United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1995 - Ukraine, 30 January 1996, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa3f20.html [accessed 21 October 2014]
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UKRAINE Over the past year, Ukraine continued to make progress in the development of a democratic society based on the rule of law. A president and parliament elected for 4-year terms share responsibility for governance. In practice, the Presidency has become stronger than the Parliament in the 4 years of independence, and the division of power has become the most contested issue in drafting a new constitution. Judges are beginning to assert their independence and their right to be free from improper interference, but the court system remains woefully underfunded, understaffed, and overworked. Ukraine took steps toward replacing the anachronistic 1978 Constitution of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. The document was partly superseded by a June 8 constitutional accord between President Leonid Kuchma and Parliament (Rada) that increased the President's control over cabinet appointments and executive branch operations, but it remains in force pending adoption of a new constitution. Under the constitutional accord, the President can appoint executive branch officials without Rada confirmation. Both major branches of government committed themselves to presenting a new constitution to the voters by the spring of 1996. Government and parliamentary leaders heralded the agreement as a demonstration of their determination to resolve internal differences by democratic, peaceful means. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVS), and the Ministry of Defense all have equal status and report to the President through the Cabinet. The chairmen of these institutions sit on the Cabinet of Ministers and simultaneously chair the Cabinet's executive committees responsible for each of their ministries. The armed forces have remained largely outside of politics. Since mid-1994, Ukraine has had a civilian Defense Minister. The SBU has the power to affect the political process through criminal investigations against politicians and influential businessmen. Members of the security forces committed human rights abuses. The economy is in the midst of a painful transition from rigid central planning to a market-based system. According to official statistics about half of the workforce is formally employed in manufacturing, with the balance divided between services and agriculture, though in reality many industrial enterprises have reduced or stopped production, forcing many out of work. Exports are diversified and include metals, chemicals, sugar, and semi-finished goods. Annual per capita income is approximately $1,200. President Kuchma's economic reform program, initiated in the fall of 1994, achieved partial macroeconomic stabilization. Hyperinflation was curtailed, and the private sector grew impressively, even if this growth was not fully reflected in official government statistics. The private sector now represents a substantial portion of the economy. However, Ukraine remains a country in economic crisis. Industrial output continued to decline, which led to pressure to slow the reform process and relax the government's tight fiscal policy. Overall, Ukraine continued to make significant progress toward building a law-based civil society. Reports of human rights violations, already low in 1994, decreased in 1995. However, problems remain in the unreformed legal and prison systems, occasional government attempts to control the press, beatings by police and prison officials, limits on freedom of association, restrictions on foreign religious organizations, societal anti-Semitism, some discrimination against women, and ethnic tensions in the Crimea. While progress has been made toward ensuring the independence of the judiciary, the Soviet tradition of political interference in judicial decisions continues to affect the judicial process.
Respect for Human Rights
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There were no known political killings by government agents, but the line between politically motivated killing and criminal activities has become difficult to distinguish. The Government's inability to stem the economic decline and check the growth of violent, organized criminal activity had major repercussions. Politicians increasingly became the victims--whether through kidnapings or killings--of organized criminal groups, aided sometimes, either actively or passively, by corrupt officials. The number of contract killings, often targeted against managers of state-owned enterprises, increased in 1995. In a 2-month period three directors of metallurgy plants were assassinated. No suspects have been identified. Politicians were also targeted because of their influence over state-owned enterprises. The pervasiveness of organized crime and its undermining of governmental authority was particularly serious in the Crimean peninsula. The central Government in Kiev lacks institutional control and Crimean authorities are widely alleged to be compromised by ties to organized criminal elements. In one case, "mafia" thugs beat to death two Crimean Tatar market vendors, sparking rioting and a confrontation between Tatars and Ministry of Internal Affairs troops, during which two more Tatars were killed. No suspects were prosecuted. Combating the growth of organized crime and official corruption is a key government objective. A presidential commission, headed by a deputy prime minister, coordinates the activities of law-enforcement agencies. The Government is also considering the creation of a National Bureau of Investigation to handle the investigation and prosecution of high-profile cases. There have also been signs of internal reform designed to root out corruption. The top levels of the Ministry of Internal Affairs have been purged and, according to the Ministry, 2,400 police officers were punished for infractions of the law or regulations. After being convicted of crimes, 419 police officers were imprisoned--a significant increase over last year.
