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Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts

Legislation Impacting Anti-Discrimination and Anti-Radicalisation Efforts Session of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.

Before 2014 and especially before the adoption of the discriminatory Law on education in Ukraine (2017), there were no explicitly discriminatory laws adopted. However, several acts and regulations contain discriminatory provisions. For example, in December 2012, Ukraine adopted the Law “On freedom of conscience and religious organisations”, which complicated the registration process for religious organisations and established close government control over their activities (through bodies such as Ministry of Culture, Prosecution, local administrations and municipalities). The law also requires religious organisations to seek permission to conduct peaceful public events, which directly contradicts Article 39 of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Furthermore, the law introduced control over religious activities of foreign nationals on Ukrainian territory, which is done by the Department for Religious Affairs (part of Ministry of Culture). This brought further contradictions in Ukraine’s regulations of activity of foreign priests, volunteers, teachers and students of religious institutions, etc.

On August 12, 2014, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament) adopted a bill №4312a, which extended the detention period of terrorist suspects to 30 days without charge. Preventative detention will be carried out on order of the Head Security Service of Ukraine with the consent of prosecutor and without a court ruling. The main reason for preventative detention is “reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity”.

Separatists in Donbass also introduced their own discriminatory legislation.

So called Luhansk People’s Republic passed the law “On the protection of Christian traditions of the Luhansk people from the harmful effects of hostile states, such as the European Union, United States and Canada.” The law essentially criminalised homosexuality. Meanwhile, Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic states that any “perverse same-sex relations” are prohibited, not recognised, and punishable by law. It also states that the “head religion” of DNR is Orthodox Christianity (Art. 31).

However, no new discriminatory norms have been adopted over the monitored period.

On February 23, Verkhovna Rada cancelled the law “On state language policy” which allowed Russian and other non-state languages to have an official regional status. Acting President A. Turchinov did not uphold this decision, but it still shocked local minorities and quite possibly contributed to the events in eastern Ukraine.

Several regional regulations can be pointed out for their discriminative nature against the Russian-speakers. On September 26, 2013, it was reported that deputies of the Ternopol City Council, where Svoboda party nationalists hold majority of seats, introduced a provision to the rules of city development that prohibited the use of any language except Ukrainian in the external design of stores, catering outlets and other establishments. On December 26, 2013, the resolution of the Odessa Administrative Court of Appeal came into force, invalidating the decision of the Odessa City Council (of July 8, 2011), which equated Russian language to Ukrainian as “a language of education and upbringing.

Armed conflict in southern and eastern regions of Ukraine prompted the government to adopt discrimination legislation.

Thus, on August 12, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Parliament) adopted a bill №4312a, which extended the detention period of terrorist suspects to 30 days without charge. Preventative detention will be carried out on order of the Head Security Service of Ukraine with the consent of prosecutor and without a court ruling. The main reason for preventative detention is “reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity”.

Separatists in Donbass also introduced their own discriminatory legislation. On May 15, a draft Constitution of Republic of Donetsk was announced, prohibiting abortion and same sex marriage. Draft document also declared Orthodox faith (Christian Eastern Orthodox Catholic Confession), professed by the Russian Orthodox Church as the official state religion.

On October 4, 2014, deputies of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic passed the law “On the protection of Christian traditions of the Luhansk people from the harmful effects of hostile states, such as the European Union, United States and Canada.” The law was essentially criminalising homosexuality, which could be punished with up to 5 years in prison or correctional labour from 2 to 4 years. Actions committed with violence or towards minors are punished by 8 years in prison or a death sentence.

Attempts to introduce glorification of OUN-UPA (Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, 1920s-1950s) in Ukraine’s legislation have been reported. On July 10, 2014, Lviv City Council appealed to the President, asking to return the title of “Hero of Ukraine” to Stepan Bandera and Roman Shukhevych. “Thus you will confirm that you are an independent President of an independent Ukrainian state, for which the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists led by Stepan Bandera and the Ukrainian Insurgent Army led by Roman Shukhevych fought and gave their lives,” council’s statement said.

On October 14, Petro Poroshenko cancelled the Defender of the Fatherland Day (February 23) and announced a new holiday – Defender of Ukraine Day, which will be celebrated on October 14 – when the Ukrainian Insurgent Army was first drafted. He noted that October 14th will mark ALL defenders of Ukraine during its rich history. Among other historical figures, he mentioned several members of the OUN and UPA.

On May 15, 2015, President Poroshenko signed a Law “On the legal status and commemoration of fighters for Ukraine’s independence in the 20th century”, as part of the “de-communisation” legislation. These “fighters”, criticising whom is now against the law, are OUN-UPA soldiers, who collaborated with the Nazis and took part in the Volyn Massacre, as well as mass murder of Jews in Lviv and Babi Yar, and soldiers of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1918-1920, headed by S. Petlyura), who also took part in Jewish massacres. Another Law – “On condemning communist and National Socialist totalitarian regimes in Ukraine and prohibiting the propaganda and symbols” – prohibited the use of communist and Nazi symbols, equating the two regimes.

