Following Russian practice and imposing responsibility for ‘insulting police officer’ unacceptable
We, representatives of NGOs, call on the members of the Parliament of Ukraine to reject draft law “On Amendments to the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses to Protect the Honor and Dignity of Citizens and Law Enforcement Officials” (No. 5050-1).
At a time when the Ukrainian nation is courageously fighting the Russian aggressor, a draft law, which brings Ukrainian legislation closer to Russian and Belarusian practices, is being actively promoted in the Verkhovna Rada.
In particular, the text of draft law No. 5050-1 provides for the introduction of punishment for “insulting a police officer”. This is a new term for Ukrainian legislation, which in practice will mean that liability may arise for a value judgment. This will promote self-censorship, restrict the work of independent journalists and bloggers, and open up additional opportunities to prosecute activists for critical remarks.
The adoption of the draft law will increase the risk of abuse by law enforcement officials, lead to unjustified detentions and violations of fundamental human rights due to the possibility of subjective and arbitrary interpretation of the term “insult” by law enforcement officers. There is also a question of expediency of introducing a new form of liability for “insulting a police officer” at a time when Ukrainian law already provides for the protection of honor and dignity, business reputation of a person, including a representative of law enforcement agencies (civil liability), and Ukrainian and European case law has been successfully developed. In addition, the legislation already stipulates the responsibility under Art. 185 (Malicious disobedience to a lawful order or demand of a police officer …) and Art. 173 (Petty hooliganism) of the Code of Ukraine on Administrative Offenses: these articles are sufficient to bring to justice those who insult law enforcement officers.
Despite the fact that the draft law was registered in the Verkhovna Rada exactly one year before the start of large-scale military aggression (February 24, 2021), its authors are currently promoting the bill under a fast-track procedure, hiding behind the wartime, although there are no grounds for introducing the punishment for insulting a police officer in the time of war or peace. The only possible reason for this haste is an attempt to pass the draft law at a time when public attention is focused on more important things.
We consider it unacceptable to abuse the martial law conditions to apply a fast-track consideration procedure for the draft laws that could worsen the environment for independent journalism, freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression – the values of democratic Ukraine that it struggles for every day in the war against Russia.
All the more so since such draft laws replicate the Russian legal practice of protecting the state apparatus and law enforcement agencies by significantly censoring the statements made in public. For us, the vector of Ukraine’s development and the uncompromising preservation of a democratic country in which human rights and freedoms are guaranteed and protected remain fundamental.
Human Rights Centre ZMINA
All-Ukrainian Association “Avtomaidan”
Center for Civil Liberties
Anti-Corruption Action Centre
Institute of Mass Information
Anti-Corruption Research and Educational Center
Centre of Policy and Legal Reform
Kharkiv Regional Foundation “Public Alternative”
Institute of Legislative Ideas
Ukrainian Institute for Human Rights
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Digital Security Lab
NGO “Civil Control Platform”
Media Initiative for Human Rights
NGO “Human Rights Platform”
No Borders Project
NGO “People’s Defense”
NGO “Social Action Centre”
NGO “Detector Media”
NGO “Institute “European Sloboda”
NGO “Cherkasy Human Rights Center”
Association of the Relatives of the Kremlin Political Prisoners