There were no reports of politically motivated disappearances. The January 1994 disappearance of Mikhaylo Boychyshyn, a prominent leader of the Popular Movement of Ukraine (RUKH), remains unsolved.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
The Constitution prohibits torture; however, police and prison officials regularly beat detainees and prisoners. There is no effective mechanism for registering complaints about mistreatment or for obtaining redress. The Government made no known efforts during the year to end the practice or to punish officials who committed such abuses. Conditions of pretrial detention routinely fail to meet basic human rights standards. Inmates are sometimes held in "investigative isolation" for extended periods and subject to intimidation and mistreatment by jail guards. Overcrowding is common in blocks for prisoners who have been charged with a crime and are awaiting trial or are in investigative detention. Prison conditions for convicted inmates appear to comply fully with minimum international standards and the Government permits visits by human rights monitors.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
The law provides that police authorities may detain a person suspected of a crime for 3 days without a warrant. A prosecutor must issue an arrest order if the period of detention exceeds 3 days. The maximum period of detention after charges have been filed is 1 1/2 years. The law permits citizens to appeal the legality of an arrest either to the court or to the prosecutor. As citizens gain a better understanding of their rights under a 1992 law, they are increasingly filing appeals with the courts. The authorities have dismissed some prosecutors for not adhering to legal guidelines. A law in effect from July 1994 through June 1995, permitted "preventive" detention of persons for up to 30 days without the filing of charges. The measure was instituted as a means to combat organized crime. According to data obtained by the Rada Commission on Law and Order, however, a majority of the people detained under the decree were never charged and only 5 percent were members of organized crime groups. The Rada refused the President's request to extend the terms of the decree. By law, a judge must initiate a trial within 3 weeks from the time charges are filed. But this limit is not always met by the overloaded court system, where months may pass before a defendant is finally brought to court. According to official statistics for the first quarter of 1995, out of 9,784 persons detained, 554 were released without charges being filed. By law, detainees are permitted access to a defense attorney, who is provided without charge to the indigent, from the moment of detention or the filing of charges, whichever comes first. However, it has been credibly alleged that individuals held under preventive detention frequently have been denied timely access to counsel. In addition, there are insufficient numbers of defense attorneys to protect suspects from unlawful, interminable imprisonment and deplorable conditions. Furthermore, there is no public defender system for indigents to replace the previous method of providing attorneys from the state system. There is no attorney-client privilege. The prisoner may talk to a lawyer only in the presence of the person who made the arrest. To protect the defendant, each investigative file must contain a document signed by the defendant and his counsel attesting that the defendant's rights were explained to him in the presence of an attorney. An appeals court may dismiss a conviction or order a new trial if this document is missing. As defendants became aware of their rights, they increasingly insisted on observance of these procedures. However, many still were not aware, and hence did not take advantage, of these procedures. Defense attorneys' fees also were prohibitively expensive for many defendants. Exile as a punishment no longer exists in the law and the Government observes this prohibition.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
