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Speaking to a friend who works a few meters away from the protests zone, I was given a few insights as to what was going on in the country. She was citing the outrageousness of the anti-protest laws, and how people were coming into the city to join the protest. I ask her whether she is safe, and whether she is at home to avoid violence in the city, she tells me that she walks pass the protests every day to sit in her office. She asks what we see in media, as local media is not very accurate, and is often censored. And she is pleased that the news channels cover the story of Ukraine, and that the world hears of what is happening in her land. She hopes there will be more attention to the incident, and that the outcomes would change her land for the better.

When I type this, the Prime Minister of Ukraine and his government have stepped down, and the controversial laws have been repealed. The Center for Political and Legal Reforms of the National Univeristy of Kyive-Mohyla Academy, in a press statement considers these laws to be unconstitutional and depriving people of their liberty.

However the plight of the protesters who were arrested prior to the repealing of the repressive laws remain undecided.

Violating the Rule of Law

Referring to the laws adopted by the government on the 16th of January, the Center expresses them to be a violation of the rule of law. “Members of two parliamentary factions in power voted on 16 January 2014 for the draft law №3 879 “On changes to the Law of Ukraine “On judiciary and status of judges” and procedural laws on additional security measures for public safety” and nine other draft laws. All these laws were adopted in violation of principles of the rule of law, with grave procedural breaches and are aimed at limiting the substance and scope of constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens of Ukraine.”[1]

Furthermore, the changes brought in by the new laws are in violation of the rights laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental freedoms. Among those rights violated is the right to fair trial, which has been amended.

“The adopted “laws” deprive citizens of Ukraine of the right to fair trial. The adopted changes to the Code of Criminal Procedure introduce trials in absentia in violation of the right to fair trial laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, particularly of the guarantee to everyone charged with a criminal offence to defend oneself in person. According to the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (case “Colozza vs. Italy”), one may be tried in absentia only if one expressly waived exercise of one’s right to appear and to defend oneself, but not in case of repeated absence at the hearings, as it is stated in the adopted “law”.”[2]

Among other changes brought in civil liberties impact person”s freedom of expression, forming of associations, access to information. Among the adopted laws is the complete negation of peaceful assembly (which unfortunately in turn gave cause for assemblies to lead to a more violent nature).

“The newly adopted “laws” are repressive and provide for unsubstantiated introduction of responsibility for exercise of fundamental human rights and disproportionate increase in severity of penalties for exercise of right for peaceful assembly. Administrative penalties and criminal punishments were doubled. Meanwhile, sanctions for some administrative offences are significantly heavier than criminal punishments for crimes.”[3] (These laws stand repealed as of 28th of January 2013).

On EU Free Trade Deal and Russian Loans

Despite the fact that the anti-protest laws being the highlight in the month of January, the initial cause for protests is considered to be Ukraine rejecting the free-trade deal with the EU with a pro-Russian stance in economic ties. [4]

It is considered that this rejection was due to pressure applied on Ukraine by the Russia, which wants Kyiv to join a Moscow-led trade bloc. [5] Following the changes in Ukraine’s government, Russian President Vladimir Putin has expressed his country’s preference to wait until Ukraine could form a new government before releasing a $15-billion (11-billion-euro) loans package in full.[6] The statements express concern over continuing ties with a government which might not favour Russian political agendas, and thus create a situation where Russia could step down from providing the loan to Ukraine, a country of which the economy is at present not in the best of situations.

Laws be Repealed, What of Those Jailed?

On the 28th of January, the anti-protest laws were repealed. However the plight of those already arrested remains still undecided. Ukraine’s Parliament is considering amnesty to hundreds who were arrested during the protests. However the Opposition seems determined to continue their protests.[7]

The concessions from the government are seen by former boxing champion and opposition leader Vitali Klitschko as “not a victory, but a step to victory.” [8] The Opposition further calls for elections scheduled to 2015 to be moved forward, so as to address the crisis that Ukraine is facing at present.

Ukraine’s first post-independence president has warned the country is on the “brink of civil war”.[9]

Speaking in Parliament Mr Kravchuk told : “All the world acknowledges and Ukraine acknowledges that the state is on the brink of civil war. It is a revolution. It is a dramatic situation in which we must act with the greatest responsibility. We need to ease the confrontation between the sides and agree a plan to solve the conflict. We need to work on this plan step by step to ease the confrontation.”[10]

At least 5 people have been killed in the protests, while hundreds were arrested. Many government buildings[11] remain occupied by the protesters who still continue their “revolution”.