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4 July, 2011  ▪  Alina Pastukhova

Sounding the Alarm

International organisations seem disappointed with the scale of democracy and freedoms in Ukraine since the 2010 election

Freedom House has presented a report with the eloquent title Sounding the Alarm: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine based on political monitoring in Ukraine. The report contains the harshest findings of Western experts compared to those for all 20 years of independence. According to David Kramer, the Executive Director, Freedom House has been critical of all Ukrainian governments. However, the last year proved to be the worst of all. Through their findings, Western experts essentially warned Viktor Yanukovych and his team that they will have to forget about any prospects of deeper European integration unless the situation improves. 

According to the report, the international community is concerned about the excessive concentration of power in the hands of the effective president and Party of the Regions. To Freedom House experts, it looks like the government is trying to remove any obstacles from their way, including public control over the government that could make it harder for those in power to reach their goal. What concerns Western human rights advocates the most, are criminal persecution of opposition leaders and the growing role of law enforcement agencies, particularly the SBU, in politics. They stress the declining freedom of peaceful assembly, given the arrest and interrogation of public activists as well as restricted freedom of speech in connection to the establishment of control over the leading mass media by oligarchs, who are loyal to the government. Another challenge highlighted in the report is the problem of ensuring fair and transparent elections as seen in the 2010 local election and the fact that expert opinion is frequently ignored in the process of drafting new election legislation. The government’s humanitarian policy has also come under harsh criticism, especially the support of the Russian language that aggravates the division of society. Freedom House experts recommended that Mr. Yanukovych fires Dmytro Tabachnyk, the Education Minister, “for spreading the unnecessary and dangerous division of Ukraine on the basis of national identity, language and education.” 

David Kremer shared his opinion on the situation in Ukraine in an exclusive interview with the Ukrainian Week:

UW: The Freedom House report was completed back in April. Has the situation changed in Ukraine in the meantime? 

Some of the problems that the report focused on were confirmed. We see that the criminal persecution of opposition leaders, particularly the wanton persecution of Yulia Tymoshenko, continues. 
We are also concerned about legislative initiatives concerning the regulation of NGOs, particularly, the restrictions of NGO funding by foreign individuals and foundations.
I believe that the government takes our report seriously, as Hanna Herman has said. And I hope it will heed our recommendations. 

UW: What brought you to the conclusion that the cases against members of the former government are politically motivated? 

It is extremely important that anti-corruption measures look plausible and inspire confidence. Unfortunately, as far as I can see, there is no trust either for the government or Prosecutor General in terms of these investigations against one-time top officials. I’m not saying that members of the previous government should enjoy immunity. Yet, I think these cases are not convincing enough. They focused on the abuse of office rather than charges of personal enrichment. Moreover, the government must ensure a fair investigation but it is often incapable of doing so.

UW: Can Freedom House influence decision-making by political elites? Does the Ukrainian government take your recommendations into account?

I hope they take our conclusions seriously. Our latest report on Ukraine provides recommendations not only to the Ukrainian government, but the US and EU as well. They are not perfect, nor can they be considered the only right scenarios. Still, I believe they should be taken into account for the sake of the people of Ukraine and their future. 

UW: What was the reaction to the report’s findings in Brussels?  

I’m going to Brussels at the end of next month and will have a clearer vision of what they think of it. But I know that officials in Brussels, as well as in the US and the EU, have read it. I think there will still be discussions concerning the report.

UW: What prospects for civil society do you see in Ukraine?

We are concerned about the development of this sphere. I think Ukrainian society has taken a huge step forward. It has grown more proactive and engaged in the current situation in the country. But we fear that this development may come to a halt. Ukrainians used to have orange leaders, now they have the blue and white ones, but there are almost no other alternative options. Still, civil society cannot rely on political leaders alone – it must be proactive in spite of them. 

