Ukraine Legislation Risks 'Serious Harm To Democracy'

U.S.-based human rights group Freedom House says Ukraine’s parliament risks endangering the country’s democracy if it votes on draft laws that would increase government monitoring of civil society institutions.

The group on February 28 said the parliament, known as the Verkhovna Rada, plans to vote on two draft laws that “imitate efforts by authoritarian governments to limit the influence of civil society in the guise of promoting transparency.”

The statement said Ukraine’s actions would attempt to put civil society under government control, “similar to actions taken in Russia and Kazakhstan.”

It urged a rejection of the bills or a delay of the vote while the legislation is being reviewed by the Council of Europe’s Venice Commission, a group of independent experts in constitutional law.

Results are expected on March 18.

“The Rada risks doing serious harm to democracy in Ukraine by passing legislation that would add burdensome oversight of civil society organizations and undermine the effectiveness of the ombudsman,” said Marc Behrendt, Freedom House’s director for its Europe and Eurasia programs.

Freedom House hit at the parliament's proposal to select a new ombudsman, formally known as the Ukrainian parliament commissioner for human rights, saying only candidates chosen by political factions are being considered.

The position's credibility would be damaged if it “represents political interests and is subject to political horse-trading,” it said.

According to the parliamentary website, the legislation was scheduled to be voted upon on January 18 but was delayed without explanation. No new date was listed.