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Ukraine Activists Protest Planned Closure Of Ministry Human Rights Section

The Ukrainian human rights community has strongly objected to the planned abolition of the Interior Ministry's department for monitoring human rights, RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

That move is part of a broader restructuring of the ministry planned by new Interior Minister Anatoliy Mohylyov, according to a statement by ministry adviser Kostyantyn Stohniy posted on the ministry's website on March 17.

The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union says it believes that this will lead to a return of totalitarianism.

"I am shocked by this decision. Within only two years representatives of the department made significant progress in protecting people's rights from arbitrary actions by the police," the union's board head, Yehhen Zakharov, told RFE/RL today.

The union is an umbrella organization that unites 23 civic organizations.

The Interior Ministry department for monitoring human rights was established in 2008. Its head, Oleh Martynenko, told RFE/RL that the department has systematically monitored the situation in Ukrainian detention centers.

Its staff have been also responsible for monitoring citizens' complaints, and can make recommendations about internal investigations of alleged abuses.

In addition, the department developed an action plan against racism and xenophobia and a program to promote gender equality in Ukrainian law enforcement bodies, Martynenko said.

The Crimean Tatar Mejlis, the unofficial national parliament of the peninsula's indigenous Tatar population, wants the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General's Office to open a criminal case against Mohylyov for allegedly inciting inter-ethnic hatred.

Mohylyov has rejected that criticism.