Authorities, Courts Curbing Right To Peaceful Protests

KIEV, Ukraine -- Another constitutional right appears to be under assault in President Viktor Yanukovych’s Ukraine: The constitutional right to assemble peacefully.

A gathering called “Keep Silent, Ukraine!” was held at Maidan Nezalezhnosti on May 17. Less than 100 people gathered with the slogan: “We are silent, but we think very loudly!”in response to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's official visit to Kyiv on May 17-18.

In the run-up to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s visit to Kyiv on May 17-18, a judge in Kyiv Oblast’s administrative court banned any pickets in front of the presidential administration and in most central areas of Kyiv.

The court justified the ban as essential “in order to avoid possible clashes between people who share different political views, taking into account previous experience ensuring public order during such actions, and also conflicts with police units, which may lead to a sharp escalation of the situation and mass unrest.”

Natalia Petrova, a lawyer and a media expert, said that Ukrainian politicians and courts still don’t understand that a basic tenet of a democratic society is the freedom to assemble peacefully – even in protest.

“I can’t say whether the situation is getting much worse now,” Petrova said. “Banning meetings and demonstrations has been a common practice in Ukrainian courts.”

During the Ukraine without Kuchma protests in 2000-2001, when mass protests against ex-President Leonid Kuchma gathered steam, courts banned marches in downtown Kyiv.

Instead, judges assigned demonstrators to the distant location of Chaika stadium, just outside of Kyiv.

The most recent ruling – to not run the risk of protests against Medvedev, no matter how peaceful – shows that Ukrainian courts lag far behind democratic standards.

“Ukraine should learn from the Western countries how to balance people’s rights for assembly and public order,” Petrova said. “Just take a look at the anti-globalists’ protests during the G8 and other summits: nobody bans them and if the police notice a violent action, they just locate and isolate the instigators, while other people keep protesting.”

Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine clearly states:

“Citizens have the right to assemble peacefully without arms and to hold meetings, rallies, processions and demonstrations upon notifying in advance the executive authorities or local self governments.”

However, the second part of the Article 39 stipulates some restrictions on exercising the right for assembly. And those curbs “can be established by a court in accordance with the law and only in the interests of national security and public order, with the purpose of preventing disturbances and crimes, protecting the health of the population or protecting the rights and freedoms of other persons.”

And, hence, courts liberally seize on those limitations to ban demonstrations – and hence, a valuable form of free speech.

Among the victims of the court ruling were activists from the ultra-nationalist Svoboda Party led by Oleh Tyahnibok. They planned to picket the presidential adminsitration.

“To do so we filed a corresponding request to Kyiv city administration but instead of the expected permission we got a Kyiv oblast administrative court ruling that banned us to hold the picket in front of the president’s office and in most places in Kyiv downtown area,” complains Yuriy Syrotyuk.

Syrotyuk was outraged by the court’s rationale that the demonstrators threatened public safety. “We were not going to scuffle with the police or with our opponents,” Syrotyuk said.

“We just wanted to exercise our right for public gatherings and protest against treacherous anti-Ukrainian policy that the incumbent president, Yanukovych, promotes by signing bilateral agreements that limit Ukraine’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.”

Yevhen Radchenko, a legal expert and director on development at Internews-Ukraine, said peaceful protests do not represent a threat to public safety.

“If the law enforcement structures were afraid of clashes between the demonstrators and their opponents, they should have ensured public safety at the gathering point but not ban the picket,” Radchenko said.

“So it’s obvious that the court ruling was politically charged and the judges were trying to use any pretext to justify it. I think it’s a very alarming signal.”

“The current bans on peaceful demonstrations are nothing but a wide-front offensive on human rights,” said Yevhen Zakharov, a leading Ukraine’s human rights expert.

According to Zakharov, the official crusade against public demonstrations also extends to non-political issues – such as a student demonstration in Kharkiv recently demanding better city maintenance. Police detained three protesters for “violating the procedure for gathering.”

Most troubling, Zakharov said, is that “now city authorities can ban people’s gatherings” on their own, without any court order.

Zakharov is concerned that parliament will adopt even more restrictions on freedom of assembly soon.

Source: Kyiv Post

Comments

wesley rodgers said…
UNBELIEVEABLE !!!!!

NEW UKRAINE GOVERNMENT

MOVING FORWARD OR BACKWARD???

___________________________________

SO MANY COMPLAINED WHEN
YUSCHENKO WAS PRESIDENT AND THERE WERE MANY UNACCOMPLISHED MISSIONS.
BUT FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION WAS
NOT CURTAILED OR TAMPERED WITH
FOR THE MOST PART.

IN FACT AFTER THE ORANGE
REVOLUTION VICTORY THERE HAS BEEN
A TREMENDOUS RENNAISSANCE OF
CREATIVE JOURNALISM AND UKRAINE
PEOPLE DEFINITELY FELT A NEW
SENSE OF FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.
AND PROTESTS AND DEMONSTRATIONS
WERE A NORMAL EVENT DUE TO THE
PRO WEST "ORANGE " VICTORY.

