Ukraine reported to UN on improvements and human rights groups spoiled it all
On 8-9 July 2013 Ukraine reported to the UN on observance in the country of civil and political rights. Clearly the government’s report was all about the “improvements that have taken place in Ukraine over recent years. These were “improvements” in the judicial system; “improvements” in the fight against discrimination; “improvements” in the work of the law enforcement bodies and lots and lots of other “improvements”.
The human rights activists in their speeches and reports brought dissonance to this profound “improvement”. They pointed to systemic problems in these improved spheres. They noted, for example, significant problems with independence of the judicial system, with an essentially deadweight law on fighting and countering discrimination; on problems with the police, bar lawyers, the Prosecutor’s Office.
Members of the UN Committee asked the Ukrainian delegation a lot of specific questions which the government was unable to answer. Most often in their justification they gave information about certain successes which to a large degree were achieved by civil society itself, and not thanks to the authorities.
As an example, one can cite the answer from the government delegation regarding how effective measures are in protecting the rights of people with disabilities. They stated that models of such defence in court cases concerned upholding the rights of disabled children to electric wheelchairs and the case of Dmytro Zhariy regarding access of pharmacies. In fact in those cases the authorities were more violators of the rights of people with disabilities, and it was only thanks to the persistence of those people themselves and the support from human rights organization that their success was possible.
The final text of the UN recommendations to Ukraine on implementing its international obligations on civil and political rights should be published on 26 July 2013. They will most likely be quite tough. I hope that the government will take some steps towards implementing the recommendations aimed at resolving the most urgent human rights issues in Ukraine.
However bearing in mind the attitude of the government to the recommendations of international institutions, including the UN, it is difficult to believe that this will lead to a significant improvement in the human rights situation in Ukraine.
P.S. Recordings of the report of the Ukrainian Government Deligation to the UN and answers to questions from members of the UN Committee can be found here
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