Police officers should be punished for illegal surveillance of public activists

Читати українською

On February 26, 2021, five representatives of the Strategic Investigations Department of the National Police of Ukraine arrived at the DEJURE Foundation's office to "talk" to Roman Maselko, a member of the Foundation's board. 

Although the Foundation’s employees did not confirm Roman's presence, police insisted he was in the office, strongly recommended "to look for him in the premises", and tried to enter the office under other pretexts. From the conversations between the officers, it became clear that they receive real-time information about the exact location of Roman Maselko.

After journalists and lawyers arrived, police officers were allowed to enter the office. Only two of them came in - Oleksandr Chalyi and Vitaliy Herashchenko. They said that they wanted to hand Roman Maselko an administrative offense protocol for participating in the approval of the Public Integrity Council opinion on the low integrity  of the District Administrative Court of Kyiv judge Tetyana Skochok. He did not object, and the procedure began. The procedure was broadcasted live with the presence of journalists. However, while Vitaliy Рerashchenko read half of the protocol, Oleksandr Chalyi received a phone call, after which he ordered to stop the procedure and both quickly left the office with all the documents and without any explanation.

Therefore, the protocol was not handed over. There were no other attempts to resume the procedure. Given that police representatives have not yet handed the report to Roman Maselko, we have a reason to believe that the purpose of their visit may have been different: police representatives visited the DEJURE Foundation’s office the day before the "Justice for Sternenko - Justice for All" rally, which was co-organized by the DEJURE Foundation.

From its sources the DEJURE Foundation was informed that the surveillance operations were carried out in regard to Roman Maselko, specifically tracking his cellphone. According to Art.268 of the Criminal Procedure Code,  such actions can only be conducted upon court’s approval and only in criminal proceedings, not administrative. Roman Maselko has already submitted a report of crime to the State Bureau of Investigation.

It is highly doubtful that the decision to carry out surveillance operations by the Strategic Investigations Department against a public figure, such as Roman Maselko, was a personal initiative of an ordinary police officer. Such a decision, given the context of the events and the figure of Roman Maselko, was apparently made at the highest level by the police management.

The Illegal surveillance of Roman Maselko is not just a crime. We consider these actions as pressure not only on him personally, but also on all NGOs and activists, human rights defenders and representatives of civil society who fight against arbitrariness in the courts and the system of justice.

Unfortunately, the pressure on civil society activists and attacks on NGOs are not uncommon, which is also acknowledged by Ukraine's international partners. In his report on World NGO Day, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Joseph Borrell, emphasized that any attacks on NGOs were unacceptable. Pressure and illegal actions against civil society representatives must be properly investigated. We are convinced that the lack of proper investigation and inevitable punishment contributes to the feeling of impunity among the accomplices of illegal actions.

The practice of using illegal investigative measures against public activists is unimaginable in a state governed by the rule of law. Such facts should not be ignored, but rather investigated properly for the perpetrators to be punished.

We demand that the Head of the National Police of Ukraine, the Director of the State Bureau of Investigation and the Prosecutor General ensure a proper investigation in order to identify and punish those who illegally carried out covert surveillance operations in regard to Roman Maselko and those who authorized these operations.

DEJURE Foundation
Anti-Corruption Action Centre
The Centre of United Actions
Transparency International Ukraine
Charitable Foundation East-SOS
Human Rights Center "Postup"
Center for Development and Democracy NGO
Human Right Centre DIYA
Advocacy Advisory Panel
Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Centre NGO
Human Rights Centre ZMINA
Media Initiative Group for Human Rights
Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement (UMDPL)
Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv
Centre of Civil Liberties
Crimean Human Rights Group
Truth Hounds 
Institute of Legislative Ideas