Naturally, the law sparked some sharp criticism in the society. Leaders of Jewish organisations and communities expressed their concerns. For example, President of the Ukrainian Jewish Forum Arkady Monstyrsky said, “I believe that this law was adopted at a bad time. It almost looks like a provocation, especially in the current socio-economic climate. Who would be happy to find out that money that could be used to repair roads or utilities will be spent on changing street names and government stationery? This is unnecessary stress on local budgets, which are already tight as they are.” OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media Dunja Mijatovic also expressed concern with the law and tried to convince President Poroshenko not to sign it.

Prominent international historians wrote an open letter to Petro Poroshenko and Parliamentary Speaker V. Groisman, warning that “decommunisation” laws and laws regard the UPA are contrary to European principles.

Article 6 of the Law of Ukraine “On the legal status and commemoration of fighters for Ukraine’s independence in the 20th century” found that persons who publicly disregard the fighters for independence of Ukraine, impede the exercise of the rights of fighters for independence, are responsible in accordance with the current legislation of Ukraine. In addition, the public denial of the legitimacy of the struggle for Ukrainian independence in the twentieth century is recognized as an outrage against the memory of the fighters for Ukraine's independence in the 20th century, the humiliation of the dignity of the Ukrainian people and is illegal.

However, it should be noted that these provisions were not detailed in the Criminal Code of Ukraine or the Code of Administrative Offenses, and nothing is known about the cases of punitive application of the above standards.

In 2015, a number of laws of discriminatory nature appeared in the country. For example, the Law No. 159-VIII “On Amending Certain Laws of Ukraine Regarding the Protection of the Information Television and Radio Space of Ukraine” was adopted in February that year, which prohibited the display of Russian films and serials. The adoption of this document by the public was regarded not only as a protection of the information space of Ukraine, but also as a violation of basic human rights. In this case it is necessary to speak Russian-speaking national minority.

As the media reported, deputy head of the political faction “Opposition bloc” Alexander Vilkul commented: “Today I come from Brussels, where I met with leaders of all factions of the European Parliament, and they are talking with great concern about Ukraine. This concerns both huge corruption and violations of human rights, freedom of speech – basic European values, because they are very sharply negative towards any elements of censorship, it is not the path for Europe.” The president of the Association of Media Lawyers Tatyana Kotyuzhinskaya noted that this law introduces censorship: “There is a search for how to censor. This restriction of freedom, restriction of economic activities.” An open letter from the Media Group Ukraine expresses deep concern about the norms contained in Bills Nos. 1317, 1768, and 1889: “These draft laws contradict both the norms of international law and generally accepted European standards. They jeopardize the independence of the media. and our colleagues in the media market, we are sure that together with these bills the issue of the existence of freedom of speech as such and the rule of law will be put on the agenda of the Verkhovna Rada. “

In accordance with the spirit of this law, the practice of the Ukrainian government included bans on the entry of cultural and art figures in the country, who expressed themselves in a pro-Russian spirit or simply played “the wrong roles” in the theatre and cinema. One of the last examples was the ban in December 2016 on the entry into Ukraine of the famous Russian actor Ian Tsapnik for the fact that in one of the films he played a soldier of the armed forces of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic.

The Resolution of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine “On Amendments to the Procedure for Using Funds Provided in the State Budget for the Financial Support of Print Periodicals in the Culturological Direction, Newspapers in the Languages of National Minorities and Touring Activities of Domestic Performers” dated May 14, 2015 No. 291, cuts the financing of newspapers in the languages of national minorities.

A number of legislative initiatives have had a negative impact on internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine. This Report does not consider IDPs as a national minority, but given the vulnerability of this category of the population of Ukraine, it is necessary to pay attention to such normative acts. Initiatives such as: deprivation of the right to vote at the elections, taking IDPs to account, checking the actual place of their residence / stay, the obligation to receive social payments through a single banking system, had negative consequences for the social protection of IDPs. This was also noted by the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in his annual Report for 2015. The Decree of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine No. 79 of March 4, 2015, “Some issues of registration and issue of a certificate of registration of a person who moves from the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine or the area where the antiterrorist operation is conducted”, aimed at avoiding the receipt of social assistance by persons who In fact, they did not leave the house and continue to reside in territories controlled by the government of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.

According to the Decree, only in case of a successful check by the State Migration Service, can IDPs receive a mark of registration of their place of residence, and, accordingly, receive a competent certificate of the migrant. A certificate of registration of a migrant without registration of residence is not valid! Also, this Resolution authorized the Migration Service of Ukraine to conduct an inspection within 2 months of IDPs at their temporary registration address, and even accompanied by police and local authorities. In the absence of a migrant at home and not applying it within 10 days to the nearest unit of the migration service, he is removed from the register of persons who are moved from the temporarily occupied territory of the Crimea and the areas of “Anti-Terrorist Operations”.

