Political repression returns

Human rights activists warn that persecution of members of civic society is an ever-greater threat to democracy in the country.

As reported, on Monday the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Kharkiv Human Rights Group presented a report on political persecution in Ukraine during 2010 and 2011.


The authors of the report write of intimidation of civic activists in various ways, as well as cases of violence. The targets have been small business owners protesting against the proposed Tax Code in autumn 2010; students; members of NGOs, political parties and trade unions. The police and Security Service have also had “prophylactic talks” with journalists and civic activists, or overtly carried out surveillance.  People working in the public sector have also been forced to join the Party of the Regions or take part in public demonstrations on fear of dismissal.


According to KHPG Co-Chair, Yevhen Zakharov, cases of political persecution include: prosecutions of Tax Code protesters, members of the nationalist organization Tryzub (over alleged involved in the beheading of the bust to Stalin in Zaporizhya) and the VO Svoboda Party; of Yulia Tymoshenko, Yury Lutsenko and former Deputy Justice Minister Yevhen Korniychuk.  There are also grounds for adding the cases of Valery Ivashchenko, Ihor Didenko, Anatoly Makarenko and other former government officials to that list. 


Oleksandra Matviychuk, co-author of the report, notes that over the last two years there has been a clear trend towards efforts by the Education Ministry and higher institute administrations aimed at crushing young people’s protest activities; heightening pressure on student self-government bodies.


Repressive measures against those engaged in human rights activities or involved in nationalist movements have also become more comment.  Oleksandra Matviychuk says that their aim is to gather data about such cases and warn society of such trends. “You can’t be silent about repression. Those in power must understand that their actions will be viewed as political persecution, that we are following their real motives and will defend those who are persecuted”.


They consider that the criminal investigations against the Coordinator of the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group, Dmytro Groisman and the Vinnytsa trade union activist Andriy Bondarenko are politically motivated.  There is political flavour also to the reinstatement of criminal investigations against members of the national organization UNA-UNSO regarding the events of 9 March 2000 (where all those accused except one current MP from the opposition Batkivshchyna Party, Andriy Shkil, have in fact already served sentences0, as well as in the prosecution of the head of the Secretariat of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, Zair Smerdlyaev (accused of taking part in a disturbances and resistance to the police during demonstrations by Crimean Tatars in 2006).


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