The criminal justice system generally follows the former Soviet model. Several modifications have been made, including a December 1991 law modifying the system of prosecution and a June 1992 law, not yet implemented, authorizing the creation of a constitutional court. The leadership of both the executive and legislative branches has formally supported the establishment of an independent judiciary. However, the judiciary remains subject to outside pressures and further major structural reforms are required. Ambitious judicial reform proposals have been discussed at various times since independence. Further consideration of these reforms, however, is on hold pending completion of a new constitution. Under the constitutional accord, the President and the Rada pledged to appoint a constitutional court to interpret the ever-growing body of law and mediate disputes between the executive and legislative branches. By year's end (6 months after the accord was signed), the court had still not been appointed, perpetuating the disequilibrium in the balance of powers. The court's absence was felt immediately following the completion of the constitutional accord when the Rada and the President came into conflict over the rules for dismissing the Prosecutor General. The court system is divided into courts of general jurisdiction and arbitration, or commercial, courts. The courts of general jurisdiction are divided into criminal and civil sections. The courts are organized on three levels: rayon courts (district, also known as people's courts); oblast (regional) courts; and the Supreme Court. Cases are decided by judges who sit singly, or in groups of three for more serious cases. All may act as the court of first instance depending on the nature and seriousness of the crime. A case heard in the first instance by the Supreme Court, therefore, may not be appealed or reviewed. There are no clear rules to determine which court first hears a case. As a rule, military tribunals handle cases involving military personnel only. Prosecutors, like the courts, are organized into offices at the rayon, oblast, and republic levels. They are ultimately responsible to the Prosecutor General, appointed by the Rada and President. Prosecutors and defense attorneys by law have equal status before the courts. In practice, however, prosecutors still are very influential because court proceedings are not conducted in an adversarial manner. The prosecutor directs all investigations of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the SBU, or he may use the investigative resources of his office. Oblast and Supreme Court judges may not be members of political parties and must have at least 5 years of legal experience. The Rada selects judges on the basis of recommendations from the Ministry of Justice, based in part on examination results. The Prosecutor General and his deputy are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Rada. Regional and district prosecutors are appointed by the Prosecutor General. Many current judges and prosecutors were appointed in Soviet times when political influence pervaded the criminal justice system. It is unclear how free the judiciary is from influence and intimidation by the executive branch of government. Particularly at the regional level, judges, prosecutors, and other court officials appear to remain closely attuned to local government interests. Organized crime elements also have influenced court decisions. While the defendant is presumed innocent, conviction rates have not changed from the Soviet era. Nearly 99 percent of completed cases result in convictions. Judges frequently send cases unlikely to end in convictions back to the prosecutor for "additional investigation." Such cases may then be dropped or closed, occasionally without informing the court or the defendant. It is commonly believed that suspects frequently bribe court officials to drop charges before cases go to trial. Consequently, conviction rates are a somewhat misleading statistic. There were no reports of political prisoners. Lawyers for former parliamentary aide Viktor Bozhenar, arrested in March, and former member of Parliament Leopold Taburianskiy, arrested in August (both on corruption charges), alleged that their clients were victims of political repression.
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Correspondence
Search warrants issued by prosecutors, not judges, are required and utilized in most cases. The SBU may, however, conduct intrusive surveillance and searches without a warrant on national security grounds. Human rights observers report receiving no complaints of invasion of privacy by the SBU. According to the SBU charter, persons subject to surveillance must be informed after a month's time. The Prosecutor General's office has oversight responsibility over the SBU, but the extent to which it utilizes that authority to monitor SBU activities and to curb excesses by security officials is unknown. The remnants of Soviet control mechanisms survive in many guises. Militia personnel have the right to stop vehicles arbitrarily and need no probable cause to initiate extensive document checks and inspection of all parts of the vehicle and its contents. This has become a great source of and inducement to corruption in the militia: citizens who often have committed no violation, or only a minor one, prefer to pay a bribe to avoid time-consuming inspections.
