2010 Thistle of the Year Anti-Award Recipients announced
As always, to mark International Human Rights Day, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union announces their Thistle of the Year Anti-Awards for the worst violators of human rights during the year.
There were 7 nominations this year: the Minister of Education, Dmytro Tabachnyk; the Minister of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Mohylyov; the Head of the Security Service, Valery Khoroshkovsky; the Mayor of Kharkiv, Hennady Kernes; the Prime Minister Mykola Azarov; the President’s Administration; and Kharkiv judge Serhiy Lazyuk.
The competition commission, made up of journalists, members of civic organizations and human rights activists have selected four “laureates” of this ignominious award, the Gold Thistle.
Minister of Internal Affairs, Anatoly Mohylyov
Gold Thistle for deliberate disregard for human rights and fundamental freedoms
Under his leadership:
there has been an increase in violent deaths in police custody;
peaceful gatherings not banned by the courts have been unlawfully stopped or obstructed and organizers and participants in peaceful protests have been detained;
there is virtually no proper investigation into unlawful actions by the police;
a policy of initiatives is being formed potentially dangerous for fundamental rights of the individual. This includes, for example, the initiative put forward for introducing personal data on railway tickets and the implementation of unlawful forced diagnosis of people taken to district police stations;
the system has been reinstated whereby statistical figures (for example, of numbers detained, confessions, etc) are used for police assessment purposes, this fostering human rights violations;
there has been a return to a policy of secrecy about the activities of the MIA via effective refusal to cooperate with civic organizations;
increased interference with the rights of foreign nationals regardless of whether they have done anything unlawful;
pressure is being brought to bear on human rights activists because of their activists (the cases of D. Groisman, A. Fedosov and O. Verentsov).
Head of the Security Service [SBU], Valery Khoroshkovsky
Use of the Security Service for the systematic restriction of civil liberties
Under his leadership
there has been an increase in cases of unwarranted interference in public life;
activists, journalists and rectors of higher educational institutes have been subjected to constant pressure;
the possibility has been created for interference in the work of judges through Khoroshkovsky’s membership of the High Council of Justice and “control over rulings issued by judges”;
significant restriction in access to SBU archives regarding the Soviet past and the decision to pass electronic archives to public libraries has been revoked;
the detention of historian Ruslan Zabily, removal of his personal computer, as well as the search of the National Memorial Museum of the Victims of Occupation Regimes “Tyurma na Lonskoho” in Lviv during which archival material and personal computers of members of staff were removed.
Mayor of Kharkiv, Hennady Kernes
Judge of the Dzerzhynsky District Court in Kharkiv, Serhiy Lazyuk
Violations of the right to peaceful protest during the civic defence of Kharkiv’s Gorky Park for
Unwarranted use of force against members of the public in order to crush peaceful protest;
The 15 day administrative arrest sentences imposed on 9 June 2010 against two of the Gorky Park defenders – Andriy Yvarnytsky and Denis Chernehy which prompted Amnesty International to declare them prisoners of conscience;
Violation of environmental rights and ignoring public opinion.
UHHRU Executive Director Volodymyr Yavorsky explains that the Thistle of the Year anti-award was begun in 2006 in order to draw public attention to flagrant abuses of human rights committed by the State during the particular year and to stimulate public discussion regarding dangerous trends with regard to human rights in the country. He stresses the need to watch over such trends which like weeds spread and must be controlled.