Ukraine: No peace plan without accountability for human rights

President Petro Poroshenko

11 Bankova street
01220 Kyiv

26 June 2014

Mr President,

We, the undersigned members and partners of the Human Rights House Network (HRHN), condemned in the strongest terms human rights violations which took place throughout Ukraine since 29 November 2013, and now call upon you to extend the mandate of the International Criminal Court investigations (taking into account events in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine) and to ratify the Rome Statute, in order to encourage such investigations, as an essential part of bringing peace to the country.

We welcome the repeated pledges of Ukrainian authorities to investigate all human rights violations committed since 29 November 2013 and hold those accountable, throughout the country and irrespective of which side the violator belongs to in the ongoing armed conflict in East Ukraine. The current situation of impunity must end.

The International Criminal Court is the only international body able to not only document grave human rights violations, amounting to core international crimes (war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide), but also investigate individuals responsible for such crimes. In order to restore peace and strengthen trust into State institutions, those responsible for such human rights violations have to be held accountable. We have for a long time called for a comprehensive reform of the judicial system in the country, which still remains to be initiated. Unfortunately, the national judicial system now shows its limits and in our view it is clear that it does not have the adequate knowledge, independence and resources to investigate all human rights violations since 29 November 2013 throughout the country.

Therefore, it is necessary to activate the international justice system, based on the complementarity principle, to guarantee that investigation into core international crimes committed by all parties in Ukraine, including by members of law enforcement and State agents, is credible and transparent, bringing those responsible to justice.

The Court’s jurisdiction should however not be limited in time, as it is now. On 17 April 2014, the Government of Ukraine indeed lodged a declaration under Article 12(3) of the Rome Statute accepting the jurisdiction of the ICC over crimes committed on its territory from 21 November 2013 to 22 February 2014.[3] We now call upon the Government to issue a declaration extending ICC jurisdiction from 21 November 2013 until the date of the entry into force of the Rome Statute for Ukraine.

We also call upon the authorities in Ukraine to accede to the Rome Statute as soon as possible. By doing this, Ukraine will make an important step to permanently depart from the culture of impunity that is prevailing.

In addition to the investigation into human rights violations, and action taken to end the use of violence in the country, Ukraine needs to undertake a massive reform of its legislation and practice in many fields. Ukraine’s law enforcement agencies have needed radical reform for a long time now: It is not about changing the names of institutions and units or about window-dressing, but about systemic changes, starting from the principles for establishing and structuring enforcement agencies, and ending with approaches to evaluating their performance.

We therefore support Ukraine’s efforts to propose a resolution at the United Nations Human Rights Council’s on-going session, although we deeply regret the draft resolution’s silence about the role of civil society in the country and the need for an investigation by the Court.

In Ukraine, human rights NGOs have proven their strong commitment to the rule of law and the respect of all human rights for all people, as well as their high level of professionalism and excellence. No country can build a sustainable future without full inclusion of civil society in decision-making, especially Ukraine in its present situation. Furthermore, States and leaders in all sectors of society must acknowledge publicly the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders in the promotion of human rights, democracy and rule of law, and avoid stigmatisation, as stated by the Human Rights Council resolution 22/6 of 21 March 2013.

Finally, we also welcome the reference in the draft resolution on Ukraine at the Human Rights Council to the extremely worrying human rights situation in Crimea and join Ukrainian authorities, the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and other international voices, in condemning the enforcement of legislation of the Russian Federation on the territory of Crimea, at variance with the United Nations General Assembly resolution 68/262.

The role of civil society is essential in documenting human rights violations in Crimea and providing support to victims of such violations. A field mission has been launched by Ukrainian and Russian human rights defenders in co-operation, with which we expect full cooperation by all governmental agents in Ukraine.

On this background, we call upon you Mr President and the Government, with no further delay, to issue a declaration to extend the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court from 21 November 2013 until the date of Ukraine’s accession to the Rome Statute either through appeal of the competent body of the Government or by adopting the Draft Law #4081a.

We further call upon you to:

  • Take all necessary measures to support the work of human rights NGOs, journalists and bloggers and other media, including by investigating any threats, intimidation, harassment and violence against them, including arbitrary detentions, abductions, attacks and killings;
  • Strongly and publicly acknowledge the important and legitimate role of human rights defenders in the promotion of human rights, democracy and the rule of law as an essential component of ensuring their protection; In line with United Nations Human Rights Council resolution 22/6 of 21 March 2013, paragraph 5
  • Ensure that the reform process in the country, as well as all dialogue about the future of the country, is inclusive and transparent, giving space to civil society.


