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Volodymyr Yavorskiy (file photo)
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHSPL) says that corruption and human rights violations in Ukraine are on the rise and turning the country into a "feudal state," RFE/RL's Ukrainian Service reports.

Volodymyr Yavorskiy, UHSPL's executive director, told RFE/RL that his organization recently completed extensive surveys with the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group showing that the number of complaints by Ukrainians about corruption in local politics had greatly increased.

He said most of the complaints were about public prosecutors, mayors, and police -- people whose first duty is to "protect human rights and uphold the law."

Yavorskiy said people living in rural areas "feel completely unprotected; police are not fulfilling their duties." He said local politicians and other elites are also acquiring large plots of land.

Yavorskiy added that people's human rights are being violated in Ukraine but officials are closed off from society and fail to react to people's complaints.

He added that the UHSPL and the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group will work together with Amnesty International and other rights groups to publish a more extensive report on the results of their survey in September.

But Yavorskiy said a new draft bill on the holding of peaceful gatherings in Ukraine that is currently in the parliament is an improvement over a similar one proposed by then-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in 2008.

"If a couple provisions in that bill are changed it is going to be much better and the situation could be really improved compared to the current situation," Yavorskiy said.

"The first thing [in improving the situation] is for people to know and understand when bad things are happening in their country. [It is also important] to see how the international community responds to such things. Ukraine can't be an isolated country."

Yavorskiy said that if the government disregarded human rights in Ukraine, then it would keep the country's economy from developing. He said Western and other countries would not trade as fully with countries that violate human rights.

Yavorskiy said that since Ukrainian politicians were so tightly connected with large businesses in the country, the government would be forced to respect human rights.

Yavorskiy, 33, is a longtime human rights activist who has headed the UHSPL since 2004. As a student he was a member of the Ukraine Without Kuchma movement and was active in the 2004 Orange Revolution as a liaison between the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and Ukrainian opposition groups.
Jailed bloggers Emin Milli (left) and Adnan Hajizada
An Azerbaijani court has rejected an appeal by a jailed blogger seeking an early release from prison, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.

A Baku district court said on July 26 that Adnan Hajizada -- who was sentenced in November along with fellow blogger Emin Milli after being found guilty of hooliganism -- should not be released from jail early because he has not admitted his guilt and did not exemplify good behavior since being imprisoned.

Defense lawyer Isakhan Ashurov appealed for Hajizada's early release after he served half of his two-year prison term. It is common in Azerbaijan for well-behaved prisoners convicted of lesser crimes to be released in such circumstances.

But prison officials Natig Hajiyev and Ali Nabiyev argued in court that Hajizada did not admit his guilt and although he spent most of his time reading and organizing intellectual activities in prison, he refused to paint some walls and clean the prison yard.

Hajizada said the claims by the prison officials were untrue and he did not believe the judge would release him, regardless of how good his behavior was in jail.

Hajizada and Milli were arrested in July 2009, shortly after filming and distributing a video using dressed-up donkeys to mock corruption within the government.

The hooliganism charges were based on a scuffle at a restaurant that the bloggers say was orchestrated by the police. Azerbaijan has ignored strong criticism from international organizations many Western governments over the cases of Hajizada and Milli.

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.


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