Two months of dangerous inaction
Exactly 2 months have passed since Volodymyr Honcharenko, a prominent environmentalist from Dnipropetrovsk, was fatally injured in a brutal attack. .
This was 4 days after he publicly warned of a serious danger from chemically contaminated scrap metal
Despite this and other reasons to link the murder with his civic activities, the authorities’ response has been almost non-existent.
From the outset the local authorities have seemed intent on muffling the case and denying any danger from the scrap metal. At government level there has been no reaction whatsoever, while a key international body has been positively misled.
Any such pressure and attempts to distort the truth must clearly also place in jeopardy the fullness and impartiality of the investigation into Mr Honcharenko’s murder.
And make us ask why
On 27 July Volodymyr Honcharenko gave a press conference where he revealed details and evidence of a dangerous load of scrap metal in the form of three heat exchangers contaminated with one of the world’s most topic chemicals – hexachlorbenzol.
He also informed of attempts to alert the authorities to the danger and the latter’s total failure to respond.
0n 1 August Mr Honcharenko’s car was stopped on his way to his dacha and he was savagely beaten by two men. He died of his injuries two days later.
Appeals from Ukrainian and international NGOs have elicited almost no response. The local authorities’ response has been to deny any danger and fob Mr Honcharenko’s colleagues off with formal responses and subterfuge. There have also been worrying signs that media sources have been dissuaded from covering the subject.
There have been at least 7 direct infringements of Ukraine’s legislation and the UN Aarhus Convention.
While demonstrating disregard for the public’s safety and right to know, the authorities have shown themselves willing to mislead the Aarhus Convention Compliance Committee. At the beginning of September the Compliance Committee was assured that a committee had been set up and a report was due on 10 September.
A letter was sent by several prominent environmental and human rights NGOs on 17 September to the Office of the Aarhus Convention listing the infringements and setting the record straight.
The latter has demanded explanation and action from the Ukrainian government.
Honcharenko’s colleagues have now complained about the Environment Ministry’s behaviour to the Prosecutor General.
What are the Ukrainian authorities waiting for?
On 27 July Volodymyr Honcharenko spoke of a chemical time bomb.
Neither denial nor blithe and unsubstantiated assurances to an important international body can deactivate this time bomb,
Volodymyr Honcharenko’s colleagues and friends, environmental and human rights activists will not let them off the hock and fall silent.
The consequences if the scrap metal is contaminated are much too serious
The danger if inconvenient voices are silenced with impunity is also acute.