Eugenia Timoshenko's speech at the ISHR Annual Meeting
"Hope from the new age free spirit that feels this place"
Cottbus, April 14, 2012
Forum, ISHR Annual Meeting
Eugenia Timoshenko, daughter of the imprisoned Ukrainian ex-Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, at the ISHR Annual Meeting
DEAR Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great privilege for me to be present here and have an opportunity to congratulate the honorable members of the International Society for Human Rights with truly historical date, 40 Years of victorious battle for freedom, respect of human rights, and improvement of social conditions.
It is most emotional to be present in Cottbus, near this solemn place, once a place where men, but most importantly, their beliefs in liberty and justice and family, were imprisoned, - left here to rot away, to be broken in body and spirit. We are thankful to you, people who stood at the origin of the Society and those who continue to make this organization strong today, for ensuring that the freedom and lives of those men were not taken in vain.
What is most important about Cottbus prison is that you have made this site a place of history. The heavy, rusting doors of "tiger cages" and "catacombs" are no longer shut on anyone's freedom. Indeed, the only thing imprisoned there nowadays is the idea that made that place the evil that it was – the totalitarian idea. It is now just a mute witness of the damage that a twisted ideology, paired with an arrogant belief that a self-selected few can exercise arbitrary power over their fellow citizens, can inflict on decent, ordinary people.
Now I take true hope from the new age free spirit that feels this place, because in my country, the ideas of freedom, and the women and men who bring those ideas to life, are still being marched off into prison camps. Ukraine's government remains one of the last in Europe to believe that it can silence the truth by brute intimidation; that it can terrify its opponents into submission; that it can shut away liberty and the individual conscience. Institute of opposition in Ukraine, as the new phenomenon on the Post-Soviet territory, for many years has been carved and shaped by the tremendous efforts of many true patriots.
Opposition against a communist President Kuchma regime, initiated by my mother and her colleagues, culminated with thousands protesters on the streets and eventually led to Orange Revolution in 2004 - a first real breakthrough for freedom-yearning Ukrainians who fought for centuries for their democracy. The struggle continued, and in 2007, for the first time, two opposition powers of Our Ukraine and Batkivschina, led by Mr. Lutsenko and my mother, gained majority in the parliamentary elections, it was another great victory of democracy after Orange revolution. Both 2004 and 2007 victories, that pushed back onset of bandits and oligarchy, were the defeats of Yanukovych that he never forgave to opposition and to people of Ukraine.
Ukraine's President Yanukovych revenge
As a personal revenge, he now launched a whole destructive state machine against opposition leaders and their political colleagues, who won over Soviet-type rules; and against the people of Ukraine, majority of whom have overthrown him back in 2004, after he tried to falsify election results together with Kuchma. No in 2010, political prisoner phenomenon has been brutally brought back from Stalinist times, as political opponents of the regime are tried and convicted on the basis of outdated articles in the old Soviet Criminal Code.
Their political decisions become criminalized, something that does not happen any more in democratic world. When old accusations fail to stand the ground as legal and credible, the new cases spring up, falsified and quickly stitched up by the investigators, subordinated to prosecutors of the President.
Now, they want to jail my mother for life, groundlessly accusing her of some absurd murders of the people she never even knew. I think if Ukraine had corporal punishment my mother and other politicians would've been sentenced to death by now.
However, for Ukraine, political prisoner is a new phenomenon. Before that, in 2007 to 2009, when my mother was Prime Minister of Ukraine, I was a member of Science and Research Council in penitentiary system as a NGO representative. I know that multiple initiatives were raised, researched, documented and then implemented by the government to truly reform the system of prosecution and punishment that existed in Ukraine since Soviet times. Many international experts from Germany, Sweden, EU were there to help our society to shift to European standards of applying punishment as a way of re-socialization, but not punishment for the sake of punishment. It was especially important to go away from the military ways of structuring the penitentiary system to more civilized and humane ways.
The Council, however, has never even imagined that Ukraine would have to deal with the problem of political prisoners again.
In 2010, about 90 members of the Council, who underwent serious training in the international exchange programs, in order to move on with very serious long-term reforms in this sector, were dismissed by the new Heads of the system. Reforms have been halted, programs stopped, cruel unchecked unjust prosecution came back, but the label was proudly changed to Penitentiary system.
Unfortunately, this is only a label, like many other labels that are attached to reforms cynically introduced in Ukraine by the regime. Its "politically correct" rhetoric conceals Soviet past with all its "accessories" of repression.
Yanukovych's fake detrimental reforms
Do not believe this rhetoric, but please give a real evaluation to regime's fake detrimental reforms - To the judiciary reform, that in 2010 introduced so-called High Council of Justice, that has completely subordinated judges, to the will of its members. 16 out of 20 members of this Council, include General and vice prosecutors, President Administration and its advisors, all part of Yanukovych's team. The Council even has powers to initiate criminal cases against judges. How can these courts ever deal justice?
We also ask you to analyze and give your opinion to the proposed new Criminal Procedural Code reform. It contains very dangerous set of changes that will forever eliminate any division of powers in people's prosecution.
How can investigators be a part of Prosecution system? Former KGB, nowadays SBU, in the new Code, has been given powers to prosecute people on 80, instead of 30 articles, turning it into Soviet-type NKVD. Prosecution and defense are not really given equal powers in investigation as defense will have to ask permission of the judge to collect evidence and expertise.
