This morning the Ukrainian Parliament spent about 20 minutes violently voting for a set of new measures which are aimed at limiting freedom of speech and expression in Ukraine, throttling the peaceful protests, introducing new means of control over the independent media, the internet, the civic organisations and NGOs and cracking down on Euromaidan in any way possible. The main law #3879 (Full text here in Ukrainian, comparative table of changes here, also in Ukrainian) was introduced by Vadym Kolesnichenko and Volodymyr Oliynyk, members of the Party of Regions faction, and adopted by the Verkhovna Rada on Jan. 16. The main provisions of the law are very well recapped in this post by the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group (in English).
The Facebook group Euromaidan SOS, which unites activists posting about the latest developments of Euromaidan and offering legal advice to protesters, summarised some of the new punishments that come with the laws:
Meet the innovations whose adoption the bandits today in parliament ( all readings once a show of hands and naming “the number” of votes cast ):
1. Driving in an organized group of more than 5 cars – confiscation of your car and drivers license for 2 YEARS (!!!)
2. If an information agency doesn’t have a special license from the government – all of their servers , computers and information will be confiscated and they will have to pay a big fine
3. Disturbing peaceful meetings – up to 10 days in jail
4. Taking part in peaceful protests while wearing a hard hat, any uniform or carrying fire – up to 10 days in jail
5. Setting up tents, a stage, or even a sound system (!) without the permission of the police – up to 15 days in jail
7. Not obeying with the request/order to limit access to the internet – fine of 6800 UAH (a little bit over 800$)
8. Not obeying the “lawful orders” of SBU (Ukrainian Security Department) – a fine of up to 2000UAH (around 250$)
9. The protocol of administrative law infringement doesn’t have to be presented to the person accused anymore (a testimony from “witnesses” is enough)
10. The confirmation that you have been “served” with court papers now is not only your signature, but “other data of any kind” (!)
11. Blocking the access to someone’s residence (a brand spanking new law) – 6 YEARS in jail (!!!)
12. Slander (Has been returned to the Criminal Code!!!!) – 2 YEARS in jail
13. Distribution of extremist materials (!!!!) – 3 years in jail
14. “Group disturbance of peace” – 2 years
15. Mass Disruptions/protests – 10 and even 15 YEARS IN JAIL (!) – ANY and ALL participants of the protests on Maidan can be sent to jail via this law!!!
16. Collecting information about “Berkut” police special forces employees, judges and other similar government workers – 3 years in jail
17. Threatening a policeman and other similar government workers – 7 YEARS in jail
18. Collecting information about judges – 2 years in jail
19. NGO (non-government organizations) that receive money from abroad, are now considered “foreign agents”, and will have to pay taxes on their “revenues” and will officially be called/known as “foreign agents”.
20. NGO cannot take part in “extremist activities”
21. Churches cannot take part in “extremist activities”
22. The “government” can decide to PROHIBIT ACCESS TO THE INTERNET
23. A civil organization is considered to be one that: takes part in political activities, and if that said organization wants to influence the decisions that the “government” makes – it needs to first ask the “government” for permission to function and the permission to be financed.
24. A person can be persecuted and ruled guilty or not guilty (including sending someone to prison for many many years) without the presence of the person being persecuted in court.
25. From now on, for traffic offences, instead of the person who was actually driving and who violated the rules, the owner of the vehicle can be prosecuted if the violation was registered by automatic means.
26. A national deputy (Member of Parliament) can be stripped of immunity from legal persecution and be arrested without an assessment by a specialized committee – immediately, during a parliamentary session.
27. “Berkut” police special forces and government employees that have acted with criminal intent towards Maidan activists, are freed from persecution for their crimes (!!!!!)
So, a quick recap: more control over the internet and independent media, virtually complete abolition of any kind of peaceful protest observed during Euromaidan, criminalising libel, SIM-cards can only be bought with a passport, default judgement in courts, increased surveillance, labelling NGOs as foreign agents and more. To say this is a step back is to say nothing. This vote has nothing to do with European values, democratic development or any kind of progress towards a peaceful resolution of the current stalemate.
Hope to write more on this and other laws, as we wait with bated breath to see if President Yanukovych actually signs the proposed laws into being – his signature and the signature of the Speaker of Parliament are the last things required for the laws to come into force.
UPDATE: The President has signed all of the laws, including the 3879 one. Ukrainians’ reaction online so far is mostly wondering what country we’re turning into: Russia, Belarus or North Korea.
Here’s a great visual from Chesno.org, depicting all of the consequences of the harsh new anti-protest legislation for Ukrainians: