U.S. Helsinki Commission
More Democratic Setbacks in Ukraine
Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Member of Congress; Chairman, Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission)
March 6, 2012
Mr. Speaker. Last week, former Ukrainian Interior Minister Yuriy Lutsenko was sentenced to four years imprisonment in yet another politically motivated trial. This comes after the imprisonment – also the result of an unfair trial on specious charges – of his ally, former Prime Minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, who continues to languish in prison in ill health.
The sentencing of Mr. Lutsenko is a further confirmation that the regime of President Viktor Yanukovych is not taking its OSCE human rights and democracy obligations seriously. The imprisonment of opposition leaders Tymoshenko and Lutsenko prohibits their participation in October's parliamentary elections, raising serious questions about whether Ukraine will meet OSCE election standards. This could be especially troubling given Ukraine's assumption of the OSCE Chairmanship in January, 2013, two months after these elections. As Chairman of the Helsinki Commission, it is also distressing to me and my colleagues, who have long advocated an independent, democratic, and free Ukraine.
Mr. Lutsenko's conviction is disconcerting in that it starkly illustrates the deterioration of human rights, democracy and the rule of law under the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, who has resolutely put the pause button on Ukraine's once-promising advance towards democracy. Instead, what we now see is something increasingly reminiscent of the kind of authoritarianism that exists in Russia, Belarus and elsewhere in the post-Soviet space.
Ukraine's democratic backsliding is harming relations with the EU and the United States, and both have repeatedly made clear that for relations to improve, respect for human rights and the democratic process must improve. Most importantly, this now two-year deterioration negatively affects the Ukrainian people, who, following the Orange Revolution, had tasted the fruits of freedom, and are now increasingly experiencing the burden of its reversal.
It is time for President Yanukovych to show respect for the dignity of his own people by putting an end to political prosecutions and other reprisals against those who oppose him and allow their full participation in political life. In order to find credibility with both the Ukrainian people and the international community, he must end restrictions on freedom of speech and association and reverse the debilitating corruption and judicial subservience to the executive which have so eroded the rule of law.
Mr. Speaker. The time has come for the Ukrainian authorities to stop their slide to authoritarianism and resulting isolation which will only harm Ukrainians who for so long – and at such great cost – have struggled for freedom, dignity and justice.
Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly hopes denial of request to visit Tymoshenko will draw attention to Ukraine
5 March 2012
Vice-President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Walburga Habsburg Douglas has said she regrets that she was denied permission to visit former Ukrainian Prime Minster Yulia Tymoshenko in the Kachanivska penal colony in Kharkiv.
"A functioning legal system and the guarantee of legal security are among the most important democratic principles a country needs to uphold. It is unfortunate that we were prevented from meeting with Yulia Tymoshenko, and the denial of our request I hope will draw greater attention to deficiencies in the rule of law and democracy in Ukraine," the OSCE press service quoted her as saying.
The OSCE said that in lieu of their meeting with the incarcerated former prime minister, the delegation and four Ukrainian parliamentarians from various political parties met with the prison director and asked the prison to end its 24-hour video surveillance of Tymoshenko and allow her to be visited by national and international colleagues.
The statement also notes that two weeks ago two other members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly leadership, Dutch MPs Coskun Coruz and Kathleen Ferrier, visited Kyiv for discussions about rule of law and judicial training. Ukrainian authorities denied their requests to visit Tymoshenko in Kharkiv.
As reported, representatives of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly could not meet with Tymoshenko in the Kachanivska penal colony on Monday, as their meeting was not agreed with the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. The chief of the colony, Ivan Pervushkin, said that the delegation had been denied permission to visit Tymoshenko, as the visit was not agreed first with the Foreign Ministry.
A statement posted on the Web site of the State Penitentiary Service of Ukraine notes that the delegation left the colony at 1230.
Tymoshenko's defense lawyer, Serhiy Vlasenko, was allowed to meet with the prisoner.
"As of 1330, this meeting was still going on," reads the statement.