The following is a press release issued Sept. 25 by the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine.
Editor’s Note: The following is a press release issued Sept. 25 by the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine.
The Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine is asking the government of Canada to increase pressure on the regime of Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych by listing names of individuals tampering with the rule of law. In a letter, the group asks that violators be disallowed from entering Canada and their assets here frozen.
Ukraine’s democracy has been deteriorating since the president came to power, the most visible indication being the incarceration of political opponents including Yulia Tymoshenko and Yuriy Lutsenko. Despite calls from Western powers to adhere to the rule of law there has been no response. In fact further draconian actions of the last weeks underscore the regime’s determination to cripple the opposition and snuff out the last vestiges of free media on the eve of Ukraine’s parliamentary elections in October.
The government has been trying to get TVi, the only independent television broadcaster left, off the air. “It has lost some 10 million viewers and some $2.5 million in ad revenues,” says Andy Holowaty a Toronto media consultant. “The government’s National Television and Radio Broadcasting Council is directly responsible for this.” The network has also been slapped with bogus back taxes.
Even if paid, there is concern other fines may follow. Then last week the Cabinet of Ministers unexpectedly enlarged the reach of its security and defense entities aimed at “preventing and dealing with” terrorism.
Many consider the order to be a new open-season on political opposition, dissidents and non-complying media, recalling the Great Terror, Velykyj Teror, of the 1930s under Nikolaj Yezhov--Stalin’s head of the NKVD -- when fear and hunting for what the state called “enemies of the people” terrorized the country.
Further concern was raised again by last week’s announcement that the party has drafted legislation that will sentence journalists up to five years in prison for libelous statements. “The problem with this law, as with the Order, is that there is no recourse to an independent tribunal. Ukraine’s judicial system has shown itself to be seriously flawed,” states the Canadian Group for Democracy in Ukraine letter (Sept. 19) addressed to the parliamentary secretary to the minister of defense, Laurie Hawn, copies to the prime minister, minister of foreign affairs and others. The letter asks Canada to take action now with other Western states against individuals who misuse their positions of power and apply laws selectively.
“It is necessary to send a strong message before the election that Western governments will not tolerate further violation of democratic norms in Ukraine. Publicizing such a list is vital. Ukraine’s authorities must realize that there are serious personal consequences for violating international commitments,” says Serhiy Kudelia, a Ukraine expert. “Without a threat of personal sanctions they will continue business as usual.”
If the sanctions are to work fully, the participation of the British Virgin Islands and Cypress is needed, according to the letter.
Yanukovych is scheduling a visit the United States later this month to attend a session at the United Nations in New York.
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