PRESS STATEMENT, Forum of Ukrainian Human Rights Organizations, 20 – 21 May 2006

In reviewing the human rights situation in our country, the members of the Forum of Human Rights Organizations believe it necessary to note both positive trends and problems which continue to give grounds for concern.

The considerable improvement in the situation with freedom of speech and the mass media in Ukraine are certainly to be welcomed.  We would note also better protection of human rights from administrative arbitrary actions since the entry into force of the Code of Administrative Justice in 2005.  Another promising aspect is the greater level of openness within the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.  We further welcome the fact that the leadership of this Ministry has become more open to cooperation with human rights organizations, while it is also more active in its attempts to deal with cases of torture or cruel treatment by members of the police.

At the same time, however, we must express serious concern at continuing violations of human rights, as well as a lack of key reforms.

In presenting «Human Rights in Ukraine – 2005» which contains a detailed analysis of the situation as regards all human rights and fundamental freedoms, we would express our disappointment and concern that the overwhelming majority of recommendations made by Ukrainian human rights groups in the Report for 2004 have not been implemented.

We would draw attention to the fact that, despite our repeated demands and the recent acknowledgement by the Ministry of Justice that the deportation by Ukraine in February 2006 of 11 asylum seekers to Uzbekistan was in violation of both domestic legislation and Ukraine’s international commitments, the state officials responsible have still not been brought to answer. We call on the government and parliament as a whole to hold a public investigation into all the circumstances of this deportation and to provide a legal assessment of the actions of officials of the Security Service of Ukraine and the State Committee for National Minorities and Immigration of Ukraine.

We are forced to acknowledge that the Ukraine penal system remains extremely secretive and unreformed, this leading to constant and dangerous violations of human rights. We do however welcome the decision of the government to transfer the penal system under the management and coordination of the Ministry of Justice.  The statements by the Minister of Justice on 19 May 2006 regarding the need for immediate demilitarization of the penal system and the development of public control over penal institutions must also be considered positive. We willingly accept Mr Holovaty’s invitation to work in cooperation with the Ministry of Justice in carrying out this reform.

The situation which has developed in Ukraine where members of the public do not have access to information regarding the activities of state bodies remains highly disturbing. We invite the government to cooperate with human rights organizations in ensuring greater openness of such bodies of power, and of the right of access to information. We would also mention that no steps have yet been taken to safeguard the right to privacy and to put an end to illegal wiretapping and interception of electronic correspondence.

We see constant violations of the right of individuals to legal redress, while the public continue to identify the judiciary and the prosecutor’s office as the most corrupt state bodies in Ukraine. The Constitutional Court is still not working which demonstrates a lack of political will and legal culture amongst the leadership in the country.

The above-mentioned violations of human rights are of a systemic nature and are directly linked to the lack of fundamental reforms in safeguarding social and economic rights.

We would strongly emphasize that progress in the area of human rights can only become irreversible if effective reform takes place of the most important state institutions – the judiciary, the law enforcement and penal systems. We would stress also that dialogue between the authorities and society and participation of all members of society in decision-making are crucial steps in building a civic society which can safeguard the right of all people to life and dignity.

For further information please contact:

Dmitriy Hroysman, Vynnytsya human rights group, 8 067 2846450

Yevgeniy Zakharov, head of the board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, phone: +38 (057) 7143558, 8 050 4024064.

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