Human Rights House Kyiv (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (Association UMDPL)
  • Centre for Civil Liberties
  • Human Rights Information Center
  • Institute of Mass Information
  • Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
  • La Strada Ukraine
  • NGO “For Professional Journalism” – Svidomo
  • Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Education Human Rights House Chernihiv (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Chernihiv Public Committee of Human Rights Protection
  • Center of Humnistic  Tehnologies “AHALAR”
  • Center of Public Education “ALMENDA”
  • Human Rights Center “Postup”
  • Local Non-governmental Youth organizations М’АRТ
  • Transcarpathian Public Center
  • Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union

Azerbaijan Human Rights House (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Association for Protection of Women’s Rights – APWR
  • Azerbaijan Human Rights Centre (AHRC)
  • Institute for Peace and Democracy
  • Human Rights Centre
  • Legal Education Society
  • Legal Protection and Awareness Society
  • Media Rights Institute
  • Public Union of Democracy Human Rights Resource Centre
  • Women’s Association for Rational Development (WARD)

Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House in exile, Vilnius

  • Belarusian Association of Journalists
  • Belarusian PEN Centre
  • Belarusian Helsinki Committee

Human Rights House Belgrade (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Belgrade Centre for Human Rights
  • Helsinki Committee for Human Rights, Serbia
  • Human Rights House Belgrade and Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights –YUCOM

Human Rights House London (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Index on Censorship
  • Vivarta

Human Rights House Tbilisi (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Article 42 of the Constitution
  • Caucasian Centre for Human Rights and Conflict Studies (CAUCASIA)
  • Georgian Centre for Psychosocial and Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims
  • Media Institute
  • Human Rights Center
  • Union Sapari – Family Without Violence

Human Rights House Oslo (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Norwegian Helsinki Committee
  • Health and Human Rights Info

Human Rights House Voronezh (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Charitable Foundation
  • Civic Initiatives Development Centre
  • Confederation of Free Labor
  • For Ecological and Social Justice
  • Free University
  • Golos
  • Interregional Trade Union of Literary Men
  • Lawyers for labor rights
  • Memorial
  • Ms. Olga Gnezdilova
  • Soldiers Mothers of Russia
  • Voronezh Journalist Club
  • Roronezh – Chernozemie
  • Youth Human Rights Movement

Human Rights House Yerevan (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Vanadzor
  • Journalists’s Club Asparez
  • Public Information and Need of Knowledge – PINK

Human Rights House Zagreb (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • APEO / UPIM Association for Promotion of Equal Opportunities for People with Disabilities
  • B.a.B.e.
  • CMS – Centre for Peace Studies
  • Documenta – Centre for Dealing with the Past
  • GOLJP – Civic Committee for Human Rights
  • Svitanje – Association for Protection and Promotion of Mental Health

The Rafto House in Bergen – Norway (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Rafto Foundation, Norway

The House of the Helsinki Foundation For Human Rights – Poland (on behalf of the following NGOs):

  • Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, Poland

Copies have been sent to:

  • Mr Oleksandr Turchynov, Chairman of Verkhovna Rada
  • Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe
  • Private Office of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe
  • Chairman of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
  • OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine
  • OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights
  • United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine
  • Delegation of the European Union in Ukraine
  • Subcommittee on Human Rights of the European Parliament
  • Diplomatic community in Kyiv, Brussels, Geneva and Strasbourg
  • Various ministries of foreign affairs and parliamentary committees on foreign affairs


About the Human Rights House Network (

The Human Rights House Network (HRHN) unites 87 human rights NGOs joining forces in 18 independent Human Rights Houses in 13 countries in Western Balkans, Eastern Europe and South Caucasus, East and Horn of Africa, and Western Europe. HRHN’s mandate is to protect, empower and support human rights organisations locally and unite them in an international network of Human Rights Houses.

The Human Rights House Kyiv and the Education Human Rights House Chernihiv are members of HRHN. 10 independent Ukrainian human rights NGOs are members of both Human Rights Houses.

The Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), based in Oslo (Norway) with an office in Geneva (Switzerland), is HRHN’s secretariat. HRHF is international partner of the South Caucasus Network of Human Rights Defenders and the emerging Balkan Network of Human Rights Defenders.

HRHF has consultative status with the United Nations and HRHN has participatory status with the Council of Europe.


Radio journalist charged over Kenyan election violence

Press censorship feared in Eastern Africa as the ICC indicts first media personality. Ernest Waititu reports

There is fear that some East African governments might clamp down on local-language stations in the wake of indictment of a Kenyan journalist by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged crimes against humanity.

