Human rights violators get their just thistles

The Thistle of the Year Anti-Awards for 2007 were announced on 10 December, Human Rights Day.  There was, admittedly, a depressingly large choice of candidates for this very much less than prestigious award.  

17 candidates – either public officials or public bodies – were nominated, and then the hard choice was made by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union’s specially formed committee. 

The Thistle of the Year Anti-Awards for the most flagrant and most dangerous human rights abuses  in 2007 went to:

1)  Mykola Iltyai, the Deputy Head of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences “for brutal violence against prisoners”.  He was deemed directly responsible for:

  • numerous cases of unlawful beatings of prisoners with the use of special anti-terrorist units : on 22 January in Izyaslav Penal Colony No. 31; on 7 June at Buchansk Colony No. 85 and on 10 November in the Slovyanoserbsk Colony No. 60, and in other penal institutions;
  • concealment of cases of ill-treatment and persecution of prisoners who lodged complaints against the unlawful behaviour of the administration in penal institutions. Victims of beatings were taken to other penal colonies, deprived of necessary medical care. They had their personal things destroyed and received disciplinary penalties for infringements like “not sleeping after lights out”. Their term of imprisonment was increased by applying Article 391 of the Criminal Code.

2)  Vasyl Koshchynets, Head of the State Department for the Execution of Sentences “for absolute failure to act in cases of human rights abuse”. We believe that he bears full responsibility for all the unlawful actions and omissions of his subordinates guilty of violating prisoners’ rights.

3)  The Prosecutor General of Ukraine “for absolute failure to act in cases of human rights abuse”. Despite wide powers, the Prosecutor General’s office has systematically failed to ensure efficient and swift investigation into violations of rights and freedoms. There is no effective investigation, as a rule, into:

  • infringements of prisoners’ rights
  • cases of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement agencies.

4.  Vasyl Hrytsak, National Deputy [MP], member of the Party of the Regions, former head of the Department for resources of the Ministry of Internal Affairs “for the most flagrant interference in people’s private life” and “for the most dangerous legislative initiative”. He is lobbyist for the private concern SSAPS [Single State Automated Passport System]. In our view, he bears personal responsibility for:

  • lobbying for the introduction of passports with chips containing biometric information about individuals and other personal data which violates the right to privacy.  The government has effectively “shared” all private information about individuals with other countries who receive all this information when the person crosses the border;
  • lengthy delays in issuing passports during the summer holiday period which causes problems for more than 60 thousand Ukrainians and is unlawful interference with the right to freedom of movement and private life.
  • It was V. Hrytsak who lobbied for the Verkhovna Rada to pass a Resolution “On approving the regulations on Ukrainian nationals’ passports and birth certificates (passed on 23 February 2007; author of the legislative initiative: V. Hrytsak), this in our view was the direct cause of the above-mentioned infringements.

It should be mentioned that it is specifically Mr Hrytsak who has publicly upheld the interests of the private enterprise which controls the production of passport forms, carries out the issue of these passports and itself controls the entire register of Ukrainian citizens with all personal data. This infringes the right to privacy and is unacceptable in a democratic society.

5)  Leonid Chernovetsky, Mayor of Kyiv and Head of the Kyiv City State Administration “for unlawful restriction of freedom of movement”. During the year, he repeatedly attempted to restrict the lawful rights of individuals who are not registered in Kyiv. A proposal was drawn up to introduce special cards for people not from Kyiv,  employees of municipal enterprises not registered in the city were dismissed; there were calls for schools to not admit children whose parents were not registered in the city. All of these actions violate the law on freedom of movement and free choice of ones place of residence and civil rights.

Among the Thistles of the Year for 2006 were the Security Service of Ukraine [SBU] and the Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine over the unlawful deportation on 14 February 2006 of 11 Uzbek asylum seekers to Uzbekistan, as a result of which those deported were sentenced to periods from 3 to 13 years imprisonment for their alleged participation in the Andijon events [of May 2005].


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