Two hours of shame worth two days in Geneva? Ukrainian officials report on discrimination to UN
I feel particularly ashamed for our country when I am listening to Ukraine’s report to UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Yet, Ukrainian officials do not just pull the wool over citizens’ eyes. With the help of all those flimsy excuses, they are trying to calm down the international community, telling that there is no discrimination in Ukraine.
Apart from the fact that Ukraine managed to be late with the report presentation (the Committee members turned a blind eye to that partially), the submitted data about elimination of discrimination were not already relevant against the background of other major events.
What is more, in the report our country was trying to solve the problem with sweet words, but not real deeds. And if the journalists have already learned how to find the common sense in all those speeches and spread the word to people, swallowing the tears, the Committee members unanimously said: “That is enough… now show us the facts!”.
NOTE: September, 14, 2011, Ukraine received 32 recommendations from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (hereinafter referred to as the Committee), which it undertook to fulfil in four years within the framework of 19-21 regular Ukrainian reports (CERD/C/UKR/19-21). On August 11-12, Ukrainian delegation had a chance to report.
Working format is the following: The Committee puts a question, and the Ukrainian delegation (in fact, the state of Ukraine) shall respond quickly and give a meaningful answer.
Committee: Taking into account the minor statistics of criminal cases under Article 161 of the Criminal Code, there are no hate crimes in Ukraine, aren’t they? And what about the incident when representatives of Dynamo fan club severely beat the black fans during a recent football match? Bloggers even reported that the Azov armed formation members took part in the clash.
Why did international football organizations record 51 incidents, which can be regarded as a hate crime? Does such low statistics show that the police and the prosecutor’s office do not want to investigate the cases and it is easier for them to regard it as hooliganism?
Principal speaker from the Ukrainian delegation reports: “I got the English version of the Article 161… from the Internet. It is plain and simple. But I am surprised that it is necessary to prove that a certain situation has happened in a public place, that it was a hate crime… Only a judge can prove that, so why did an expert decide to do that? Are there any restrictions on Article 161 in Ukraine?
The Committee: You say that there is no discriminatory pressure on the national minorities in Ukraine. For example, Russian annexation made the situation worse in Crimea. And was everything alright before? And now, have you provided conditions for enforcement of the rights of Crimean Tatars who had migrated [in particular to Kherson region]: the right to education in their mother tongue, employment opportunity, etc.
Why do not the police investigate the cases when the Roma people face the violence? When it comes to the Roma, why the racial profiling is used?
A representative of the National Police reports: “There is no discrimination of national minorities in Ukraine. For example, we have Khatia [Khatia Dekanoidze, the Head of the National Police of Ukraine]… Khatia is Georgian. There are also Armenians, two Armenian generals. My colleague is half-Roma and he is proud of that…”
The Committee: If you say there is the Strategy on Protection and Integration of Roma Minority into Ukrainian Society, how many people have it really helped?
By the way, there is no precise number of Roma people in Ukraine. If according to the government statistics, there are 48,000 people [Deputy Culture Minister of Ukraine Andriy Yurash reported only on 40,000], the NGOs inform about the ten times bigger number – about 400,000 people. Yurash promised to count the Roma for next year with the help of International Renaissance Foundation.
The Committee: If you say the process of Roma integration continues, children go to schools and adults receive passports, why do the schools remain still segregated, the majority of the Roma population live in poverty and are unable to find work, and health services, as a rule, are not available for them?
From the Ukrainian report: In 2015, 2,000 Roma children went to kindergartens, 12,000 Roma children attended high school, two Roma graduates entered the universities.
The Committee members remain concerned about: effective security of refugees and those, who try to find shelter in Ukraine, protection of citizens on the demarcation line in Donbas, protection from discrimination in such “new” areas for Ukraine as sport and advertising, oppression of religious freedom, enforcement of the right to use mother language for the minorities.
Ukraine confidently reported on effective elimination of discrimination without batting an eyelid. The officials were showing the statistics (though information was outdated and incomplete), telling about all school activities coincided with national holidays (actually, the Committee was not much interested in that), enumerating a great number of organizations that can protect a citizen of Ukraine from discrimination (although only one out of six organizations, in particular the Ombudsperson Office, has more or less statutory powers, as prosecutor’s offices, courts and other “authorities” are currently ineffective)…
I could see only a spoon of honey in this barrel of tar.
Ukraine declared at the international level the open list of features in the anti-discrimination legislation, which the discrimination is prohibited in our country on. This means that any sign which is not spelled out in the law in black and white, still serve as a basis for protection.
I have not heard a single “documented” word about that a few months ago.
By the way, meanwhile Ukraine was reporting to the UN about elimination of discrimination, the court banned holding of the March of equality in Odesa.
Unfortunately, there is no clear sign that Ukraine has a real and effective mechanism for protection against discrimination.
If Ukraine reports on discrimination this way, an obvious conclusion offers itself.
Either our officials cannot or do not want to give real information.
Or they do not comprehend seriousness of a discrimination problem. Why should they be bothered because of that? “It is a war time now in Ukraine” – they have found a very convenient explanation and it has remained relevant for last two years.
Or … there are no real and effective steps to eliminate discrimination.
Iryna Fedorovych, the co-author of the alternative report, prepared by the NGOs, hit the bull’s eye saying that “Our officials, probably, hold a stand that two hours of shame worth staying two days in Geneva.”
Iryna Vyrtosu, Human Rights Information Centre, Geneva