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U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Ukraine

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 30 January 1995
Cite as United States Department of State, U.S. Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1994 - Ukraine, 30 January 1995, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa4a4.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.
 

 

Ukraine in 1994 continued to be governed by the 1978 Constitution of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, modified by the introduction of a presidency and a multiparty system. In presidential elections held in June and July, Leonid Kuchma defeated incumbent Leonid Kravchuk and four other candidates. The first post-Soviet elections for the 450-member Rada (parliament), held in the spring, resulted in a much fragmented legislature.

Since independence, a Rada commission has worked unsuccessfully to draft a new constitution. In 1994 the President and the Rada proposed forming a new constitutional commission, which was finally established in October. In general, however, 1994, like 1992 and 1993, was a year of governmental deadlock.

The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU), the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 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 Council of Ministers and simultaneously chair the Council's executive committees responsible for each of their ministries. The Rada must confirm the appointment of each chairman. The armed forces have remained largely outside of politics. President Kuchma nominated, and the Rada confirmed on October 3, Ukraine's first civilian Defense Minister. During parliamentary debates, the SBU serves in a technical advisory capacity. Although it has affected the political process through criminal investigations against certain politicians and influential businessmen, human rights organizations have not reported any violations of human rights by the SBU.

The economy continues to be dependent on state-owned industry and state and collectivized agriculture. Little privatization has occurred. The Government has struggled to find a unique "Ukrainian way" of transition from a command to a free market economy. Consequently, economic reform has not been extensively enacted, and the economy has suffered double-digit declines in gross domestic product, periodic hyperinflation, and high levels of hidden unemployment. Much economic activity is submerged into the illegal sector (estimated at between 50 and 80 percent), causing a concomitant dramatic rise in crime.

The most significant human rights achievement was the ability of the people of Ukraine, through internationally monitored elections, to replace elected and appointed officials at all levels of the executive and legislative branches in both the central and local governments. President Kuchma and the Chairman of the Rada acted to strengthen the separation of church and state through public statements and through adjustment of certain administrative procedures. The President also disciplined the National Council for Broadcasting, which engaged in partisan and illegal actions during the presidential election campaign, and replaced the director of state television, which in the past had been accused of restricting public discussion of important issues. Continuing human rights problems include restrictions on freedom of the press and association, unreformed legal and prison systems, and ethnic tensions in Crimea.

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 agents of the Government, 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. Politicians were particularly targeted because of their influence over state-owned enterprises, which still constituted 95 percent of official economic output.

In a particularly violent example of lawlessness, the entire leadership of the Crimean Christian Liberal Party was singled out for assassination because of the Party's platform on economic reform. Six people, half of the leadership, were murdered, with the remainder fleeing Ukraine. Its remaining members disbanded the Party. Crimean authorities were seemingly able neither to stop the killings nor apprehend the perpetrators. President Kuchma's first act as President was to sign a decree establishing special units and procedures to combat organized crime. He also acted to raise the pay of law enforcement officials to reduce the temptation of corruption.

b. Disappearance

Mikhaylo Boychyshyn, a prominent leader of the Popular Movement of Ukraine (Rukh) disappeared in January without explanation. No other disappearances are known to have occurred.

c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

The Constitution prohibits torture. However, police and prison beatings occur with regularity, and 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. Visitors to prisons describe conditions as severely substandard. Prisons are overcrowded, with the number of prisoners sometimes four times the prison capacity. The most crowded tend to be those for prisoners who have been charged with a crime and are awaiting trial or are in investigative detention.

The psychiatric community has adopted more humane methods of treatment. Human rights monitors say that, although the quality of medical care in Ukraine is generally deteriorating, psychiatry is making significant progress. There is some official support for the adoption of less coercive and degrading modes of treatment. Despite the resource constraints imposed by the economic crisis, efforts to improve medical training, hospital conditions, patients' rights, and legal norms are under way.

d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile

There were no reported cases of arbitrary arrest or detention of persons. Ukraine has only slightly amended its Soviet-era law on detentions, and the recent decree signed by President Kuchma on combating organized crime and corruption contains a number of controversial provisions.

Ukrainian 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 presidential decree designed to combat corruption and organized crime permits the "preventive" detention of persons for up to 30 days without the filing of charges. The President told law enforcement agencies on several occasions that they should take no actions inconsistent with other laws and the Constitution, regardless of the provisions of the decree. At year's end, it remained to be seen whether the new decree would result in arbitrary detention or other abuses. 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. 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. 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 rights. However, many still were not aware, and hence did not take advantage, of theseprocedures. Defense attorneys' fees also were prohibitively expensive for many defendants.