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
A 1991 law provides for freedom of speech and the print media. Criticism of the Government is tolerated. The broadcast media remain under state ownership and are managed by the State Committee on Television and Radio (Derzhteleradio). Under current legislation, private and foreign companies are entitled to establish and operate transmission facilities, provided that they obtain a license from the National Council on Television and Radio. Russian state television (the "Ostankino" channel) continues to broadcast on Ukraine's airwaves under an agreement with Derzhteleradio. The National Council and Derzhteleradio also permit private media companies access to the airwaves under contract and have agreed in principle to refrain from influencing programming content. In practice, however, isolated cases of censorship and attempted censorship of reporting on internal political developments have occurred. The print media demonstrate a tendency towards self-censorship on matters sensitive to the Government. The executive branch, through the Ministry of Press and Information, subsidizes the operations of some large-circulation publications. Independent newspapers have also been established which are free to function on a purely commercial basis. There are concerns, however, that the dependence of commercial structures on government patronage inhibits their criticism of the Government. At the local and regional levels, editorial independence is even more circumscribed by these factors. Foreign-owned newspapers are permitted. In November 1994, President Kuchma abolished a government committee for the protection of state secrets that had enjoyed broadly defined powers over all media. The committee was absorbed into the Ministry of Press and Information, where it is now the "Main Department for the Protection of State Secrets." According to journalists, this department has not interfered with the practice of their craft. A local court, however, ordered the closure of the newspaper Oppositsiya that had published scatological and sexual caricatures of the President and members of his staff. Officials involved with the case claimed the presidential administration initiated the action and prescribed the penalty. Oppositsiya was the first newspaper to be forced to close in Ukraine since independence. Reporting on organized crime and its connections with the Government is becoming increasingly bold, particularly with regard to crime. Reporting on this topic is not risk free and journalists contend that they have been subject to threats--including the threat of arrest--for aggressively reporting on official corruption. While the major universities are state-owned, they now operate ostensibly under full autonomy. Academic freedom within universities, however, is an underdeveloped and poorly understood concept. University administrators are traditionally conservative establishment figures in Ukraine and possess the power to silence professors with whom they disagree by denying the possibility to publish or more directly by withholding pay or housing benefits. This atmosphere tends to limit the free spirit of inquiry. Several private and religiously affiliated universities have been founded (or refounded) in Ukraine since independence, and all operate without any reported interference or harassment by the State.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
The Law on Public Assembly of 1989 stipulates that organizations must apply for permission to the respective local administration 10 days before a planned demonstration. Participants in demonstrations are prohibited by law from instigating violence or ethnic conflict and from calling for the violent overthrow of the constitutional order. Demonstrations may not interfere with traffic, take place near the Rada when it is in session, or otherwise hinder public order. In Kiev officials routinely granted permits, unlicensed demonstrations were common, and occurred without police interference, even at the Rada when it was in session. On July 18, elite MVS troops used excessive force in breaking up a funeral ceremony for the patriarch of one of the competing Orthodox churches. Several dozen people, including pensioners, were injured during the incident. President Kuchma expressed "great regret" for the violence, and the Minister of Internal Affairs suspended three high-ranking officers involved in the incident and initiated a government inquiry. President Kuchma condemned the conduct of the troops (see Section 2.c.). The 1992 law on public organizations prohibits the State from financing political parties and other public organizations. According to the law, political parties may not receive funds from abroad or maintain accounts in foreign banks. The law prohibits the establishment of organizations advocating the violent overthrow of the Government and constitutional order or undermining Ukraine's state security by collaborating with other states. It bars political parties from having administrative or organizational structures abroad. The law prohibits police authorities, members of the armed forces, and executive branch officials from joining political parties, but many such persons nonetheless publicly associate themselves with specific parties. In late 1994, an ultra-nationalist organization, the Ukrainian National Assembly (UNA), after repeated unsuccessful attempts was registered by the Ministry of Justice as a political party. In the wake of increasingly provocative behavior by UNA members, culminating in a violent clash with police during the Patriarch's funeral, the Justice Ministry revoked the UNA's registration. The Ministry contended that the UNA had provided false information in its original application for registration and had subsequently advocated fascism, violence, ethnic intolerance, and the forcible overthrow of the constitutional order. In addition, the group was accused of criminal activities including assault, illegal possession of firearms, paramilitary training, and involvement in foreign wars (in Chechnya and