03/02/2014

The situation in Ukraine from a human rights' activist perspective: Eliza Goroya's speech in the Ukrainian Parliament, Kyiv, 03/02/14

Ukrainian Parliament, Kyiv, 03/02/14in the presence of former Presidents of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko and Leonid Kravchuk.



My name is Eliza Goroya and I am a member of the Greek Helsinki Monitor.

I was invited here today to provide some insight as a Greek human-rights and anti-Nazi campaigner.

But how is the Greek struggle relevant to the Ukrainian one?
Well, we both have many angry people. And also a macho soccer culture to facilitate all this anger.
People feel indignant because they have lost their trust in the political system—and for good reasons. Both Greeks and Ukrainians have  also lost their trust in the unobstructed administration of justice and the legislation process.Both countries are facing a financial crisis and citizens feel like their country is 'being taken away from them' when the respective governments have to chose bailout options and, therefore, negotiate external influence. This naturally triggers issues of national identity, independence, patriotism and –to an extremist minority—radical nationalism. The state's first reflex should be to protect the vulnerable minorities that will be targeted by this extremist reaction to austerity, and to broaden and welcome the dialogue—rather than silencing these tendencies—without, of course, at the same time tolerating hate speech.
Her Queerness in the Parliament
But human rights' active protection—what is essentially the way the state can protect its minorities —is constantly disregarded in both countries.
On that note, I would like to congratulate Ukraine on succeeding to lose every single case out of 211 at the European Court of Human Rights—not surprisingly, you'll find yourselves in the company of Greece in this one too.
Meanwhile, all around the world we see a vibrant human rights movement. Sadly both Ukraine and Greece are still struggling to catch up with their more tolerant and progressive counterparts.
We are asked whether we want to keep clinging towards that more conservative, divisional past or listen to the global pulse towards inclusiveness.
Regarding extremism in Ukraine, I must admit that although we must be concerned about the rise of radicalism, nazism doens't seem to be the main problem here. And it doesn't seem that it is an anti-nazi strategy that will soothe the situation—this would only build up the tension as it would conveniently hijack all the movement for its tiny minority extremist part. It would even legitimize that small portion of extremists and it would lead to a direction of divisions and disorientation.
We should answer to radicalism with even more democracy and provisions for the vulnerable.
It is a passionate, never-sleeping, never hesitant, all-inclusive rhetoric that should take over.
It is our voices and the words we use—the humanity our words spread that build the cohesion and the diversity of the civil society.

Regarding the recent legislative actions:
The Ukrainian anti-protest laws were, admittedly, a rushed move to regulate protests—but also a move to restrict the freedom of expression, the freedom of the citizens to criticise the government; and were also violating the legal legislative procedure.
I shall not dwell on this, as these laws have been now correctly appealed and we salute the corrective gesture.
Most importantly, regarding the new amnesty-related law that will be discussed here, in the Ukrainian parliament, on Wednesday, and suggests to offer amnesty for protesters that have been arrested during anti-government protests only if protesters would leave the streets and end their occupation of government buildings: I will now support that it is not a solution.
Our counterpart, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, informs us that “[...]w
hereas international and domestic law alike clearly affirm the universally recognised principle of individual liability: one can be held liable for his own conduct, collective responsibility is outlawed; this Law in fact establishes collective responsibility, as release of certain individuals is made conditional on acts or abstention of others. Not only does the law run counter to the fundamental rules of international, constitutional, and criminal law; we state that its adoption violated a number of the Parliamentary rules of procedure. It cannot therefore be regarded as a legitimate resolution of the present social and political crisis. [...] We call upon the President of Ukraine to not be an accessory to the Article 147 offence and to not sign the Law On Eliminating negative consequences and preventing the prosecution and punishment of persons as respects the events taking place in the course of peaceful assemblies.
We are convinced that unconditional release of all those detained in the course of the protests, prohibition for the police to make arrests of protesters at hospitals, a ban on violence committed by the police and protesters, as well as security of the protesters against the aggressive opponents, a.k.a. ‘titushki’ is a prerequisite for negotiating any further decisions seeking a settlement of the social and political crisis."

President Yanukovych, members of the opposition and every one else that has played a part in the current situation:
You are standing in front of your legacy. Forming it; right now.
Admittedly, President Yanukovych has, unfortunately, missed his opportunity to be remembered as a 'Lech Walesa'. And we will all agree that he is no 'Nelson Mandela' either. 
But he—and the opposition leaders if they cooperate—can be remembered as the politicians that, within their privilege, they overcame personal ambition, political and economic gain, and heard to what the people are demanding: and people—more than Ukrainians being pro-Europe or pro-Russia, Ukrainians, are Pro-UKRAINE—they want to have a voice, they are calling for a democratic reform. And that might spare Ukraine from further bloodshed and even a, much-feared, civil war. 
 The ultras invite people to organise themselves “not against Russia, not pro-Europe, but for Kyivans, for our city!”. Democratic ideas as such will be hijacked by extremists if they are not brought back into mainstream politics. Therefore, a referendum on EU relations, the creation of a broad coalition government, a shift from a presidential to a parliamentary system could be possible solutions.

Yes, it is clear: Ukraine is a battlefield of influences—Kremlin, Brussels, Beijing.
In order to battle nationalism, wouldn't it be wise to allow—by supporting an enhanced democracy—the most important influence on Ukraine to be the one Ukrainians have on their country's future? That would directly tackle the radicalism that is fuelled by people's sense of having their countries being taken away of them—them not having a voice, nor power, over their own country.
Not only you must allow the citizens to criticise the government—it should be actively encouraged and both the government and the opposition should pay close attention.

This speech has been not only a call towards welcoming critique but also a sample of what that critique might sound like.

I urge you to encourage citizens to voice their views and feel they are being heard. Let citizens not be afraid of the police. Let this foreigner queer activist not be afraid of what might happen to her if she speaks her mind but to feel, rather, that she has contributed her part in an ongoing constructive critique towards the much-needed democratic reform of Ukraine and of, why not, Greece too. A state's first reflex against the rise of extremism should be to protect the targets: the Jewish community, people of colour, roma, people with disabilities, mentally-ill, hiv-positive and aids patients, ethnic minorities, immigrants, the gays. lesbians, bisexuals, trans-sexual/trans-gendered and all others that urgently need this support.
Thank you










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