AUGB STATEMENT ON THE EVENTS IN UKRAINE’S PARLIAMENT ON 16 JANUARY

17.01.14


Ukrainians in Great Britain are appalled at the events of 16 January in Ukraine’s Parliament, when the ruling Party of the Regions, with the connivance of the Communist Party and the Party of the Regions Speaker and Deputy Speaker, abused all parliamentary and democratic principles to adopt new laws which severely curtail fundamental human and civil rights.

 

A raft of new laws was adopted by abandoning the electronic voting system and using a show of hands with no discussion or scrutiny allowed, no counting of votes and no record of who voted.

The new laws are clearly aimed at preventing freedom of expression and the rights of civil society to peaceful protest and are most obviously aimed at closing down the peaceful Euromaidan protests in Kyiv and other parts of Ukraine.

If President Yanukovych signs the legislation, many fundamental freedoms will become criminal offences and allow imprisonment for periods of up to 15 years:

  • ‘approval’ will be needed for all protests; 
  • any criticism of the government or judges becomes ‘libellous’ (with up to 2 years imprisonment for individuals or  high fines for organisations forcing them into liquidation), as does investigative journalism without court confirmation of the ‘facts’;
  • ‘extremist’ views, however expressed, will allow the courts to close down websites and ban even personal blogs;
  • special forces will be free to act at will without recourse to the courts, which will allow peaceful protests to be dispersed by force without any redress for victims of police violence; 
  • organisations receiving any foreign funding, including highly respected academic institutions, will be deemed ‘political’, or worse still, will be regarded as active foreign agents, and will require special permission to continue operating. 

 

 

 

 

A further law will allow criminal proceedings to be held without the presence of the accused or their legal advisers – in clear violation of every established principle of human rights. Opposition MP’s are now left completely vulnerable to be stripped of their parliamentary immunity by a simple majority ruling-party vote and can be immediately arrested. The presumption of innocence has been discarded in favour of a return to Soviet-style tribunals.  Anyone “deemed” to be “extremist” by such tribunals faces up to 7 years incarceration.  Drivers of convoys of 5 or more cars will have their driving licences revoked for up to 2 years while football fans will be obliged to show proof of their ID when purchasing tickets for matches and then reproduce their ID again when entering football stadia.  Anyone blocking access to any residence or public building faces up to 6 years imprisonment while those accused of “mass disturbances” face 15 years incarceration.

Having been elected democratically, the ruling Party of the Regions and the Communist Party have now shown their total contempt, not only for European values but for the democratic process itself. In one day, they have recreated in Ukraine the darkest days of Soviet repression and confirmed their desire for dictatorship rather than democracy. In the space of 45 minutes, the ruling Party of the Regions and the Communist Party of Ukraine turned the country into a Police State.

 

We call on President Yanukovych to uphold his Presidential oath to protect the interests of the people of Ukraine and to refuse to sign these authoritarian and undemocratic laws; and on Ukrainian oligarchs to stop funding and supporting a political party which seeks to deny human and civil rights for the people of Ukraine.

The UK government and the EU can no longer simply express ‘concern’ about events in Ukraine. It is time to take decisive action to uphold democracy and human rights. We therefore urge the EU to take immediate and active steps to implement personal sanctions against all Ukrainian government ministers and officials who are abusing the Ukrainian people’s human rights; and the UK government to demand that the Ambassador of Ukraine explain why the Ukrainian government is supporting the repression of democracy and demand  an assurance that the forcible introduction of new anti-democratic laws will not be used as a stepping stone for the institution of martial law in Ukraine in the coming months.

AUGB General Council


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