The authoritative international organization Amnesty International published its annual report “Human Rights in the World 2017/2018”, which contains an article about the situation in Ukraine.
This is an important document deserving a detailed study, because AI conclusions are used in the compilation of a number of international ratings.
Unfortunately, comments by politicians and media reports showed that few people read the full report. Maximum, they studied the part dedicated to Ukraine, and quickly made the news. In this connection, I’ve got few remarks.
First. Those who want to understand the situation, I advise to spend time and read if not the full report (there are 300 pages in it), then at least an analysis of macro regions and sections about important countries for Ukraine. Otherwise, you will have a distorted view.
For example, if you read only an article about Russia, you will not find any mention that there is a conflict between Russia and Ukraine, even no hints. You do not learn that Russia occupied the Crimea and the Donbas. You will not find references to the fact that Russia kidnaps and illegally detains Ukrainian citizens, including journalists. Also, you do not learn that Russia is at war in Syria, keeps regular forces there, delivers weapons and mercenaries, bombs civilian objects. The only mention of Syria is in the context of Russia’s abuse of the veto power in the UN Security Council.
In the section about Belarus there are no references to the participation of Belarusian special services in the kidnapping of Ukrainian student Pavel Grib, who was seized and illegally taken to Russia. There is no mention about the detention of other Ukrainian citizens. There is not a single word about the detention of the Ukrainian journalist Pavel Sharoiko on the fabricated case. But some similar facts are mentioned (for example, deportation a blogger to Azerbaijan).
Transnistria is not mentioned in the article about Moldova at all. For the reader it does not exist, so there are no violations of human rights.
Nagorno-Karabakh (it is called a “breakaway region”) is mentioned with two sentences in an article about Azerbaijan. There is not a word in the article about Armenia about it.
Similarly, in the article about Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are named “breakaway regions” also. Why they “split away” is unclear. Only some Russian “forces” are mentioned, which help establish the actual border between these regions and the rest of Georgia.
Thus, the authors of the report follow a certain pattern that does not reflect a number of important factors affecting the situation with human rights. AI tries not to give political assessments and “does not see” simmering conflicts. But how can you explain the situation in the same South Ossetia without giving an assessment of Russia’s actions? In this situation, guilt for violating rights is automatically placed on the country-occupier and the country-victim of aggression.
Second. Amnesty International admits the principle that any restriction of human rights, any deterioration of living conditions is evil, whatever is caused by these limitations and in what context they occur. The position of such a “Cerberus” is very important, because it reduces the risk of abuse by the authorities. But in some cases it looks clearly inadequate.
For example, regarding Europe, AI identifies three systemic problems that are a red thread in articles about different countries. This is the problem of migrants, the problem of tightening anti-terrorism legislation and measures to reduce government spending (“austerity measures”).
Thus, according to AI, reducing government spending, the UK government worsens the access of citizens (especially the poorest people and migrants) to medicine, education, legal aid, etc., which violates their rights.
The depreciation of the national currency is mentioned in the article about Georgia among the threats to the rights of citizens, which worsens economic conditions.
Attitudes towards migrants are a major complaint to most countries in Western and Central Europe. Hungary and Poland are the most severely criticized. Even Slovenia, which does not want to accept migrants, has even criticized. The claim to Italy says that Rome cooperates with the authorities of Libya in order to intercept illegal migrants.
AI criticizes France, that illegal migrants in Calais are inspected, focusing on ethnic signs. They do it legal. Personally, I do not understand: if it is known that these illegal migrants are from Africa, how can they be isolated for inspection, without being guided by ethnic signs? By the timbre of voice? According to the knowledge of classical French poetry?
What seems most relevant for Ukraine – AI has not yet developed adequate mechanisms for assessing risks caused by hybrid threats and terrorism. We are talking about the sluggishness of the bureaucracy of the state sector in different (including Western) countries – but in this case, this is practically the same thing.
Thus, AI criticizes national governments and the EU for passing laws aimed at protection from new challenges. Anti-terrorist laws AI for some reason always calls hasty, disproportionate and discriminatory.
According to AI, the main complaint is the insufficient personalization of repressive measures, the risk of restricting the rights of broad groups of citizens. In this case, there is some sound grain, but critics do not offer any way out. Therefore, even the clarification of prohibitions and restrictions automatically will be considered as an “encroachment on human rights”.
