The meeting of the President of the International Society for Human Rights Thomas Schirrmacher with lawyers and human rights defenders of Ukraine

On December 9, 2017, in Kiev, a meeting of lawyers and human rights defenders with the President of the International Society for Human Rights Professor Thomas Schirrmacher took place. Participants of the meeting discussed a situation with observation of the right to a fair trial in Ukraine. In particular, discussed were the issues that appeared in litigations against journalists Muravitskiy, Vasilets and Timonin, managing officers of tax authorities (the so-called “helicopter case” or the “case of tax collectors”), criminal processes against the ex-president of Ukraine Yanukovich. According to the lawyers, violation of human rights includes the following:

  • accusation of journalists of high treason in connection with their professional activity – publication of the materials criticizing the state authorities and particular representatives thereof;
  • abuse of power by the military prosecutor’s office, in particular, prosecution of criminal cases on accusations which do not envisage participation of its representatives in the process (processes against the tax authority offices who are accused of corruption and who are not connected with the army or the military conflict in the East of the country);
  • beating of the arrested with the aim of disposing for an acknowledgement of fault and cooperation with prosecution for giving testimony against other figurants of the case (“helicopter case”, or the “case of tax collectors”);
  • actual suspension of the ex-President from participation in the criminal case brought against him expressed via denial by the court to provide Victor Yanukovich with a possibility to participate in court via a video-conference conducted within confines of the international legislation.

Apart from discussion of the socially important processes, the participants of the meeting made Professor Schirrmacher aware of the problems with observation of the rights of lawyers. Criminal and disciplinary proceedings, threats from the side of state authorities representatives and radical groups, damage of personal property and attacks are all part of the reality the Ukrainian lawyers face in their work, especially when they participate in the cases which have a “political coloring”. The President of ISHR noted that protection of human rights defenders and lawyers is an important direction in activities of the international organizations, in particular, UN and international organizations on human rights protection (including ISHR).

One of the ways to provide for protection of lawyers and their clients, as well as human rights defenders is a thorough dissemination of information and publicity in their work. Modern  means of communications provide for a possibility to disseminate information promptly. However, there exists the risk of persecution of lawyers and human rights defenders from the side of the persons who do not wish to make the materials of criminal cases public, who prefer “quiet” criminal cases that the public is not being made aware of. Search for a balance between the necessity of dissemination of information and a danger by so doing of bringing harm to a lawyer or a human right defender is an important task in building the information work.

Within the framework of the meeting the issues of interaction between the civil society of EU countries and the Ukrainian lawyers and human right defenders were discussed. The variants of cooperation may include:

  • search of international specialists for provision of expert conclusions within the framework of criminal cases;
  • preparation of reports by international human rights organizations and their subsequent use as the evidence for addressing the European court for human rights (ECHR);
  • participation of international human rights organizations in the ECHR cases in the format of a “third party intervention”.

Further process of establishing contacts between the civil society of Ukraine and those of EU countries, as well as a dialogue with bodies of State authority are an important step on the way to implementation by Ukraine of the declared course of reforms, including the reform of judicial system.