In formally abolishing the death penalty on February 22, Ukraine’s parliament (Verkhovna Rada) has taken a dilatory but significant step toward true integration with Europe. Openly lauded by the secretary general of the Council of Europe, Walter Schwimmer, the move was not a popular one in Ukraine. On the one hand is Ukraine’s need to improve its human rights record, on the other the sentiments of 65-90 percent of its people.
Since joining the Council of Europe in 1995, Ukraine has been threatened repeatedly with suspension for not meeting this obligation. Its resistance was based on a simple reality: the lack of popularity for the abolition of the death penalty in a country with a high crime rate and without a democratic tradition. Due to pressure from the council, however, President Leonid Kuchma introduced a de facto moratorium on capital punishment in 1997. This was followed, albeit slowly, in December 1999 with the Constitutional Court’s declaring the death penalty unconstitutional. Formal and final abolition, however, was only possible with parliamentary support, which Kuchma’s reelection last November and the subsequent formation of a pro-presidential center-right majority essentially created (Kievskie vedomosti, January 18; UT-1, April 19, 1999, February 22; UNIAN, December 30, 1999, February 25).
WILL UZBEKISTAN LIBERALIZE ITS ECONOMY THIS YEAR?