Why I filed a suit against Moroz

The office of Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (the Human Rights Ombudsperson) is one of the most important in a democratic country. At a recent press conference for journalists from Luhansk the Head of the Board of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Yevhen Zakharov pointed out that the specific feature of this post is that the Ombudsperson is at once a civil servant and a person whom people approach with complaints when they believe their rights to have been violated by state bodies. They do so, however, if they trust this individual.

It is only possible to trust a Human Rights Ombudsperson only if s/he acts in strict accordance with the law, regardless of who or what bodies are involved. It is specifically for this reason that in Ukraine, as in other countries, stricter requirements than for any other posts are imposed on those who hold the position of Human Rights Ombudsperson. For example, not only does the Ombudsperson not have the right to be a Deputy, member of a political party, or combine the post with another job, but where such infringements of the Ombudsperson’s powers do arise, they must be eliminated within 10 days.

Unfortunately the previous Human Rights Ombudsperson, Nina Karpachova, was sworn in as State Deputy back on 25 May 2006, yet remained in two positions (as Human Rights Ombudsperson and Deputy) considerably longer than 10 days – until 17 November, in fact.

On 17 November the Verkhovna Rada suspended ahead of term Nina Karpachova’s tenure. Following this the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada or Deputies (in the latter case, at least 25 %, that is 113 Deputies) had 20 days in which to put forward new candidates for the post. They did not however do so. As a result, the Verkhovna Rada profile committee on human rights declared the start of a new timescale for proposing candidates, this expiring on 28 December.

Two candidates were put forward during this second period. 121 State Deputies signed their names to a submission proposing Yevhen Zakharov as candidate for the post of Human Rights Ombudsperson, while Oleksandr Moroz put forward for a third term the very person who had violated the law Nina Karpachova.

I would point out that Ukrainian human rights organizations have been fairly unanimous in calling for Zakharov’s election. They want to ensure in this way that the position will not under any circumstances be apportioned according to party “quotas”.

On the other hand, the position of Human Rights Ombudsperson is too important for citizens of Ukraine to find it acceptable for the position to be vacant for three months. A particular role in this regrettable situation has been played by Oleksandr Moroz.

Pursuant to Article 6 of the Law on the Human Rights Ombudsperson, voting for a new Ombudsperson should take place no earlier than 10 days, but no later than 20 days after the expiry of the period for proposing candidates. Since the period ended on 28 December, the Deputies should have voted between 8 and 18 January. The Deputies were prepared to do so and the vote was even included on the agenda for 11 January 2007. However on 9 January Oleksandr Moroz postponed the voting. Furthermore, according to media reports, he took this step entirely upon himself. This means that he himself violated the norm set out in Article 6 of the Law.

It is frustrating that the law in Ukraine is broken by those in charge of legislative bodies. It appears that they pass laws not for themselves, the ones with power, but exclusively for the “riff raff”. This is no way to build a law-based and democratic state.

Given the parliamentary break, it will now only be possible to elect a Human Rights Ombudsperson after 6 February when the third sitting begins. This means that over all that period, citizens of Ukraine will have been deprived of the opportunity to turn to an Ombudsperson appointed by law. There is no such position in law as an acting Human Rights Ombudsperson. And there should not be such, since the holder of this position must be a person enjoying the public’s trust.

According to Article 55 of the Ukrainian Constitution, citizens of Ukraine are entitled to turn to the Human Rights Ombudsperson for protection of their rights. Due to the unlawful actions of the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada, it is impossible to exercise this right.

Bearing in mind that in Ukraine the Constitution guarantees that all are equal before the law, I lodged an administrative suit against the actions of the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada. I asked that his actions be declared unlawful and that he be ordered to stop violating my constitutional rights. This means that he ensure the voting in the Verkhovna Rada for a new Human Rights Ombudsperson in strict compliance with the law.

Oleksiy Svyetikov

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