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Ukraine president approves law on national referendums

Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych [official website] on Tuesday signed [press release, in Ukrainian] a law [parliamentary backgrounder] on conducting national referendums. Pursuant to the law, referendums can be used to approve altering the wording of the constitution, to amend the constitution and to repeal a law amending the constitution. They can also be used to resolve territorial issues of Ukraine. Opposition parties have vowed to challenge [Kyiv Post report] the law's validity in the Constitutional Court. They fear the law will be used to alter the Constitution in a manner that will allow deputies of the Verkhovna Rada, not the people of Ukraine, to elect Ukraine's president. The law was approved [press release, in Ukrainian] by Ukraine's parliament on November 6, with 265 deputies voting [results, in Ukrainian] for the bill and 15 against.

Earlier this month, a Ukrainian Court rejected [JURIST report] a motion to suspend the tax evasion trial against former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [personal website; JURIST news archive] until her health is recovered, but adjourned the trial since Tymoshenko could not attend. In September the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee [official website] unanimously passed [JURIST report] a resolution [text] calling for Ukraine to release Tymoshenko from prison. In August the Ukrainian Supreme Court [official website, in Ukrainian] upheld Tymoshenko's abuse of office conviction [JURIST report]. During the appeal the government denied allegations that the criminal proceedings against Tymoshenko were a measure initiated by Yanukovich to prevent her from participating in the October parliamentary elections. The decision came only a day after the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] held a hearing [JURIST report] on Tymoshenko's appeal. Also in August Ukrainian prosecutors urged the Supreme Court not to hear her appeal [JURIST report]. Prosecutors told the court that Tymoshenko's trial had already established her guilt in the case, and asked the judges maintain her seven-year sentence [JURIST report] in the case.

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