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25.03.2013

Where are the killers of environmentalist Volodymyr Honcharenko?

   

Almost 8 months have passed since the murder of well-known Dnipropetrovsk environmentalist Volodymyr Honcharenko and there has been no progress in finding his killers. The dangerous scrap metal load he reported 4 days before he was attacked has vanished, and the promised test results have not eventuated.

Volodymyr Honcharenko died in hospital following a brutal attack on 1 August 2012.  He was driving to his dacha when another car blocked his way, with the two men inside then inflicting the injuries from which he died three days later. The attack came four days after a press conference at which Mr Honcharenko warned of a “chemical time bomb” from 180 tons of chemically contaminated scrap metal in the form of three heat exchangers contaminated with one of the world’s most toxic chemicals – hexachlorbenzol.  He showed evidence that the load was illegally being transported around Kryvy Rih in the Dnipropetrovsk oblast.  He also informed of attempts to alert the authorities to the danger and the latter’s total failure to respond.

On Friday, 23 March, around fifty environmental activists and members of the VO Svoboda party gathered to protest the lack of action of the law enforcement bodies.  They were stopped by court order from holding the protest outside the Regional Prosecutor’s Office.  The court motivated this encroachment on freedom of peaceful assembly by claiming that the pavement was “too narrow”.

The Regional Prosecutor’s Office had reported a few days earlier that the murder investigation is under the personal control of the Prosecutor. This may be true, but there is still no sign of any progress.

Natalya Kozhyna, who worked closely with Volodymyr Honcharenko, told Radio Svoboda that the heat exchangers have vanished from Dnipropetrovsk.  If they were indeed contaminated, then this may be a relief for the city, but information should be provided as to where such a huge dangerous load has been taken.  

 “At the instruction of the Environment Minister an inter-departmental commission was formed which travelled to the site, took samples of the pulp and sent them to an institute in Kyiv.  There are still no results. The heat exchangers were taken away, but where? I put that question to the investigators, but they didn’t give me an answer.”

The protest which was banned outside the Regional Prosecutor’s Office was appropriately entitled: “Today it’s Honcharenko, tomorrow – you!”

Despite so much hype about the Law on Access to Public Information and the clear public importance of information on this subject,  the lack of openness has been staggering. 

We are now told that the Prosecutor has the murder investigation under his personal control. In September last year, when asked at the working group monitoring compliance with the Aarhus Convention in Geneva about investigations into Honcharenko’s murder and into the allegations he had made, the Environment Ministry’s spokesperson asserted that a committee had been set up and that the results of tests were expected on 10 September. 

No tests were forthcoming and environmental and human rights groups therefore sent a letter to the Aarhus Convention Bureau, listing the key infringements of that vital agreement.  There seems no sign that any of the infringements have been eliminated.  

Halya Coynash

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