Translated by Ollie Richardson & Angelina Siard
On the night of 25 November, 2018 President Petro Poroshenko during a meeting of the National Security and Defence Council (NSDC) called for the introduction of martial law in Ukraine in connection with the situation in the Kerch Strait.
On November 26 the website of the President published the NSDC’s decree “On emergency measures to ensure the state sovereignty and independence of Ukraine and the introduction of martial law in Ukraine”.
The decision of the National Security and Defence Council consists of 12 points, the last point being secret. The Committee on National Security and Defense of the Verkhovna Rada approved the presidential decree and recommended the adoption of presidential draft law No. 9338 by the Parliament. During the time of the imposition of martial law, some of the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens of Ukraine that are enshrined in Articles 30-34, 38-39, 41-44, and 53 of the Constitution of Ukraine may be limited.
The committee supported Sergey Pashinsky’s appeal to the Prosecutor General’s Office about “bringing to justice in accordance with the article on state treason those who accuse Ukraine of aggression against Russia”.
The human rights defenders of “Uspishna Varta” are deeply concerned about the possible restriction of civil rights and freedoms in the event that martial law is declared in Ukraine. In particular, the law of Ukraine “On the legal regime of martial law“ stipulates a ban on the work of the media if the Cabinet of Ministers decide that they threaten national security. There may also be a ban on the operation of receiving and transmitting radio stations for personal and collective use and the transmission of information through computer networks. The law also stipulates the prohibition of peaceful assemblies, rallies, marches, and demonstrations. Other mass events may also be banned. The authorities have the authority to prohibit the activities of political parties and public associations if, according to the authorities, they aim to eliminate Ukraine’s independence.
Also, according to the Constitution of Ukraine, elections cannot be held during martial law. As a reminder, presidential elections are scheduled in Ukraine for March 2019, and the parliamentary elections are scheduled for October 2019. According to opinion polls, the current President Poroshenko is not even in the top three presidential candidates in terms of public support.
FREEDOM OF SPEECH AND OPINION
Aggression and physical attacks against journalists continue to go unpunished. On November 21 representatives of the radical group “UNA UNSO” picketed the “NASH” TV channel because they consider it to be “pro-Russian”. The head of the channel Tigran Martirosyan suggested that the picketing is in the interests of the authorities and said that the “rally” is aimed against the journalists. A few days before the channel started broadcasting on November 7, the building in which its studio was located burned twice. Commenting on the incident, the owner of the channel Evgeny Murayev noted that it was an explosion that was deliberately created.
Previous instances of journalists being attacked also remain uninvestigated. Thus, the Main Department of the National Police in the Kiev region did not find any evidence of representatives of the State Protection Service attacking journalists from “Radio Svoboda”, which was carrying out filming at a private party of the Prosecutor-General in the village of Koncha-Zaspa in the Kiev region on 19 September 2017. This was announced on November 19 by the head of the National Union of Journalists Sergey Tomilenko.
On November 23 in Zhytomyr another hearing took place on the case of the journalist Ruslan Kunavin, who was beaten in June 2017. The Prosecutor’s Office once again failed to bring a witness to the court session and did not provide the materials of the secret investigative actions that were carried out by the decision of the investigating judge. The hearing was postponed to January 18, 2019. The first hearing on the case of the attack on Kunavin took place only on July 12, 2018, after numerous transfers. The interests of the injured journalist are represented by the lawyer Andrey Gozhy, with the support of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform.
On November 21 daily hearings began on the case of the journalist Pavel Volkov. All the proof that was previously collected by the SBU and appealed by the lawyers of the journalist will be considered over the period of two weeks by the judicial collegium, because, in connection with the replacement of the judge, the prosecutor filed a motion to consider the indictment from the beginning. Recall that Volkov was arrested on September 27, 2017 and spent more than a year in jail. Because of his professional activity he is charged under part 2 of article 110 – infringing on the territorial integrity of Ukraine (by a group of persons) and article 258-3 – giving other assistance to terrorists – of the Criminal Code of Ukraine. More about Volkov’s case be read here.
The Zhytomyr journalist Vasily Muravitsky, who stayed in jail on similar charges for almost 330 days, spoke with “Uspishna Varta” human rights activists about his personal experience of staying in jail and being pressured by law enforcement bodies. According to Muravitsky, about 95% of persons who are accused on political grounds choose to make a deal with the investigation. People sign agreements and most of the time slander themselves just to get a suspended sentence and to get out of prison. More details can be read in this interview.
FREEDOM OF CONSCIENCE AND RELIGION
The unifying bishops’ Sobor, during which Constantinople plans to unite the Ukrainian Orthodox churches (after which it will give Tomos on Autocephaly), will take place no earlier than December – or even later. This statement was made by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. This is partly a consequence of the disagreement of the vast majority of bishops of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church (UOC) with their participation in the unification.
Meanwhile, the Security Service of Ukraine started to summon some bishops of the UOC for a “conversation” or “talks”. In particular, Metropolitan Luke of Zaporozhye and Melitopol and the priest of the diocese of Vinnytsia Nikolay Dudik were summoned for questioning by the SBU on 19 November. On November 20 it became known that the vicar of the Rovno diocese of the UOC Bishop Pimen had been summoned by the SBU in Rovno. The Bishop said that the authorised security services were interested in his connections in Russia and the number of visits he has made to the neighbouring country, and offered him support should he make any subsequent visits abroad.
