Scene from a protest in Ukraine in late January of this year (Photo Credit: Alexandr Piliugun/Amnesty International).
By Zoryan Kis, Campaign Coordinator at Amnesty International Ukraine
Ukraine’s EuroMaydan protests started exactly three months ago today. Never before in my lifetime has the country witnessed such a neglect of human rights and dignity, such an appalling inability of the government to listen to its people and such incredible courage of ordinary people standing for their rights.
Late last year, when Amnesty International Ukraine was launching our first petition against police brutality and impunity, we could not have imagined the extent of abuses by law enforcement officers we would face in January and February 2014.
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Russian police detain a gay rights activists during an attempt to hold an unauthorized rally in central Moscow. (ALEXANDER NEMENOV/AFP/Getty Images)
In the sporting world, countries from the former Soviet Union are used to winning medals. But in terms of gay rights, the only accolades these countries are winning are the wrong ones.
Short of outright criminalizing homosexuality as was the norm during Soviet times, Russia and most of its former satellite states are increasingly violating lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) rights. If a 2012 Eurasia Homophobia Olympics were held today, the “winning” countries trampling on the human rights of LGBTI people would be as follows:
Gold Medal: Armenia, for officially (and utterly shockingly) justifying and defending the firebombing of a gay-friendly bar by self-described young “fascists.”
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© Vinnytsya Human Rights Group
Andrei Bondarenko, a trade union activist, was ordered to undergo a forced psychiatric examination by a court in Vinnytsya, south west Ukraine. He is in hiding and fears that he will be subjected to psychiatric treatment because of his legitimate trade union and human rights activities. Andrei has never been treated or diagnosed with a mental illness, and has undergone three psychiatric examinations to prove his sanity. Nevertheless, a court granted the order for an examination after prosecutors argued that Andrei Bondarenko has an “excessive awareness of his own and others’ rights and [an] uncontrollable readiness to defend these rights in unrealistic ways.”
Through Andrei’s work as a trade unionist and a human rights activist, he has butted heads with powerful local leaders. Many of those leaders have a financial interest in repressing the very workers that Andrei campaigns for. He has not hesitated to expose the irresponsible and inadequate behavior of officials, and in August 2010 he registered an NGO called Movement for a Corruption Free Vinnytsya Region Prosecutor’s Office.
Since 2007, the Vinnytsya Prosecutor’s Office has pushed for a forced psychiatric examination of Andrei four times. Each time the request has been refused by the court because of his certification of mental health from various psychiatrists. However, on 29 October of this year, a judge ordered Andrei to submit to a psychiatric examination in a closed court session where Andrei was not present and his lawyer was kicked out of the courtroom.
Knowing one’s own rights and advocating on behalf of others is perhaps the sanest thing one could do, but Andrei could be forced to undergo possibly dangerous psychiatric treatment for doing exactly that.
Prove your sanity and take action on behalf of Andrei now!
Claire Lesikar, Campaign for Individuals at Risk, contributed to this post.