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Ukraine

Access to Communist-Era Archives (UA0037)

Overview

At-a-Glance

Action Plan: Not Attached

Action Plan Cycle: 2014

Status: Inactive

Institutions

Lead Institution: Ukranian Institute of National Remembrance

Support Institution(s): Ministry of Culture, State Archive Service, Ministry of Justice, NGO "Centre for Researching Liberation Movement," other unspecified NGOs and international organisations

Policy Areas

Legislation & Regulation, Records Management

IRM Review

IRM Report: Ukraine End-of-Term Report 2014-2016

Starred: Yes Starred

Early Results: Outstanding Outstanding

Design i

Verifiable: Yes

Relevant to OGP Values: Access to Information

Potential Impact:

Implementation i

Completion:

Description

Ensuring citizens’ unhindered access to public information by means of: developing and submitting to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in due course a draft law regulating the procedure and conditions of access to archives of the USSR internal affairs bodies and secret services of 1917-1991 Expected result: relevant draft law endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and followed up until adoption Lead institution: Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Culture, State Archive Service, Ministry of Justice, NGO "Centre for Researching Liberation Movement," other unspecified NGOs and international organisations Start date: Not specified End date: 31 December 2014

IRM End of Term Status Summary

✪ 5.3. Access to Communist-era archives

Commitment Text: 5.3. Ensuring citizens’ unhindered access to public information by means of: developing and submitting to the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine in due course a draft law regulating the procedure and conditions of access to archives of the USSR internal affairs bodies and secret services of 1917-1991.

Expected result: relevant draft law endorsed by the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, submitted to the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, and followed up until adoption.

Lead institution(s): Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance

Supporting institution(s): Ministry of Culture, State Archive Service, Ministry of Justice, NGO “Centre for Researching Liberation Movement,” other unspecified NGOs and international organisations

Start date: Not specified                                                         End date: 31 December 2014

Commitment aim

The commitment sought to grant access to documents the Soviet regime kept secret for many years, as well as post-independence documents from 1991 onward. It set an ambitious goal of breaking from Ukraine’s totalitarian past, by allowing researchers and others to examine archives that document crimes of the previous regime, and enforce the right to truth.

Status

Midterm: Complete

The government exceeded the planned implementation of the commitment. It submitted the draft law developed by NGOs and the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance to Parliament in early April 2015 and, days later (on 9 April 2015), Parliament adopted the law in the first and final reading.[Note 21: http://bit.ly/1hKjXrb. ] The Law on Access to Archives of Repressive Bodies of the Communist Totalitarian Regime of 1917-1991 determined special procedures for accessing relevant archives, and lists grounds for restricting such access.

The law mandated that law enforcement, security, and other agencies transfer relevant archives they possess to a special state archive, to be set up and managed by the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance.[Note 22: Independent Reporting Mechanism (IRM) Progress Report 2014-15: Ukraine, 36-37. ] The new law includes information about the struggle for Ukrainian independence in the 20th century, political persecutions carried out by repressive Soviet bodies on Ukraine’s territory from 1917-1991, human rights violations committed by Soviet agencies, World War II events in Ukraine, and technological incidents and catastrophes in the country between 1917 and 1991. All this information is of high interest to the public, and was suppressed for a very long time.[Note 23: Ibid, 37. ]

Did it open government?

Access to information: Outstanding

Since the midterm assessment, government agencies took additional steps to implement the new law. In particular, the Ministry of Justice (which is in charge of the State Archive Service) updated its procedures for the use of archives held by state bodies or local communities, to align them with the new law. Public archive institutions published on their websites information regarding the employees responsible, by law, for allowing access to the archives of repressive bodies; lists of archives of repressive bodies in their possession; as well as information about valid restrictions on access to such archives. After a significant delay, the government issued a decision, in December 2016, to set up the Sectoral State Archive of the Ukrainian Institute of National Remembrance to track, keep, restore, and provide access to the records covered by the law.[Note 24: See text of the decision at http://bit.ly/2iw7HPY.]

The law on access to the archives of repressive bodies transformed ‘business as usual’ in the area of national archives and remembrance by opening government. It allowed dispersed archives of high public interest to be consolidated under one institution, and simplified access to such archives for researchers, relatives, and others. The law provided an effective mechanism to ensure respect for the right to truth. According to one of the drafters of the law and current head of the Security Service’s Archive, the implementation of the law resulted in a significant increase in the number of access requests addressed to archives. It also resulted in the proactive publication by archives of the descriptive list of relevant collections and documents they hold. Another result was the increase in the number of requests to obtain rehabilitation of persons whose rights were infringed by the totalitarian communist system.[Note 25: Written interview with Andriy Kohut, head of the specialised archive of the Security Service of Ukraine. See also reports and analytics on the access to archives following adoption of the Law: http://bit.ly/2nw0nUg, http://bit.ly/2nhlp7u, http://bit.ly/2nMFOVP. ] According to the head of the Security Services Archive, more than 87,000 individuals accessed the archive in 2015. Compared to the first quarter of 2014, the number of requests in the first quarter of 2016 increased threefold.[Note 26: Ukraine Crisis Media Center, Open Access to Archives Allows Citizens to Learn about their Families, 20 April 2016, http://uacrisis.org/ua/42323-dostup-do-arhiviv.]

The law also permits citizens to copy archives free of charge, which furthered access and interest in the archives.[Note 27: Written interview with Andriy Kohut. ]

Carried forward?

The commitment was completed, hence, was not carried over to the new action plan.


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