STATEMENT of the Coalition to Protect Civil Society regarding assassination of Kateryna Handziuk: activists demand the resignation of Lutsenko and Avakov

Kateryna Handziuk, a public activist and employee of the executive committee of Kherson City Council, died on November 4 in the burn center of Kyiv City Hospital №2.

The death happened three months after the day when she was brutally attacked on July 31, 2018, in Kherson. One liter of sulfuric acid was poured on Kateryna’s head.

As a result, the activist received 40% of body burns and got to intensive care department. All three months Kateryna Handziuk stayed there. She underwent 15 surgery operations. But doctors didn’t manage to save her life.

The brutal reprisal against Kateryna Handziuk is the act of intimidation of the whole civil society in Ukraine, of all active citizens who, in cities, towns and villages, stand against corruption and organized crime which have been rooted for decades.

The investigation of attack on Kateryna Handziuk again demonstrated the apparent failure of the law enforcement system to effectively investigate this case as well as a number of other attacks on civil activists, which took place in various regions of Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity.

So, despite severe bodily injuries inflicted to Kateryna Handziuk as a result of the attack, which made a real risk to her life, the police initially qualified the attack under Article 296 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine (hooliganism). When the case became widely publicized, it was re-qualified as "serious bodily harm in the form of intimidation". Then the qualification was changed again and was defined as "murder attempt". And only after two months, on September 25, 2018, at the request of the attorney Yevheniya Zakrevska, the General Directorate of the National Police in Kherson region, added the sign of contract crime (Paragraph 11, Part 2, Article 115 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine). However, the sign of "contract" crime still does not appear in the notices of suspicion handed to performers of the attack.

It should be noted that in the attempt to put an end to the rush of social indignation and to quickly report regarding disclosure of resonance crime, the police arrested Mykola Novikov allegedly as the suspect of assassination attempt on the activist. Investigative journalists managed to find out that Novikov was innocent. This undermined already low credibility regarding law enforcement officials in this case. At that time, real perpetrators of the crime were out of prison. And if not the pressure on law enforcement agencies, it was unknown whether they would be identified or detained at all.

Kateryna Handziuk, who sharply criticized corruption of Kherson police, also had doubts regarding the ability of local law enforcement agencies to expose her attackers and asked to forward this investigation case to the Security Service of Ukraine.

On August 17 and 19, 2018, the National Police together with the Security Service of Ukraine detained five persons who are reasonably suspected of organizing and attacking the activist. Among them there is also one person who is the organizer and another person who is the direct performer. Both of them are currently in prison. Another three suspects have received house arrest as a preventive measure.

The injured party has repeatedly stated about procedural problems that are results of the pre-trial investigation regarding performers and those who stand behind the assassination being held in two different proceedings by two different agencies, the National Police and the SBU. The injured party filed the appeal and asked to unite two proceedings in the SBU.

Today, those who stand behind the assassination of Kateryna Handziuk have not been identified. Even theoretical possibility of their establishment and further prosecution is under the question, due to procedural obstacles that are created intentionally or by mistake by the Prosecutor General's Office of Ukraine.

The investigation of this assassination, including establishment of those who stand behind it, is the requirement for effective investigation which is classified under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Unfortunately, this and at least a hundred of other attacks on civil activists, that occurred on the territory which is under the control of Ukrainian government after EuroMaydan, are not being investigated effectively. Moreover, even in those isolated cases where performers have been established, those who stand behind these attacks are not identified. Therefore, the wave of attacks on public activists only grows, and non-punished evil is multiplied.

Corruption, impunity and lack of effective police and prosecutor’s reform are causes of mass persecution and attacks on civic activists. As long as attackers, organizers and those who stand behind more than a hundred of attacks on civil activists, that have happened during last few years, will not be punished, activists could not feel safe.

The coalition for the protection of civil society expresses its deep condolences to Kateryna Handziuk's relatives and friends. This is a hard and indescribable loss of a colleague for all of us. She was honest, principled, courageous, and devoted to ideals of democratic and corruption-free Ukraine.

