A delegation from Freedom House, a human rights watchdog based in Washington, DC, returned to Ukraine this week to assess the state of democracy and human rights in the country. The delegation, which published an assessment entitled "Sounding the Alarm: Protecting Democracy in Ukraine" 14 months ago, will issue a new report in June with recommendations, ForUm learned from the press office of the organization.

As part of the visit, the delegation met with President Viktor Yanukovych.  Other meetings included Rada Chairman Volodymyr Lytvyn, other Rada deputies, Prosecutor General Viktor Pshonka, Minister of Justice Oleksandr Lavrynovych, Security Services of Ukraine (SBU) Deputy Director Petro Shatkovsky, as well as civil society and media representatives and members of the opposition.

The delegation also met with two imprisoned opposition leaders, former Minister of Interior Yuri Lutsenko and former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.  Those meetings occurred in Lukyanivska and Kachanivaska prisons respectively. The visit to Tymoshenko was the first by an independent international delegation since her transfer to prison in December 30, 2011.

Commenting on the general situation, Freedom President David J. Kramer said the organization sees a situation with press freedom in Ukraine not ideal, but far from critical at the same time.

"We recognize that there has been progress in some areas, including legislation on NGOs, the criminal procedure code, open government, and access to information," said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. "At the same time, we are very concerned by the selective prosecution of key opposition figures, the 'family-ization' of corruption, and stress the importance of free and fair elections in October 2012 for Ukraine’s democratic development."

The team welcomed the government's willingness to facilitate the visits with Lutsenko and Tymoshenko but expressed its concern about the lack of consistent medical attention for Tymoshenko and criminalizing political differences.
Ukraine is ranked Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2012, Freedom House's survey of political rights and civil liberties, and Partly Free in Freedom of the Press 2011.

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