Ukraine: Communist Party ban decisive blow for freedom of speech in the country

Banning the Communist Party in Ukraine is a flagrant violation of freedom of expression and association and should be immediately overturned, said Amnesty International.

The District Administrative Court of Kyiv upheld the request of the Ukrainian Minister of Justice to ban the Communist Party. It will no longer be able to officially operate or participate in local elections.

“The banning of the Communist Party in Ukraine sets a very dangerous precedent.  This move is propelling Ukraine backwards not forwards on its path to reform and greater respect for human rights,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director of Europe and Central Asia.

This move is propelling Ukraine backwards not forwards on its path to reform and greater respect for human rights

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International's Director for Europe and Central Asia

Under four new laws adopted in May 2015, collectively known as “decommunization” laws, displaying Communist or Nazi symbols can lead to criminal prosecution and up to ten years imprisonment. The use of the term “communist” is explicitly prohibited by this legislation. However, the Communist Party of Ukraine refused to make changes to its name, logo or its charter.

The Ukrainian authorities previously sought to ban the Communist Party last year. Shortly after the end of the EuroMaydan protests in early 2014, the Party was accused of financing pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. The Security Service of Ukraine claimed it had provided evidence of this to the Ministry of Justice, which then filed a motion to ban the Party in July 2014.

The proceedings never took place because the appointed judge pulled out of the case earlier this year, citing pressure from the authorities who had searched his office and confiscated files relating to the case.

The moves by the Ukrainian authorities to ban the Communist Party solely on account of its name and use of Soviet-era symbols violates the rights to freedom of expression and association and sets a dangerous precedent in Ukrainian political life. In 2015 a spate of politically motivated killings remain unresolved and journalists and media known for criticising the current government have been harassed.

On 16 September the Ukrainian authorities published a list of people banned from entering the country, including dozens of journalists, mostly from Russia.

“Today’s decision may be seen by its proponents as dealing with the damaging vestiges of the Soviet past. In fact, it does exactly the opposite by following the same style of draconian measures used to stifle dissent,” said John Dalhuisen.

“Expressing your opinion without fear of prosecution, particularly if that opinion is contrary to the views held by those in position of power, was one of the principles behind the EuroMaydan protests. Snuffing out the Communist party flies in the face of these ideals.”