Abkhazia). The Ministry also concluded that the UNA was indistinguishable from its paramilitary wing, UNSO (Ukrainian People's Self-Defense), which does not enjoy legal status. Under the law, political parties may be dissolved only by a court decision. The Ministry has said that UNA has been deregistered not dissolved, and is free to appeal the decision in court. Freedom of association is circumscribed by an onerous registration requirement that lends itself to abuse and bureaucratic manipulation. Groups must be registered with the Government to pursue almost any purpose, whether commercial, political, or philanthropic. The Ministries of Justice, Economy, and Foreign Economic Relations, and the Councils on Religion and Broadcasting, among others, all have registration functions which they have used at one time or another to prevent citizens from exercising their right of free association for purposes of which the Government does not approve. Not being registered has several important disadvantages, for example, unregistered groups are prohibited from having bank accounts, acquiring property, or entering into contracts. Furthermore, the registration law gives the Government an unlimited right to inspect the activities of all registered groups. According to this law, a registered group must: (1) keep the Government apprised of all its activities, including notification of any meetings; (2) make its meetings open to all persons at all times, regardless of whether or not they are members; and (3) upon request, present its registration documents to any government official, including the prosecutor's office, and be ready to prove that it is in compliance with the purposes of the group as set out in its registration documents. A change in a group's purposes necessitates reregistration. A registered group may not duplicate any function or service that the Government is supposed to provide. For example, human rights lawyers who wish to represent prisoners are prohibited from establishing an association to do so, according to the Ministry of Justice, because the Government is supposed to provide lawyers for the accused. In addition, the registration law has been used to prevent the issuance of visas to foreign missionaries (see Section 2.c.). Some human rights groups, despite having requested and been denied registration, nevertheless operate, but always with the risk of being prosecuted.
c. Freedom of Religion
There is no official state religion. The 1991 Law on Freedom of Conscience and Religion provides for the separation of church and state and permits religious organizations to establish places of worship and train clergy. Religious organizations are required to register with local authorities and with the Government's Council for Religious Affairs, a process that generally lasts about 1 month. The State has not interfered with the registration of minority religions requested by Ukrainian citizens. The ongoing dispute among three competing churches claiming the mantle "Ukrainian Orthodox Church" was aggravated in July because of a controversy over where to bury the deceased patriarch of one of the churches, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Kiev Patriarchy. Following the patriarch's funeral, police attacked some mourners after an attempt was made to inter the patriarch in the pavement outside St. Sophia's Cathedral, a state-owned museum contested among the three Orthodox churches. The Kiev Patriarchy accused the Government of favoring the rival Moscow Patriarchy, while the Government accused the Kiev Patriarchy of inviting participation in the funeral by UNA-UNSO activists in paramilitary uniforms. Initial reports indicated that UNA-UNSO members threw rocks and paving stones at the police in front of St. Sophia's, but it was clear (as President Kuchma himself stated) that the police used excessive and unjustified force to disperse the gathering. Subsequently, President Kuchma reaffirmed Ukraine's commitment to religious tolerance, proclaimed the state's neutrality in interconfessional disputes (which center largely on property and politics, not canonical differences) and called on all sides to settle their disagreements in a civilized fashion. An amendment of the 1991 law, passed by the Rada on December 23, 1993, has been used to restrict the activities of nonnative religious organizations. It requires that members of the clergy, religious preachers, teachers, other representatives of foreign organizations who are foreign citizens and come to visit temporarily in Ukraine may preach religious doctrines, administer religious ordinances, or practice other canonical activities "only in those religious organizations which invited them to Ukraine and with official approval of the governmental body that registered the statutes and the articles of the pertinent religious organization." Citing a desire to preserve Ukrainian culture, some government officials have argued that restrictions on the activities of foreign religious organizations are appropriate. In late 1994, the Government disbanded the Council on Religious Affairs, which had been frequently cited as obstructionist, and transferred its functions to the Ministry for Nationalities, Migration and Religious Denominations. Nonetheless, the treatment of foreign-based religious organizations still appears to be negatively prejudiced. Local governments, including in the capital city of Kiev, have set up bureaucratic roadblocks to the issuance of visas to non-Ukrainian Mormon missionaries wishing to proselytize in Ukraine. City officials also prevented Seventh-Day Adventists from holding a convention for their coreligionists. Many suspect that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church exerts influence on government behavior towards foreign religious organizations. On December 14, a Kiev court sentenced the leaders of the "White Brotherhood" religious cult to 7 years in prison for their involvement in the 1993 occupation of St. Sophia's cathedral in Kiev (see 1993 report). Among the charges they were convicted of was "practice of a nonregistered religion".