Joshua Arap Sang, a broadcast journalist, has become the first media personality to be indicted by the ICC.

Sang was on  15 Dec named alongside six politicians and government officials for having masterminded the 2007-2008 post-election violence.

He is the head of operations at Kass FM, a nascent radio station that broadcasts in the Kalenjin language. The language is spoken in Kenya’s Rift Valley region, where much of the violence took place.

In naming the radio personality as one of the six suspects, the ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said that together with two politicians from the Rift Valley indicted for instigating the violence “Joshua Sang played a crucial part” in coordinating attacks.

Arap Sang, as he is popularly known by his listeners, was, according to the ICC Prosecutor, “involved in planning this operation, collecting supporters and also using coded messages” on radio to plan the violence.

Moments before and after the ICC prosecutor made the indictment, Sang was on air on Kass FM. He responded to the indictment with appeals to his listeners to remain calm, saying he was confident of his innocence.

A disputed election result in late 2007 led to violent attacks in various Kenyan regions, including Kisumu, Mombasa, Eldoret, and the capital, Nairobi. The violence left 1,133 people dead and over 650,000 homeless.

Media observers and monitors singled out certain local-language radio stations for contributing to ethnic animosity through hate speech. The observers noted that some local-language radio stations not only took clear sides supporting leading political parties but also spread fear and propaganda through their programming, slandered individuals and communities and propagated ethnocentrism.

Speaking in Nairobi a few days before the indictment, in an exclusive meeting with journalists working with community and local-language radio stations, which included Sang, Moreno underlined the importance of in the peace process in Kenya, saying the radio stations “have a bigger role than me in dividing or uniting Kenyans.”
Although they were cited for unfair coverage of the election campaigns and the violence that broke out after the contested results were announced, mainstream media seem to agree with others on the role that local-language radio played during the violence.

Earlier in the year Joseph Odindo, editorial director of Nation Media Group, the largest media house in the region, called local-language radio station “poison”. In his view, vernacular radio stations played a role in “fanning the violence” that followed the elections in 2007.

Others in the mainstream media say the naming of Sang as a key suspect in post-election violence should not be taken as an indictment of the Kenyan media in general, but as censure of an individual journalist. The chair of the Editors’ Guild in Kenya, Macharia Gaitho says the indictment of a journalist by the International Criminal Court (ICC) is not a reason to pass judgment on Kenyan media as a whole, which in general acted responsibly in reporting the 2007 general elections and the violence that followed.

Media scholars in the region acknowledge the influence of local-language broadcast radio in a region still plagued by low literacy rates. Dr Levi Obonyo , the head of communications at Daystar University and a council member of the Media Council of Kenya, says that local-language broadcast journalists in Kenya have bigger influence over listeners than your average media personalities.

The indictment of Sang has sent shock waves in the East-African region, which saw a number of media personalities indicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda for having participated in the genocide that killed close to a million people in 1994.

In the neighboring Uganda, media commentators hope that Sang’s indictment will not serve as an excuse for the Ugandan Government, which has a history of gagging the media, to roll back media freedoms.

Journalist Benjamin Rukwengye writes that for Uganda, which is in the build up to another divisive election, “every journalist has a role to play in ensuring that the relative media freedom we currently enjoy is augmented, rather than curtailed by a government which will eagerly flaunt Arap Sang as [a point of] reference.”

Ernest Waititu, a native of Kenya, is founder and editor of He first wrote for Index on this topic in Volume 39 Number 2.


Sudan: Newspaper suspends publication in censorship row

The acting editor-in-chief of Sudanese newspaper Ajras Al-Huriya, Faiz Al-Silaik, has announced that the paper will protest censorship by not publishing for one week. The Sudanese authorities introduced pre-publication censorship for two daily newspapers in May. On Saturday the security forces visited four other independent/opposition papers, directly censoring much of their content. The press crackdown is focused on reporting of a doctor’s strike, and the arrest warrant the International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued for President Omar Hassan Al-Bashir for war crimes in the Darfur region of Sudan.

Sudan: Government prevents opposition activists from travelling

The Sudanese government has prevented three opposition activists from leaving the country, they were due order to attend a Kampala conference organised by the International Criminal Court. The passports of Miriam Al-Mahdi, Mahmoud Saleh and Al-Bukhari Aljaali were confiscated by security forces. The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Sudanese President Omer Hassan Al-Bashir in 1998, following allegations of genocide during the country’s bitter civil war.