The banning of the Communist Party of Ukraine - Briefing note from the Communist Party International Dept. The ban

On 16 December 2015 the Kiev District Administrative Court formally banned the Communist Party of Ukraine. This followed the passing of the De-Communisation Law in April 2015 which made it a criminal offence to promote Marxism, sell the works of Marx or to use any symbol associated with Communism.

The Communist Party of Ukraine

In the 2012 elections the CPU emerged as the third biggest party with the support of 14 per cent of the electorate (2.6 million votes). In 2014 it had 100,000 members.

The Communist Party of Ukraine is the one party in the Ukraine that has for two decades called for a parliamentary republic, the ending of presidential government and its associated corruption, the consistent adoption of federalism within Ukraine and the defence of civil and language rights of all national groups. Since the February 2014 coup it has called for the peaceful resolution of the conflict in the eastern provinces, the implementation of the Minsk agreement and defended the full territorial integrity of Ukraine.

The De-Communisation Law

This was passed by parliament on 9 April 2015 and signed by President Poroshenko on 15 May 2015. The law imposes a five year prison sentence for violations. It requires the removal of all physical memorials of Communism and the renaming of several hundred villages and towns. It makes it an offence both to promote Marxism or Communism. The law also requires ‘respect’ for the ‘fighters for Ukraine’s independence’ in World War II: that is, those who fought together with the Nazis as members of the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists.

On the basis of this law the Interior Ministry issued a decree on 24 July 2015 banning the Communist Party of Ukraine from standing in elections. Legal proceedings were also begun in July 2015 to ban the party itself. The judges in the court hearing the case resigned on the grounds that the case was ‘politically motivated’ and were subsequently subject to criminal proceedings themselves.

Criticisms of the 16 December decision

On the morning of 16 December the Kiev District Court rejected four appeal motions submitted by the CPU against the legal action pending since July. On the evening of 16 December the Court endorsed the legal application for a ban. On neither occasion were the proceedings open to the public. The CPU and its lawyers were not permitted to be present. On 18 December 2015 the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe issued the following statement jointly with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) on the De-Communisation Law: ‘The law is too broad in scope and introduces sanctions that are disproportionate to the legitimate aim pursued. Any association that does not comply with Law No. 317-VIII may be banned, which is problematic with regard to every individual’s freedom of association. This is particularly the case when it comes to political parties, which play a crucial role in ensuring pluralism and the proper functioning of democracy. The banning of political parties from participation in elections or their dissolution should be a measure of last resort in exceptional cases.’

This opinion was in the context of an earlier condemnation of the ban on Communist symbols and ideology by the Republic of Moldova in 2013 and by the European Court of Human Rights on the ban on Communist symbols by the government of Hungary (Hazhnay v. Hungary case 33629/06) in 2008.

Political context

Subsequent to the February 2014 coup Yatsenyuk, leader of the Fatherland Party, became prime minister. The Fatherland Party honours the memory of Stepan Bandera, leader of the pro-Nazi Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists, and had fought the 2012 election in alliance with the more openly fascist Svoboda Party. Svoboda secured four cabinet posts in the Yatsenyuk government including that of Deputy Prime Minister. More worryingly still, the extreme right gained control of the key Defence and Security Committee: Chair from the Social National Party and Secretary from Svoboda.

This support at government level has enabled fascist militias to operate with freedom across Ukraine and to have recognition within the structure of the Ukrainian military.  2 May 2014 saw the massacre of several dozen civilian protestors by the Right Sektor militia in Odessa.  On 14 May 2014 the Right Sektor militia were involved in a smaller scale massacre in Mariupol.  Subsequent months have seen many attacks on Communist party offices, the injury of officers and the burning of materials.