January 16, 2014
UKRAINIAN CANADIAN CONGRESS condemns repressive laws “adopted” by the ruling majority in Ukraine’s Parliament
UCC CALLS UPON THE PRESIDENT OF UKRAINE VICTOR YANUKOVYCH TO VETO THE REPRESSIVE LEGISLATION “ADOPTED” BY THE UKRAINIAN PARLIAMENT
UKRAINIAN CANADIAN CONGRESS ANNOUNCES URGENT CALL TO ACTION TO WORLD LEADERS
OTTAWA – January 16, 2014. The Ukrainian Canadian Congress watched in dismay today as the ruling majority in the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) led by the Party of Regions, proceeded to “adopt” various legislative amendments, including the 2014 budget and disturbing amendments to Ukrainian criminal laws affecting civil society, legal due process, freedom of speech, freedom of media, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion and others.
“Ukraine’s democracy is in peril if the dangerously repressive laws adopted today are allowed to stand. We urge President Yanukovych to veto these laws and immediately demand that Parliament follow proper procedure with respect to the adoption of legislation,” stated Ukrainian Canadian Congress President Paul Grod. “We urge President Yanukovych to enter into a dialogue with the opposition and civil society to negotiate a peaceful end to the political crisis in Ukraine rather than support the adoption of measures that will deepen the crisis further and repress the Ukrainian people. We remind President Yanukovych that the world is watching these events with great alarm and with the expectation that such blatant trampling of civil rights will not be upheld by the President.”
The lack of procedures followed in the Verkhovna Rada today was shocking, including a fire alarm blaring throughout the reading of the proposed legislation and voting process; no Parliamentary hearings, assessments, legal analysis or discussion of most of the laws adopted; Members of Parliament (MPs) raising their hands with no accurate counting of the number of votes supporting each of the 10 laws adopted and MPs voting on behalf of their colleagues.
“These laws approved today infringe the rights of citizens to freedom of assembly, freedom of the media and the rule of law. Most troubling is that these laws will turn Ukraine into a full-on police state where all orders by the Security Service must be obeyed without interference. We urge President Yanukovych to uphold what little semblance of democracy and civil society remains in Ukraine and NOT sign into law what was adopted today in complete disregard to the rules and regulations of Parliament,” stated Grod. “President Yanukovych is the guarantor of Ukraine’s Constitution and is responsible to the 46 million citizens of Ukraine to protect their constitutional rights” added Grod.
Journalists who videotaped the proceedings have uploaded multiple videos evidencing the extent to which Parliamentary procedures were disregarded during the Verkhovna Rada session, one such video showing raising of hands and an immediate tally of the votes in three seconds may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lYuFhxCTbg and another video shows a Communist Party member voting for herself and her colleague, who is not present during the voting https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7ZjTySFOiw, which is illegal.
“We are shocked at the sweeping repressive measures included in the “adopted” legislation that, among other measures, impose fees or prison terms for unauthorized meetings, criminalize libel and defamation, simplify the process of stripping MPs of parliamentary immunity, tighten control over Internet and social media communications and force civil society organizations to register and be classified as “foreign agents” if they accept non-Ukrainian source funding, including from the Canadian International Development Agency,” added Grod.
A comprehensive analysis of these laws has been initiated by the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. The most egregious of the ten laws approved by the ruling majority in the Verkhovna Rada include #3879 (the Kolisnichenko-Oliynyk Draft Law), #3587, #3855, #3883, #2178a and #2179a, which include but are not limited to, the following significant amendments to the Criminal Code of Ukraine:
MPs may be stripped of immunity by a simple majority vote in the Verkhovna Rada thereby allowing initiation of criminal proceedings, detention or arrest with such cases no longer requiring prior review by the relevant Parliamentary Committee;
Amnesty from prosecution previously adopted by the Verkhovna Rada and granted to peaceful protestors who participated in protests since November 21, 2013 has now been extended to also exempt from punishment those who committed crimes against protestors, including Berkut security forces and other law enforcement officials;
Allowing trial and sentencing in absentia of individuals, including prison terms, in cases where the person refuses to appear in court and when criminal proceedings in absence of such person are pronounced possible;
Blocking access to residential buildings, up to six years in jail
Groups of more than 5 cars driving together require permission from the Ministry of Interior Affairs, otherwise, the drivers face loss of license and vehicle for up to two years;
Gathering and disseminating information about Berkut, judges or their families, up to 2 years in jail;
Libel including via press or social media, up to two years in jail
Blocking government buildings, up to five years in jail;
Up to 15 days arrest for unauthorized installation of tents, stages and sound equipment;
Up to 10 days arrest for participation in peaceful gatherings wearing a mask, helmet or other means of covering one’s face;
NGOs that accept foreign funds must include in their title the term “civic organizations that fulfills the functions of a foreign agent” and face high scrutiny, additional tax and regulatory measures;
State may take the decision to ban Internet access;
A broad definition of “extremist activities” adopted disallows NGOs and churches from engaging in support of civil protests.
On this basis, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress urges the Speaker of the Verkhovna Rada (Parliament), Mr. Rybak and the President of Ukraine, Mr. Yanukovych, NOT to sign into law the 10 pieces of legislation “adopted” in violation of multiple Parliamentary procedures by the Verkhovna Rada today.
We ask that world leaders unite to denounce these laws severely restricting freedoms and with far-reaching and harmful effects on Ukrainian civil society and the manner by which they were pushed through Parliament today and urge President Yanukovych to veto these laws and restore democracy in Ukraine.
The laws passed today may be found at: http://rada.gov.ua/news/Novyny/Povidomlennya/87046.html
Analysis by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group – http://khpg.org/index.php?id=1389882519
The UCC National Office
Telephone: (613) 232 – 8822