WASHINGTON— U.S. Helsinki Commission leadership today expressed dismay and alarm over the selective and politically motivated prosecution and conviction of Yuliya Tymoshenko. Today, she was sentenced to 7 years in prison for executive decisions she made in 2009 when she was prime minister.
“The politically motivated conviction of Ms. Tymoshenko starkly illustrates the undoing of democracy in Ukraine,” stated Chairman Rep. Christopher H. Smith (NJ-04). “Right after the Orange Revolution Ukraine was a beacon for hope for other post-Soviet states; now this beacon is almost extinguished. The prosecution and verdict in the Tymoshenko case call into grave question Ukraine’s commitment to OSCE human rights, democracy and rule of law standards. Her conviction bans her from office for the next three years, which raises serious doubts about whether Ukraine’s 2012 elections can meet OSCE standards for democratic elections, and calls into serious question Ukraine’s suitability to assume the Chairmanship of the OSCE in 2013.”
“This is a serious blow to democracy in Ukraine,” declared Co-Chairman Benjamin L. Cardin, (MD). “The highly selective prosecutions of ranking members of the previous government, most notably today’s politically motivated conviction of former prime minister Yuliya Tymoshenko, fly in the face of Ukraine’s often-asserted aspirations and efforts to integrate into the European Union. The Helsinki Commission and United States have strongly and consistently supported Ukraine’s European aspirations, which offer the best assurance of Ukraine’s future as an independent, democratic and flourishing state. Unfortunately, the Tymoshenko conviction only jeopardizes these efforts.”
According to U.S. State Department and various NGO reports, the state of democracy and human rights in Ukraine has deteriorated since Viktor Yanukovych was elected President in February 2010. Worrisome trends include consolidation of power in the presidency; weakening of checks and balances; backpedaling on freedoms of expression and assembly; various forms of pressure on media and civil society groups (including the recent closure of three opposition television channels in Kharkiv); and seriously flawed local elections. Endemic corruption continues unabated, with weak rule of law and lack of an independent judiciary.
Of immediate concern are selective prosecutions of high ranking members of the previous government. On October 11, Yulia Tymoshenko received a sentence of 7 years on charges of exceeding her authority as prime minister by agreeing to a 2009 gas deal with Russia that prosecutors say harmed Ukraine’s economy. Both the European Union and U.S. (including the Helsinki Commission) have repeatedly criticized the trial as contravening European values, in effect criminalizing a political decision, which has harmed Kyiv’s efforts at closer integration with the EU, specifically Ukraine-EU Free Trade and Association agreements.
The Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, also known as the U.S. Helsinki Commission, is an independent agency of the Federal Government charged with monitoring compliance with the Helsinki Accords and advancing comprehensive security through promotion of human rights, democracy, and economic, environmental and military cooperation in 56 countries. The Commission consists of nine members from the U.S. Senate, nine from the House of Representatives, and one member each from the Departments of State, Defense, and Commerce.