Open appeal by Larysa Denysenko, Oleksandr Pavlichenko and Oleksandra Matviichuk concerning the institution of the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights
On 31 May 2022, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine passed a vote of no confidence in Liudmila Denisova, Commissioner of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine for Human Rights, and dismissed her from her position.
The Law on Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights stipulates no such grounds for dismissal from position as lack of confidence, deep concern, anxiety, or other sentiments of People’s Deputies; these grounds appeared in the amendments to the Law on the Legal Regime of Martial Law on May 12 this year. The amendments stipulate that ‘for the duration of martial law, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine may adopt a decision to dismiss an official from the position, appointment to and dismissal from which is attributed to the powers of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, other than the grounds stipulated by special laws, and in the event of no confidence expressed in such an official.’
Note that this matter does not concern a specific person — Liudmila Denisova — or an assessment of the efficiency of her work that also requires scrutiny. This is about the fact that, as of 12 May 2022, the independent institution of the Commissioner ceased to exist in Ukraine. Everyone who may be appointed to this position would never be able to voice an opposing opinion, e.g., criticise the President or the Parliament for human rights violations, in the face of imminent threat of ‘no confidence’ and dismissal within one day.
To date, only one candidate for this position has been nominated by the Parliament — Dmytro Lubinets, Chairman of the Committee on Human Rights, Deoccupation and Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories in the Donetsk, Luhansk Oblasts, Autonomous Republic of Crimea, City of Sevastopol, National Minorities, and Interethnic Relations.
A candidate for the Commissioner’s position must meet the requirements defined by law, including experience in human rights activities. The candidacy of Dmytro Lubinets raises the question about having precisely such an experience, of which nothing is known so far. Performing official duties in the Verkhovna Rada’s Committee does not constitute such an activity, otherwise Vadym Rabinovych or Viktor Medvedchuk (who, among other things, organised prisoner exchanges since 2014) would make even better ‘human rights activists’.
As soon as the news about the candidacy of Dmytro Lubinets appeared, information casting doubts on the integrity of Dmytro Lubinets started arriving to all the signatories to this text from various sources, including anti-corruption agencies and public civil society anti-corruption organisations. This uproots the compliance of his candidacy with the criterion of ‘having high moral qualities’ prescribed by law.
For example, the case posted at https://reyestr.court.gov.ua/Review/96240307 deals with the fact that, during the court hearing, the investigating judge established that NABU detectives were conducting a pre-trial investigation in the criminal proceedings No. 42020000000001304 dated 14 July 2020 and concerning alleged abuse of an official position by a People’s Deputy of Ukraine PERSON 1, which had entailed grave consequences, information about which was entered in the Unified Register of Pre-Trial Investigations following the report filed by PERSON 2 on 30 June 2020. In the course of the pre-trial investigation, interrogating PERSON 1 as a witness became necessary in order to clarify the circumstances around the funds credited to him in order to compensate for the cost of residential lease. To this end, detectives of the National Bureau have repeatedly subpoenaed PERSON 1, e.g., on 28 January 2021, 15 February 2021, on 05, 09, and 10 and March 2021. The witness was duly notified of these subpoenas, which was attested by the response from the head of the Main Documentary Support Office of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. However, PERSON 1 repeatedly failed to arrive on the date and time specified in the subpoenas for questioning as a witness, without providing the reasons for such non-appearance. PERSON 1, aka Dmytro Lubinets, simply ignored the subpoenas.
All the previous appointments of the Commissioner were also purely political. The parliamentary majority would appoint ‘one of them’ — a person who would not dare to speak against those who have appointed him/her. This was the reason behind the rejection of the Commissioner whenever another political force came to power.
For the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights to work as an effective human rights institution, it should be necessary to return to the legal environment and repeal the Law of 12 May 2022 as far as the Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights is concerned. This would offer opportunities for including as candidates those experts who have high moral qualities and adequate human rights experience — the traits that describe the Ombudsman under the Constitution.
Larysa Denysenko, human rights defender
Oleksandra Matviichuk, Chairman of the Centre for Civil Liberties
Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union