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Human rights in Ukraine is a highly contested topic and in 2018 Ukraine was labeled as "Partly Free" by organizations such as Freedom House.[1]

According to Freedom House, Ukraine has enacted a number of positive reforms in the aftermath of the Euromaidan revolution in 2014. The country received better ratings for political pluralism, parliamentary elections, and government transparency. As of 2022 the country was labelled "Partly Free".[2] According to the OSCE, as of 2015 the elections in Ukraine generally respect democratic process, but additional efforts were needed to enhance public confidence.[3][4]

According to the Human Rights Watch report for 2014, both sides violated the laws of war during the ongoing war in Donbas. The government imposed excessive restrictions on freedom of media and sexual diversity is not fully respected.[5] On 21 May 2015 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has passed a resolution declaring the suspension of conventions for Human Rights in the eastern Donbas region.[6][7]

International and European human rights treaties

Ukraine is a party of the following international treaties

Ukraine signed but not yet ratified

Ukraine is a party of the following European treaties


Meeting in Kharkiv during the 2004 Orange Revolution
Meeting in Kharkiv during the 2004 Orange Revolution


Ukraine had been labeled as "free" by organizations such as Freedom House in 2009.[1] In their report they stated: "Ukraine has one of the most vibrant civil societies in the region. Citizens are increasingly taking issues into their own hands, protesting against unwanted construction, and exposing corruption. There were no limits seen on NGO activities. Trade unions function, but strikes and worker protests were infrequently observed, even though dissatisfaction with the state of economic affairs was pervasive in the fall of 2008. Factory owners were seen as still able to pressure their workers to vote according to the owners’ preferences."[1]

On 20 October 2009 experts from the Council of Europe stated "in the last five years the experts from the Council of Europe who monitor Ukraine have expressed practically no concerns regarding the important [process of the] formation of a civil society in Ukraine. Ukraine is one of the democratic states in Europe that is securing human rights as a national policy, as well as securing the rights of national minorities."[8] According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), "while civil society institutions operate mostly without government interference, police abuse and violations of the rights of vulnerable groups … continue to mar Ukraine's human rights record."[9]

After the early 2010 election of President Viktor Yanukovych international organizations start to voice their concern. According to Freedom House, "Ukraine under President Yanukovych has become less democratic and, if current trends are left unchecked, may head down a path toward autocracy and kleptocracy."[10] Among the recent negative developments, they mentioned "a more restrictive environment for the media, selective prosecution of opposition figures, worrisome intrusiveness by the Security Service of Ukraine, widely criticized local elections in October 2010 … and erosion of basic freedoms of assembly and speech." This led Freedom House to downgrade Ukraine from "Free" to "Partly Free" in Freedom in the World 2011.[10] Also in 2011 Amnesty International spoke of "an increase in the number of allegations of torture and ill treatment in police custody, restrictions on the freedom of speech and assembly, as well as mass manifestations of xenophobia".[11]

In Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2010 Ukraine had fallen from 89th place to 131.[12] Neighboring Russia's press freedom was ranked at position 140.[13] The International Federation for Human Rights called Ukraine "one of the countries seeing the most serious violations against human rights activists" in December 2011.[14]

As of 17 January 2013 Ukraine lost all of its 211 cases at the European Court of Human Rights.[15]

The right to fair trial

Main article: Judiciary of Ukraine

Amendments to the constitution, which came into force, were detrimental for fair trial in that they re-introduced the so-called general supervision by the prosecutor's office. Other serious problems included lengthy periods for review of cases because the courts were overloaded; infringement of equality of arms; non-observance of the presumption of innocence; the failure to execute court rulings; and high level of corruption in courts.[16] Independent lawyers and human rights activists have complained Ukrainian judges regularly come under pressure to hand down a certain verdict.[17]

According to Freedom House the judiciary has become more efficient and less corrupt since the Orange Revolution.[1]

Recent (since 2010) trails of high-profile political figures[nb 1] Yulia Tymoshenko, Yuriy Lutsenko, Igor Didenko,[19] Anatoliy Makarenko[20] and Valeriy Ivaschenko[21] have been described by the European Commission, the United States and other international organizations as "unfair, untransparent and not independent"[22] and "selective prosecution of political opponents".[23][24][25] President Viktor Yanukovych stated late February 2012 these trails "didn't meet European standards and principles".[26]

Media freedom and freedom of information

See also: Freedom of the press in Ukraine

In 2007, in Ukraine's provinces numerous, anonymous attacks[27] and threats persisted against journalists, who investigated or exposed corruption or other government misdeeds.[28][29] The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists concluded in 2007 that these attacks, and police reluctance in some cases to pursue the perpetrators, were "helping to foster an atmosphere of impunity against independent journalists."[9][30]

