On prosecution of foreign journalist and violation of human rights in Ukraine
Violeta MOSKALU Doctor of Philosophy
HRWF (24.11.2017) – After the EuroMaidan Revolution, Ukraine whose authorities declare adherence to democratic values has become a place of attraction for activists, reformers and oppositionists from various post-Soviet states. Favorable language and cultural environment, lack of a visa regime with most countries of the post-Soviet space, paternalism and all Ukrainian society welcoming changes speak in favor of Ukraine.
However, recently the situation has changed critically because very strange things from the point of view of human rights protection happen in Ukraine. Journalists, reformers, activists or political refugees who come to Ukraine face a huge number of problems.
Only in September-October, 2017, three opposition journalists were detained in Ukraine, fleeing from persecution of post-Soviet authoritarian regimes. The reason for detention was Interpol red notices, published on politically motivated requests of Azerbaijan (case of Fikrat Huseynov), Uzbekistan (case of Narzullo Ohunzhonov) and Kazakhstan (case of Zhanara Akhmetova).
Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Uzbekistan belong to post-Soviet states where the number of persons persecuted for political reasons is growing. Often, so called enemies of the regime (opposition activists, independent journalists, human rights activists) have to leave their homeland and seek refuge in other countries to escape from repression.
Azerbaijani journalist Fikrat Huseynov (Huseynli) received refugee status and citizenship in the Netherlands, which protects him from extradition to Azerbaijan. Therefore, he could not imagine that he would face such serious problems in Ukraine. 10.17.2017 the court arrested him.
Uzbek journalist Narzullo Okhunzhonov asked for asylum in Ukraine. But as a result, according to the court’s decision of September 25, 2017, he found himself in remand prison, where his health deteriorated. Human rights defenders have sounded the alarm. Thanks to this Huseynov and Okhunzhonov managed to be released from custody in October 2017.
Zhanara Akhmetova, journalist from Kazakhstan hoped that in Ukraine she and her son of tender years would not be in danger. But the migration service of Ukraine denied shelter to Akhmetova and did not even inform her about it. After that, on 24.10.2017, she was arrested. It turned out that the Kazakh authorities knew the possible address of Akhmetova’s residence, which could indicate that they were carrying out operational procedures on the territory of Ukraine.
Another example of cooperation between the secret services is the case that happened in September 2016. The SBU officers abducted Aminat Babaeva applying for asylum from the migration service office and sent her to Russia.
The case of Fikrat Huseynov confirmed that it is dangerous to come to Ukraine even having a refugee status. At a minimum, this threatens to remain in jail for an extradition check period. A similar case occurred in April 2016, when Azerbaijani human rights activist Alovsat Aliyev, who was granted asylum in Germany, spent 20 days in Ukrainian prison.
Only the intervention of German diplomats saved him from extradition to Azerbaijan. Ukrainian courts will consider requests for the extradition of the journalists, Huseynov, Okhunzhonova and Akhmetova. In case of expulsion, they are expected to be tortured and even killed, human rights activists stress.
Another dangerous precedent in post-Maidan Ukraine is a flippant attitude of the Ukrainian authorities towards the institution of citizenship. In March 2017, the Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko submitted a bill to Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine that provided for the automatic withdrawal of Ukrainian citizenship for all citizens who have other citizenship(s), and that are de facto more than 10% of Ukrainians (4.5 million). Due to great public outcry and a wave of indignation, this law was not adopted, but the President of Ukraine began to deprive political oppositionists of citizenship (Artemenko, Borovyk, Saakashvili) by decree.
Thirdly, we draw your attention to unacceptable political repressions against Georgian reformers and coaches of volunteer battalions in the ATO zone. The Ukrainian government began to mass extradite them in the framework of attempts to decapitate the protest movement headed by Mikhail Saakashvili, in course of which accredited journalists were directly affected, including (cf. second note about Tamaz Shavchishvili and his associates).
The Ukrainian authorities pursue a policy of double standards, demanding that Russia liberate Ukrainian political hostages, and making advances to dictatorial regimes, arresting and terrorizing dissenting activists, journalists and political opponents.
Violeta MOSKALU, Doctor of Philosophy, University of Lorraine (France) Expert in International Development Founder & CEO, Global Ukraine Foundation
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