January 17, 2014
The Australian Federation of Ukrainian Organisations condemns the most recent moves by the regime of Ukraine’s President Yanukovych to kerb political and religious freedom in Ukraine, and calls for sanctions against Mr Yanukovych and his associates.
The parliament of Ukraine, dominated and manipulated by the President’s political party, yesterday adopted legislation which imposes fees or prison terms for unauthorised meetings, criminalises libel and defamation, simplifies the process of stripping opposition MPs of parliamentary immunity, tightens control over Internet and social media communications, and forces civil society organizations to register and be classified as ‘foreign agents’ if they accept non-Ukrainian source funding. This follows earlier moves by the Government’s Ministry for Culture threatening the Ukrainian Catholic Church for its solidarity with pro-democracy protestors.
Mr Stefan Romaniw OAM, President of the AFUO said:
“These are hardly laws – they are weapons aimed at squashing the pro-democracy movement in Ukraine and limiting the civil rights of Ukrainians. We remind Mr Yanukovych that the world is watching these events with great alarm and with the expectation that dictatorship will not be accepted.
“In the name of democracy and human rights, it is vital that there be consequences for Mr Yanukovych from pursuing a dictatorial path. This includes sanctions by foreign Governments on his personal financial transactions – which come at the expense of the Ukrainian people.
“The United States Congress has now passed the relevant resolutions and held Senate hearings toward sanctions. The AFUO calls on the Australian Government to be aligned with its allies in this regard and take related steps.
“The Australian Government should in the first instance undertake a forensic audit of any financial dealings, such as asset holdings, that Mr Yanukovych and his immediate associates may have in Australia.
“Here in Australia, we can take action that dissuades Mr Yanukovych from turning Ukraine into a full-on police state where all orders by the Security Service must be obeyed without interference. A Ukraine that is stable, democratic and economically liberalised is in Australia’s national interest.
“I will be returning to Kyiv shortly and hope to brief civil society and opposition figures there on the support that the Australian Government is willing to provide to the pro-democracy movement.”
For more information: Stefan Romaniw 0419 531 255, Pete Shmigel 0419 541 531
Ukraine’s parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, adopted the following yesterday:
- MPs may be stripped of immunity by a simple majority vote in the Verkhovna Rada thereby allowing initiation of criminal proceedings, detention or arrest with such cases no longer requiring prior review by the relevant Parliamentary Committee;
- Amnesty from prosecution previously adopted by the Verkhovna Rada and granted to peaceful protestors who participated in protests since November 21, 2013 has now been extended to also exempt from punishment those who committed crimes against protestors, including Berkut security forces and other law enforcement officials;
- Allowing trial and sentencing in absentia of individuals, including prison terms, in cases where the person refuses to appear in court and when criminal proceedings in absence of such person are pronounced possible;
- Blocking access to residential buildings, up to six years in jail
- Groups of more than 5 cars driving together require permission from the Ministry of Interior Affairs, otherwise, the drivers face loss of license and vehicle for up to two years;
- Gathering and disseminating information about Berkut, judges or their families, up to 2 years in jail;
- Libel including via press or social media, up to one year in jail
- Law enforcement officials involved in similar activities and their families face a maximum prison term of six months;
- Blocking government buildings, up to five years in jail;
- Up to 15 days arrest for unauthorized installation of tents, stages and sound equipment;
- Up to 10 days arrest for participation in peaceful gatherings wearing a mask, helmet or other means of covering one’s face;
- NGOs that accept foreign funds must register as “foreign agents” and face high scrutiny, additional tax measures;
- State may take the decision to ban Internet access;
- A broad definition of “extremist activities” adopted disallows NGOs and churches from engaging in support of civil protests.