Publicly Dangerous Silence

It is terrifying – and unacceptable – to think that in today’s Ukraine those who expose inconvenient information of public importance can be killed. Please endorse the following appeal by writing to [email protected] (please mention Volodymyr Honcharenko in the title)

The list of signatories which contains well-known journalists (Natalya Ligachova, Mykola Knyazhytsky and others), Myroslav Marynovych, Mykola Riabchuk, human rights and environmental activists is constantly updated in Ukrainian here

On the murder of environmentalist Volodymyr Honcharenko

At the beginning of August well-known environmentalist and Head of a Dnipropetrovsk movement “People’s Right to a Safe Environment”, Volodymyr Honcharenko died following a savage attack. His car was stopped and he beaten up four days after a press conference where he made public details about 183 tonnes of scrap metal contaminated with the highly toxic hexachlorbenzol which he believed was being illegally transported and stored in the city of Kryvy Rih.

The violent death of any public figure or journalist who investigated and published information of public importance cannot remain the personal tragedy of his family and friends. The circumstances of his death demand scrupulous attention from the authorities, the media and public.

For many years Volodymyr Honcharenko actively defended people’s right to information about environmental dangers and demanded appropriate measures from the authorities.

He was murdered and it is imperative that the authorities and the public ensure an independent and full investigation into his death and that those responsible are brought to answer.  It is vital also to fully check and appropriately respond to the information which he revealed at his last press conference.

Despite the clear importance of this case and demands from the public, there has been no public response from the authorities at national level.

The apparent reluctance in considering Mr Honcharenko’s civic role as a likely key motive for the murder is also disturbing.

Of particular concern are the hasty public statements made by the local authorities claiming that information regarding storage and transportation around the city of scrap metal contaminated with the highly toxic hexachlorbenzol had “proved unfounded”.

The above clearly jeopardizes the independence and objectivity of the investigation into Volodymyr Honcharenko’s murder.

We therefore call on:

the Minister of the Interior to take the investigation into the murder of Volodymyr Honcharenko under his personal control and regularly inform the public on the course of the investigation;

the media to bear in mind the vital role they can play in ensuring that this case is not muffled and that the entire truth, both about the murder of a civic activist and about potential environmental hazards, is revealed;

the Minister of the Environment and Natural Resources to organize an independent analysis of the allegedly contaminated scrap metal in an accredited laboratory with the samples being taken in the presence of the public and media; and to regularly inform the public of the course of such assessment.


The current lack of information and transparency is in breach of the Aarhus Convention, other international agreements as well as Ukraine’s Constitution. 

We would point out that at his last press conference, Mr Honcharenko suggested that the contaminated scrap metal might be cut up and mixed with other metal intended for sale and possible export. The danger if his fears prove well-founded goes far beyond Dnipropetrovsk.

The danger posed by lack of appropriate response to the murder of a man who devoted many years of his life to defending the right of citizens to information and a safe environment is no less clear.

Impunity and inaction will render meaningless any declarations about the right of access to information.


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