UHHRU announces 2006 “Thistle of the Year” human rights “laureates”
On Friday, 8 December, on the eve of International Human Rights Day, the first laureates were announced of the annual anti-award launched by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union for the most flagrant human rights violation “Thistle of the Year – 2006”.
The Competition Committee made up of six of the nine members of the UHHRU Board unanimously chose the following four Thistles of the Year:
1) The Prosecutor General of Ukraine in the category “Least open state authority” over:
- The Order of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine No. 89 from 28.12.2002 “List of documents created through the work of offices of the Prosecutor of Ukraine containing confidential information designated with the stamp restricting access “For Official Use Only”” which is in clear contravention of the Constitution and the Law on Information. On the basis of this Order, information about violations of rights and liberties, the results of special investigations and other information of public importance are classified;
- The lack of open access to normative acts of the prosecutors office, with these acts for some reason not being registered with the Ministry of Justice;
- The most refusals to provide information or failure to respond at all to formal requests for information, based on figures from monitoring by human rights groups;
2) The State Department of Ukraine for the Execution of Sentences [the Department] for its inaction and lack of adequate reaction to violations of prisoners rights as evidenced by:
- Its failure to introduce an independent system for considering complaints alleging violations of prisoners rights;
- The lack of reaction to complaints about the actions of officers of the Department. According to available figures, of 473 complaints received by the Department in 2005 and over the first 6 months of 2006, NOT ONE complaint was found to be justified after their so-called investigations;
- The absence of appropriate response to the numerous cases involving suicide attempts by a number of prisoners during 2006;
- The large number of complaints from prisoners alleging torture and ill-treatment;
- The formation of special armed units for ensuring order in penal institutions, over which numerous complaints have been received about unwarranted use of violence against prisoners.
3) The Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] and the Prosecutors Office of Ukraine over the unlawful deportation on 14 February 2006 of 11 Uzbek asylum seekers to Uzbekistan, as a result of which those deported were sentenced to periods from 3 to 13 years imprisonment for their alleged participation in the Andijon events [of May 2005]. The violations of Ukrainian legislation and international commitments were confirmed by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine and condemned by Ukrainian human rights organizations, the US State Department and OSCE, international human rights organizations, the International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. Despite this, those responsible have not been punished and are continuing to claim that their actions were correct.
4) The Prosecutors Office in Alchevsk in the Luhansk region for systematic and the most flagrant lack of action over violations of human rights through their repeated refusal to carry out a proper investigation into cases of torture and ill-treatment by police officers.
The Anti-Award “Thistle of the Year”, launched by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, is awarded to institutions or individuals for the most shameful and dangerous violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms. All individuals and legal entities may nominate candidates. The nomination is carried out by submitting a proposal to the Organizing committee with the only condition being that the proposal may not be anonymous. The awards are made by a Competition Committee made up of members of the UHHRU Board. All information is checked carefully before the selection is made.
The awards were made this year for the first time, and the results announced by Head of the UHHRU Board Yevhen Zakharov and UHHRU Executive Director Volodymyr Yavorsky.
The “Laureates” receive a symbolic thistle branch, a certificate which explains exactly why they have received the anti-award, and reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine for the last two years.
The human rights defenders also spoke of the most typical and flagrant violations of human rights in Ukraine recorded recently. Among these are also the increase in tariffs on housing and communal services which violates peoples socio-economic rights, the rise in xenophobia which has recently taken on frightening proportions especially in the East of the country, as well as discrimination on religious and ethnic grounds, also observed in the East.
Copies of various statements and complaints relating to the violations of human rights mentioned above were also presented during the ceremony.