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigration, and Repatriation
Freedom of movement within the country is not restricted by law, but the requirements to register at the workplace and place of residence determine eligibility for social benefits. People who move to other regions for work in the private economy, for instance, may not be eligible for registration and therefore may be denied formal access to free medical care and other services guaranteed by the State. While Ukraine continues to assure the right of return for all those it considers citizens, in practice this assurance does not include the right of return for all Ukrainian "nationals." The ambiguity of Ukraine's citizenship law regarding the acquisition of Ukrainian citizenship allows authorities to exclude undesirable nationals from repatriation. Persons born in Ukraine and living in Ukraine at the time of independence are considered citizens. Dual citizenship is not recognized. Ukrainians who wish to travel abroad are able to do so freely. Exit visas are not required. On rare occasions, the Government may deny passports to individuals with access to state secrets, but a denial can be appealed. However, the Government has not supported a foreign-funded program to facilitate the travel of some emigrants who qualify for resettlement abroad as refugees. During the first years of independence, the Government supported an extensive assistance program for the resettlement of returnees. It provided resources for the return not only of Ukrainians living in Russia and elsewhere but also of Tatars to Crimea and of Volga Germans to southern Ukraine. By the end of 1995, some 260,000 Crimean Tatars had returned from exile to the peninsula, mainly from Central Asia. The Crimean Tatar leadership has complained that their community has not received adequate assistance in resettling and that an onerous process of acquiring citizenship has excluded many Crimean Tatars from participating in elections and from the right to take part in privatization of land and state assets (see Section 5).
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government
This right was exercised in 1994, when citizens elected a new President, Leonid Kuchma, over the incumbent, Leonid Kravchuk, and elected a new Parliament representing a wide range of parties and ideologies. Because the current election law requires a minimum of 50 percent voter turnout for elections to be valid, following the December 10 elections, 28 seats out of 450 remained unfilled. A new election law now under consideration would relax this requirement for the next parliamentary elections, currently scheduled for 1998. The President, elected for a 4-year term, nominates the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet. Day-to-day government operations are the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of Ministers. Women are well represented in politics and at the levels of local and oblast governments. However, they are less well represented at the higher levels of government. There were 16 women in Parliament at year's end although some seats had not been filled yet. One woman has cabinet rank. The provincial governors are all men.
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongovernmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
The Government allowed local and international human rights groups to operate freely although some groups have been denied formal government registration, making it harder for them to obtain accreditation to official events and more difficult to register bank accounts and other financial aspects of their organization. The Union of Councils for Soviet Jewry, for example, has an active office in Kiev, staffed with local human rights monitors. The Government also welcomed visits by foreign human rights organizations.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability, Language, or Social Status
The Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and other grounds. The Government has not taken steps to effectively enforce prohibitions on discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and other grounds. The Lviv newspaper For a Free Ukraine routinely publishes anti-Semitic diatribes but has not been prosecuted under the law forbidding the sowing of interethnic hatred. Prosecutions for sexual harassment or discrimination are unheard of. Human rights experts also note that the authorities frequent harassment of dark-skinned young men is based on stereotypes that people from the Caucusus are involved in criminal activity.