THE POINT HERE IS NOT REALLY TO
CRITICIZE THE YANUKOVICH
GOVERNMENT BUT ITS APPROACH
TO SOME CIVIL LIBERTIES IS
GLARING IN THE FACE OF
THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY.

JOURNALISTS AND REPORTERS AND INTERNATIONAL MEDIA ARE READY TO REPORT ON PEOPLES RIGHTS IN UKRAINE.

PEOPLES SOVERIGN RIGHTS IS ONE OF
THE FIRST THINGS REPORTERS AND
JOURNALISTS FOCUS ON,ESPECIALLY
IN POLITICAL ENVIRONMENTS WHERE
THERE HAS BEEN A CHANGE OF LEADERSHIP.
THIS IS ONE OF THE PRIMAL AREAS
OF FREEDOM WHICH DICTATES A FREE DEMOCRACY OR NOT.
AND NEWS MEDIA MEMBERS ARE
ALWAYS HAVING THEIR RIGHTS
OR EXPRESSION TESTED.

EVEN HERE IN THE U.S. IN RECENT YEARS UNDER BUSH AND OBAMA AND
PEOPLE HAVING THE RIGHT TO PROTEST AND DEMONSTRATE OR NOT AND PROTEST
WITHOUT BEING CURTAILED.

MANY WORLD LEADERS CAN'T HANDLE
MEDIA COVERAGE BECAUSE IT HAS
BECOME SUCH A TELL TALE MESSENGER OF PEOPLES RIGHTS OR
LACK OF THEM.
WORLDWIDE MEDIA HAS BECOME A
POTENT VENUE FOR POLITICIANS IF THEY WANT TO GET ELECTED AND REMAIN IN OFFICE.
WITH INTERNET ALSO MEDIA COVERAGE
AND ACCEEPTANCE IS EVER ESSENTIAL FOR ACCEEPTANCE WORLDWIDE.

MORE PEOPLE THAN EVER FOCUS IN
VERY ASTUTELY ON UKRAINE AND WHERE IT IS FOCUSED AND HOW IT GOVERNS.

THEY KNOW HOW STRONG AN ALLY UKRAINE IS WITH RUSSIA AND THAT
CONCERNS THEM AND ITS NEIGHBOR RUSSIA HAS THAT STRONG LEADER VLADIMIR PUTIN.

THIS IS ALL GOOD BECAUSE PUTIN IS
VERY DEFINITELY A LEADER BUT UKRAINE IS VIEWED AS A MORE FREE
DEMOCRACY AS IT DID BREAK AWAY
FROM THE SOVIET UNION AND THAT
IS REMEBERED FIRST BY PEOPLE IN
OTHER COUNTRIES AND UKRAINE SPIRIT HAS BEEN PERSONAFIED, ESPECIALLY
AS SO MANY REMEDMBER THAT HIGHLY
COVERED ORANGE REVOLUTION BY THE
INTERNATIONAL MEDIA.
AND YANUKOVICH MUST THINK THAT PERHAPS CURTAILING FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION IS PERCEIVED MORE
LIKE THE OLD SOVIET UNION RATHER
THAN A NEW FOCUSED UKRAINE
GOVERNMENT IN 2010.

ONE OF THE TOP ELECTIONS IN EUROPEAN HISTORY AS EVEN AMERICANS
WERE FOCUSED ON THE NEWS COVERAGE
FROM INDEPENDENCE SQUARE.
LIKE IT OR NOT-THAT WAS QUITE A SHOW AND IT WAS NOT REALLY AS MUCH ABOUT YUSCHENKO OR
TYMOSHENKO BUT MORE DIRECTLY
ABOUT UKRAINE PEOPLE EXPRESSING
THEIR FREEDOM AND HAVING THEIR VOICE HEARD AND THAT DID
MAKE A DIFFERERNCE.

PERHAPS UKRAINE PRESIDENT YANUKOVICH SHOULD REMEMBER THAT
ELECTION WHICH HE BARELY LOST BUT IT WAS THE VOICE OF UKRAINE PEOPLE WHICH WAS HEARD WORLDWIDE.
MAYBE HE SHOULD TAKE A WALK DOWN TO INDEPENDENCE SQUARE AND TALK WITH SOME OF THE LOCAL PEOPLE AND
ASK THEM HOW THEY FEEL.

OH,I FORGOT THE MEDIA MAY COVER
HIM MINGLING WITH AVERAGE TRUE
SPIRITED,PATRIOTIC UKRAINE PEOPLE.
WE WISH THE NEW UKRAINE PRESIDNET
NOTHING BUT THE BEST AND HE HAS WORKED HARD TO BECOME PRESIDENT OF ONE OF THE GREATEST AND FREE SPIRITED COUNTRIES IN THE
WORLD AND ONE KNOWN FOR ITS FREEDOM OF EXPRESSION.

WES RODGERS newsman007
PATRIOTSTV.COM
west-patriot@msn.com