Exile as a punishment no longer exists in Ukrainian law.

e. Denial of Fair Public Trial

The criminal justice system 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. Without further major structural reforms, however, the independence of the judiciary from outside pressure cannot be realized.

The nonimplementation of the constitutional court law is symptomatic of the gridlock which stymies judicial reform in general. While the law was enacted, all but one of the candidates selected by the Government for the constitutional court refused appointments, and the court was not able to begin work. As the number of contradictions between new laws and the old Constitution increased, the need for a functioning constitutional court became ever more urgent. The Supreme Court has refrained from interpreting the laws and the Constitution, leaving individuals, businesses, and even the Government without a court of appeal in cases in which new laws conflict with the Constitution.

The courts of general jurisdiction are undifferentiated as to function (although separate arbitration, or commercial, courts exist). In the same day, judges may hear criminal, civil, and juvenile cases. The courts are organized on three levels: rayon courts (district, also known as people's courts); oblast (regional) courts; and the Supreme Court. 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. Prosecutors and defense attorneys by law have equal status before the courts. In practice, 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.

While the defendant is presumed innocent and is tried before a panel consisting of one judge and two lay assessors, 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. Consequently, conviction rates are a somewhat misleading statistic. There are no known political prisoners.

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 have also influenced court decisions.

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. The militia stops vehicles arbitrarily in cities, at the borders of cities and towns, and throughout the countryside. It needs no probable cause to stop vehicles for an extensive document check 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. Westerners and Western vehicles are popular targets of this treatment. Persons who have committed serious violations also escape justice by paying bribes to officials, further undermining the concept of the rule of law.

Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:

a. Freedom of Speech and Press

A 1991 law protects freedom of speech and the print media. Criticism of the Government is tolerated. Because most of the media are state owned and supported, there is a general tendency to self-censorship. Former President Kravchuk declared that newsprint was a strategic commodity and that there would be no privatization of the sources of paper. Government control of subsidies, most printing presses, newsprint, and a galaxy of "official" media continued to inhibit the growth of a fully free, competitive, and open press. More recently, President Kuchma signed a law exempting government-owned media from paying high value-added taxes, thereby making the private press comparatively more expensive.

A 1994 law (predating President Kuchma's election) regulates the electronic media. Holos Ukrainy, the official newspaper of the Ukrainian Parliament, accused the state television of promoting the reelection of President Kravchuk (see Section 3) and of restricting discussion of controversial domestic topics, such as disputes among the rival Orthodox churches claiming jurisdiction over the country (see Section 2.c.). Several private television channels rebroadcast uncensored foreign news programs and create their own programming. Foreign broadcasts (mostly Russian) are received without interference.

After his election, President Kuchma disbanded the Council on Broadcast Media, a regulatory agency, on the grounds that his predecessor had improperly appointed the Council. In addition, after a private television station, Hravis, broadcast campaign information about Kuchma and the other candidates in the presidential race, the Council had shut it down for being improperly licensed. Upon his election, Kuchma reinstated Hravis' license and appointed its executive director to the post of deputy director of the State Broadcasting Company. The President's adviser on press freedoms stated that Kuchma will reestablish the Council as a nonpartisan body solely involved in the technical aspects of broadcast regulation.

During former President Kravchuk's tenure, the Government created a committee with broadly defined powers over all media (i.e., print, broadcasting, and publishing) to protect "state secrets." These were broadly defined to include economic and numerous other categories of information with the apparent purpose of suppressing embarrassing information about the Government's performance. The law establishing the committee provided not only for censorship of the media but also penalties for anyone who published such information. President Kuchma dissolved the committee before it was able to exercise its powers.

The most serious threat to a free and open discussion of issues came from criminal elements and organized crime. Some journalists and editors reported they feared reprisals from criminal elements if they exposed how organized crime came to control much of the economy, both private and state owned. However, as the year passed, the print media became more daring and courageous in discussing this subject.

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.

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 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.

Political parties may be dissolved only by a court decision. The Supreme Court may dissolve a party for advocating the overthrow of the State, for "anti-Ukrainian" activities, or for violating or advocating the violation of the constitutional rights of citizens. Because no party has been dissolved since independence, the legal criteria have not yet been established. Immediately after the coup attempts of 1991, the Government banned the Communist Party of Ukraine, which was an affiliate of the former Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU). Many former members of the Communist Party thereafter participated in establishing the Socialist Party of Ukraine. In December 1993, the Government registered the Communist Party of Ukraine as a new party, and not as a successor party to the CPSU. Hence, former CPSU assets were not given to the new Socialist Party, although it continued to press the Rada for recognition as the legal successor of the CPSU.

