Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych [official website; BBC profile] signed a law [press release] on Friday to improve prison conditions and take one step closer to integration with the EU. This law was required to allow the signing of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement [EU backgrounder], which is expected to be signed in November. Ukraine's parliament, the Verkhovna Rada [official website], passed the measure early this month. The amendment, Law No 435-VII, amends the Criminal Code [text] to make it easier both for prisoners to communicate with those outside and to receive treatment. There are 11 other benchmarks Ukraine is required to meet before the Association Agreement can be signed.
This is the latest in a number of economic and political reforms undertaken by the Ukrainian government in an effort to become closer to the EU. This topic was discussed [JURIST op-ed] by JURIST guest columnists Kambiz Behi and Edsel Tupaz. Ukraine has faced worldwide criticism for its handling of the criminal trials of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko [JURIST news archive] and her supporters. In May, Ukraine's prosecutor reopened [JURIST report] a murder case against ex-PM Tymoshenko. The European Court of Human Rights [official website] ruled [JURIST report] in April that Ukraine violated the European Convention on Human Rights by jailing Tymoshenko for politically-motivated reasons. In February Tymoshenko was fined USD $2,000 for contempt [JURIST report] of court after a hearing in Kiev.