Leading #Ukraine lawyer Andrei Domansky faces raids from security services

| January 25, 2019

A leading Ukraine lawyer who has tried to shine a light on abuses against journalists in his homeland has himself been targeted by the country’s security services.

The home and offices of Andrei Domansky were raided by the staff of the security service of Ukraine on 17 January during which files and highly sensitive case work were seized.

The raid at the two premises near Kiev came just over a month after he spoke out against attacks in Ukraine on the freedom of speech and the rights of journalists at an event at Brussels Press Club.

Andrei Domansky

Domansky, who also hosts a top rated TV and radio show in Ukraine, represents a number of journalists in Ukraine who have been detained or harassed for “doing nothing more” than carrying out their professional duty. He’s logged 200 such cases, 90 of them involving violence being used against journalists.

In a Q&A with EUReporter, he explains why such action should be a cause for real concern, not just in Ukraine but for the EU.

Q: Describe what happened at your home in connection with the investigation.

A: Early one morning, knowing that I was on a business trip, the staff of the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine, together with the staff of the Security Service of Ukraine, began searches at my home as well as my assistant’s apartment. During the search, several documents were seized. This search in my home was a gross violation of the law. I am very grateful to my colleagues, lawyers and journalists for their support, especially the Lawyers Protection Committee of the Council of Advocates of the Kiev region.

2) What is the reason for the investigation? How do you explain what is happening?

The searches that took place are instruments of pressure on me as a lawyer and human rights activist.

3) Were these events related to the fact that you are protecting the rights of journalists?

Yes. As a lawyer, I have represented the interests of witnesses in criminal cases including that of Kirill Vyshinsky (who  has been held in pre-trial detention since his arrest in Kiev by the Security Service of Ukraine in May).
After repeated interrogations things seemed to have subsided. But after my visit to Brussels (December 10, 2018) and Washington (December 12-13), where I discussed the issues of protecting the rights of journalists and raised with our foreign colleagues the problems in Ukraine and persecution of journalists, the Ukraine Deputy Prosecutor General on 20 December filed a petition to the Pechersk District Court of Kiev to conduct searches. On January 17 these searches were carried out.

The General Prosecutor’s Office does not hide the fact that the matter is connected with my work to protect the rights of journalists and the politically persecuted in Ukraine.

4) Are you threatened or intimidated?

Threats are constantly coming and this is one of the risks of my work. But if you are afraid, then you need to stop such activities. Ukraine is a legal state and I exercise my protection within the framework of the law and my oath as a lawyer.

5) What is your opinion on the protection of the rights of journalists and their lawyers?
Ukraine has one of the best constitutions and good laws have been adopted. Guarantees against violations of the rights of journalists and lawyers are fixed. But what’s at issue is their implementation and the authorities’ desire to fulfil their duties to protect the rights of journalists and lawyers. This is the problem. Little wonder that the number of “prisoners of conscience” and lawsuits to the European Court of Human Rights are growing.

6) How can the international community help improve the situation?

First, don’t be indifferent to the violations of the professional rights of journalists and lawyers but react to them. Without public interest and attention from the international community, we cannot eliminate these violations and there’s a strong possibility they will be repeated in the future. Clearly, we still need to learn a lot to improve democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine, in particular, learn respect for a different opinion and the right to freedom of speech. This applies not only to journalists and lawyers but also LGBT people.

7) Has the situation with the protection of the rights of journalists improved or worsened over the past three years?

There are guarantees in law to protect the rights of journalists but, unfortunately, there’s unwillingness to respect these. Unfortunately, reporters do not have the unity in their profession to stop such pressures.

The most vulnerable are journalists who carry out investigative work, especially to root out corruption. They are persecuted by the authorities and receive threats to their health and lives.

Unfortunately, we forget that the right to information is guaranteed both by the Ukraine constitution and international treaties which Ukraine is party to.

Pursuing journalists and harassing them is a violation of their rights.

8) Is there any hope for improvement after the elections of this year?

I hope that the issues of freedom of speech and protection of journalists and lawyers – indeed, anyone – does not depend just on the elections.

I stress that Ukraine is a legal, democratic, European state.

The people of Ukraine are freedom loving and have always been famous for their desire for freedom.
Our ancestors fought for freedom” and freedom features in our national anthem.

Therefore, I do not just have hope but confidence that there will be improvements. The main thing is that such rights should not be violated and, if there are such violations, they must be stopped and punished with the utmost severity.

9) Are there any other observations or comments you would like to add?

The unwillingness of the authorities to exercise Kirill Vyshinsky’s rights and his access to justice is one other violation. But Ukraine citizens have the right to exercise their rights by applying to the European Court of Human Rights and ECHR rulings are binding.


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