Statement of the Ukrainian Centre of PEN International on the murder of Kateryna Gandziuk
PEN Ukraine urges Ukrainian law enforcement institutions to take all necessary measures to bring the perpetrators of the murder of Kherson public and political activist Kateryna Gandziuk to justice.
This brutal murder cannot be regarded as a consequence of a local conflict, for human rights organizations have recorded dozens of attacks on activists and human rights defenders in recent months in Ukraine. Most of these cases are not investigated effectively, and perpetrators are not brought to justice.
It is worth noting that Kateryna Gandziuk was the managing director of the Kherson City Council Executive Committee and the adviser of the mayor of Kherson. Prior to that, she had been elected a deputy of the Kherson Regional and City councils. She was a co-founder of the Agency of civic journalism “MOST”, which is engaged in anti-corruption and monitoring research in the region. Moreover, she took an active part in Euromaidan in Kherson, was a legal assistant to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in the Kherson region.
As a public and political activist Kateryna openly voiced the facts of corruption and malfeasance in office on the part of Kherson high officials and was in conflict with regional pro-Russian politicians and law enforcement officers.
On July 31, 2018 Kateryna Gandziuk was attacked with concentrated sulfuric acid near her house, which caused burns of about 40% of her skin and severe eye damage. Initially, the police investigated this assault as “hooliganism”, subsequently, under public pressure, the criminal case was modified to “intentional grave bodily injuries with the purpose of intimidation” and consequently to “malice murder attempt”.
On November 4, Kateryna died. In her last address, recorded in reanimation at the Kyiv Burn Center, Gandziuk demanded not to regard this incident as a consequence of a local conflict.
“Gandziuk is not just my family name. This is the name in a series of 40 other names who suffered the attacks for the past year. Over the last year there have been 40 attacks on public activists in Ukraine. Clients of none of them were named“, – underlined Kateryna.
In the same address, the activist rhetorically asked, why we encourage people to engage in active social activities, when we cannot protect them.
Security and justice are the basic values the state must provide for its citizens. Impunity engenders permissiveness. Impunity engenders a sense of fear and insecurity. However, the worst is that impunity leads to the death of active mindful Ukrainians who wanted to build a strong and just state.
PEN Ukraine appeals to the Prosecutor General, the Minister of Internal Affairs and the Head of the Security Service of Ukraine with the requirement to take all necessary measures to ensure impartial and effective investigation of the murder of Kateryna Gandziuk, and to do everything to prevent further threats and attacks on Ukrainian public activists and human rights defenders, in particular through ensuring the inevitability of punishment to executors, organizers and clients of such crimes.