UHHRU demands swift and independent investigation of the assault on Dementiy Bily
The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is outraged over the brutal beating of Dementiy Bily, journalist and Head of the Kherson Regional Branch of the Committee of Voters of Ukraine (which is a member of UHHRU).
UHHRU has today called on the Prosecutor General and the Minister of Internal Affairs to ensure a swift, independent and efficient investigation of this assault.
Yesterday, 14 September 2010, the City Mayor Volodomyr Saldo, who is standing for re-election for the third time from the Party of the Regions, was giving his report in the Kherson Theatre. There had been no announcement of the event either in the media or on the City Council’s website. There were rumours that invitations were being issued to those specially chosen, and leaders of civic organizations were not among them.
There were two burly guys at the doors allowing in only those who had invitations. Dementiy Bily first endeavoured to enter simply as a citizen and voter, then as journalist from the publication “Politichna Khersonshchyna” [about events etc in the Kherson region], for which he had the relevant journalist ID. Neither he nor other civic leaders were allowed in, with Saldo’s Deputy overseeing this process. It was only when the Deputy Head of the Regional Administration intervened that they were able to enter.
When Saldo’s address was already in progress, it became clear that the guards were not admitting two members of the City Council in opposition to Saldo. Dementiy Bily first tried without success to convince Saldo’s deputy that this was illegal and that they needed to be admitted since the Mayor was reporting to voters and deputies. He was ignored.
He then walked to the middle of the theatre, took a microphone and demanded that Saldo stopped and issued an instruction for all those to be admitted who wished to hear his report. He repeated this several times until Saldo stopped, however the moderator immediately turned to this largely selected audience saying “Let’s support our mayor”. Most began clapping.
Dementiy was pushed out of the hall by the Deputy and four burly men in plain clothes, where three of them twisted his arms behind his back and held him, while the other hit him on the face and head. The police stood and watched. When Dementiy broke free and tried to fight back, the camera hanging from his arm hit the forehead of the person who had been hitting him, and lacerated his skin. The police immediately appeared, called an ambulance for the “victim”, and took him to the hospital.
Dementiy’s wife, Halyna Akhmatov and colleagues who were in the hall, ran into the foyer during the fight and managed to film some of it. Dementiy’s face was covered in red blotches, yet Saldo’s deputy and the others are still trying to accuse him of assault.
Dementiy gave his testimony to the police, however he began feeling much worse and an ambulance was called. In the hospital he was diagnosed as having an internal skull injury and medium severity concussion. The doctors are insisting that he stay in hospital for observation. He is in one ward, the “victim” in the next.
Some of what happened in the hall can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rF2RqM0VkqQ.
Since local officials were clearly implicated in the beating, we are convinced that this investigation by the local police is most unlikely to be independent. We demand that the central authorities ensure objective investigation of the public assault on a well-known human rights defender.
UHHRU Executive Director