Not mentioned in recent headlines in Ukraine, but probably far more important the President Yanukovych’s visit to Lithuania, the visit and departure of the Cox/Kwasniewski EU mission visit, and just as important as the Stephan Fule “drop by” visit of 7th January, was a meeting between Valerie Lutkovska, the Commissioner for Human Rights in Ukraine (or Ombudsman if you prefer) and Messrs Christos Dzhiakumopulosom and Marcus Huntsman of the Council of Europe.
This meeting was to coordinate, discuss and action the 2013 – 2017 protection of human rights strategic plan and evaluate results thus far.
It therefore caught my eye, that the Council of Europe was very interested in drawing the attention of Ms Lutkovska to the issue of personal data protection.
With all the human rights issues present in Ukraine, whether effective remedy is proscribed by law and simply ignored, or a reality as yet not addressed by the law, why was data protection specifically mentioned as an area that the CoE want the Ukrainian Ombudsman to pay particular attention to over and above the work of NGOs, the protection of minorities, the on-going Somali asylum issues, political prisoners (or not), the disabled, a malleable justice system etc ?
Is there any connection to the newly launched EU initiative to provide an “open, safe, secure cyberspace” protecting “fundamental rights, democracy and the rule of law” – launched the day after the CoE/Ukrainian Ombudsman’s meeting? Ukraine, after all, is recognised as being “free” when it comes to political interference on the Internet by Freedom House. Is it too free - Is Article 10 consistently butchering Article 8 of the European Human Rights Act in the CoE’s opinion? Are the on-line media, bloggers and criminals running amok in Ukraine via the Internet?
Is the concern more over the security of data – an issue that has delayed the biometric passports and thus one of the reasons Ukraine remains mired in Stage 1 of the Visa-free process with the EU, instead of sailing on into Stage 2?
Is the concern over the misuses of securely held data guarded by corruptible minions in the state administration?
Could it be that Ukrainian cyber defences are particularly poor in comparison with the very skilled hackers within this country (and without)?
Is it that current and proposed Ukrainian data protection laws in some way discriminate against the population or parts of it?
Is it simply that any form of media being deemed “free” by Freedom House in Ukraine flags up the the CoE that the Ukrainian authorities are paying too little attention to the Internet and what goes on there generated in Ukraine?
Is it any or all of the above that has caused this issue to have a specific mention at this meeting given all the other human rights issues in Ukraine?