Ukraine's ranking in Reporters Without Borders's Press Freedom Index has in the latest years been around the 90th spot (89 in 2009,[31] 87 in 2008[32]), while it occupied the 112th spot in 2002[33] and even the 132nd spot in 2004.[34]

Since Viktor Yanukovych was elected President of Ukraine in February 2010 Ukrainian journalists and international journalistic watchdogs have complained about a deterioration of press freedom in Ukraine.[35][36][37][38] Yanukovych responded (in May 2010) that he "deeply values press freedom" and that "free, independent media that must ensure society's unimpeded access to information".[35] Anonymous journalists stated early May 2010 that they were voluntarily tailoring their coverage so as not to offend the Yanukovych administration and the Azarov Government.[39] The Azarov Government denies censoring the media,[40] so did the Presidential Administration[41] and President Yanukovych himself.[42][43]

A May 2014 report from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) stated that there were approximately 300 instances of violent attacks on the media in Ukraine since November 2013.[44] A crackdown on what authorities describe as "pro-separatist" points of view has triggered dismay among Western human rights monitors. For example, the 11 September 2014 shutdown of Vesti [Wikidata] newspaper by the Ukrainian Security Service for "violating Ukraine's territorial integrity" brought swift condemnation from the Committee to Protect Journalists and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.[45][nb 2]

Ukraine has also shut down several television stations operated by Russia on the grounds that they purvey propaganda.[45] In February 2017 the Ukrainian government banned the commercial importation of books from Russia, which had accounted for up to 60% of all titles sold.[47]

Freedom of expression and conscience

Main articles: Freedom of speech and Freedom of thought

FEMEN is a feminist protest group founded in Ukraine in 2008[48] The organization became internationally known for organizing [49][50] topless protests against sex tourism,[49][51] religious institutions,[52] sexism and homophobia[53]
FEMEN is a feminist protest group founded in Ukraine in 2008[48] The organization became internationally known for organizing [49][50] topless protests against sex tourism,[49][51] religious institutions,[52] sexism and homophobia[53]

Amnesty International has appealed for the release of Ukrainian journalist Ruslan Kotsababy and declared him a prisoner of conscience.[nb 3]

Torture and conditions in detention

Main article: Torture in Ukraine

Reports of torture and ill-treatment by police persisted during 2007 year, as did unduly long periods of pretrial custody. Of major concern were the inhumane conditions in detention with overcrowded cells, appalling sanitary conditions and the lack of appropriate medical care. During the year numerous group suicide attempts took place in some penal colonies.[16][55]

On 6 August 2014, Amnesty International has published a report on the abduction and detention of civilians and torture them  in eastern Ukraine in unaccountably. Furthermore, the organization condemned what is happening to weak and poor people at the hands of corrupt officials, and the failure of the Ukrainian authorities to conduct the necessary investigations into human rights violations.[56]

New evidence of torture was published since May 2016. According to Ivan Šimonović, UN assistant secretary-general for human rights, as published by The Times, both Ukrainian authorities and the authorities of separatist Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics allow torture and run secret jails, and "disregard for human rights" had become entrenched and systemic. The New York Times reports that, after an exchange of prisoners, some detainees have left Ukrainian jails with visible injuries. On 25 May 2016, the United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture (SPT) suspended its visit to Ukraine after the government had denied it access to places in several parts of the country where it suspects these secret jails were located.[57][58][59][60]

Human rights abuses and the HIV/AIDS epidemic

Main article: HIV/AIDS in Ukraine

The Ukrainian government has taken a number of positive steps to fight HIV/AIDS, chiefly in the area of legislative and policy reform. But these important commitments are being undermined in the criminal justice and health systems by widespread human rights abuses against drug users, sex workers, and people living with HIV/AIDS.[9]

Migrants and refugees

The Ukrainian asylum system barely functions due to a highly decentralized structure spanning several government agencies and departments. The process of creating a single migration system has been slow; political interference in the system is common and abuses of migrants and asylum seekers' rights continue.

