July 26, 2012
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
52, rue des Paquis
CH-1201 Geneva – Switzerland
Dear Ms. Pimentel:
On behalf of the 27 organizations in 17 countries that belong to the World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO), we would like to take this opportunity to appeal to you to more actively engage the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in efforts to review the unjust incarceration of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko on dubious charges of corruption, as well as review pending additional charges of tax evasion. Hearings on the new and additional charges are scheduled begin July 31. Similar to the original charges, we feel that the government of Ukraine has already predetermined a verdict and will continue their campaign to discredit and destroy Mrs. Tymoshenko as an effective leader of the political opposition. Ukraine’s prosecutor-general has also announced that he is investigating possibility of bringing murder charges against Mrs. Tymoshenko, in an attempt, we believe, to incarcerate her for life.
WFUWO concurs with the position stated by most leaders of the European Union, the United States and Canada, as well as numerous international human rights organizations that the incarceration of Yulia Tymoshenko, as well as the prolonged search for “other crimes,” is a case of selective justice motivated by the political goal of stopping the activity of opposition parties, and the personal goal of revenge by Ukraine’s current president, Viktor Yanukovych.
Besides unjustly depriving Mrs. Tymoshenko of her basic civil liberties and human rights, the politically motivated misuse of the judicial system in Ukraine by the administration of Viktor Yanukovych cynically undermines the possibility of a democratic evolution for all of Ukraine’s citizens.
Our concern, however, regarding Mrs. Tymoshenko, is broader than stopping the tactic of misusing the judicial system for political gain. Our concern is that an additional level of viciousness is being directed at Mrs. Tymoshenko to punish her for her impunity to act as a powerful woman in a society that suffers deeply from sexism. This attitude, along with political vindictiveness of President Yanukovych, we believe, precludes Mrs. Tymoshenko from receiving fair judicial treatment in Ukraine. As a charismatic figure that helped fuel the Orange Revolution in 2004, and later, as the candidate for president that ran in opposition to Viktor Yanukovych, Yulia Tymoshenko, “The Lady with the Golden Braids,” has opposed not only specific candidates, but has shown herself to be in opposition to the prevailing logic of the Yanukovych administration: women have no place in politics.
Ukraine’s current prime minister, Mykola Azarov, in response to the question why there are no female ministers in his government stated, “Some say our government is large. Others complain ‘there are no women in government, during our meetings, there is no one to look at.’ … Well, with all due respect to women, implementing political reforms is not women’s work.” (March 2010).
Commenting to the media on proposed legislation establishing quotas for women in government, Head of Ukraine’s parliament, the Verkhovna Rada, Volydymyr Lytvyn said, “Society will not abide by such laws until we get rid of that which is our tradition and stems from our Christian mentality: Man is the higher being, as woman was made from Adam’s rib. Consequently, she is the lesser being.” (February 2012).
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych, during his presentation at Davos, when speaking of Ukraine stated, “All you need is to see when the weather gets warm and Ukrainian women begin to take off their clothes. What a beautiful sight.” (February 2011).
This ingrained and denigrating attitude of high ranking officials towards women is reflected in positions of authority and power, or rather, by the lack of women is such positions. No woman heads any of the 27 regional and major municipal councils in Ukraine. Until February 2012, when, in response to pressure one was appointed, no woman was among the 17 positions at the ministerial level. According to the UNDP-led programme “Equal Opportunities and Women’s Rights in Ukraine,” only 8% of the 450 Members of Parliament in Ukraine are women and, as such, Ukraine is lagging behind even the countries of the Islamic world, such as Afghanistan (27%) or United Arab Emirates (23%).
Ukraine became a signatory to the Convention on 12 March 1981 and therefore has signaled the country’s commitment to the principles and actions of the Convention, including “to incorporate the principle of equality of men and women in their legal system, abolish all discriminatory laws and adopt appropriate ones prohibiting discrimination against women.”
Particularly relevant to the current situation in Ukraine is Article 2 (f): … take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices which constitute discrimination against women; as well as Article 7: … take all appropriate measures to eliminate discrimination against women in the political and public life of the country.
Attached please find background information about the case of Mrs. Tymoshenko.
The World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations requests that CEDAW please consider avenues to address the government of Viktor Yanukovych and indicate the obligation of Ukraine’s political leadership to step away from this vengeful and destructive plan to slowly destroy Mrs. Tymoshenko, her career and her health, a plan of action from which, ultimately, all Ukraine suffers.
World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations
NGO Representative accredited with the UNDPI on behalf of
World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations
BACKGROUND: CASE OF YULIA TYMOSHENKO
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will hold a public hearing on 28 August 2012 on the case of Yulia Tymoshenko versus Ukraine concerning complaints related to the detention of the former prime minister. The court will then begin its deliberations, which will be held in private. Its ruling in the case will be made at a later stage. Mrs. Tymoshenko lodged an application with the court on 10 August 2011. She alleges that her detention was politically motivated, that there has been no judicial review of the lawfulness of her detention in Kyiv’s pre-trial detention center, and that her detention conditions are inadequate, with no adequate medical care provided for her numerous health problems. In her complaint, Mrs. Tymoshenko relies on Article 3 (prohibition of degrading treatment or punishment), Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 8 (right to private life) and Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights) of the European Convention on Human Rights.
