Thistle of the Year – 2009 dishonours announced
On 10 December, Human Rights Day, human rights activists announced the winners of the Anti-award “Thistle of the Year”, annually awarded to the worst human rights violators for the year. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union noted that this year the number of proposals for (un)worthy candidates had broken all records. Ukrainians most often accused the authorities of lack of transparency and openness.
Laureates for this anything but prestigious award in 2009 are:
1. The Supreme Court in the nomination “For overt disregard for the principles of justice”
As reported here, in 2009 the Supreme Court refused to revoke the conviction of Oleksandr Yaremenko and send the case for a re-examination despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights had clearly indicated that the conviction raised great doubts about the fairness of the trial and the means used to obtain a confession. In the case of Stanislav Lutsenko, following a damning judgment from the European Court, the Supreme Court simply refused to reconsider the verdict.
Through its behaviour the Supreme Court has demonstrated contempt for the principles of justice and Ukraine’s international commitment and has undermined the authority of the judiciary in Ukraine.
2. The Minister of Internal Affairs, Yury Lutsenko in the nomination “For systematic human rights violations”
In 2009 Lutsenko and his ministry of a number of occasions infringed the principle of the presumption of innocence by circulating statements about the guilt of those detained or accused of committing crimes.
Cases where peaceful gatherings have been stopped by the police without court order and sufficient grounds have become common.
3. The National Expert Commission for the Protection of Public Morality [the Public Morality Commission] “For restricting freedom of expression”
In 2009 the Public Morality Commission carried out systematic actions aimed at restricting freedom of expression. It directly or indirectly banned the showing of films, television programmes and a book. Ukrainian human rights groups consider the Commission’s actions to be unwarranted and not proportionate to the declared aims.
4. The Mayor of Kharkiv Mykhailo Dobkin “For flagrant violation of the right to healthcare”
Despite calls from 7 ministries and departments, as well as in breach of legislation, Mykhailo Dobkin totally liquidated the city anti-tuberculosis clinic with 675 beds. As a result of this the city with a population of 1 and a half million has remained with a single hospital bed for patients suffering from tuberculosis. He also closed the only surgical department for this disease in the entire Kharkiv region.
5. The Severodonetsk City Council “For violation of environmental rights”
The City Council has effectively declared Severodonetsk the only city in the country where there are no squares or parks, with the members of the Council having been unable to define and firm up in writing their territory. This makes it virtually impossible to stop the felling of trees in parks and their being taken over for construction. This is confirmed by rulings from the Severodonetsk City Court and Donetsk Administrative Court of Appeal.
6. Odessa Mayor Edward Hurwits “For systematic obstruction to the holding of peaceful assembly”
The Mayor and his subordinates have on many occasions impeded the holding of peaceful gatherings. On 5 May 2009 at the initiative of officials from the Odessa City Council, a Freedom March which the civic organization “Objective Reality” wanted to hold was banned.