On July 15 2019, Office of the Ombudsman of Ukraine jointly with Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union organized a conference “Protecting of civic activists in Ukraine. Current situation and perspectives”. During the discussion representatives of the Ukrainian and international human rights organizations, civic activists and law enforcements representatives talked about the current state of affairs in the sphere of protecting civic activists in Ukraine. By the words of Andriy Mamalyga, Authorized Representative of the Ombudsman on Partnership with Civic Society Institutions, the number of attacks on civic activists in first half of 2019 reduced, however those, which took place were not prosecuted properly. “In many cases the only thing that has been done was initiating service investigation for law enforcements inactivity”, stated Mr. Mamalyga.
One of the obstacles in investigating cases on crimes against civic activists is the absence of clear definition of a civic activist in current legislation of Ukraine. This in many cases does not allow law enforcements to react properly to such kind of cases.
Another issue, which participants actively discussed was procedural difficulties in initiating criminal cases for attacks on civic activists. In particular in this case, such difficulties were imposed by the Law #6232, which was adapted by Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine in October 2017. These were so-called “amendments of Lozovyi”, which significantly complicated investigations of criminal cases. Most of participants underlined the importance of cancellation of these amendments.
Aside from this, one of the instruments that allows to increase protection of civic activists was named the Draft Law #4038a “On Protecting Whistleblowers and Publishing Information on Threat or Damage to Public Interest”. This idea was sounded by Liudmyla Tyagnybok, representative of the Kyiv office of the Australian and German CSO “Blueprint for Free Speech”. She emphasized that this Draft Law has more clear mechanisms of protection of civic activists and its adaption can positively influence the situation with protecting civic activists in Ukraine.
Amongst the other urgent matters in the sphere of protecting civic activists, were de-politicizing law enforcement agencies and increasing cooperation of all sides of the process. The last though was urged by Matthew Shaaf, Representative of Freedom House Ukraine. He stated that close cooperation of state agencies and human rights organizations can help not only to investigate current cases but also empower preventive mechanisms to reduce the number of attacks on civic activists