Saturday, 7 July 2012

Ukraine Warned By Rights Groups, European Union

KIEV, Ukraine -- Freedom House released a report on Thursday reviewing the gradual loss of political freedoms in Ukraine. The report comes on the heels of a condemnation of the country by the European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday, saying that the arrest of former Ukrainian interior minister, Yuri Lutsenko, was a violation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Here's a closer look at the recent accusations and complaints against Ukrainian government policies. The report from Freedom House, entitled "Sounding the Alarm Round 2: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine," indicated that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) was becoming intrusive, that the executive branch was consolidating its power, and that corruption, opposition to freedom of assembly, and the repression of free speech were worrying trends in Ukraine. David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House, noted that "In the coming weeks and months, Ukraine's leadership must make a choice between consolidating power through undemocratic means and advancing its nation's European aspirations." Freedom House warned that while they don't feel sanctions are needed yet, they are hopeful that even the threat of sanctions from the U.S. might change the course of Ukranian government. On June 8, Transparency International noted that Poland and Ukraine, as co-hosts of the UEFA Euro 2012 football championship, could see problems due to the Ukraine's poor standing on the Corruption Perceptions Index, the threat of boycott by European officials, construction delays, and accusations of xenophobia could all be problems. Ukraine had only a score of 2.3 out of 10, 10 being the best perception, and ranked at 152 of 182 countries. The German Foreign Ministry reported comments from Minister of State Cornelia Pieper on July 3, in which she said the judgement from the European Court of Human Rights "confirms our concerns about the rule of law and democracy in Ukraine." She warned that Ukraine was not allowing due process for the opposition. According to the Associated Press, opposition student activists took to the streets of Kiev on Thursday, angry about a change in law that will permit Russian to be used in courts, education, and government in the Russian-speaking area of Ukraine. The day before, another report from the AP indicated that protesters were angry that the bill might be responsible for keeping the country in the Russian sphere, and that the use of Russian could suppress the use of Ukrainian. Parliament Speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn resigned, while riot police stopped protesters from blocking a government building in Kiev.

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