Amendment to e-declaration law targets anti-corruption groups in Ukraine
On 23rd March 2017, President Poroshenko approved an amendment to the 'e-declaration' law that will require anti-corruption organisations to declare their assets, along with politicians, judges and civil servants. The media NGO - Institute of Mass Information - issued a joint statement with Transparency International expressing concern over how the law will disrupt civil society activities and burden NGOs with increased regulations. In thier view, this additional legislation is unnecessary for the sector because there are already transparency and accountability controls and mechanisms in place, as Yaroslav Yurchyshyn, the Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine, stated:
“Non-governmental organisations are overseen by the public and their donors. The relevant authorities review tax and financial reports. Our annual reports are available online. These new amendments which extend to organisations that work with us, if introduced, will complicate not only anti-corruption activity but the life of individuals indirectly assisting and supporting our work”.
After coming under fire for signing the amendment into law, President Poroshenko promised to establish a working group with civil society representatives to review the provisions and how they will potentially impact the sector.
CIVICUS, along with our partners the Center for Civil Liberties and DeJuRe Foundation, highlighted the dangers of this new law in a joint submission to the Universal Periodic Review in March 2017 - the full text of this submission can be read here.
On 22nd February 2017, thousands of Ukrainian citizens rallied in the capital Kyiv to demand a change in the current Ukrainian government. As part of the March of Dignity, protesters expressed frustration with the incumbent administration, claiming that no concrete changes have been made to improve the situation in the country. The March was organised by several nationalist political forces. The Euromaidan protests in 2013-14 brought hope to many in the country; however, with the ongoing conflict in the east, Russia's annexation of Crimea and a serious economic crisis in the country, there has been increasing disillusionment among the general public. Despite the difficult circumstances facing the country, the right to peaceful assembly was protected in this instance and there were no reports of violence, arbitrary arrest or disruption of the march.
In February 2017, a political scandal broke out in Kyiv when the current government and President Poroshenko were accused of supporting the separatist regime in the Donbass region by fostering economic ties with the de facto authorities there. For almost five weeks, armed groups, former Ukrainian soldiers and members of small, nationalist political parties have blocked railroad connections. The protesters aimed to cut off all vital transport links between industries on either side of the conflict's front line.
In Russian-held Crimea, lawyer Emil Kurbedinov fights repression against Crimean Tatars https://t.co/R8dj8fWLNH— Brian Bonner (@BSBonner) April 3, 2017
On 1st February 2017, Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, accused Russia of persecuting lawyers and suppressing media freedom in Crimea. Kyslytsa claims that lawyers are being threatened for defending Crimean Tatar activists and other human rights defenders. For example, on 25th January 2017, Nikolai Polozov, a Russian lawyer defending two Tatar activists, Akhtem Chyjgoz and Ilmi Umerov, was interrogated by the Russian intelligence service. Another lawyer, Emil Kurbedinov, who defends Crimean Tatars, was detained for ten days on charges of "propagandising for extremists organisations". He was later released on 5th February 2017.
New legislation could require Ukrainian media outlets to produce at least 75 percent of their content in the Ukrainian language. Some experts worry that such regulations could lead to increased social and ethnic tensions. Language is a very sensitive issue in the country, as both Ukrainian and Russian are widely spoken, with east Ukraine being a predominantly Russian-speaking region now facing serious conflict and destabilisation. The bill has been sent to the Ukrainian Parliament for consultation and requires the president's approval before it can become law.