NGOs call to unite in defence of freedom of assembly

The safeguarding of human rights and civil liberties is the main function of the State. Unfortunately at present the Ukrainian authorities are not only failing to guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, but are also their main violator.

We are concerned at the hostility shown by Ukrainian courts to this aspect of civil society and the mass-scale practice of bans of peaceful gatherings.

In 2011 the authorities approached the courts to ban 211 peaceful gatherings, with this being successful in almost 90% of the cases. In 2012 this trend has only increased.

We are disturbed by an increase in disproportionate interference by the law enforcement bodies and bodies of local self-government in every peaceful protest.

Hiding from public dissatisfaction, the authorities are preventing tent camp protests by calling tents “small architectural forms”. Special units disperse demonstrators, inflicting physical and material damage, while the police put pressure on civic activists through regular summonses to police stations.

We are worried by the use of subordinate legislation to restrict one of the fundamental human rights.

It is appalling that in the twenty second year of independence, our country, restricting citizens’ freedom of peaceful assembly, is using Soviet legislation and arbitrarily interpreting Ukraine’s Constitution.

A new makeup of the Verkhovna Rada is beginning its work. We are preparing civic proposals to legislation on protection of peaceful assembly and will be calling on MPs to adopt them. Aware that the problem is not confined to legislation alone, we will be undertaking educational programmes, carrying out monitoring of how freedom of peaceful assembly is observed, as well as providing legal aid to organizers and those taking part.

In order to achieve these aims, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union; the Centre for Political and Legal Reform; the Centre for Civil Liberties; the Human Rights Information Centre; the Kharkiv Human Rights Group and the Ukrainian Independent Centre for Political Research have formed a Partnership “For Freedom of Peaceful Assembly”.

In awareness that defence of our rights is dependent on our determination and united stand, we call on our colleagues to join efforts to defend participants in peaceful gatherings and to create the legal safeguards of freedom of peaceful assembly.

Arkady Bushchenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Yevhen Zakharov, Kharkiv Human Rights Group

Roman Kuybida, Centre for Political and Legal Reform

Oleksandra Matviychuk, Centre for Civil Liberties

Tetyana Pechonchuk, Human Rights Information Centre

Maxim Latsyba, Ukrainian Independent Centre for Political Researc

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