Amnesty International (AI) yesterday urged Ukraine's authorities to stop the harassment of a trade union activist who remains in hiding after a court ordered him to undergo a forced psychiatric examination.

AI's report says that a court in Vinnytsya granted an order on 29 October for the forced examination after prosecutors argued that Andrei Bondarenko had an "excessive awareness of his own and others' rights and [an] his uncontrollable readiness to defend these rights in unrealistic ways."

It added that Andrei Bondarenko has no record of any mental illness and that he has already undergone three psychiatric examinations to prove his sanity (the latest in October this year).

This is a particularly disconcerting report since it is extremely reminsent of the kind of treatment that was meted out during Soviet times.  Noone wants to see this type of "justice" again! 

Bondarenko has campaigned for the rights of employees in Vinnytsya region since 2006. His work has often exposed the unlawful and irresponsible behaviour of local officials.

The report goes on to highlight the recent harassment of other activists and concludes that there is worsening climate for human rights in the Ukraine.  It cites that on 15 October police in Vinnytsya searched the house and office of Dmytro Groysman, the chair of Vinnytsya Human Rights Group supporting asylum-seekers and campaigns against torture.  Police questioned staff about their work and confiscated over 300 items, including UNHCR files, computer discs, memory sticks and a laptop.

Andrei Fedosov, the chair of a mental disability rights organization, Uzer, 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.

Heather McGill of Amnesty International said that "all these activists appear to have been targeted because of their legitimate work. The Ukrainian authorities must ensure that human rights defenders can carry out their activities unhindered and protect them against any violence, threats and retaliation”.

This all rather flies in the face of comments made by the deputy Head of the President's Administration, Hanna Herman, who spoke to UNIAN yesterday about democracy in Ukraine in relation to Sunday's local elections. 

Ms Herman said that Ukraine would draw its own conclusions with regard to international assessments of the local elections.  On this basis, the country will build and improve democracy in the country.

She went on to say that the "definition of democracy is not something static", adding that
"democracy in each country has its peculiarities, including in Ukraine".

Whilst she may have been responding in particular to criticisms voiced by the US regarding the latest elections in Ukraine, she did say that the President of Ukraine is looking at the "prospect of expanding the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens".  

We hope that such such expanding "prospects" also extend to the citizens of Vinnytsia without delay!

It is high time that the President of Ukraine put his words into action and put a stop to the harassment of innocent people and a stop to forced psychiatric examinations of people with "an excessive awareness" of their own and others' rights and their readiness to defend such rights!

Ukrayinska Dumka


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