Archive for July 6th, 2013

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Proposed Bill 2508 – Thou doth protest too much – or not? Civil Society up in arms (again)

July 6, 2013

Ho hum!

Not so very long ago, Bill 2450 was the subject of much ire from Ukrainian civil society – it was designed to put legal due process and parameters upon the constitutional right to freedom of assembly and the why’s and wherefores of organsied mass assembly and mass mobilisation of the public.

Bill 2450 went nowhere, but has apparently been resurrected with many core issues that drew the ire of Ukrainian civil society and unions remaining within a new draft Bill 2508 – a Bill  that is likely to be submitted to the RADA this year.

It has to be said that I have not yet seen draft Bill 2508.  However some within Ukrainian civil society that I interact with elsewhere in cyberspace claim to have seen it.

Once again those I know and claim to have seen Bill 2508 are less than impressed over issues such as having to provide the authorities 48 hours notice prior to any organised mass assembly, an absent ability to be able to prove “collective spontaneity” relating to any protest, and the abilities for the judiciary and law enforcement to refuse to allow any such organised assembly – to name but a few areas of concern.

One civil society actor I know, yesterday called Bill 2508 “the twin brother of the scandalous Bill 2450” – as I say I have yet to see the text of Bill 2508 so as yet can offer no personal comment – at the time of writing, the draft Bill 2508 has not even reached the government website.

This said,  the areas that are receiving Ukrainian civil society ire within this Bill are regulated in a very similar way within numerous EU nations – the UK for example requires a minimum of 6 days notice to the authorities for either a static protest or march – which may or may not be allowed to take place, or the march route altered by the authorities etc – per statute under Section 11 of the Public Order Act 1986.

Germany, France etc all have similar requirements.

However, civil society within the UK, Germany, France etc does not feel as though the space it is allowed to operate within by those governments is under any threat of serious shrinkage/restriction.  That cannot be said of Ukrainian civil society (whether those threats are real, perceived or out of proportion is a different matter).

raf insignia

As simplistically as it can possibly be explained, if the red circle represents the political class/State, the white circle represents civil society, mass media, NGOs, intellectuals, cultural organisations etc, and the blue circle parochial society such as religion, family or corporations, business, unions etc – the white circle within which civil society operates is very much controlled, expanded or shrunk  by how much the red circle of State and political elites are prepared to allow it to have.

In short, the current situation in Russia has a large red circle and small white one, whereas most EU nations allow significant room for civil society and thus have a large white circle .  Naturally with little trust toward political elite, Ukrainian civil society views even the remotest threat to their space via such Bills as 2508 with great suspicion and alarm.

So, is Bill 2508 a dastardly plan by Party Regions to restrict the peaceful assembly of Ukrainian society and shrink the civil society space in the process?

Apparently not.

According to those I know within Ukrainian civil society who have seen the draft of Bill 2508, it is sponsored by the following RADA MPs:  Tigipko, Miroshnichenko, Gaydosh, Camojlenko, Nemyria, Dzemilev and Lutsenko – thus numerous parties, including the opposition, are sponsoring this Bill.

To the reasonable on-looker, such a Bill, sponsored across party lines and similar in structure and requirements to many parallel laws on assembly across EU nations, would make the anticipated and repeated Ukrainian civil society backlash unreasonable given regional norms.

So, is it a case of “thou doth protest too much”?

(And regardless of how large or small the area within which any government allows civil society to operate – “doth protest too much” – or not – does not mean those within the red circle listen any better to those within the white.)

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