Constitutions Ukraine

Briefing paper 64: Ukraine's legal debate on the right to armed self-defence

One of the issues that were raised rather unexpectedly in the process of discussing constitutional amendments in Ukraine in 2015 was the right to armed self-defence, initiated by an e-petition to President Poroshenko and supported by an NGO “The Ukrainian Gun Owners Association”. This led to a heated debate within the Human Rights Working Group of the Constitutional Commission, holding back the adoption of a human rights chapter. The discussion about liberalising rules for possession of weapons has additional emotional resonance in Ukraine because of the Russian aggression and military conflict in Eastern Ukraine which caused, inter alia, illegal turnover of firearms in Ukraine.

The essential idea of this briefing paper is that a constitutional right to possess firearms is not advisable for a number of reasons. In particular, addressing this issue at the constitutional level is extremely rare, worldwide only three constitutions having it. More importantly, the idea of allowing guns to protect home and property, as proposed by the petitioners, is completely at odds with the European system of absolute protection of life. Such a provision would contradict Ukraine’s obligations within the Council of Europe and become an obstacle to integration with the EU. That said, ordinary legislation on gun ownership would benefit from being clarified. Therefore, the final part of the briefing paper touches upon some problematic aspects of the draft law on civil arms and ammunition tabled in the Ukrainian Parliament.

Photo: Ivan Bandura/flickr

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