Protect Privacy

KIEV, Ukraine -- In September, the government of Viktor Yanukovych issued regulation No. 1169 “On obtaining court permission for activities that temporarily restrict human rights.” The order simplifies procedures for law enforcement to enter our homes, tap mobile phones and intercept e-mails.

Instead of court rulings, police need only obtain permission from the head of regional administrative courts. The resolution eliminates any oversight of the “information collection activities” by the public or other government agencies.

It also allows eavesdropping procedures to be put in place even if they are not allowed by law.

On Dec. 11, the Ukrainian Internet Association (UIA) provided a progress report on its efforts to have the measure repealed. The association sent letters to seven institutions, including the Cabinet of Ministers, Presidential Secretariat and the Prosecutor General’s Office.

The association’s appeal was brushed aside by all recipients, except for the Office of the Ombudsperson for Human Rights. Ombudsperson Nina Karpachova, herself an ally of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, agreed with the UIA and recommended that the Cabinet cancel the regulation.

Her opinion has been left unheeded by the government run by the party that elected her to parliament.

We are not arguing that law enforcement should be denied the right to monitor criminal communications. The problem lies in the lack of public and intergovernmental oversight of the state’s right to spy on its citizens.

The government should at least be required to provide reports on the number of people whose communications are monitored every year.

The last full-year report publicly available was for 2003, when 40,000 eavesdrop orders were sanctioned. The number has been kept secret since, according to the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.

The new Cabinet should cancel the order that allows for the potential uncontrolled spying by the state. Parliament should adopt a law to regulate eavesdropping and introduce progressive measures in force in European countries, such as informing innocent citizens when they have been spied on by the state.

Otherwise, Ukraine’s claim of being a democracy will be skating on very thin ice.

Source: Kyiv Post