UHHRU concern over assault on human rights defender
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union has issued a statement over the assault on the Coordinator of the Vinnytsa Human Rights Group, Dmytro Groisman, during the night from 23 to 24 May.
Returning home from a work-related trip, Dmytro was approached in the entrance to his apartment block by a man who having asked his identity proceeded to beat him up. Later another man joined in the assault. Dmytro suffered concussion and a broken nose. For some days before the attack a man came to Dmytros home and asked his relatives when he would be returning. According to information at hand, a criminal investigation has been initiated under Article 296 of the Criminal Code (hooliganism by a group of people).
Dmytro and his family believe the attack to be connected with his human rights work. He has been active for many years in exposing human rights abuse and has come out with sharp criticism against the actions of the authorities.
UHHRU is concerned over the attack on a colleague involved in human rights work. We are disturbed that people dissatisfied with the activities of a human rights activist could deem it possible to resort to violence and believe this to be a consequence of the frequent lack of progress and punishment of the culprits in similar cases.
We are surprised at the offence being classified as hooliganism. The circumstances suggest that the attack was directed specifically against Dmytro Groisman which excludes the possibility of hooligan motives and suggests another motive for the crime directly linked with his human rights activity.
We would note that according to Article 12 of the UN Declaration on the Rights and Responsibility of people, groups and public bodies with regard to encouraging and defending universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms, the State must take all measures to protect a person who is acting alone or together with others from any violence, reprisals or threats in connection with his or her human rights work. We believe that human rights activists need special protection in connection with the fact that their activities by their very nature can arouse disgruntlement among people occupying influential positions or having influence on the authorities. The assault on a human rights activist is a worrying signal also to the international community about the presence of systemic problems with human rights observance in Ukraine.
Only an effective investigation into each case and the punishment of each person responsible can create an atmosphere where human rights activists can carry out their social mission. Otherwise the free activity of human rights activists and other civic institutions, one of the most important achievements of Ukrainian democracy, could be negated.
We call on
- the law enforcement agencies involved in the investigation to take all measures needed to uncover this crime and review the article it is classified under;
- the higher management of the Ministry of Internal Affairs to ensure support and the necessary resources for the successful investigation, and to also maintain constant supervision over it;
- the prosecutors office to oversee the quality and lawfulness of the investigation and later prosecution of those responsible;
The Human Rights Ombudsperson to take the investigation under her control and to take all possible measures to create a safe environment for the work of human rights activities.
For more information, please contact: Arkady Bushcehnko on 8 050 406 24 07
Or Volodymyr Yavorsky at:. 417-41-18; mobile . 8 095 272 36 22