Human rights activists warn that draft law is set to legalize forcible dispersal of peaceful protests

The draft law will considerably limit the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and will widen the powers of law enforcement.

Kyiv, October 6, 2016. Draft law no. 3587 legalizes forcible dispersal of peaceful protests, introduces a 48-hour deadline for notifying authorities about a rally, gives an opportunity to ban it anytime, introduces repressive measures as to manifestations without notification as well as gives unlimited powers to local authorities for forcible dispersals, said Mykhailo Lebed, expert of the human rights coalition “No to the police state” at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to MP Ihor Lutsenko, police may get powers to get control over peaceful manifestations: it will be deciding whether they are actually peaceful. “Most brutal violation of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of November 30, 2013, caused a nationwide protest. Freedom of assembly is one of the most fundamental freedoms for Ukrainians. Today we are witnessing attempts to take revenge on the changes that Maidan was demanding and that the current authorities are claiming,” noted the MP. He emphasized that the suggested draft law will make it easy to manage any manifestations including their complete ban.

Mykhailo Kamenev, human rights activist, expert of the human rights coalition “No to the police state”, former lawyer of Ukraine’s National Police, is of the opinion that the draft law does not address any of the daunting problems. Legal framework that regulates all the necessary issues is already in place. It consists of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, of Ukraine’s Constitutional and Supreme Courts. He said the draft law is being lobbied by the judges that in the past were adopting decisions to ban the Maidan. “This way they want to free themselves from responsibility explaining their criminal actions by the fact that earlier no law was in place and they did not know how to act,” noted Kamenev. He added that one of the draft law supporters is Maryna Stavniychuk who used to be deputy head of the Presidential Administration during Yanukovych until the last day of the Revolution of Dignity. “When a top official from Yanukovych times encourages adoption of the law, it seems suspicious,” the human rights activist noted. He emphasized that police is able to protect peaceful rallies even without the special law, it has proved it during the religious procession and the “Equality March” last summer.

Bohdan Chumak, deputy head of the All-Ukrainian youth NGO “Foundation of regional initiatives”, expert of the human rights coalition “No to the police state”, is of the opinion that the draft law in question drags the National Guard and police into political games. “Both civil society and law enforcement become hostages to the political ambitions,” he emphasized. According to Chumak it is also a “Moscow test”. “Putin’s Russia as a regime started right from limiting the right to freedom of peaceful assembly in 2004. In a similar way another law was adopted that was constantly cutting the rights. In order to build his authoritarian regime Putin needed to ban people from getting to streets,” noted Chumak.