If we analyze the measures taken by other states to protect national security, Ukraine looks extremely soft and quite tolerant.
For example, in Great Britain it is proposed to establish criminal responsibility (up to 15 years in prison) for repeatedly seeing in the Internet materials “connected with terrorism”. Previously, such a measure was in France, but it was declared unconstitutional.
I would like to especially note the situation with Israel. The critics of the Ukrainian authorities present this country as an example of “how to protect national security”. But if you look at Israel through the eyes of human rights defenders from AI, the picture is very unsightly.
Thus, claims of occupation, claims of illegal blockade of Gaza, hundreds of dead, thousands of detainees, seizure of property, harassment of dissidents, suspicion of extrajudicial executions, etc. – are all consequences of measures that help make Israel relatively safe. But it causes hysteria in the international community.
If you read an article about Palestine after the article about Israel, the Hamas fighters will look like innocent children. According to the conclusions of the AI, Israel kills the undesired, and Hamas and Fatah are mostly only engaged in “office work” – they shut down opposition web sites and cut salaries in the budget sector. Hezbollah in Lebanon generally looks like a charity, fighting with aggressive Syrian groups.
Thus, it is necessary to remember the specifics of the information provided by human rights defenders. If you quote it without context, you can take off yourself away from reality.
Third. As for Ukraine.
Whoever said anything, in my opinion, many conclusions of AI should be regarded as a very positive signal and evidence of progress. Thus, AI human rights defenders write about the implementation of a set of reforms, local successes, and the visa-free travel.
Of course, there are well-founded claims in report. But the mass of things is taken out of context and far-fetched.
For example, the report deals with human rights in 2017/18, but data for estimates is used from 2015-2016. The story about the “secret prisons of the Security Service of Ukraine”, which was imagined by international observers, is made a big deal again.
Let’s recall: in 2016, the SBU showed unprecedented openness in the process of investigating this story. However, the observers still had “feels” (I emphasize – not the facts, but the feels), which they describe in such categories as if the Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisons were built in the center of Kharkov.
I remind that in the context of this investigation, ringleaders of the Russian occupation administrations in the Donbass (LDPR) simply sent human rights defenders to a well-known address. And Ukraine as much as possible went to the meeting, but … it was still to blame.
The history with the deportation of Russian propagandists and their European collaborators is absolutely inadequate. Our intelligence services, in comparison with European, operate extremely tactfully. Attacks on them on these specific cases – is an obvious overreach.
Also, human rights defenders from AI were overly concerned about the fate of propagandists from the Vesti holding company and the site of “Strana.ua”. These resources are openly subversive in the interests of the aggressor country. But AI distances itself from such assessments, and acts solely in the context of protecting freedom of speech, where any propagandist automatically becomes a “prisoner of conscience”.
In what it is necessary to pay tribute to AI is that in report they quite clearly indicated the occupation of Crimea by Russia. The role of the Kremlin in the occupation of the Donbass is not so clearly shown, but some facts of human rights violations in the occupied territory are still mentioned.
But the situation with human rights in the first and second cases is still connected to Ukraine. It is clear that this is the approach of human rights defenders – the responsibility for the situation, even in the occupied territories, to incriminate on the country to which this territory belongs. But, we agree, then it would be fair to prescribe this responsibility at least in the section of the aggressor country, that AI does not want to do. In this connection, the uncomfortable questions appear about objectivity.
In general, the conclusions are as follows.
International human rights defenders are not yet ready to work with hybrid threats. Even the reading of the AI report does not give an adequate idea of Russia’s role in unleashing international conflicts. AI filters are tuned in such a way that they do not catch even well-known facts. It ignores the cause-and effect relationship. As a result, the sources of problems are not exposed, but its apparent consequences and those who are struggling with these consequences.
As for Ukraine, the domestic media and politicians should pay more attention to comparative analysis. Our country is a victim of aggression. And even in these conditions, in the presence of all obvious problems, it does not slip into tyranny or anarchy. Although many people, in the Kremlin and individual forces within the country, would like this very much.
Do not help them.
Dmitry Tymchuk, coordinator of the group “Information Resistance”