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Black-and-white photo of Eleanor Roosevelt with a poster in hand, on which is written the text of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
© UN Photo

Human rights legal framework in Ukraine

Author: Ella Kapsomun (BA student of Corvinus University of Budapest, Erasmus Placement at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Padua)

The Charter of the United Nations was adopted after the Second World War to bring together international cooperation to promote universal respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all as a main purpose of UN. Ukraine, as one of the founding States of the United Nations, in accordance with art. 55 of the UN Charter undertook these commitments.

To achieve the stated objective, the UN General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on 10 December 1948, in which for the first time in history were listed the fundamental rights and freedoms of man. Based on the Universal Declaration and adopted under the aegis of the United Nations, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rightswere ratified by Ukraine in 1973. In 1997, Ukraine became a member of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Some other important human rights treaties ratified by Ukraine are: Convention on the Rights of the Child (ratified in 1991); Convention against Torture (ratified in 1987); European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (ratified in 1997); European Convention on the Exercise of Children's Rights (ratified in 2006); Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (ratified in 2010); Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (signed in 2011, not ratified).

In respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms, Ukraine has to bring its legislation in accordance with international standards and to carry out a direct control over the implementation of international commitments. The most important text in this regard is the Constitution of Ukraine adopted in 1996. In 2004 the Constitution was amended, transforming the political system of Ukraine and weakening the powers of the President. In 2010 these amendments were overturned and the Constitution of 1996 was back into force. On February 21, 2014 the Parliament approved a law that reinstated the 2004 amendments of the Constitution.

The Constitution of Ukraine contains an important statement in art. 22, whereby human and citizens' rights and freedoms affirmed by the fundamental law are not exhaustive. In art. 3 the Constitution of Ukraine recognizes a man, its life and health, honour and dignity, inviolability and safety as the greatest social value. According to article 24 citizens have equal constitutional rights and freedoms and are equal before the law. The second chapter - “Rights, freedoms and duties of man and citizen”- of the Constitution of Ukraine totals almost a third of the overall number of constitutional norms. It consists of 48 articles and contains a wide range of rights and freedoms of mankind which includes all the rights and freedoms that are recognized by the world democratic community as central humanistic standards. Thus, the civil rights include the right to the free development of the personality (art. 23), an inalienable right to life and respect of dignity (art. 27, 28), a right to freedom and bodily security (art. 29), a right to inviolability of habitation (art. 30), a right to privacy of correspondence, telephone talks, telegraph and other correspondence (art. 31). The Constitution states that no one “shall be subject to interference on his or her personal and family life” (art. 32). Everyone is guaranteed the right to freedom of movement, freedom of speech and thoughts and right to freedom of religion (art. 33, 34, 35).

Among the political rights protected by the Constitution of Ukraine, the right to freely associate in political parties and public organizations (art. 36), the right to participate in the administration of state affairs in All-Ukrainian and local referendums, to freely elect and to be elected to bodies of state power and bodies of local self-government (art. 38). Article 39 recognizes the right to hold peaceful demonstrations and meetings, while art. 40 provides the right to appeal to bodies of state power, local self-government, and to the officials and officers of these bodies.

In the context of economic, social and cultural rights, the Constitution of Ukraine consecrates the right of every human being to own, use and dispose of his or her property (art. 41), the right to entrepreneurial activity (art. 42), the right to work (art. 43), the right for those who are employed to strike for the protection of their economic and social interests and the right to rest (art. 44, 45), the right to social protection (art. 46), the right to housing (art. 47), the right to an adequate standard of living (art. 48), the right to health (art. 49), the right to a safe environment (art. 50), the right to marry and also the state protection of the family, childhood, motherhood and fatherhood (art. 51, 52), the right to education (art. 53), the right to freedom of creativity and the right to protection for intellectual and creative activity (art. 54).

In article 55 the Constitution of Ukraine provides a number of legal guarantees. These rights include, in particular, the right to fair trial, the right to appeal for the protection of rights before the Authorised Human Rights Representative of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine (Ombudsman of Ukraine) and, after the exhaustion of all domestic legal remedies, the right to appeal for the protection of rights and freedoms to the relevant international judicial institutions or to the relevant bodies of international organisations of which Ukraine is a member or participant.

Since the independence of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament of Ukraine), the Cabinet of Ministers (the Government) and the President have issued a big number of legislative acts (laws, decrees, resolutions, orders) regarding human rights. The most important are listed below:

  • 25 June 1992, No. 2494-XII (Law on national minorities);
  • 08 September 2005, No. 2866-IV (Law on ensuring equal rights and opportunities for women and men);
  • 21 December 2010, No. 2823-VI (Law on introduction of changes into the law of Ukraine “On fundamentals of the social protection of homeless individuals and shelterless children”);
  • 19 March 2014, No. 121, (Resolution on approval of the procedure of medical assistance provision to foreign nationals and stateless individuals residing permanently or staying on a temporary basis within the territory of Ukraine, who have applied for being recognised as a refugee or a person in need of additional protection).

The Constitution of Ukraine is an important tool for the protection and promotion of human rights in the Country. It broadly refers to human rights and commits Ukraine to guarantee a good standard of living to its citizens. Furthermore, it enables Ukraine to translate international agreed standards into domestic law, and obligates all branches of Government to respect and ensure the rights it enunciates (art. 3). However, in January 2014, the Ukrainian Parliament approved a package of anti-democratic laws, which clearly limited Ukrainians’ freedom of assembly, speech, and expression. Yet, the anti-protest legislation was repealed on 28 January, 2014.

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