GENEVA (21 January 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday stressed the urgent need for constructive dialogue in Ukraine to avoid further escalation of the unrest in the country, particularly in the wake of sweeping new legislation that falls short of international human rights standards.
“The violent clashes over the past few days in the centre of Kiev, which reportedly resulted in many people being injured, are very worrying,” the High Commissioner said. “I appeal to all parties to engage in constructive dialogue to avoid further escalation of the unrest. The longer they wait, the more difficult it will become to resolve the impasse.”
Pillay also recommended that the dialogue be inclusive and sustained over time. She took note of renewed efforts by the authorities to initiate dialogue with opposition leaders.
However, the High Commissioner expressed serious concern about the legislative package passed last Thursday, 16 January, which introduces strict conditions for the exercise of fundamental rights, including the rights to freedom of association, assembly and expression, and imposes penalties, including prison sentences, for breaches. The laws were published today.
"I call on the authorities to suspend application of the laws to allow time for a thorough review of their content, which must be in full compliance with international human rights standards, in particular Ukraine’s obligations under the relevant treaties it has ratified,” she said.
“I am particularly concerned by the potential that these laws have to curtail the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the right to information, the right of civil society to work freely. The laws also have the potential to result in impunity for human rights violations.”
Worrying provisions in the law include compelling NGOs receiving international funding to register as "foreign agents", to lose their non-profit status, and to regularly publish accounts of their activities.
“Such provisions will roll back the enjoyment of human rights for the people of Ukraine, stifle debate and dissent, and jeopardise the democratic achievements of the past two decades,” Pillay said.
She welcomed the Ukrainian Ombudsman’s stated intention to conduct an analysis of provisions of the laws from the point of view of potential threats to rights and freedoms, and compliance with the international human rights standards and obligations of Ukraine.
Pillay also reiterated her call on all parties to exercise restraint, stressing that the right to peaceful assembly is a fundamental human right.
“I call on opposition leaders to clearly distance themselves from those of their supporters who are resorting to violence,” she said. “While fully recognising the State’s legitimate duty to protect against violence, I appeal to law enforcement officials to carry out their duties fully in line with relevant international human rights norms.”
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