CIVICUS

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Ukraine

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Last updated on 30.09.2019 at 11:11

Ukraine - Overview

The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is having a significant impact on the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, particularly for those people in the conflict zone.

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 Human rights abuses against Crimean Tatar Community members continue

Human rights abuses against Crimean Tatar Community members continue

According to reports, on 27th August 2019 a court in Crimea issued a decision releasing Crimean Tatar activist Edem Bekirov from detention.

Association

Human rights abuses against Crimean Tatar activists continue

According to reports, on 27th August 2019 a court in Crimea issued a decision releasing Crimean Tatar activist Edem Bekirov from detention.  Edem was arrested by Russian security forces on 12th December 2018 when he was visiting his elderly mother in Russian-occupied Crimea. Edem is on trial on trial for alleged possession and transportation of illegal explosives, charges he denied.  

In another case, according to reports, Crimean Tatar Bylial Adilov began a hunger strike on 20th August 2019 in protest at the conditions of his detention. After being moved to another cell he ended the strike a few days later. 

On 27th March 2019 security forces raided at least 27 homes in Crimean Tatar villages. As a result, at least 20 people were detained, including Adilov, on suspicion of involvement with the political organisation Hizb ut-Tahrir. The organisation is labelled as a terrorist organisation in Russia, but in Ukraine it is allowed to operate legally. 

Peaceful Assembly

In June 2019, thousands of people took to the streets in Kyiv, in what is considered one of the biggest pride events to date. The march also hosted discussions on human rights and equality in Ukraine. According to reports, security measures were strict due to potential for disruption from far-right activists. The protest took place with no major incidents however.

Expression

On 20th June 2019, journalist and blogger Vadym Komarov died in hospital. Komarov had been in a coma since suffering a violent attack on 4th May in Cherkasy, Ukraine after posting on Facebook his plans to publish an article on alleged corruption in sports schools. The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media issued a statement calling on the authorities to: 

"[C]omplete the investigation in a vigorous and swift manner. It is regrettable that about one-and-a-half months after the attack the law enforcement have not yet identified the perpetrators nor reported any progress on the investigation. Violence and attacks against journalists are unacceptable and must stop. Impunity would be a victory for those who wanted to silence Komarov and to intimidate the press. All OSCE participating States should take effective and resolute actions to prevent and end impunity for such crimes." 

Association in Ukraine

The process to register and form an organisation is easy, and the legal framework for civil society is mostly open and supportive.

The process to register and form an organisation is easy, and the legal framework for civil society is mostly open and supportive. The government does not have wide power to deregister an organisation and there are no documented cases of illegal or arbitrary dissolutions of organisations. However, since 2015, CSOs are required to open bank accounts only in state banks, which could open the door to state interference. In the areas controlled by armed groups, human rights organisations have been targeted and forced to leave, while the remaining CSOs carry out primarily humanitarian work.

Peaceful Assembly in Ukraine

The constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and requires organisers to give the authorities advance notice of any demonstrations.

The constitution guarantees the right to peaceful assembly and requires organisers to give the authorities advance notice of any demonstrations. During the 2014 ‘Euromaidan’ protests, many protestors were arbitrarily arrested and the police used deadly force to disperse protestors, resulting in hundreds killed. As a consequence the government also passed legislation to criminalise the demonstrations. No one has been held to accountfor the killing of protestors and other human rights violations during this period.Recently, the government has been more tolerant of demonstrations, but the police have still failed to protect protestors from clashes. Despite police protection during a recent Pride march, right-wing activists attacked the march resulting in 10 injured participants. Freedom of peaceful assembly continues to be significantly violated in the territories controlled by armed groups.

Expression in Ukraine

The media landscape has improved since the end of the Yanukovych administration in 2014. Journalists face violence and intimidation, and the government’s intolerance of pro-Russian or pro-separatist views has increased.

The media landscape has improved since the end of the Yanukovych administration in 2014. Journalists face violence and intimidation, and the government’s intolerance of pro-Russian or pro-separatist views has increased. Journalist Oles Buzina, well known for his pro-Russian views, was shot dead by two masked gunmen in front of his house on 16 April. The Interior Ministry banned the broadcast of 14 Russian channels, and the authorities have also detained pro-Russian journalists and barred many others from entering the country. The new law on public broadcasting aims to address the concentration of ownership of private outlets in a small group of businesspeople, as a way of increasing media plurality. Libel was decriminalised in 2001, although civil suits are still used against journalists. No websites are permanently blocked in Ukraine, but some Ukrainian news websites in non-government controlled areas have been blocked. Social media users tagged as ‘separatists’ or ‘extremists’ have been targeted with harassment and intimidation. Journalist Ruslan Kotsaba was arrested on charges of treason after he posted a YouTube video calling on viewers to boycott military mobilisation in Ukraine. Media workers operating in the territories controlled by the armed groups face hostility, extreme intimidation and physical violence, as well as widespread self-censorship.