Majority of people in Ukraine, who cannot afford a lawyer to represent them, will not be able to involve relatives who can have a status of public attorney to help them. Last night this right has also been removed, by the majority vote of the ruling party of regions, leaving people alone against the punishing machine. Considering that only 0,2% of accused people get acquitted, and presumption of innocence does not work, the army of prisoners in Ukraine, that already estimates some 160 thousand, will start to rise dramatically.
My mother, being bed-ridden in pain, still managed to read the new Code and states that it goes against Constitution of Ukraine and seriously threatens citizen's freedom.
After 2,5 years enduring these so-called reforms, in the soul of each one of us lives terror, and as middle class is getting wiped out, majority of people state that they would leave Ukraine if they could. And they do. People of Ukraine do not believe Yanukovych, none of his pre-election promises were fulfilled, and there is no institute, body or person in Ukraine that can provide its citizens with security, wellbeing, or protection of their rights and freedoms. 90 percent of Ukrainian voters do not trust in court's justice and in any moment in time each one can be falsely accused, cruelly prosecuted and thrown to jail.
But try as the regime might, and it is doing every nasty thing it can, Viktor Yanukovych will not break my mother and her colleagues. My mother is determined to live up to the example of those who - in this place - resisted and refused to bow down before the official lie.
Harsh destruction of rights and freedoms
Eugenia Timoshenko at the ISHR Annual Meeting. In the background the Lukyanivska investigation prison in Kyiv where her mother was detained. (Click the picture to enlarge)
When I read a witness report of Nikolaus Fleck, a prisoner in Cottbus back in 1985, I can see in front of my eyes Ukrainian female colony where my mother is held. The only difference is that she doesn't even have access to the phone, as being disabled, since 5th of November, they tell her to crawl to the phone on her own if she really wants to speak to her family. She is under 24 hour video surveillance and when she fell unconscious in the night of 6th of January, no help came for long 15 minutes, when her neighbor screamed and banged the door for help.
I brought with me a film, made by brave journalist, who collected footage, made by prisoners by their mobile phones about the atrocities, violence, murders, maltreatment that goes on in Kiev's Prison No. 1, a prison for people unwanted and dangerous to the regime - Lukyanivska prison, where my mother and others have also lived. I will leave it for your consideration.
So there is still a lot to be fought for and achieved in Ukraine for it to become a real candidate for the title of the European nation. But the road should not be too long, we were almost one step away from EU, just few years ago when my mother's government made first steps towards free and comprehensive trade agreement with Europe.
Please also do not underestimate the yearning for freedom in Ukrainian people. Nevertheless, in such circumstances of harsh destruction of our rights and freedoms we cannot cope without your help. We, people in the post-Soviet countries, do not want bloody revolutions, we know exactly the peaceful way out if you stand by us. It is very dangerous for people of Ukraine when democratic world is applauding to the politically correct yet false rhetoric of the regime, and for some reason does not want to notice that regime's methods can fast lead us to the full destruction of the democracy already this year in Ukraine.
Help us to free our political prisoners
The spirit of Cottbus. (Click the picture to enlarge)
We also ask you to help us to free our political prisoners, and correct the selective injustice that is used against them on a daily basis. With every following week, another politician from the opposition is persecuted or repressed. How long can this last? We do not want to become another Belorussia.
If the true fight for freedom can rise above political correctness, we urge you to announce my mother and others, political prisoners, prisoners of conscience, who for 15 years fought for independence, prosperity and democracy in Ukraine and now modern oligarchy regime fights against them. This is the fight that boarders between life and death, as prisoners are kept for months in critical medical condition and no medical treatment is provided to them, leaving them to rot and die.
It is particularly right and proper that we gathered here during Easter and Passover season, because so many Christians and Jews were imprisoned in Cottbus. They were also singled out as they refused to betray their beliefs and accept the Marxist/Leninist God of History. It is time Ukrainians also declare that they refuse to be slaves to any kind of oppression.
We see countless examples in history when oppression creates a new kind of moral power that would cause any cynical regime to collapse. Yet nevertheless, dictators always seem to underestimate it. Nelson Mandela, Vaclav Havel, Ann San Suu Qui, Julia Tymoshenko, other political prisoners in Ukraine and around the world all struggled and continue either in prison or out, to bring justice and freedom in their homelands with a remarkable grace, dignity and power, by putting their nations first.
The power of memorialized here in Cottbus, is also, I can assure you, alive in Ukraine. For us, struggle is not over, unfinished struggle of those who were imprisoned here, the unfinished struggle for freedom symbolized by those who are prisoners of conscience in Ukraine now. We can honour their suffering only by embracing their cause - that of freedom, that of living in truth, that of tolerance and decency and the rule of law.
So it is my mother's most profound hope that the Lukyanivska and Kachanivska prisons, will also one day become memorials to mark Ukraine's final rupture with the Soviet past.
My mother's message is that "Only when all political prisoners are free can we be certain that world has become a more just place and thank you for your great efforts and achievements to make it so",
Thank you for your concern for my mother's freedom, and the freedom of my country. Thank you for your kind attention.
ISHR Annual Meeting Forum