Press release February 25, 2019
Ukrainian Commission Must Continue Investigating Attacks on Civic Activists
Freedom House issued the following statement in response to the lapse of Ukraine’s Temporary Investigative Commission mandate to investigate impunity for violence against civic activists in the country.
In response to the lapse of Ukraine’s Temporary Investigative Commission mandate to investigate impunity for violence against civic activists in the country, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“We urge the Verkhovna Rada (the Parliament) to renew the Temporary Investigative Commission’s mandate to identify the motivation behind the ongoing violence against civic activists and examine the response of the country’s law enforcement agencies. So far, law enforcement has failed to deliver justice for those affected,” said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe & Eurasia programs at Freedom House.
“Creating the commission was an important step towards ending the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators of the alarming increase in violence we observed in 2018. While the Commission’s work delivered significant results, essentially breathing new life into Ukrainian law enforcement agencies’ investigations of the attacks, it was unable to finish its job before its three-month mandate lapsed.”
Following significant pressure from Ukrainian civil society, the Verkhovna Rada established a Temporary Investigative Commission of Rada deputies to investigate more than 50 attacks against civic activists registered in 2018. The commission’s role was to scrutinize the government’s response to the trend of attacks against civic activists. The committee’s three-month mandate lapsed on February 6.
During its short mandate, the commission investigated the circumstances of attacks against five prominent activists, including the acid attack against anticorruption activist Kateryna Handzyuk, who died as a result of her injuries in November 2018. They also investigated the suspicious death of Mykola Bychko, an environmental activist in the Kharkiv region who died in June 2018. The Commission requested information from law enforcement investigators for approximately 53 other cases and held two hearings outside of Kyiv. However, while its mandate was active, the Commission was unable to fully establish either causes of violence or law enforcement agencies’ subsequent weak response. This feeble response ultimately has contributed to near-total impunity for the perpetrators.