On 23 November the Commission of the Ministry of Justice satisfied the complaint of the Kremenets-Pochayev state historical and architectural reserve and canceled the re-registration of the complex of buildings of the Svyato-Uspensky Pochayev Lavra (Ternopol region). The Ukrainian Orthodox Church said that the monastery is still in use by this denomination. A right to use acquired before 2013 is not subject to mandatory state registration.
As the human rights defenders of “Uspishna Varta” earlier reported, on November 15, the police of the Ternopol region initiated criminal proceedings concerning the transfer of the facilities of the Pochayev Svyato-Uspensky Lavra for the use or rental of the UOC. The Ministry of Culture demanded to cancel the decision on the state registration of the right to use the real estate of the Pochayev Monastery complex and to bring the registrar to justice. Earlier, the vicar of the Svyato-Uspensky Pochayev Lavra, Metropolitan Vladimir, appealed to all Orthodox believers to help protect the Lavra against the background of attempts to take away the Lavra from the church.
On November 21 the latest court hearing on the case of the Svyato-Sretensky Temple in Konstantinovka did not take place due to the defendant’s non-appearance. The next hearing is scheduled for December 10. Recall that in 2015 the temple was captured by raiders with the help of militants from volunteer battalions. Contrary to the statute and position of the community of the shrine, the governing body was replaced with a confessional affiliation loyal to the Kiev Patriarchate. For 3 years the courts of all instances have confirmed the community’s rights to the church, but in June the panel of judges of the Supreme Court reversed their decisions on formal grounds, and the proceedings again went to the first instance. During this entire time the community hasn’t had access to the temple. The struggle of the community of the canonical Orthodox Church for the Svyato-Sretensky Church in Konstantinovka continues in the legal domain with the support of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATIONS AND PEACEFUL ASSEMBLIES
The Lvov Prosecutor’s Office, together with the SBU and police, carried out a search at the home of the leader of the local branch of the “Ukrainian Choice” organisation Oleg Rostovtsev. According to law enforcement bodies, Rostovtsev “prepares articles with anti-Ukrainian content at the request of news agencies of the Russian Federation”. The press service of the Lvov Prosecutor’s office noted that the search was held in the framework of initiated criminal proceedings under part 1 of article 161 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (“Deliberate actions aimed at inciting national, racial, or religious enmity and hatred”).
On November 19 the Zavodsky district court of the city of Kamenskoye (Dnepropetrovsk region) found the members of the Communist Party Sergey Tkachenko and Denis Timofeyev guilty of committing a crime under article 109 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (calls to overthrow the legitimate government and the constitutional system) and sentenced them to 3 and 2 years in prison, respectively. Their sentence will reflect the time they have already spent in jail. In addition, Tkachenko and Timofeyev intend to appeal the verdict.
MONITORING HUMAN RIGHTS CASES
On November 21 the Court of Appeal of Kiev didn’t satisfy the complaint of the lawyers of Nadezhda Savchenko concerning the decision of the previous instance about her arrest until December 23.
On November 20 a hearing took place in the Kramatorsk City Court on the case of Nikolay Sidorenko, who is accused under article 260 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (creating non-statutory paramilitary or armed groups). During the hearing the court was supposed to hear via the Internet a person who was allegedly injured by Nikolay Sidorenko’s actions, however this person once again didn’t come into contact. Commenting to “Uspishna Varta” human rights activists, Sidorenko noted that the Prosecutor’s Office still refuses to investigate his illegal detention and torture, despite the presence of all certificates concerning his disability. More details about the case of Sidorenko can be found here.
On November 21 the Nikolaevsky Central Court decided to extend the public activists Sergey Dolzhenkov and Evgeny Mefedov‘s measure of restraint in the form of detention by 2 months. They have been in custody in jail for more than 4 years, since May 7, 2014. Initially, they were accused of organizing mass riots in the center of Odessa on May 2, 2014. In September 2017, they were handed a new charge for organising the Odessa-Nikolaev rally on March 28, 2014. More about this case can be read here.
On November 22 in the Shevchenkovsky district court of Kiev a regular hearing was held on the case of the Major General of the SBU Aleksandr Shchegolev, who has spent 1190 days in jail without an alternative. During the session 3 victims (out of the 136 mentioned in the case) were heard. In the case of Shchegolev there are 619 witnesses and 72 experts, in addition to the victims. The next hearing is scheduled for November 29. More about this case can be read here.
On 22 November, the court extended the detention of the athlete Dariya Mastikasheva – who is accused of treason – up to 21 January 2019. The court also returned the indictment to the Prosecutor’s office for revision. Dariya Mastikasheva has been in jail since August 2017 and faces from 12 to 15 years of imprisonment. More details about the case of Mastikasheva can be read here.
ABOUT THE HUMAN RIGHTS PLATFORM “USPISHNA VARTA”
The head of the Board of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform Nataliya Natalina took part in the UN Forum on human rights, democracy, and rule of law in Geneva. In her speech she noted that the decisions made by the Ukrainian Parliament over the past five years are not aimed at reconciling or reunifying society, but, on the contrary, they aim to divide society and continue the war, where Ukrainians are fighting against each other. Assessing the results of the activities of the Ukrainian Parliament in terms of the human rights situation, Nataliya noted that none of the laws in the framework of the Minsk process that are needed in order to end the war in Donbass – primarily on Amnesty – have been adopted. The human rights activist also informed foreign diplomats and UN representatives about the laws adopted by the Ukrainian Parliament that violate human rights. All the details of the “Uspishna Varta” human rights platform’s participation in the UN forum can be read here.
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