More than enough grounds for a veto

The Internet Association of Ukraine has just joined a very large number of Ukrainian NGOs which have expressed deep concern over the Law on a Unified State Demographic Register passed by the Verkhovna Rada on 2 October. The President’s decision is now overdue and anxiously awaited since the bill in question poses a serious threat to privacy and enormous scope for abuse. It is also way over what is demanded by the EU Visa Liberalization Action Plan which it purports to be aimed at implementing. Speculation over the President’s motives is difficult to avoid given his veto of another bill also linked with visa liberalization.

Draft Law No. 10472-1 on amendments to the Personal Data Protection Act was passed by the Verkhovna Rada at the same time, i.e. 2 October. Kommersant-Ukraine notes that the decision to veto it has been backdated to 24 October, although it became known only last week.

The vetoed bill proposed to significantly increase the functions of the State Service on Personal Data Protection.

Here too, the draft law was supposed to fulfil the requirements set out in the EU Visa Liberalization Action Plan. In fact, the Human Rights Ombudsperson Valeria Lutkovska who called for the veto states that Council of Europe experts had said that the draft bill does not create an independent state body on personal data protection as is required. Ms Lutkovska pointed out that the amendments did not make it possible to agree the said Act with the Law on Access to Public Information; that a norm making it possible for other laws to add specific types of personal data to those which were not on restricted access had even been removed. What is more the amendments retained the present situation where all personal data is regarded as confidential (i.e. even a person’s name!) rather than sensitive personal data. This, she noted, did not comply with Article 32 of the Constitution and a Constitutional Court judgement from 20 January 2012.

President Yanukovych, who has ignored almost all of the many calls to use his power of veto, including that from NGOs regarding the Personal Data Protection Act, did heed this call.

There remains silence, however, over the considerably more worrying bill proposing to introduce a Unified Demographic Register.

As reported, this proposes biometric versions of over 13 identifying documents, supposedly in implementation of the EU Visa Liberalization Action Plan. Overkill is not the word since the EU is demanding only the introduction of internationally accepted biometric passports. As the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and a number of other NGOs and analysts have pointed out, the requirement for other biometric documents will be a huge burden on ordinary Ukrainians and will most likely lead to many being unable to renew important documents.

The bill has a powerful lobby – it was submitted by MP (Party of the Regions) Vasyl Hrytsak who is closely associated with the SSAPS Consortium [the Single State Automated Passport System] which stands to profit enormously from the move.

Hrytsak has been nominated for this year’s Thistle of the Year Anti-Award for worst violator of human rights specifically over this legislative initiative. His previous bills have been vetoed, however this one has so far received worrying ruling majority support.

The other reasons put forward by civic organizations are no less compelling. The unified register is in breach of all international standards of privacy since no aim for collection of data is specified; the said data will be shared between different departments and bodies making the chances of highly sensitive personal data being offered for sale on the black market extremely high. The law quite simply gives the State far too much scope for intruding in the private life of Ukrainian citizens, while also offering one consortium and its lobbyist excessive opportunity to earn mega amounts at ordinary citizens’ expense. The veto is indeed long overdue.

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