Obama Should Prioritize Development of Independent, Democratic Ukraine at NATO Meeting
Washington, D.C. – Human Rights First today urged President Obama to prioritize the development of an independent and democratic Ukraine as he meets with his NATO allies in Wales tomorrow. In order to protect the human rights of Ukrainians, the organization calls on the United States and other NATO member nations to work towards a ceasefire in Ukraine so that negotiations to resolve the conflict can begin.
“As President Obama meets with his counterparts, they should not let events of the day overshadow the Ukrainian people’s most pressing priority, defending their independence in order to end the corrupt politics of the past that have dominated the country since the breakup of the Soviet Union,” said Human Rights First’s Tad Stahnke, who recently traveled to Ukraine. “This conflict is not about a proxy war between the East and the West. It’s about the future of Ukraine and the role its citizens will play in shaping it.”
The organization notes that a strong and independent Ukraine is in the United States’ and NATO’s interests. Ukraine needs strong democratic institutions in place so that it can emerge as a suitable regional ally. Ukraine should immediately take steps to combat widespread corruption, stop discrimination against vulnerable populations, including LGBT people, and build investigation and accountability mechanisms to address other crimes. Moreover, if the United States is considering security assistance to Ukraine, it must be subject to Leahy Law vetting that screens for credible evidence of gross human rights violations, as with all recipients of U.S. military training and assistance.
Human Rights First researchers visited Ukraine earlier this year. That research has informed the following recommendations for the U.S. government and its NATO allies:
- Support the fight against corruption in Ukraine by vigorously implementing Presidential Proclamation 7750, which would deny entry to the United States to corrupt Ukrainian officials who solicit or accept bribes, as well as their family members and dependents who benefit from the corruption, thus refusing to enable foreign corrupt officials to benefit from U.S. resources or find a safe haven in the United States.
- Financially and politically support efforts to tackle local corruption. These might include targeting the education and health sectors. Efforts could include the establishment of PTA groups to act as watchdogs on local and school budgets, or fund community organizing projects based on patients’ rights issue to counter corruption in the health sector. Citizenship watchdog projects on local government should also be encouraged.
- Offer technical support to law enforcement agencies in investigating the Maidan and other protest-related killings to ensure an expert thorough investigation which has the confidence of the public and is a credible action on accountability.
- Publicly urge campaign finance reform and open party lists in the electoral process.
- Offer support in the demobilizing of far right militias when they are no longer needed for the war effort.
- Push for access of international monitors to Crimea to document human rights violations.
- Support civil society initiatives to ensure that new legislation is human rights-compliant, including counter-terrorism measures, and help ensure that the inclusive nature of the Maidan movement is reflected in new political and civil society activity.