Ukraine: Nina Karpachova

To love and protect people. To follow the dictates of my conscience and always fight for the rights of people, their honor and dignity.

— Nina Karpachova

Nina Karpachova was elected Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights in 1998. Her top priorities include safeguarding individual’s rights to a fair trial, freedom of speech, the rights of orphans, the disabled, people affected by HIV/AIDS, victims of Chernobyl, and persons deprived of liberty. She advocates for the rights of migrant workers and has taken action against trafficking in women. From early on, she boldly denounced torture and defended the right to peaceful assembly. She has been instrumental in bringing Ukraine to sign international rights conventions.

The appearance of a long awaited human rights protection institution – the Commissioner for Human Rights – and the election of Nina Karpachova to this office had a noticeable impact on the moral and psychological climate in Ukraine. Now, ordinary people feel protected, no longer alone in a struggle for their rights. They have regained faith and hope and have someone to turn to with their grief and complaints against indifferent officials. Almost every other appeal to the Commissioner is a cry from the heart, a plea for help: “You are our last hope.” People believe in her, and an avalanche of appeals has descended on Nina's office. Throughout the years, over 500,000 people – Ukrainians, foreigners, and refugees – have had recourse to the Commissioner’s office. People write to thank her. One person she helped wrote: “My mother and I sincerely appreciate your consideration of our grief. If the world is inhabited by people like you, it is worthwhile living and bringing up children and grandchildren, knowing that the law will stand up for the poor as well.” In a survey probing how employees from the Ministry of Internal Affairs complied with the constitutional rights and freedoms of citizens, the Commissioner revealed that in most regions, the police did not comply with the law and used physical violence against its citizens and subjected them to inhumane and degrading treatment. Frequently, individuals under investigation endured torture. In many cells there was inadequate access to fresh air and daylight. The Commissioner brought these problems to the attention of the State’s leadership, but also to the national and international public. Because the Commissioner constantly monitors how individuals, temporarily deprived of liberty, are given their rights, treatment by the police changed considerably.

Ukrainian Parliament Commission for Human Rights Hope – Center for the Protection of Children’s and Women’s Rights World Congress of Ukrainian Lawyers