Freedom House Welcomes Pardon of Ukrainian Opposition Figures
Freedom House welcomes the pardon of several former government officials in Ukraine, most prominently Yuriy Lutsenko, a Minister of Interior under former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, and former Minister of Ecology and Environment, Heorhiy Filipchuk. It calls on President Viktor Yanukovych to take similar action on Tymoshenko.
“Sunday’s pardon was an important first step by President Yanukovych,” David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House, said. “I’m glad to see Mr. Lutsenko, Mr. Filipchuk and others finally released. But Tymoshenko’s release is no less important.”
The decision by the government of President Viktor Yanukovych to pardon officials from the previous Orange government on what many view as politically motivated charges was influenced by many factors. The European Union (EU) had indicated that progress towards a partnership arrangement with Ukraine depended on the release of political prisoners, and Freedom House urges the EU to leverage Ukraine’s interest in concluding that agreement to press for Tymoshenko's release. It should also urge the Yanukovych government to reverse a notable deterioration in democratic governance, specifically freedom of expression and freedom of the press, judicial independence and last October’s flawed parliamentary elections.
“We hope that the pardons on Sunday will soon be followed by the pardon of Tymoshenko as part of a larger effort to put Ukraine back on a track to a democratic, European future,” Kramer added.
Lutsenko, who was pardoned and released along with five other former officials, had been imprisoned on charges of embezzlement and ordering illegal surveillance in an investigation of the mysterious poisoning of Viktor Yushchenko, president of Ukraine from 2005 to 2010. The cases against Tymoshenko, Lutsenko, and the five other pardoned politicians were marred by numerous procedural and other irregularities and widely perceived as lacking credibility. As European, American, and other interlocutors have noted in innumerable private and public statements, the politically motivated imprisonment of former government officials and concerns about human rights more broadly have weakened prospects for Ukraine’s integration into European economic and political life.
Along with Lutsenko and Filipchuk, Serhiy Vikulin, Iryna Voskanian, Dmytro Mohiliovtsev and Oleksandr Riasenets were pardoned. President Yanukovych justified the pardons on the numerous appeals from Ukrainian, European, and other sources; the recommendation of the Commission on Pardoning; and the conditions of their cases and time served.
Ukraine is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2012, and Free in Freedom on the Net 2012.
For more information, visit:
Freedom in the World 2013: Ukraine
Freedom of the Press 2012: Ukraine
Freedom on the Net 2012: Ukraine
Nations in Transit 2012: Ukraine
Sounding the Alarm Round 2: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine
Blog: Freedom at Issue
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.
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