DEMOCRACY IN UKRAINE: INTERNATIONAL TALK 

International Organisation Date
Council of Europe/Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) January 2011 (enforcement of European Court Human Rights rulings), May 2011 (‘Honouringof Obligations and commitments by Ukraine’), April 2010 (1933 artificial famine), October 2010 (threats to democracy)
Venice Commission/   Council of Europe                  October 2010 (criticism of July 2010 judicial reforms), November 2010 (local election described as ‘dirtiest election since Ukraine’s Independence’), December 2010 (call for inclusive election law, criticism of September 2010 constitutional reforms)
Congress of Local and Regional Authorities/ Council of Europe November 2010 (local election ‘Voting was not of a standard we would wish to see, namely, fully in line with the requirements of the European standards for fair, transparent and professionally organized elections.’)
OSCE (including: Vienna-based US Mission to the OSCE, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, Dunja Mijatović) November 2010 (statement on irregularities in local elections), April, September, October 2010, January 2011 (statements on erosion of media freedom in Ukraine).
US Helsinki Commission (USHC) March 2010 (USHC Hearing on Ukraine calling on new Yanukovych administration to implement reforms and combat corruption),June 2010 (Ukraine raised at USHC hearings on free media), September 2010 (USHC press statement on democratic regression), February 2011 (USHC hearing with OSCE Chair, Lithuanian Foreign Minister), February 2011 (USHC Senior Policy Advisor Orest Deychakiwsky speech to The Washington Group leadership conference), USHC raised concerns through public and direct interventions with Ukrainian officials on many occasions in Washington DC and through O. Deychakiwsky’s interview on Ukrainian television.
EU (European Union) November 2010 (Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, said EU was ‘concerned at reports from a number of election observer missions of irregularities during the local elections which were held on 31 October’), March 2011 (report outlining Ukraine’s lack of fulfillment of all of the 2010 goals in the EU-Ukraine Association Agenda), May 2011 (C. Ashton, statement critical of selective justice following Tymoshenko’s temporary arrest).
Ukrainian Civic Monitoring (Soros Foundation) May 2010 (Ukraine implemented 8/70 priority areas of the EU-Ukraine Association Agenda.)
European Parliament November 2010 (critical of local elections), June 2011 (called upon authorities not to use criminal prosecution of opposition leaders for political ends and to ensure their free participation in political life, including the lifting of travel bans).

European Peoples Party (EPP)

May, Sept., Nov., Dec., 2010, Feb, March, May 2011 (critical resolutions and statements)
Europol (European Police Force) 2011 Report ‘EU Organised Crime Threat
Assessment,’ outlined Ukraine as a major new route for smuggling narcotics into Europe.

 
IMF (International Monetary Fund) February 2011 (statement criticising grain quota system), February-March 2011 (last IMF visit followed by suspension of July 2010 programme), June 2011 (National Bank Ukraine Chairman Sergei Arbuzov’s open letter to Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov criticizing high inflation and ‘public statements by the government leadership which contradict the goals of the IMF programme.’ These will lead to Ukraine not receiving $7.7 bn. in 2011).
OECD (Oranisation for Economic Cooperation Development) May 2011 (second report found Ukraine had only implemented 1/24 OECD recommendations on corruption for 2010). Goran Klemencic, presenting the report, said ‘Among all European countries that are fighting corruption, Ukraine is among the last ones.’
GRECO (Group of States Against Corruption)/Council of Europe May 2011 (Ukraine failed to establish a legislative basis for combatting corruption and policies against corruption failed to meet European standards in 13 directions. Ukraine is the first country in GRECO’s anti-corruption initiative whose ability to meet its requirements has been lowered.
Transparency International June 2011 (Oleksiy Khmara, Transparency International’s Ukraine representative: ‘The conclusions reached by Freedom House are without doubt just. I do not know of cases when this organisation lets in some mistakes into its work. That is why our organisation Transparency International draws on Freedom House data as one of the sources in the preparation of its yearly reports on the entire world.’).
NATO Parliamentary Assembly June 2011 (‘Post-Orange Ukraine: Internal Dynamics and Foreign Policy Priorities,’)
US Government April, May, September 2010 (conference speeches by Ambassador John F.Tefft on democracy, criminal justice and corruption), October-November 2010 (Vice President Joe Biden on local elections, statement regarding fairness of the local elections: ‘Preliminary reports from election monitors suggest that Ukraine’s 31 October local elections did not meet standards for openness and fairness set by the presidential elections earlier this year,’),
December 2010 (statement ‘Investigating Opposition Politicians’: ‘Although as a rule the US Government does not comment on the specifics of individual cases, we have raised with the Ukrainian government our concern that while corruption should be pursued, prosecution should not be selective or politically motivated.’), January 2011 (statement on Czech Asylum of Bohdan Danylyshyn), February 2011 (US-Ukraine Strategic Partnership Committee), May 2011 (statement on Education Minister Dmytro Tabachnyk.)
 
