EuroMaidan is on fire. Violence is spreading in the center of Kiev from both the sides of the protest, the square of the rallies become a battlefield at night, a picture shows protesters beating a policeman, a video shows police beating a protester on the ground.
- Wednesday, 22 January 2014
The new wave of demonstrations came after the parliament of Ukraine passed a number of crackdown laws on freedoms, but the core problem has deeper roots.
Last Thursday the Verkhovna Rada, the parliament of Ukraine, voted a number of laws which, according to the opposition and the most majority of media, will curb democratic freedoms and will clear the way to a dictatorship of Viktor Yanukovich. The laws, called Kolesnychenko- Oliynyk act from the names of the Party of Regions (the President’s party) MPs who developed them, contain provisions like – among the others – a stricter control on communications (SIM cards will be nominative), 10 days of arrest for wearing masks or helmets, 15 days for setting up tents without police permission, two years of imprisonment for defamation, three years for the distribution of “extremist” materials, seven years for “threatening” a policeman, 10 years for “mass disruptions, and so on.
The Parliament contends that these measures are necessary to ensure public safety. Who criticizes these laws say instead they are anti-democratic provisions aimed at deterring the protests and criminalizing who takes part in the rallies, in violation of Ukraine’s Constitution.
Worse than in Russia, Belarus and… Italy
Before the streets of Kiev were set on fire, reactions were not long in coming, both in Ukraine and on the international scene. “The international community needs to understand the full significance of this development,” Reporters Without Borders, a Paris-based media watchdog, said to the Kyiv Post. “This law drastically restricts freedom of information and other fundamental freedoms guaranteed by Ukraine’s constitution”. Europe and USA declared their contrariety to the new laws and called for a step back from Yanukovich, and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said to be “particularly concerned by the potential that these laws have to curtail the right to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, the right to information, the right of civil society to work freely. The laws also have the potential to result in impunity for human rights violations.”
Besides the understandable reaction of the opposition and independent Ukrainian media, the international attention shouldn’t be focused just on the provisions of the law, which are by many aspects similar to the one already existing in other countries, and I’m not talking about Russia or Belarus. In Italy, for instance, a law from the ‘70s (law 152/1975) punishes who covers his face or wears an helmet in the streets with up to 2 years of jail, defamation is punished with up to one year of imprisonment and to buy a SIM card a contract and an id card are needed. Probably, most attention should be given to the time and the procedure of adoption of the laws.
Put your hands up for dictatorship
As EuroMaidan began losing strength and visibility on the international stage, the move of the Parliament was clearly intended to give the government more instruments to repress any future protest more quickly and effectively. No doubt about that. And What seems to be reminiscent of a sudden attack, may now result in a boomerang thrown against EuroMaidan that could hit Yanukovich in the forehead.
When the bill was proposed in the Parliament with no advanced notice, opposition MPs tried to suspend the parliamentary session causing brawls that made the law voted with a simple show of hands by Yanukovych's Party of Regions deputies. The law has been signed by the president the day after and published yesterday, 21 of January.
What seems to be reminiscent of a sudden attack, may now result in a boomerang thrown against EuroMaidan that could hit Yanukovich in the forehead, but more than the clashes and the new laws, this kind of dictatorship of majority in the Rada should represent a matter of concern for the democracy in Ukraine.