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Human rights in Ukraine are a real tragedy

23.09.2015 17:46

An annual two-week OSCE meeting on the obligations of member states "in the human dimension" opened in Warsaw, September 21. About 1,4 thousand delegates - representatives 57 OSCE member states' governments, partner countries, civil society organizations, international organizations and OSCE structures attended this major conference.

"Freedom of speech", "Media", "Combating hate crimes", "Combating human trafficking", and, of course one of the key issues of discussion - Ukrainian crisis in the context of respect human rights in Ukraine, were the main themes.

Traditional accusation against Russia's "aggression" against Ukraine, participation in Donbas conflict and "occupation" of Crimea sounded right at the beginning of the opening session. At the same time the performance of the Chairman of Ukrainian Human Rights Commission Alexei Tarasov about the real situation with human rights in Ukraine, including journalists activity, censorship, and other key issues was surprising, if not sensational.

Tarasov expressed concern that Ukraine has practically no freedom of speech and obstacles to access information, journalists activities and media in general are being deliberately created. Human rights activist cited data of the Institute of Ukrainian media, which recorded 224 violations of media rights since the beginning of the year in Ukraine.

"According to the Institute, almost every day in Ukraine journalists are beaten or intimidated. The worst thing - our journalists continue to get killed," - said Tarasov. He recalled the killings of journalists Olyes Buzina, Sergei Sukhobok, Margarita Valenko and Basil Sergienko.

In addition, the chairman of the Ukrainian Human Rights Commission noted that Ukraine continues an active campaign against media nonconformity. "The popular opposition television station '112-Ukraine' was denied a license, free metropolitan newspaper "Vesti" was forced to change the owner after numerous provocations and searches, employees of the Odessa' opposition website "Timer" were questioned in the SBU "just in case", and some of their houses were raided - said Tarasov. - The authorities have standard charges of separatism and subsequent arrests on the ready for "nonconforming" media. Chief editor of the Internet newspaper "Earnest" Artem Buzila spent almost five months in the dungeons of the Odessa prison after such accusation, editor of the "Working class" Alexander Bondarchuk - six months in the Kiev prison. And the list goes on."

According to the human rights activist, the problem with the freedom of expression and regulation of the rights of conscientious objectors (COs) in Ukraine is also very hard. Tarasov confirmed it by telling about the prosecution of journalist Ruslan Kotsaba. For his public conscientious objection of army service Kotsaba has been jailed and his case has been considering for several months by the Ivano-Frankivsk City Court.

"The authorities considered the open position of the honest journalist as "obstruction of the lawful activities of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and other military formations during the special period." This gives authority the right to consider Ukrainian COs' position, whereas not connected to any religious organization, a violation of the country law. Such behavior of the authorities is difficult to imagine in a normal democratic society. Therefore, in our country there is a total process of transformation of ideological Ukrainian COs into real prisoners of conscience" - said Tarasov.

The activist also drew attention to the issue of human rights in the area of the so-called "anti-terrorist operation" or ATO. "An Association Agreement was signed between Ukraine and the EU, which was ratified by the European Parliament simultaneously with the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on September 16, 2014. Special focus is given to human rights, - said Tarasov. - The Agreement has not yet entered full force, and the Parliament of Ukraine on May 21 2015 adopted a resolution "On departure from the individual obligations set by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms."

According to the chairman of the Ukrainian Human Rights Commission, instead of respecting international humanitarian law, Kiev applied discriminatory measures on the basis of residence, and deprived the fundamental human rights of population of the Donetsk and Lugansk Peoples Republics.

In this regard Tarasov considers it appropriate for the European countries to suspend the Association Agreement between Ukraine and the EU entry into force until "rough discrimination of rights and fundamental freedoms of millions of Ukrainian citizens is stopped" and to stop supporting Kiev's double standards.

During the OSCE meeting in Warsaw, representatives of the Ukrainian Human Rights Commission and the international project "UAMONITORING" presented a book called "Undeclared war in the heart of Europe", published this year, which presents a detailed report on the human rights monitoring in the ATO area and violations on the part of Kiev forces. The book's presentation was held at the European Parliament HQ in Brussels in June. Meanwhile the OSCE meeting will last until October 2, 2015.