Amnesty International April 2010 (‘Put deeds before words: Deliver human rights for Ukraine.’ Called on President to ensure accountability for human rights abuses by making sure Ukraine’s laws and practices comply with international standards), November 2010 (statement condemning forced psychiatric internment of NGO activist).
Human Rights Watch January, February 2011 (statements on democratic regression in Ukraine), January, May, November 2010.
European Federation of Journalists (member of International Federation of Journalists) May 2010 (statement calling on authorities and media owners that support or initiate censorship to respect standards of press freedom, in particular their commitment to the European Convention of Human Rights).
Freedom House January 2011 (Ukraine downgraded from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’), March 2011 (Ukraine’s media environment downgraded from ‘Free’ to ‘Partly Free’), April 2011 (‘Sounding the Alarm: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine’ warning of move to authoritarianism), May 2011 (Freedom House President David Kramer critical of treatment of Tymoshenko: ‘This amounts to a relentless and arbitrary campaign against the leading Ukrainian opposition figure and is an improper way to advance rule of law. Instead, it is rule by law and needs to stop.’)
International Republican Institute (IRI and National Democratic Institute (NDI) August 2010 (joint statement criticising draft election law which threatens to limit the number of parties running in the local elections), November 2010 (NDI: ‘the environment surrounding Ukraine’s 31 October local elections has deteriorated compared to the situation during the presidential election earlier this year’), March 2011 (NDI and IRIsuspended participation in working group on election law).
Reporters Without Borders October 2010 (Open letter to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, and National Assembly Speaker Bernard Accoyer, complaining about ‘serious violations of media freedom’ in Ukraine since Yanukovych became president), October 2010 (Ukraine downgraded 42 places to 131stin 2010 Media Freedoms Index).
European Democrat Students
February 2011 (adopted motion condemning treatment of Tymoshenko and travel ban).
The Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal March 2011 (Ukraine’s record of economic freedom deteriorated in 2010. Ukraine ranked 164th position out of 183 countries).
European Business Association June 2010 (report criticized Yanukovych administration for poor performance in delivering business reforms in its first 100 days in office), February 2011 (criticised lack of struggle against corruption).
Ukraine’s Helsinki Human Rights Union July 2010 (statement expressing concerns about draft law 2450 restricting freedom of assembly), September 2010 (criticises arrest of Ruslan Zabily, director of the Lonsky prison museum in Lviv and seizure of documents relating to the 1933 artificial famine), December 2010 (‘criminal prosecutions are aimed exclusively at members of opposition political parties’), June 2011 (joint appeal with other Ukrainian human rights NGO’s calling for visa bans and asset freezes of senior members of Yanukovych administration).
Civil Network OPORA November 2010 (report on local elections: ‘There were so many violations that we cannot say that it was democratic, fair and open.’)
Ukrainian Intellectuals December 2010 (Open letter to President Yanukovych: ‘Take your hands off Yulia.’);
Ukrainian Intellectuals
 

December 2010 (Open letter to President Yanukovych: ‘Take your hands off Yulia.’);
Opposition Bloc of YuliaTymoshenko and Our Ukraine-Peoples Self Defence June 2011 (appeal calling for visa bans against senior members of Ukrainian judiciary involved in political prosecution).
Ukraine’s Institute of Mass Information
and Kyiv Independent Media Trade Union

 
May 2011 (President Yanukovych declared ‘Enemy of the Press 2010.’ Prime Minister Nikolai Azarov came 2nd.)

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