In this posting, I want to examine the new anti-democratic laws passed by the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukranian parliament, and signed into law by Ukrainian President Yanukovych on January 16, 2014. The point of these laws was to protect Ukrainians from "hooliganism, vandalism and the incitement of hatred. Obviously, the laws are a complete failure.
Let's open with this info graphic showing some of the highlights of the package of laws:
Here is a link to the draft bill in Russian. I have used Google Translate to pick out some of the high points for you.
Here is a partial quote from the government's explanatory note, explaining why the laws were needed:
"Recently in Ukraine there is a significant aggravation of the political and social crisis. Events related to the protests used by some internal and external forces that aim to further destabilize the life of our country for their own purposes. In many instances were the riots, interference with the work of government and law enforcement agencies, there capturing buildings of state and municipal property, widespread vandalism and extremism, significantly increased the number of hooliganism.
All this leads to the disruption of public authorities, institutions and organizations functioning transport links. As a result of these developments, spoiled property owned by the state and the community, the amount of damage inflicted increases daily. Organization systematic prostoyan law enforcement authorities, calls for disobedience of lawful demands systematic blocking and disruption of public bodies leads to the formation and distribution of the subculture that promotes legal nihilism and disseminates ideas that differ from established norms of social behaviour.
Social networking on the internet is used as a high-tech tool for the dissemination of ideas and incitement to hatred on the social, national, political and linguistic grounds. Increasingly, calls for intolerance, enmity, hatred and violent change of government and constitutional order. Often under the guise of self-nationals Internet is used to manipulate the outside, resulting in a substantial increase of conflict, cruelty, and violence bezzhalnosti population, leading to a decline in morality and systemic injury to the rights and interests of individuals and for society as a whole.
In social networks formed group, which provided detailed instructions for the manufacture of improvised materials and objects, allowing it to inflict maximum injuries during the riots.
It's time to admit that these phenomena and events have nothing to do with peaceful protest movement. The phenomena that were present in our society are not acceptable in a civilized world, every country struggles with extremism, vandalism, inciting hatred among its citizens.
One of the functions of the state is the protection and defense of the constitutional order, law and order, ensuring public peace, human rights, freedoms and legitimate interests of man and citizen.
Therefore, the state can not remain aloof threat to national security situation requires immediate intervention to restore order. The state not only needs to urgently take steps to normalize all walks of life, unbalanced lately, but also to create conditions to prevent such events in the future, which in turn can be achieved if the relevant legal instruments.
The purpose of this bill is to create the right conditions and a legal basis for the stabilization of the country, the protection of the constitutional order and security of citizens.
For the purpose of the bill is proposed to strengthen the security arrangements in respect of certain categories of persons and objects, to increase penalties for certain criminal and administrative offenses, establish additional enforcement measures for the protection of public order, the rights and legitimate interests of citizens." (my bold)
Here are a few key excerpts from the new laws. Please note that I am using a conversion of one personal tax free minimum income (as stated in the legislation) to 17 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH). One United States dollar is worth 8.95 UAH. To help you put the size of the fines that are assessed for various infractions into context, the average monthly salary in the Ukraine was $405 in mid-2013.
1.) Driving in columns of more than five cars will result in confiscation of one's driver's licence and vehicle for up to two years and a fine unless they have prior approval of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
2.) Demonstrators are forbidden to participate in mass rallies wearing masks, helmets or other means of disguising their appearance. The use of bullhorns, open flames and fireworks at demonstrations is also forbidden. Violators will be arrested and can fined between $285 and $380 and held for up to 15 days.
3.) Slander and defamation are now criminal offences. The broad wording of this section which includes intentional dissemination of false information that discredits the honour and dignity of another person can result in a fine, 200 hours of community service or a prison term of up to one year. Basically, this could result in any act of journalism that criticizes the government being defined as slander or defamation. If the defamation is show publicly in the media or on the internet and the person has previously been convicted of defamation, the punishment can include a fine, 150 to 240 hours of community service or imprisonment for up to one year.
4.) Installation of structures including tents and other objects that can be used as a stage during meetings, street processions or demonstrations without the permission of the Interior Ministry can result in a fine of between $475 and $665 or arrest for up to 15 days.
5.) Production, possession for sale or distribution or distribution of extremist (i.e. anti-government) materials through the media, internet, social internet websites or the use of such materials before mass gatherings of people can result in a fine of between $380 and $1520. If the same actions are repeated, the size of the fine increases to a maximum of $5698 and the offender can be sentenced for a prison term of up to three years.
6.) Collection, storage, use, destruction or dissemination of confidential information about a law enforcement officer, employee of the Sates executive service and their relatives or family members (family members include husband, wife, father, mother, stepfather, stepmother, son, daughter, stepson, stepdaughter, brother, sister, grandfather, grandmother, grandfather, great-grandmother, grandson, granddaughter, great-grandson , granddaughter, a person who is under the guardianship or trusteeship, as well as persons living together related common life and mutual rights and obligations, including persons living together but not married) is punishable by a fine of between $380 and $760, correctional labor for up to one year or imprisonment for up to six months.
7.) Collection, storage, use, destruction or dissemination of confidential information about a judge or his relatives and family members that are clearly offensive and demonstrate blatant disregard for the judge or interfere with his activities for the purpose of achieving an illegal decision is punishable by a fine of between $570 and $950, correctional labor for up to two years or imprisonment for up to two years.
8.) A foreign non-governmental organization that intends to participate in political activities within the territory of Ukraine must register with the authorities
In closing, here's what Ukraine's government has to say about the results of the draft bill:
"The draft will promote in Ukraine of the rights and freedoms of man and citizen, protection of persons and society from criminal attacks."
A cynic might observe that the laws are more likely designed to protect the Yanukovych administration rather than to protect the citizens of Ukraine from hooliganism.
On top of the $15 billion bailout from Russia, these rather draconian legislative measures will make it increasingly difficult for Yanukovych's Party of Regions to successfully weather the current political storm in Ukraine.