Human trafficking

Main articles: Human trafficking in Ukraine and Human trafficking

There has been a growing awareness of human trafficking as a human rights issue in Europe. The end of communism has contributed to an increase in human trafficking, with the majority of victims being women forced into prostitution.[61][62] In 2013 Ukraine was a country of origin and country of transit for persons, primarily women and children, trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and forced labor.[63] Charcoal production and pornography have been listed in the U.S. Department of Labor's List of Goods Produced by Child Labor or Forced Labor under the country of Ukraine in December 2014. The Government of Ukraine has shown some commitment to combat trafficking, but has been criticized for not fully complying with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking, and for inadequate trafficking prevention efforts.[64]

Violence against women

Main article: Violence against women in Ukraine

Violence against women is an entrenched social problem in Ukrainian culture engendered by traditional male and female stereotypes.[65][66] It was not recognized during Soviet era, but in recent decades the issue became an important topic of discussion in Ukrainian society and among academic scholars. According to the estimation of OSCE the violence towards women is widespread in Ukraine and it is associated with three times more deaths than the ongoing armed conflict in the eastern provinces of the country.[67]

Linguistic rights

In 2017 a new law on education has been adopted by Ukrainian government to reform the education system. The language provisions of the law made it highly controversial both locally and in neighboring states, as it envisages that all secondary education will be taught in Ukrainian. According to the law an instruction in minority languages at kindergarten and primary school level remains unaffected, but at the secondary level national minority languages are now being reduced to special lessons. The approval of the legislation provoked a harsh reaction in Hungary, Romania, Russia, Poland, Bulgaria and some other countries. For example, Romanian parliament approved declaration criticizing the law and warned that Ukraine cannot go far toward EU integration without a respect to the linguistic rights of national minorities.[68]

Ukrainian authorities have submitted the law for review by the Venice Commission, a body which rules on rights and democracy disputes in Europe. In an opinion adopted formally the commission said that "the strong domestic and international criticism drawn especially by the provisions reducing the scope of education in minority languages seems justified".[69]

War in Donbas

Main article: Humanitarian situation during the war in Donbas

During the ongoing warfare in Donbas, Ukraine has lost control over the territories of Donetsk People's Republic and Luhansk People's Republic and therefore suspended its human right obligations there. On 21 May 2015 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine has passed a resolution declaring that it has withdrawn from some of the obligations stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (articles 2, 9, 12, 14, 17), the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (articles 5, 6, 8, 13) and European Social Charter (articles 1 p. 2, 4 p. 2-3, 8 p. 1, 14 p. 1, 15,16,17 p. 1a p. 1c, 23,30, 31 p. 1-2) at the Donbas region until "Russia cease its aggression in eastern Ukraine".[6][7]

Ukrainian human rights organizations

International human rights organizations with branches in Ukraine

See also


  1. ^ Cases were opened against:
    1) Prime Minister – Tymoshenko.
    2) Minister of Police – Lutsenko.
    3) Minister of Defence – Ivashchenko.
    4) Minister of Finance – Danylyshyn.
    5) Minister of Natural Resources – Filipchuk.
    6) Deputy Minister of Justice – Korneichuk.
    7) Head of Customs of Ukraine – Makarenko.
    8) Head of the regional customs – Shepitko.
    9–10) Head of the State Treasury of Ukraine – Slyuz; Deputy head – Gritsoun.
    11) Deputy head of "Naftogaz" (state monopoly on trade in gas and oil) – Didenko.
    12) Governor of Dnipropetrovsk region (former Minister of Transport) – Bondar.
    Repeatedly called in for questioning in order to open a criminal case : minister and former mayor of Lviv – Kuybida; First Deputy Prime Minister – Turchynov.[18]
  2. ^ Former Vesti News's editor-in-chief Igor Guzhva [ru] wrote on his Facebook page that the news outlet had been raided by Security Service of Ukraine (SBU). The SBU reportedly took all servers, kept staffers in a "hot corridor" and shut down the website completely. Guzhva said that the purpose of the raid was "to block our work." "Journalists are not being let into their office", Guzhva wrote. "Those who were already inside at the moment of the raid are being kept in the building and are not allowed to use cell phones." Guzhva said that this is the second time in just six months that the SBU has tried to "intimidate" its editors. He added that he is unsure of the reason for the raid, but suspects that it might have to do with a story the website recently published on the SBU chief's daughter.[46]
  3. ^ On 10 February 2015, Amnesty International reported that a Ukrainian journalist, Ruslan Kotsaba [Wikidata], was accused and arrested by Ukrainian authorities for "treason and obstructing the military" in reaction to his statement that he would rather go to prison than be drafted by the Ukrainian Army. If found guilty he could potentially can face up to 15 year prison sentence. Amnesty International has appealed to Ukrainian authorities to free him immediately and declared Kotsaba a prisoner of conscience. Tetiana Mazur, director of Amnesty International in Ukraine stated that "the Ukrainian authorities are violating the key human right of freedom of thought, which Ukrainians stood up for on the Maidan." In response the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) declared that they have found "evidence of serious crimes" but declined to elaborate.[54]


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