Venice Commission recognizes Ukraine’s right to hold de-communization and set criminal liability for propaganda of totalitarian regimes – experts and political actors


Kyiv, December 21, 2015. The Venice Commission recognized Ukraine’s right to ban or even impose criminal liability for use of defined symbols and propaganda of totalitarian regimes. The Commission published such a conclusion having analyzed one of the four de-communization laws – the Law of Ukraine “condemning communist and national-socialist (Nazi) totalitarian regimes in Ukraine, introducing ban on propaganda of their symbols.” At the same time the document suggests the need to clarify the definition of “propaganda” and revise the sentence terms for crimes against de-communization process. “We are taking into consideration the recommendations by our colleagues and we stand ready to work over the issues they pointed at in a more detailed manner,” said Volydymyr Viatrovych, head of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. In the Commission’s opinion “propaganda” as undefined term may be a threat to freedom of speech and free academic discourse. However the experts are convinced that the law is on the contrary called to condemn the regime that was actually violating human rights. As to the excessively harsh measures, Vyatrovych says they are explained by two things. Firstly, communist symbols are actively used by the forces advocating against the Ukrainian state. Secondly, the experts that drafted the law used Germany’s experience de-nazification: German authorities decreased the sentence term only seven years after the processes in question.

Ihor Rozkladay, Lawyer at the Media Law Institute, Reanimation package of reform expert, noted it may be worthwhile to diversify the liability splitting it into criminal for denying the crimes of the communist regime and administrative for the one-time use of the symbols in question.

According to Andriy Parubiy, First Deputy Chairman of Ukraine’s Verkhovna Rada there is no other country in the world that suffered as many losses from the communist regime as Ukraine did. “That’s why we now call on Europe to conduct a process for the communist party similar to the one applied to the Nazi party in Nuremberg,” said Parubiy. He also emphasized that the Ukrainian side is always ready for clarifications and open for discussions with European experts but “will never turn away from its way.” Hanna Hopko, MP, Chairwoman of the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee on Foreign Affairs, co-author of the Law added that there is serious misunderstanding in the international community as to the scale of the tragedy that happened in Ukraine because of the communist regime. She emphasized that it is now important to explain to international partners specifics of de-communization process in Ukraine. In this context Rozkladay emphasized that “our main task is to be explaining that this crime needs to be punished. If justice is not restored it will lead to more such crimes.”

Minister of Justice Pavlo Petrenko said that the court made positive decision as to the Ministry’s appeal to ban Ukraine’s communist party. In his opinion it is a logical wrap-up of the de-communization process that started almost two years ago with the Verkhovna Rada’s decision. According to Vyatrovych Ukraine’s communist party based on its ideology was actually illegally occupying the niche of a left-wing party. From now on this place can be taken by a truly “left” party that can try to win the minds of Ukrainians.