Why Ukrainian human rights chief Lyudmila Denisova was sacked | European | News and current affairs from across the continent | DW

A majority of Ukrainian parliamentarians from different parties, including President Zelenskyy’s ruling Servant of the People party, dismissed Lyudmyla Denisova after a vote of no confidence on May 31.

The opposition Ukrainian Fatherland party, led by Yulia Tymoshenko, and the European Solidarity party of former President Petro Poroshenko voted against the decision. Few saw Denisova’s dismissal coming.

Denisova, who until recently served as the country’s human rights ombudsman, had considerable authority to protect civil rights and oversee prisoner exchanges.

His term would have ended next year. Neither the constitution nor any other legislation usually authorizes premature removal from office. Lawmakers, however, used martial law, which allows for the removal of all appointees.

Charges against Denisova

Deputy Chairman of Parliament’s Regulatory Committee Pavlo Frolov said that Denisova did not oversee the opening of humanitarian corridors in Ukrainian war zones, or address the abduction of Ukrainians from occupied territories, or the protection and exchange of prisoners.

Instead, Frolov says Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk stepped in. His ministry, which is in charge of the occupied regions, has tackled most of the human rights challenges related to the war, according to the lawmaker Servant of the People.

He also accuses her of focusing too much on media work and describing sex crimes in gratuitous detail as well as child rape in the occupied territories. However, some of these accounts, he said, had not been verified, which had harmed Ukraine.his reputation and diverted media attention from other proven crimes and issues.

As many as 234 lawmakers voted to impeach Denisova

Frolov also accuses Denisova of spending a lot of time abroad after Russia attacked the country on February 24. He says that instead of traveling to Russia or Belarus, where she might have worked to free Ukrainian prisoners or relieve the suffering of residents of occupied Kherson, Denisova was staying in “warm and peaceful Western Europe.”

Many Ukrainian journalists and human rights activists were outraged when they read Denisova’s detailed descriptions on her Facebook account.

“Wartime sexually motivated crimes are a tragedy, but they should not be the subject of some kind of ‘scandal chronicle,'” said an open letter written by 140 activists, media professionals, lawyers , psychologists and other public figures.

The letter goes on to say “it is the job of the mediator to consider first and foremost the rights and dignity of survivors and their loved ones.”

Politicized office?

Many of the signatories to the letter, however, dispute Denisova’s sudden dismissal. “As human rights activists, we doubt [Denisova’s] competence and independence,” says Tetiana Pechonchyk, who heads human rights organization ZMINA in Kyiv. “Four years ago, we protested against the politicization of his appointment; but what is happening now is completely arbitrary and undermines the office of the head of human rights in Ukraine.”

The Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) and its European partners also took the floor. A letter they wrote to parliament speaker Ruslan Stefanchuk and president Volodymyr Zelenskyy warns that his dismissal could “seriously disrupt the important work that needs to be done in these times of conflict”. The United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said Denisova’s removal “violates international standards”.

A human rights activist wrote a letter to Ruslan Stefanchuk

A human rights activist wrote a letter to Ruslan Stefanchuk

Denisova, meanwhile, claims the presidential office pushed for her removal. She says she “did not approve of my work, which aimed to collect and analyze information on human rights violations in the occupied areas.” She will challenge her dismissal in court.

There have been other attempts to impeach her. Last fall, a lawmaker from the ruling Servant of the People party set up a commission of inquiry to investigate Denisova’s failure to pursue multiple lawsuits, despite the courts asking her to do so.

Opposition lawmakers at the time said the investigation was launched by the presidential office as revenge against Denisova for criticizing the “anti-oligarchy law” as unconstitutional.

Who will take over?

Before Denisova took over as human rights chief in March 2018, the position had been vacant for a year after her predecessor, Valeriya Lutkovska, was fired. She had been the first woman to hold the position.

Who should succeed him?.

A Ukrainian human rights activist now warns of further politicization of the office. They ask human rights experts, rather than lawmakers, to apply for the post in an open and transparent process. Nelly Yakovleva, deputy director of the parliamentary human rights committee, said that so far no candidate had submitted a nomination.

This article was originally written in Russian.

About Madeline Dennis

Check Also

Behind closed doors horror of Polish residential facility

“My child’s nightmare lasted about a year and a half. She was beaten and locked …