Parliament of Ukraine with lightning speed has adopted the law that would officially call independent civil society organizations extremists and foreign agents. These organizations, as well as participants of mass protest actions, would be sanctioned starting fines and ending several years of imprisonment.
On January 16, 2014 Ukrainian Parliament has adopted the law “On Amendments of the Law “On the Judicial System and Status of Judges” and Procedural Laws on Additional Citizens Safety Measures” initiated by V. Kolesnichenko and V. Oliinyk (both from Party of Regions). The correspondence draft law was registered two days before adoption, on January 14, as №3879. The law recommends “reinforcing safety measures in relation to specific categories of persons and objects, intensify sanctions for some criminal and administrative offences, and establish additional measures of influence for maintenance of a public order, rights and legal interests of citizens”.
Transparency International Ukraine states that this law, in case signed by President Viktor Yanukovych, will suppress any display of civic resistance in Ukraine, start repressions and turn Ukraine into dictatorship. According to the law, everybody who is involved in extremist activities will be punished with a fine, seizure of property, and imprisonment up to 6 years. The law’s authors consider the following actions as extremist: moving in a motorcade of more than five vehicles (all Auto-Maidan movement participants), performing the activity of an information agency without state registration (all independent websites), holding meetings, assemblies, street marches and demonstrations near government bodies (all Euromaidan participants); participating in mass actions wearing masks and hard hats (all self defense detachments of Euromaidan); mounting of tents and constructions to be used as scenes and stands for sound amplifiers (all protests organizers); providing transport and technical assistance for holding meetings (all suppliers of firewood and food for the needs of Euromaidan); production or dissemination of extremist materials via media, the Internet, social networks (all dissenter); publicly demonstrated slander in media and the Internet (all investigating journalists); illegal collecting, keeping, using, destroying and distributing confidential information about a judge, his / her close relatives and members of families (all civic watchdogs and investigating journalists).
Besides, Ukrainian Parliament, following Russia’s example, has officially introduced the notion of “a foreign agent”. This norm in Russia is in force for over a year. For this sake specific amendments have been made in the law “On Civil Associations” and Tax Code of Ukraine.
According to the amendments, “a foreign agent is a civil association with the status of a legal entity that aims to receive money or property from foreign countries; their public bodies; non-governmental organizations of other countries; international non-governmental organizations; foreign citizens; stateless persons; persons, who receive money or other property from the mentioned sources, authorized by stateless persons (hereinafter referred to as “the foreign sources”), and participates, including for the benefit of foreign sources, in political activity on the territory of Ukraine.” A civil association is considered to participate in political activity “when regardless aims and objectives mentioned in its registration documents, it takes part in organizing and conducting political actions, which are aimed to influence decision-making process by the public authorities, change the state policy, determined by the latter, as well as in forming social opinion for the mentioned purpose.”
Transparency International Ukraine mentions that all Ukrainian CSOs advocating any reforms, starting from anticorruption or tax reforms to educational or agrarian ones, automatically fall under this notion. As Executive Director of Transparency International Ukraine Oleksii Khmara mentions, “Transparency International Ukraine represents an international anti-corruption organization, and receives financing from abroad. It means that we are foreign agents. We collect declarations of ministers, governors and mayors, and monitor their ways of life. It means that we slander. We influence anti-corruption reforms in Ukraine, so we are involved in politics and are dangerous extremists. These are not my inventions; this is the logic of the draft law №3879, adopted on January 16.”
According to the law, “a foreign agent” must register in the Ministry of Justice as “a foreign agent”, keep separate accounting of incomes (expenses) received from the foreign sources; report monthly on its activity, membership of board, amount of money received from foreign sources, plans for their spending; once per three months place a report on its activity in the Internet and publish in official newspapers of authorities. In case of denial, the Ministry of Justice terminates the activity of such organization.
Transparency International Ukraine calls for international community to urgently demand President of Ukraine Viktor Yanukovych to cast his veto on the draft law №3879 and secure the steady observance of citizens’ rights and freedoms. In case Viktor Yanukovych denies doing that and signs the law, we demand that the European Union, USA and international organizations introduce the heaviest sanctions against all officials involved in preparation and bringing into force the draft law №3879.
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