government does not ensure a proper response to violations of the rule of law, which encourages the spread of impunity in Ukraine.

Aware of the need for united action and solidarity in the protection of civil society in Ukraine, we announce the creation of a coalition that will unite the efforts of non-governmental organizations, civil society activists, members of the press, lawyers and other interested parties, for consolidated opposition to both isolated threats as well as the Government’s attempts to launch a systemic offensive on civil society and freedom of association in Ukraine.

“The Coalition for the Protection of Civil Society” is a non-political association and is guided by the principles of respect for human rights, non-violence and non-discrimination.

The Coalition has the following goals:

–To promote human rights values and ideas of civil society; to disseminate information on the importance of the work of human rights defenders, members of the press and civil society activists, who act in the interests of the public.

–To monitor cases of persecution of human rights defenders, members of the press and activists; to study the forms of pressure used against them and threats to their activities, including by monitoring and analyzing legislation that is detrimental to civil society in Ukraine.

–To develop a system of urgent response measures to persecution and threats against human rights defenders, members of the press and civil society activists, including legal, informational and other assistance and support in case of persecution.

–To encourage swift, efficient and impartial investigation of attacks on human rights defenders, members of the press and civil society activists as well as prosecution of those responsible, while taking all necessary steps to prevent new attacks.

–To promote amendments to domestic legislation so that it would not hinder or complicate the work of civil society organizations and individual activists, particularly those combating corruption.

–To disseminate educational and legal materials on the increase of the level of security of civil society organizations in Ukraine (particularly in such areas of their activity as information, accounting, administration and others).

–To communicate with all interested parties, particularly international organizations, to counter pressure on human rights defenders, members of the press, anti-corruption activists and civil society as a whole.

Active involvement of individuals, groups, organizations and institutions in the protection of human rights, fight against corruption and defense of public interests is essential, since civil society, among other things, helps states to properly fulfill their commitments on protecting ​​human rights and fundamental freedoms, fighting corruption and defending the principles of democracy and the rule of law. The Ukrainian Government must recognize the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders and activists, who act in the interests of the public, and instead of hindering them, to assist them in their work, as well as to ensure efficient investigation of all instances of threats, attacks, intimidation, oppression or any other type of persecution.

Oleksandra Romantsova, Deputy Head of the Board, Center for Civil Liberties


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