On 1 March 2012, the WFUWO hand-delivered at UN Headquarters in New York a letter concerning the situation of Yulia Tymoshenko to His Excellency Mr. Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. On 22 April 2012, WFUWO submitted to the 14th Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review, Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, a full statement on the abuse of rights of women in Ukraine that included particulars about the case of Mrs. Tymoshenko. This statement was made in preparation for the Universal Periodic Review of Ukraine that is scheduled for November this year. On 31 August 2012, an open hearing will be held in Geneva regarding Ukraine and the UPR.
In both its 1 March letter and 22 April 24 UPR submission, the WFUWO made these points with regard to Mrs. Tymoshenko:
A leader of the political opposition in Ukraine, specifically in opposition to Ukraine’s current president Viktor Yanukovych, Yulia Tymoshenko was arrested, charged, tried and finally convicted 11 October 2011 of “exceeding her authority” (abuse of power) as prime minister for an agreement she signed in January 2009 with the Russian Federation to provide Ukraine with gas for ten years at a price that the Yanukovych administration has asserted is “ludicrously unfair” and claims costs Ukraine millions more than necessary. She was sentenced to seven years in prison.
In his October 2011 verdict, the judge speculated that Ukraine’s state gas company could have been saved the equivalent of $188 million dollars over ten years had Prime Minister Tymoshenko signed a more favorable agreement with the Russian Federation’s Prime Minister Vladimir Putin; the fact that she did not was proof that she worked under foreign influence and did not act in the best interest of Ukraine. Despite the fundamentally dubious use of a bilateral agreement as the legal basis for a criminal judgment with no substantiated proof of personal gain or other criminal activity, the situation of Yulia Tymoshenko points to the cynical sophistication of modern day judicial abuse in Ukraine.
Immediately after the announcement of the guilty verdict, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton questioned the verdict, stating that the trial had not met international legal standards and threatened Ukraine’s integration into Europe.
The Foreign Ministry of the Russian Federation issued a harsh statement criticizing the obvious “anti-Russian bias” in the charges and verdict and noted that the gas agreement was signed with direction and approval from the presidents of both Ukraine and Russia, Viktor Yushchenko and Dmitri Medvedev. Vladimir Putin, then prime minister of Russia and a co-signor to the bilateral agreement, stated, “The legal charges leveled against former prime minister of Ukraine Yulia Tymoshenko are incomprehensible to me. Our countries committed to a fair and legal bilateral agreement.”
The Office of the President at the White House issued a statement noting that the United States was “deeply disappointed” with the trial and the “politically motivated conviction” of the former prime minister and leader of the opposition, and urged her immediate release, as did Amnesty International. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also issued a statement expressing his concerns over the fairness of the trial and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko.
In January 2012, Member of the European Parliament Pawel Kowal, co-chair of the EU-Ukraine Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, requested that Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka allow a delegation of MEPs to visit the former prime minister in the Kachanivksa penal colony, noting that “Ukrainian authorities failed to convince the international community that the Yulia Tymoshenko case was impartial.”
In response to European pressure to allow a medical examination of Mrs. Tymoshenko, independent medical teams that arrived from Canada and Germany in mid-February with the agreement of the government of Ukraine were, nonetheless, not allowed to perform onsite tests and were not given records of her medical history, despite previous assurances that this would be allowed. As a result, at the time of departure, their medical findings were inconclusive. The government of Ukraine then chose to distort this information and announced that experts found that Yulia Tymoshenko has no health problems and “that she was overly dramatic and exaggerating.” The distortions presented by the government of Ukraine were refuted by a joint statement issued 27 February 2012 by the delegation of Canadian doctors. The medical team underscored that Mrs. Tymoshenko was willing to be tested, but Ukrainian authorities would not allow the tests, and that she was in pain and was disabled. The Canadian team mentioned their particular concern that Yulia Tymoshenko was being injected with substances that are banned in Canada.
Given the obstruction faced by the initial medical teams, a renewed effort was made and on 28 February 2012, The European People’s Party (EPP) in the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly made public an appeal calling on Ukrainian authorities to allow observers and representatives of international organizations, such as the International Red Cross, to visit and observe Yulia Tymoshenko.
Despite findings by the prison facility’s own medical team that Yulia Tymoshenko has an injury in the lumbar spine area, she was denied use of her crutches and painkillers, confirmed in a 22 February 2012 statement by Zuzanna Roithov, the former Minister of Health of the Czech Republic, who met with Mrs. Tymoshenko, in a visit made after the Canadian and German medical delegations, and who also noted that she had concerns that Mrs. Tymoshenko’s deteriorating health problems could be a result of maltreatment in prison. Subsequent visits by medical teams from Europe confirmed earlier suspicions that Mrs. Tymoshenko is in severe pain and needed medical treatment. (In June, in response to threats of attendance boycotts of the World Cup soccer games by European leaders, Mrs. Tymoshenko was temporarily moved to a hospital in Kharkiv, Ukraine for treatment. Nonetheless certain European leaders did not attend the final game in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in protest of the treatment of Mrs. Tymoshenko by the government of President Viktor Yushchenko).
A year after the beginning of the trial, Yulia Tymoshenko is still subject to constant sexist remarks and public humiliation from members of the administration of President Yanukovych, as well as his political party, without an option for an effective response.
In an attempt to further exhaust her and her resources, additional charges are being brought against Yulia Tymoshenko, while limiting her access to attorneys.