The United Nations Monitoring Mission Protests against Anti-communist Laws and Glorification of Nationalists in Ukraine

The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) has published “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 February to 15 May 2015”. It was issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

On 15 May, the President of Ukraine signed a package of four laws relating to Ukraine’s history. They denounce the Communist and Nazi regimes as “criminal under the law”, ban propaganda in their favour and all public display of their symbols. They also require replacing communist-inspired names for cities, streets, squares and other places. The package of laws include provisions for opening all archives of Soviet-era security organs and provides public recognition to all those who fought for Ukrainian independence. Thus, in addition to Soviet war veterans, the State and local governments are to provide social benefits to members of very diverse groups enumerated in the law, ranging from human rights activists to members of ultra-nationalist movements which committed mass atrocities during World War II, such as the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA).
The HRMMU notes that there is serious risk that some legal provisions could discourage debate about Ukraine’s past and limit the freedom of expression in a way that could deepen divisions. For example, the Law On the Legal Status and Honouring of Fighters for Ukraine’s Independence in the Twentieth Century’ states that “publicly expressing disrespect” for any mentioned group that fought for Ukraine’s independence and the legitimacy of this struggle is “illegal” and will result in “liability” under Ukrainian legislation. The Law On Condemning Communist and National Socialist (Nazi) Totalitarian Regimes in Ukraine and Prohibiting Propaganda of their Symbols is even more explicit in imposing sentences in the form of restriction of liberty or imprisonment for up to five years for the preparation, circulation and public use of Communist or Nazi symbols. It should be noted that similar provisions adopted in other countries were found by the European Court of Human Rights to violate the right to freedom of expression. According to Article 20 of the ICCPR, States parties are only required to prohibit by law “propaganda for war” and “advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence”.
The source: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/10thOHCHRreportUkraine.pdf

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