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 or philanthropic. The Ministries of Justice, Economy, 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, i.e., unregistered groups are prohibited from having bank accounts, acquiring property, or entering into contracts. On the other hand, 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 already provides. For instance, 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 already provides lawyers for the accused. Provisions of the law on registration, through bureaucratic and political maneuvering, were used to vitiate sections of the 1993 election law which governed the recent Rada elections. The election law expressly called for the establishment of an association of nonpartisan voters to supply nonpartisan information to the voters on the democratic process, the candidates, and the parties. Despite such specific provisions, the Central Election Commission, which is responsible for administering the election law, refused to register the committee and referred the group to the Ministry of Justice for registry as a civic organization. It was reported that, when consulted by the Ministry of Justice, the Central Election Commission recommended that the Ministry not register the group. The Ministry of Justice, based in part on that recommendation, refused to register the committee, citing as one reason that it would be against the law for any group of private citizens to arrange for informational meetings between canidates and the voters. Without registration, the committee was effectively excluded from carrying out the functions explicitly provided for by Ukrainian law.

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. The Odesa prosecutor warned a human rights group that was refused registration in Odesa that all members of the group would be arrested if they continued to operate.

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 State has on occasion intervened in disputes over church property among the three rival Orthodox churches which claim jurisdiction over Orthodox Christians in Ukraine. Church disputes practically dropped to nil in 1994, and the Government took an even-handed approach in these cases.

Obstacles to complete religious freedom still exist at the local level where the bureaucracy in some places has delayed registration of religious organizations. However, a religious organization may not be denied registration. Any group representing itself as a church may apply for registration.

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 "clergymen, 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 nonnative religious organizations are appropriate. The Kiev city administration has not responded thus far to applications by non-Ukrainian Mormon missionaries and others for visas. Some local authorities refused to respond officially to the requests but stated in private that they will not grant visas because of the opposition of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. When the Mormon church continued to press its case for visas, some members of the Council on Religious Affairs threatened to deregister the Mormon church if it did not cease its efforts. As one of his first presidential acts, President Kuchma disbanded this Council and directed that a new committee be formed under the supervision of the Minister for Nationalities, Migration, and Religious Denominations. At year's end, it was not yet clear whether this would affect government restrictions on foreign religious workers.

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 an ultranationalist extremist group in western Ukraine having anti-Semitism as a tenet. The group applied for, but was refused, registration as a political party at the national level. The city of L'viv did permit the group to register, and it may now operate there openly. Anti-Semitic articles continue to appear in some local newspapers, especially in western Ukraine and Kharkiv, and there have been reports of new anti-Semitic periodicals. Jewish cemeteries have been desecrated. In L'viv, the Jewish community asked to erect a monument at what is said to be the only former German concentration camp in Europe without a memorial. L'viv officials refused permission.

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 not be able to use medical facilities unless they pay very high fees in hard currency.

Ukraine assures the right of return for all those it considers its citizens. Persons born in Ukraine and living in Ukraine at the time of independence are considered citizens. The right of return is available to people born in Ukraine who left the country prior to independence and did not assume another citizenship. Dual citizenship is not recognized.

Before the precipitous decline in its finances in 1994, the Government had 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 the Tatars to Crimea and the Volga Germans to southern Ukraine. By 1994, 250,000 Tatars had returned to Crimea. In 1994 the Government was no longer able to provide assistance, but it did not put any impediments in the way of the Tatars' continuing return.

Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to Change Their Government

Citizens exercised this right in 1994 elections which resulted in the peaceful democratic transfer of power from an incumbent president running for reelection. Elections to the 450-member Rada (parliament) were also held in 1994, and both elections were judged to have been generally free and fair.

Parliamentary elections, which began on March 27, resulted in a fragmented legislature. While Communists are the largest party, the largest voting bloc is an emerging group of parliamentary factions in the center which support democratic and economic reform.

In the presidential election's first round on June 26 among six candidates, Leonid Kuchma, former Prime Minister and candidate of the centrist Inter-Regional Reform Bloc, obtained about 31 percent of the vote to some 38 percent for Leonid Kravchuk running for reelection. Kuchma won the run-off on July 10 with 52 percent of the vote. All citizens above the age of 18 had the right to vote regardless of nationality, religion, or sex, and the election turnout ranged from around 70 percent for the presidential election to about 75 percent for the legislative ones.

Women are well represented in politics and government, especially at the levels of local and oblast governments. However, they are less well represented at the higher levels of government. There are only 12 women in Parliament and very few women in the highest levels of government.

The President, elected for a 4-year term, nominates the Prime Minister and members of the Cabinet, some of whom must be confirmed by Parliament. Day-to-day government operations are the responsibility of the Prime Minister and the Cabinet of ministers.

