28 October 2010
Stop harassment of Ukraine human rights defenders

Two recent cases of assaults against Human rights defenders in Ukraine point to a worsening climate for human rights and those who seek to defend them.

On 15 October, police in Vinnytsya, in the south west of the country, searched the house and office of Dmytro Groysman, the chair of Vinnytsya Human Rights Group, which supports asylum-seekers, and campaigns against torture and ill-treatment. Police questioned staff about their work, and confiscated over 300 items, including UNHCR files, computer discs, memory sticks and a laptop, effectively paralysing the work of the NGO.

The search was conducted under the pretext of an anti-pornography investigation into a link on Groysman’s personal blog to a video of Russian politicians engaging in sexual acts that had already been widely circulated within the public domain, via YouTube, Russian television and Ukraine news sites.  The fact that Dmytro Groysman appears to be the only person under investigation in connection with the video, raises suspicions that the real purpose of the search was to obstruct the activities of the Vinnytsya Human Rights Group, and to investigate their work on human rights.  The search was carried out in violation of Ukraine’s Criminal Procedure Code.

In February this year, the NGO was informed that they were being investigated by the Ministry of Internal Affairs for damaging the international image of Ukraine because of their campaigning for a Chechen asylum-seeker. In 2008, Dmytro Groysman was attacked by unknown assailants in an incident he believes was probably linked to his advocacy work on behalf of prisoners.

Andrei Fedosov, the chair of a mental disability rights organization, Uzer, is also facing harassment. He has publicized allegations of numerous violations of the rights of the people with alleged disabilities in Crimea following monitoring of psychiatric hospitals between February and April 2010. This included allegations of unlawful confinement in a psychiatric institution, and cases of torture and ill-treatment of patients in three psychiatric hospitals.

Fedosov was assaulted by unknown men in May, after receiving threatening phone calls in April. Police took no action. In July he was detained for a day in relation to a crime allegedly committed 10 years ago when he was 15 years old. On 20 September the charges against him were dropped as it was proved that he was in a closed children’s hospital at the time and could not have committed the crime. He currently fears for his safety and suspects that police may continue to obstruct his work with false charges.

Amnesty International is alarmed that these two activists appear to be targeted because of their legitimate human rights work, and calls on the Ukrainian authorities to ensure that they are able to carry out their activities as human rights defenders unhindered, and protected from violence or threats.

Image: Andrei Fedosov ©Private

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Stop harassment of Ukraine human rights defenders

Dear President Yanukovych,

I am writing to you to express concern about the recent incidents of harassment of human rights activists in Ukraine in recent months.

In particular, I am concerned that recent police actions have effectively paralysed the work of the Vinnytsya Human Rights Group. The organisation is unable to continue existing work since police removed equipment, files and electronic media during the search of the flat and the office. Moreover, the search of the organization’s office was carried out in violation of the Criminal Procedural Code.

I am also concerned about the failure on the part of the authorities to launch an investigation into the May 2010 attack on mental disability rights activist Andrei Fedosov.

Following the uncovering of six alleged cases of illegal forcible confinement in a psychiatric institution and other violations of the rights of people with alleged disabilities, he reported harassment which seems to be aimed at preventing his work. This included a physical attack, threats from unknown people, and detention and questioning without a lawyer in connection with a crime that took place 10 years ago.

Andrei Fedosov fears for his safety and that the authorities may attempt to stop his work.

I urge you to:

Ensure that Dmytro Groysman and his organisation, the Vinnytsya Human Rights Group, and Andrei Fedosov and all other human rights activists are able to continue their lawful activities in defence of human rights unhindered;
Investigate the May 2010 assault on Andrei Fedosov following the phone calls threatening to harm him in April 2010;
Investigate the legality of police actions with regard to the inspection of the office premises of the Vinnytsya Human Rights Group in October 2010, and the fact that no action was taken with regard to Andrei Fedosov’s complaint about an attack in May 2010;
Ensure that all files and electronic media that were removed from the Vinnytsya Human Rights Group that are not connected with the accusation of importing, making, selling or distributing pornographic items, are returned forthwith, particularly the asylum-seekers’ files which are the property of the UNHCR.

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