OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2018: Human Rights Violations in Ukraine

Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard



On September 10th the first conference on human rights and democracy in Europe “The Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2018 (HDIM)” took place in Warsaw. It is Europe’s largest annual human rights and democracy conference. It is organised every year by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) as a platform for the 57 OSCE participating States, the OSCE Partners for Co-operation, OSCE structures, civil society, international organisations and other relevant actors to take stock of the implementation of OSCE human dimension commitments, discuss associated challenges, share good practices and make recommendations for further improvement.

On September 11th, the second working session of the 2018 OSCE review meeting for consideration of the implementation of obligations in the human dimension within the framework of the “Human Dimension Implementation Meeting 2018” conference took place in Warsaw. The topic of discussion was freedom of the media.

Official delegations of the OSCE countries, representatives of human rights NGOs, journalists, bloggers, representatives of civil society of the OSCE member states participated in the meeting. In their reports they noted the situation aggravated in recent years concerning the non-observance of freedom of speech and the application of pressure on the media by the authorities, instances of the persecution of journalists and the issuing of threats vis-a-vis their lives became more frequent, and the number of political prisoners who relay a position that is undesirable for the authorities, as well as the number of cases of political persecution, increased.

The head of the board of the human rights platformUspishna Varta in her speech appealed to OSCE with the recommendation to call on the government and law enforcement bodies of Ukraine to apply the provisions of the legislation on the fight against separatism strictly in compliance with international law, and not to use it to silence and subject journalists with an oppositional opinion to persecution.

Since words in support of Oleg Sentsov were voiced not only once during the meeting, Natalya Natalina noted that “Uspishna Varta” also supports the need to released not only Sentsov, but also all political prisoners in Ukraine. She emphasised that precisely ALL, including those who languish in jail in Ukraine because of their opinions and beliefs.

“How many of you know the name of the journalist Pavel Volkov, who already for over a year has been in prison in Zaporozhye because of his publications. He is accused of assisting terrorists, the maximum prison term for which is 15 years. Or the journalist Vasily Muravitsky, who was arrested in August of last year in the maternity hospital where his wife had just given birth to their child and accused of treason. Or the journalist Kirill Vyshinsky, who was detained in Kiev in May,” stressed Natalya Natalina in her speech.

She also remembered about the journalist Ruslan Kotsaba (who was present at the conference), who stayed in a prison cell in Ukraine for 524 days, and the journalist Dmitry Vasilets, who was sentenced to 9 years of imprisonment.

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In response to the provocative attack of the representative of the Ukrainian Institute of Mass Information, when during her speech she, without adducing any proof, accused the present journalists and representatives of the NGO of being fake, the head of the board of “Uspishna Varta” stated: “We are not fake, we are real. We = 70% of the Ukrainian population who don’t agree with the authorities and who have the right to freedom of speech and opinion”.

In completion of her speech, Natalya Natalina quoted the predecessor Harlem Desir, Dunja Mijatović: the use of propaganda during a conflict is the equivalent of spilling gasoline over an open flame. “Ukraine is already blazing. And the epicenter is in the center of Kiev, in the Administration of President Poroshenko,” summed up Natalina.

The former imprisoned Ukrainian journalist Dmitry Vasilets also made a speech at the OSCE meeting in Warsaw. He was able to travel there after his measure of restraint – house arrest – had expired.

As a reminder, Vasilets was earlier sentenced to 9 years of prison for “assisting terrorism”. Later the Court of Appeal cancelled the sentence and sent the case for reconsideration, and put Vasilets under house arrest instead of detention.

According to the journalist, he is going to return to Ukraine the other day.

“I officially tell the employees of the SBU – don’t have hope and don’t rejoice, I won’t run away anywhere and I will definitely come to the next court hearing on 13.09.2018 to once again listen to the prosecutor, who will try to prove to the judge that I need to be kept in prison because I 100% will flee abroad,” wrote Vasilets on his Facebook page.

At the OSCE conference he spoke about how he spent 2 years in prison on far-fetched charges.

“The SBU can jail anyone under the articles that I was condemned under – a journalist, an activist, they don’t need proof for this purpose. When a measure of restraint was chosen for me, the prosecutor’s office said that the proof of my guilt and anti-Ukrainian activity is confidential. And they didn’t provide them to the court. Two years later it became clear that this proof doesn’t exist, and I thus had to be released. Taking into account that there wasn’t any proof of my guilt, the employees of the SBU repeatedly tried to incline me to opt for a prisoner exchange – thus getting rid of my case, which had received a public response,” said Vasilets when he was given the floor.

In connection with the fact that participants from Crimea weren’t permitted to speak at the OSCE event, the Russian delegation addressed the leadership of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) with the demand not to allow a repetition of the incident. This was reported by the deputy head of the Russian delegation at the meeting – the deputy director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia’s Department for humanitarian cooperation and human rights Grigory Lukyantsev to Russian journalists on Tuesday.

“We have undertaken a demarche in front of the leadership of the ODIHR/OCSE and held a meeting with the first deputy director, during which we pointed out the inadmissibility of a repetition of such incidents as the one that occurred during the morning working session – when two representatives of our civil society were deprived of the opportunity to speak, despite the fact that they were registered in full accordance with the rules and procedures of the meeting. They were factually denied the right to speak”, he said.

According to the representative the Russian Foreign Ministry, they also drew the attention of the ODIHR to the fact that some delegations – Ukraine, the US, and Canada – again took the floor on a point of order and referred to the fact that delegates from the Crimea represent artificially created institutes of civil society from allegedly occupied territory. “We warned the leadership of the ODIHR that if such incidents take place again, including during future meetings, we reserve the right to interrupt any participant who will start to speak about alleged the annexation and occupation of the Republic of Crimea or the aggression of Russia in the southeast of Ukraine,” he added.

“As for Crimea, we will say that we consider using the tribune of the OSCE and the format of a review meeting in the field of the human dimension to call into question the territorial integrity of State Parties of the OSCE – I.e., the Russian Federation – to be inadmissible. We will call on those who hold the meeting to put an end to these practices,” concluded Lukyantsev.

As the “Crimea-24” TV channel earlier reported, after the Director of the Crimean Tatar TV channel “Millet” Ervin Musaev came to the podium and introduced himself, three countries protested: Ukraine, Canada, and Austria. Ervin’s microphone was switched off at once. Last year the speech of the chairman of the Crimean office of the Union of Journalists of Russia Andrey Trofimov at the specific platform of the OSCE conference on freedom of the media was also interrupted at the insistence of members of the Ukrainian delegation.

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