The Ukrainian human rights infrastructure
Author: Ella Kapsomun (BA student of Corvinus University of Budapest, Erasmus placement at the Human Rights Centre of the University of Padua)
The Ukrainian office of Parliamentary Human Rights Commissioner (Ombudsman) was established in 1998 in accordance with the Constitution. According to article 101 of the Constitution, the incumbent exercises parliamentary oversight over the observance of human and civil rights and freedoms. Article 55 of the Constitution proclaims the right of everyone to appeal to the Commissioner for Human Rights for the protection of his/her rights. The office of Commissioner for Human Rights is an integral element of the constitutional system of protection of human and citizens’ rights, which includes primarily the courts, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, and international judicial and other bodies of which Ukraine is a member or participant.
The Ukrainian Constitution and the law on the Ukrainian Parliamentary Human Rights Commissioner of December 23, 1997 provided for creating a “strong” model of Ombudsman, which is characterized by the following attributes:
- high constitutional status of the Commissioner for Human Rights, as secured in articles 88, 85 and 101 of the Ukrainian Constitution;
- independence of the Commissioner from any body of state authority or local self-government and their officials;
- broad jurisdiction of the Commissioner that extends to bodies of state authority, including courts, as well as to bodies of local self-government and their officials;
- ample powers for inquiries and inspections, including on his own volition, and for constant monitoring of compliance with human rights and freedoms;
- right to initiate petitions that are binding for review, along with recommendations on rectifying the detected violations of human rights and freedoms by bodies of state authority, local self-government and other institutions;
- opportunity of everyone to appeal directly to the Commissioner;
- flexible and informal procedure and freedom of action in inspection of cases.
The Human Rights Commissioner is a classical example of a Parliamentary Ombudsman, since he/she is elected by Parliament and by secret ballot, which guarantees his/her independence from all branches of Government.
The Commissioner conducts inquiries and investigations on the basis of petitions by Ukrainian citizens, foreigners, stateless persons and their representatives, MPs and of his own volition. Under the Law such petitions should be submitted to the Commissioner within one year from the date the violations of human and citizens’ rights have been detected. For the performance of his legally stipulated functions the Commissioner is vested with a broad range of rights, namely to:
- be received, without any delay, by the President, Chairman of Parliament, Prime Minister, chairmen of the Constitutional, Supreme and higher specialized courts, the Procurator General, chairmen of other state bodies, bodies of local self-government, NGOs, enterprises, institutions, irrespective of their forms of ownership, as well as their officials and officers;
- visit, without hindrance, any body of state authority, body of local self-government, enterprise or other institutions and offices.
- invite officials and officers, Ukrainian citizens, foreigners, and stateless persons to receive oral or written explanations with regard to cases under investigation;
- read documents, classified ones included, at bodies of state authority, bodies of local self-government, NGOs, enterprises, institutions, organizations, bodies of prosecution, as well as cases filed in court;
- attend sessions of courts of all instances, personally or through his representative take part in judicial proceedings in cases and also to appeal to courts for the protection of rights and freedoms of persons who cannot do this on their own owing to conditions of health or other reasons (Article 13 of the Law).
Apart from direct consideration of complaints on human rights violations, the Ukrainian Ombudsman model also provides for monitoring compliance with protection of human and citizens’ rights and freedoms by bodies of state authority and local self-government, NGOs and other institutions that have violated these rights. The results of such monitoring are then presented to the Parliament in annual reports. Notably, the efforts of the Commissioner for Human Rights are focused on yet another important exercise of parliamentary control – higher legal awareness of Ukraine’s population (Item 7, Article 3 of the Law).
Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations
The Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations is a relevant committee of the Ukrainian Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) established on 25th of December, 2012 (a previous committee was established on 4th of December 2007). It consists of 9 members; the head of the committee is Patskan Valeriy Vasylovi. The Committee carries out the legislative work, prepares and preliminary revises the issues related to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and performs control functions in the following areas:
- respect the rights and freedoms of man and citizen;
- activities of the Ombudsman of Ukraine;
- citizenship, status of foreigners and stateless persons;
- regulation, collection and use of personal information about individuals (except of protective information and personal data in informational-telecommunicative systems);
- ethnic politics, international relations and the rights of indigenous people and national minorities in Ukraine;
- immigration, refugees and asylum in Ukraine;
- legislative ensuring of equal rights and opportunities for women and men;
- cooperation with the Council of Europe (CoE), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in compliance (protection) of Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations;
- cooperation with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights in accordance with the statutory tasks of these organizations that reflect the competence of the Committee;
- cooperation with the national authorities of member states of CIS on human rights protection, national minorities, international relations and migration;
- providing connections with Ukrainians who are abroad.
Committee of Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine on freedom of expression and information
The Committee on freedom of expression and information of the Ukrainian Parliament was created on 25th of December 2012. It has 10 deputy members and is chaired by Tomenko Mykola Volodymyrovich. The Committee carries out the legislative work, prepare and preliminary revise the issues related to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and performs control functions in the following areas:
- state policy in the sphere of information;
- freedom of speech;
- right to information;
- print and electronic media;
- covering activities of the parliament of Ukraine;
- principles of advertising.