While comprehensive information measuring the extent of violence against women is not readily available, survey results suggest the problem is pervasive. A poll of 600 women conducted by a women's organization in Kharkiv indicated that 10 to 15 percent had been raped and over 25 percent subjected to physical abuse over the course of their lifetimes. Separate statistics on prosecutions for wife beating or on average sentences are not available. When violence occurs, government officials have acknowledged the authorities often exert pressure on women to drop charges against their husbands to preserve the family. The low official incidence of reported crimes against women is mirrored by the lack of media attention to the subject and the low priority that most women's groups place on the issue. Labor law provides for equal rights for men and women, including equal pay for equal work, a principle that is generally followed. However, women are much more likely to be laid off than men, and it is estimated that women represent 90 percent of all new unemployment. Moreover, a glass ceiling has prevented women from attaining top managerial positions in government, state and private industry. Many women, however, are taking advantage of the growing opportunities in the private sector to establish small businesses. Educational opportunities for women have generally been equal to those enjoyed by men and they remain so.
The Government is publicly committed to the defense of children's rights. Because of the deepening economic crisis, however, it has taken few specific steps to further a children's rights agenda. There is no pattern of familial or societal abuse of children.
People with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination based on disability, but, especially with the economic crisis, the Government has no programs targeted at increasing opportunities for the disabled. The law requires public facilities for the disabled, but implementation is poor.
Jews, the second largest minority in the country, have expanded opportunities to pursue their religious and cultural activities, but anti-Semitic incidents continue to occur. The national Government has protected the rights of the Jewish community and speaks out against anti-Semitism. However, nongovernmental manifestations of anti-Semitism continue, exemplified by the growth of UNA/UNSO, an ultra-nationalist extremist group which in March organized a rally in Lviv protesting the activities of the "Jewish mafia." A threatening letter in the name of UNSO was later sent to Lviv Jews warning them to quit Ukraine or face violent reprisals. Anti-Semitic articles continue to appear in some local newspapers, especially in western Ukraine and Kharkiv. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. After refusing for several years, the Lviv Oblast authorities granted a request by the local Jewish community to erect a monument at the site of a World War II German concentration camp. The Government made a major effort to ensure that pilgrims of the Bratslav Hasidic Jewish sect were able to visit the tomb of their founding rabbi in the city of Uman on the occasion of the Jewish new year.
With some important exceptions, there are only isolated cases of ethnic discrimination in Ukraine. The 1991 Law on National Minorities played an instrumental role in preventing ethnic strife by allowing individual citizens to use their respective national languages in conducting personal business and by allowing minority groups to establish their own schools. Russian speakers, who predominate in eastern Ukraine, complained about the increased use of Ukrainian in schools and in the media. They claimed that their children are disadvantaged when taking academic entrance examinations since all applicants are required to take a Ukrainian-language test. Many regional councils in eastern Ukraine have conferred "official" status on the Russian language, although Ukrainian remains the sole state language according to national legislation. There is no evidence of serious ethnic tension, with the exception of two areas. In some parts of western Ukraine, the small Russian minority and Jewish groups credibly accuse some local Ukrainian ultranationalists of fostering ethnic hatred and printing anti-Semitic tracts. They also charge that local authorities in western Ukraine have not taken action against those who foment ethnic hatred. In Crimea, the Ukrainian and Tatar minorities credibly complain of discrimination by the Russian majority and are demanding that Ukrainian and the Crimean Tatar language be given equal treatment to Russian. Interethnic tension in Crimea, aggravated by pervasive organized crime problems, erupted into violence in June, leaving four Tatars dead. The Crimean Government, pleading insufficient funds, has refused requests from the Tatar community to assist them in reestablishing their cultural heritage through Tatar-language publications and educational institutions. The central Government is working with OSCE on these issues.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