We are outraged by the state of investigation of attacks against and assassinations of civil activists. We demand resignation of the leadership of Kherson Police, which from the very beginning sabotaged the investigation of attack on Kateryna Handziuk. And we also demand resignation of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko and the Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov who sabotaged reform of law enforcement agencies in Ukraine.

We demand conducting the effective investigation of assassination of Kateryna Handziuk and public report about measures which were taken to establish and punish those who stand behind this terrible crime, as well as effective investigation of this and hundreds of other attacks on civil activists that have taken place all over Ukraine since EuroMaydan.

The statement is endorsed by:

  1. Human Rights Information Center
  2. Association of Ukrainian Human Rights Monitors on Law Enforcement
  3. Ukrainian Institute of Human Rights
  4. Center for Civil Liberties
  5. Bureau of Social and Political Developments
  6. Truth Hounds
  7. Luhansk Regional Human Rights Center "Alternative"
  8. Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
  9. Crimea-SOS
  10. Cherkasy Human Rights Center
  11. Open Dialogue Foundation
  12. Human Rights Platform
  13. Center for Legal and Political Studies "SIM"
  14. NGO "Helsinki Initiative-XXI"
  15. Digital Security Lab
  16. Ukrainian center for Independent Political Research
  17. The Right to Protection
  18. Crimean Human Rights Group
  19. Media Initiative for Human Rights
  20. Youth organization “STAN”
  21. Kharkiv regional foundation “Public alternative”
  22. Vostok-SOS
  23. Anti-Corruption Action Center
  24. Transparency International Ukraine
  25. Reanimation Package of Reforms
  26. Automaidan
  27. Chesno movement
  28. Center UA
  29. StateWatch
  30. National Union of Journalists of Ukraine
  31. Institute of Mass Information
  32. Detector Media
  33. Center for Economic Strategy
  34. Public Control Platform
  35. People's Defense
  36. Foundation "Parity”
  37. Anti-Corruption Forum of Lviv Region
  38. Association of Development of Obukhivshchyna
  39. Dyvovyzhni
  41. The Center for Research of the Liberation Movement
  42. Civil Network Opora
  43. Experts Council
  44. Association of Political Sciences
  45. Coalition of Reform of Boguslavshchyna
  46. Boguslav Sich
  47. Center of Regional Development and Rights
  48. Ternopil branch of Automaidan
  49. Creative center “Nivroku”
  50. Volunteer community “Bunker C”
  51. Kharkiv non-profit organization “Contemporary woman”
  52. Eksampey
  53. People’s control of Kirovograd region
  54. Territory Of Success
  55. Center of media investigations “Prozoro”
  56. Svizh
  57. Joint Action
  58.  Kirovohrad regional organization of “Prosvita”
  59. Sumy Reforms Council
  60. Kharkiv Women Union “Sphera”
  61. Women’s Anticorruption Movement
  62. Coalition “Dnipro Reforms”
  63. Podil Ecological Union
  64. Reforms Council of Khmelnytsk region
  65. Coalition “OHO-Cherkasy”
  66. Kharkiv Anticorruption Center
  67. Kharkiv Reforms Coalition
  68. Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv
  69. NGO MART
  70. NGO Liberation Movement
  71. DEJURE Foundation
  72. NGO Eco-Bucha
  73. Eidos Center
  74. Centre of Policy and Legal Reform
  75. NGO Digital Media
  76. Charitable Foundation for Educational Innovations
  77. Engineering group "Arey"
  78. Center of youth initiatives "Step"
  79. People in Action Lviv
  80. Centre for Democracy and Rule of Law
  81. NGO "Ukraine needs you”
  82. Crimean Tatar Resource Center
  83. NGO Group of Influence
  84. "Radnyk" programme
  85. Kharkiv Institute of Social Researches
  86. Kherson Regional Charitable Foundation "Obyednannya"