The Law of Ukraine “On Local Elections” of 14.07.2015 № 595-VIII deprived internally displaced persons from the territories of the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions that are beyond Kiev's control, as well as Crimea, from the right to vote outside the settlement where they are registered. An exception to this rule can only be voting at special sites.

As reported by the media, citing the Central Election Commission of Ukraine, the settlers will be able to participate in voting at local elections only after the end of hostilities and only at their official place of registration. Experts noted that in this version the law contradicts the Law of Ukraine “On ensuring the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons”, according to which IDPs can participate in local elections by changing the place of voting without changing the elective address.

Separatists in the Donbas region also issued some discriminatory laws. On the territory of the self-proclaimed “Lugansk People's Republic” there is a law “On the Protection of the Christian Traditions of the People of Lugansk Region from the Harmful Influence of the Customs of Hostile States, such as the European Union, Canada and the USA”, criminalizing homosexuality. The Constitution of the “Donetsk People's Republic” says: “No forms of perverted unions between people of the same sex in the Donetsk People's Republic are recognized, not sanctioned and prosecuted according to the law”. In the same document, it is noted that “the dominant faith” of the “DNR” is Orthodoxy (Article 31 of the Constitution of the People's Democratic Republic of Donetsk).

In 2016, the pro-presidential Bloc of Peter Poroshenko submitted to the Verkhovna Rada a bill which discriminated minorities in use of their native language. So, it is proposed to increase three times the regional barrier for the languages of national minorities, and the conditions for registration of media in the languages of national minorities. Teaching the mother tongue may be in Ukrainian only.

Also in 2016, a law "On Television and Radio Broadcasting" was adopted, regulating the proportion of the songs in the official language in music radio programs and radio broadcasts. It introduced high quotas for the use of the Ukrainian language in the media and the penalties for violating them.

In Ukraine, the year 2016 was marked generaly by the ousting of minority languages from the media, education, and culture. As already mentioned in the previous section, on November 8, the Law "On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine” regarding "On Television and Radio Broadcasting" (on the share of songs in the state language in music radio programs and broadcasts) came into force. As a result, new quotas for the use of the Ukrainian language in the media were introduced and increased, penalties were imposed for violating the quotas that were not previously available.

In December 2016, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine also introduced Bill No. 5556 "On Languages in Ukraine", co-authored by deputies from the Presidential Bloc of Petro Poroshenko Y. Lesiuk and I. Vasyunyk. It is called upon to replace the old democratic law "On the Foundations of the State Language Policy" (the "Kivalov-Kolesnichenko law"), which in fact does not work after the victory of the "Maidan" in 2014. As already indicated, the new bill significantly curtails the rights of national minorities to use their native language at the regional level, learning their own language and registering the media. A separate item in the bill states a special status of the Crimean Tatar language in the Crimea, which is of obvious propaganda nature, because Ukraine does not control the Crimea de facto.

Obviously, such legislation will negatively affect the situation of the languages of national minorities, first of all, on the most widespread - Russian, to a lesser extent - Hungarian, Polish, Romanian, and others.

At the same time, it should be borne in mind that in 2016, out of 519 schools in Kiev, only seven educational institutions were taught in Russian - a little more than one and a half percent of the total. Only 12 schools in the Ukrainian capital have Russian-language classes. At the same time, according to the population census of the 2.5 million people living in Kiev, 600 thousand - a quarter of the Kiev population - recognize Russian as their native language.

The lack of places in Russian-speaking schools is indicated not only by parents, but also by teachers. In September 2016, the director of the Kiev Pushkin gymnasium No. 153, Alena Batalova, reported that in the beginning of the academic year four potential pupils pretended for a place in school. "About 230 applications were submitted for 56 places in the first two classes," the director emphasized. At the same time, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education and Science believes that there is no shortage of Russian-language schools in the country. Head of the educational department Liliya Grinevich said that the current state of affairs in the education system is mostly satisfied by the Russian-speaking population. "If parents have a problem, they can apply to the local education department, they will certainly recommend a school with a Russian class or Russian-speaking school," the minister added.

September 28, 2017 came into force the law "On Education", which provides 12-year education in the school and the increasing role of the Ukrainian language. The document was officially published in the Verkhovna Rada's "Voice of Ukraine" edition No. 178-179 of September 27, 2017.

The law determines that from 1.09.2018 the language of the educational process in educational institutions is the state language. Thus, the numerous national minorities of Ukraine became the victims of this law. The representatives of the Hungarian community, who speak poorly in Ukrainian and Russian languages, were particularly affected. It is important to note that also that Hungary invested considerable money in the educational infrastructure for Ukrainian Hungarian minority. After the protest of Hungary and a number of other European countries, the authorities were forced to declare that "according to the educational program, one or more disciplines can be taught in two or more languages ​​- public, in English, in other official languages of the European Union ". Thus, it became absolutely clear that the law was directed exclusively against the Russian-speaking linguistic minority.

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