Soviet law, or pertinent parts of the Constitution, continue to regulate the activities of trade unions. The 1992 law on citizens' organizations (which includes trade unions) stipulates noninterference by public authorities in the activities of these organizations, which have the right to establish and join federations and to affiliate with international organizations on a voluntary basis. In principle, all workers and civil servants (including members of the armed forces) are free to form unions. In practice, the Government discourages certain categories of workers (e.g., nuclear power plant employees) from doing so. The successor to the Soviet trade unions, known as the Federation of Trade Unions (FPU), has begun to work independently of the Government and has been vocal in opposing draft legislation that would restrict the right to strike. As during the Soviet era, most FPU affiliates follow management's instructions. Enterprise managers are free to join the FPU. The FPU has no official or legal relationship with any political party. Independent unions now provide an alternative to the official unions in most sectors of the economy. Some, such as the Independent Miners' Union of Ukraine (NPHU), and unions representing pilots, civil air traffic controllers, locomotive engineers, and aviation ground crews have formed an umbrella organization, the Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (VPU). Other federations of independent unions are also being created. The Law on Labor Conflict Resolution guarantees the right to strike to all but members of the armed forces, civil, and security services, and employees of "continuing process plants" (e.g., metallurgical factories). The law prohibits strikes that "may infringe on the basic needs of the population" (e.g., rail and air transportation). Strikes based on political demands are also illegal. The Government has relied on the courts to deal with strikes it considers illegal, and the courts have not always ruled in favor of the Government. There are no official restrictions on the right of unions to affiliate with international trade union bodies; the NPHU is a member of the International Miners' Union.
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The law on enterprises states that joint worker-management commissions should resolve issues concerning wages, working conditions, and the rights and duties of management at the enterprise level, a system that is not clearly defined. Overlapping spheres of responsibility frequently impede the collective bargaining process. The Government, in agreement with trade unions, establishes wages in each industrial sector and invites all unions to participate in the negotiations. The law on labor conflict resolution set up another entity, the National Mediation and Reconciliation Service, to mitigate labor-management disputes that cannot be resolved at the enterprise level. The President appoints the head of this service. It has not been active in the past year. The manner in which the collective bargaining law is applied prejudices the bargaining process against the independent trade unions and favors the official unions (affiliates of the FPU). It provides for dues to be taken from the pay of every worker in a collective enterprise and paid to the official union. The union, on behalf of the enterprise, administers the social welfare benefits (including huge pension benefit funds) of workers paid by an enterprise. Most workers are never informed that they are not obligated to join the official union. Renouncing membership in the official union and joining an independent union can be bureaucratically onerous and is typically discouraged by management. The collective bargaining law prohibits antiunion discrimination. Disputes under the law are supposed to be resolved by the courts. There have been cases in which such disputes have not been resolved in a fair and equitable manner. There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
The Constitution prohibits compulsory labor, and it is not known to exist.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The minimum employment age is 17. In certain nonhazardous industries, however, enterprises may negotiate with the Government to hire employees between 14 and 17 years of age, with the consent of one parent. School attendance is compulsory to the age of 15, a regulation vigorously enforced by the Ministry of Education.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
In 1992 the Government established a national minimum wage which, along with pensions and other benefits, is supposed to be indexed to inflation. In reality the minimum wage has not been changed and remains at $.30 per month (60,000 coupons) although no employee actually earns wages that low. The official poverty line is now $27 per month (4.1 million coupons) and it is estimated that some 50 percent of the population now lives in poverty. Inflation was reduced significantly to an annual rate of about 170 percent (down from around 500 percent in 1994). The Labor Code provides for a maximum 40-hour workweek, a 24-hour day of rest per week, and at least 15 days of paid vacation per year. Stagnation in some industries (e.g., defense) significantly reduced the workweek for some categories of workers. The Constitution and other laws contain occupational safety and health standards, but these are frequently ignored in practice. Lax safety standards caused many serious mine accidents, resulting in 358 deaths in 1994. The Labor Ministry is currently rewriting the Mine Safety Law, and the independent unions frequently agitate for tighter enforcement of safety laws. In theory, workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing continued employment. In reality, however, independent trade unionists report that asserting this right would result in retaliation or perhaps dismissal by management.