Ensuring access to public information in law enforcement bodies

Odesa, 27-28 June 2015 – Regional Coordinators of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, social activists, and journalists from different regions of Ukraine took part in the kick-off workshop on "Public monitoring of the right of access to public information in law enforcement bodies." 

The workshop was organized by the Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors (UMDPL Association) and the Office of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson) with the support of UNDP Ukraine.
For the past almost two years, UNDP has been supporting the implementation of the system of Ombudsperson's Regional Coordinators in order to tackle regional representation challenge of the Office of the Ombudsperson. Locally-involved civic experts have come to serve as "eyes and ears" of the Ombudsperson for monitoring the human rights situation on the ground. Now, the network of regional coordinators is working in 14 regions of Ukraine.
The training session was opened by Uliana Shadska, Openness of Law Enforcement Program Manager at UMDPL Association, who spoke of Ukraine's implementation mechanisms of one of the fundamental human rights - the right of access to information - intended to ensure transparency and openness of government, including law enforcement bodies, to become a reliable corruption prevention safeguard.
While the Ombudsperson effects parliamentary control over the observance of the right of access to public information and the right to protection of personal data in Ukraine, Olena Bila, Deputy Head of the Department for Protection of Personal Data at the Office of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke of the practical aspects of the implementation of such control. Also, the Ombudsperson's Regional Coordinators shared their experience in this area.
Vasyl Romanyuk, Manager of UNDP Democratization and Human Rights Programme, reiterated the importance of building a strong and resilient network of civic monitors who would enhance the Ombudsperson's mandate and contribute to Parliamentary control of law implementation. "In the words of the U.S. Justice Louis Brandeis, sun is the best disinfectant. Hence, casting light onto areas, which are deemed "restricted or privileged" by public officials in reaching out to them by the citizenry, contributes to greater openness and transparency, which, in the final run, prevents or minimizes corruption of state machinery."
During the training session, participants extended their knowledge in mechanisms to detect the right to information violations, response strategies to ungrounded refusals in granting access to information, bringing the perpetrators to justice, balance of the right of access to public information and personal data protection, cooperation between civic activists and the Ombudsperson's Regional Coordinators, exchanging best practices between monitors, and implementation of effective public control.
On 30 June - 1 July, a training session for another pool of monitors is scheduled to take place. Overall, more than 50 civic monitors from all over Ukraine have gained knowledge and practical skills during the capacity enhancement activities. They will carry out monitoring campaigns for access to public information of the police to identify violations and systemic problems.
The main goal of this initiative is to launch the Ombudsman+ model, a joint parliamentary and civic control system with the participation of the Office of the Ombudsperson and "pluses" – civic monitors. Such system is already successfully implemented in the field of prevention of torture and ill-treatment in places of deprivation of liberty, where civic activists participate in monitoring visits as part of the National Preventive Mechanism agenda.