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. 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. Numerous international groups were invited to observe the elections.

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.

Women

Unemployment, lack of medical care, the degree of availability of child care, and social mobility, most of which have come to the fore or been exacerbated by the economic crisis, are the primary concerns of women and women's groups in Ukraine. Labor law provides for equal rights for men and women. However, it is estimated that women represent 90 percent of all new unemployment and are much more likely to be laid off than men. Equal pay for equal work is the law and generally appears to be the practice as well. However, women are seldom seen in high-level managerial positions. Educational opportunities for women are improving, and more women are entering the upper echelons of the legal, medical, and journalism professions. Women's groups now are taking advantage of the developing private economy to make a place for women and address their economic concerns. In part because of their high unemployment, women appear to be seizing the initiative in the development of businesses large and small in the emergig private market economy.

Women's groups do not cite violence as a primary issue for women. Reports of violence against women are few and usually connected with the high incidence of alcoholism among men and women. There is a lack of awareness of spouse abuse and other violence against women as a women's rights issue.

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 crimes against women is mirrored by the lack of media attention to the subject and the low priority that women's groups place on the issue.

Children

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.

National/Racial/Ethnic Minorities

In spite of vigorous press debate between Ukrainian ultranationalists and apprehensive Russian speakers, there are only isolated cases of ethnic discrimination in Ukraine. In one case, Russian speakers in L'viv have complained that there is insufficient instruction in the schools in Russian. 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.

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 local Ukrainian ultranationalists of fostering ethnic hatred and printing anti-Semitic tracts. In Crimea, the Ukrainian and Tatar minorities credibly complain of discrimination by the Russian majority. The Crimean government withdrew financial support for the only Ukrainian-language newspaper in Simferopol and has resisted Tatar requests for support for Tatar-language schools and cultural facilities.

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. President Kuchma, himself a Russian speaker, took much of the venom out of the language issue by consistently speaking Ukrainian in public and by pledging during his election campaign to request the Rada to give official status to the Russian language.

Contrary to the situation in 1993, there were no known instances of anti-Roma violence in 1994.

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.

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. The Rada is debating a new constitution and a new law on trade unions. 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.

An officially sanctioned successor to the former Soviet trade unions, known as the Federation of Trade Unions (FTU), has begun to work independently of the Government and has been vocal in opposing draft legislation that would restrict the right to strike. The FTU is considered a partner with management in the running of state enterprises. The Government provides this organization with office buildings and resort properties. The FTU has no official or legal relationship with any political party.

Many 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 (NPGU), and unions representing pilots, civil air dispatchers, locomotive engineers, and aviation ground crews formed the Consultative Council of Free Trade Unions in 1992. This entity acts independently of the FTU.

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, but this did not prevent miners and transportation workers from making political as well as economic demands during their September 1993 strikes that forced the Government to hold elections at every level of government in 1994. The Government has relied on the courts to deal with strikes that 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 NPGU 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 bureaucracy, 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.

Collective bargaining law prejudices the bargaining process against the independent trade unions and favors the official unions. It provides for dues to be taken from the pay of every worker in a collective 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, and joining an independent union can be bureaucratically onerous as well. Independent unions are not given resources to administer social welfare benefits. Enterprise directors discourage departures from the official union by meeting with workers to discuss the benefits of official union membership.

The collective bargaining law prohibits antiunion discrimination. The courts resolve disputes under the law. There have been cases in which such disputes have not been resolved in a fair and equitable manner.

There are no export processing zones in Ukraine.

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 15 and 17 years of age. Education is compulsory up to age 15. The Ministry of Education vigorously enforces the law on education.

e. Acceptable Conditions of Work

In 1992 the Government established a countrywide minimum wage. Monthly inflation rose dramatically all during 1993 and 1994. This hyperinflation has seriously eroded incomes, and officially over half the population of Ukraine now lives below the poverty level, with further declines expected. In addition, the Government has paid most salaries several months late, further reducing income. In theory, the law on wages, pensions, and social security provides for mechanisms to index the minimum wage to inflation. As of December 1, the minimum wage was approximately $6.50, or nearly 1 million karbovanets per month.

The Labor Code provides for a maximum 41-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 enforcement was the principal cause of many serious mine accidents resulting in over 100 deaths and more injuries in 1993. In theory, workers have the legal right to remove themselves from dangerous work situations without jeopardizing continued employment. In reality however, labor experts say that continued employment would be in question. The Labor Ministry is currently rewriting the mine safety law, and the NPGU is demanding that the Government improve worker safety in the mines.

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