|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
October 25, 2004
|CONTACT: Amnesty International
International Secretariat +44-20-74135500
Opposition Activists Arbitrarily Detained
UKRAINE -- October 26 -- It is particularly important that Ukraine demonstrate to the world that it respects the right to freedom of expression in the run up to the presidential elections later this month, Amnesty International said today."Recent events seem to demonstrate a disappointing disregard for this right," the organization said. |
Amnesty International is concerned by reports that members of the youth opposition organization PORA (It is time) are being subjected to arbitrary arrest and harassment for the legitimate exercise of their freedom of expression. PORA is a social campaign that distributes leaflets and runs a satirical website encouraging people not to vote for the government presidential candidate Viktor Yanukovych. Reports monitored by AI include the following:
The number of such detentions that are taking place across Ukraine and the numerous violations of procedures raise concerns that these young people may have been detained for their legitimate and peaceful opposition activities. If this is the case Amnesty International would consider them prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release.
"We call on the Ukrainian authorities to respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly and to allow the legitimate expression of opposition views," Amnesty International said.
During the last few weeks, searches and detentions of opposition activists from a range of organizations have increased. On 14 October police claimed to have found bomb-making equipment in the headquarters of PORA in Kiev although a first search during which the police were accompanied by others turned up nothing, and the equipment was only found when the police returned alone to the office. Following this there were other searches and in Chernigiv Oleksandr Lomakov a member of PORA is awaiting trial on weapons charges for which he faces two to five years' imprisonment. Police allegedly found a brown substance in his flat which may be an explosive.
The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has expressed its concern about the conduct of the election campaign and has called on the Ukrainian authorities "to conduct the election process with absolute impartiality and respect for Council of Europe standards and to allow all candidates to compete on fair and equitable grounds."