Walburga Habsburg Douglas, MP representing the Moderate party and Deputy Chairman of the OSCE:s parliamentary assembly was refused on Monday to visit the Ukrainian opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko in prison. Both the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry and the Prisons Authority rejected the application for a visit.
“Ukraine must offer transparency immediately and allow the international community to visit Yulia Tymoshenko in prison and see first-hand the conditions in which she is being kept. Ukrainian diplomats and parliamentarians have offered numerous accounts of how ‘comfortable’ the conditions are in Kharkiv for the former prime minister, harping on the fact that she has comforts of home, like a washing machine” said Walburga Habsburg adding that “the fact is that these messages are no substitute for in-person visits.If the government has a story to tell about the conditions in Ms. Tymoshenko’s cell, then authorities should allow international visitors at once.”
“By focusing the discussion on the prison, the Ukrainian foreign ministry has tried to divert attention from the larger issues related to rule of law and political prosecution,” stated Walburga Habsburg.
Ukraine takes over the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in 2013. The purpose of the visit by Walburga Habsburg Douglas and MP Åsa Lindstam, representing the Social democrats, is not only to visit Yulia Tymoshenko but also to take the pulse of democracy and the rule of law in Ukraine. Yulia Tymoshenko, former prime minister and leader of the Ukrainian Batkivshchyna, was jailed last fall after a legal process that both the EU and the U.S. have criticized as politically motivated. At the end of 2011 Julia Tymoshenko was transferred to a prison about 500 km outside the capital Kiev. Today she has serious health problems and is denied access to medical care.
Walburga Habsburg Douglas and Åsa Lindstam (S) have put forward demands for the removal of restrictions that Tymoshenko is forced to endure in prison:
– To be video monitored 24 hours a day is an intrusion into the private sphere, which also must be protected in prison. The denial to receive visitors and the prohibition to take telephone calls must stop immediately. None of these restrictions are in place with respect for democratic principles, says Walburga Habsburg Douglas.
She argues that a functioning legal system is one of the key principles of a democracy, which includes the right to receive visits also in jail.
– The refusal to grant a visit to Tymoshenko clearly shows that our concerns for the developments in Ukraine are justified, said Walburga Habsburg Douglas.
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