Rule of law­less­ness

Kyiv Post - - Opinion -

One of the great strengths of Ukraine is its vi­brant civil so­ci­ety, teem­ing with en­gaged cit­i­zens who are call­ing at­ten­tion to prob­lems and propos­ing so­lu­tions. Too of­ten, they are do­ing the dirty work that busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and me­dia are shy­ing away from.

They should be re­warded. In­stead, about 50 ac­tivists in the last year in Ukraine have faced vi­o­lence — phys­i­cal as­saults and at­tempted mur­ders. If this doesn't stop, Ukraine's in­te­gra­tion with the civ­i­lized demo­cratic so­ci­eties of Europe will come to an un­happy end.

Or­ga­niz­ers of the at­tacks have not been found and, sadly, not enough voices are be­ing raised among busi­ness, gov­ern­ment and other lead­ers to put pres­sure on law en­force­ment. Most likely, the in­ves­ti­ga­tions will face the same fate as the one into jour­nal­ist Giorgiy Gon­gadze’s mur­der in 2000. De­spite a wire­tapped con­ver­sa­tion in which then-Pres­i­dent Leonid Kuchma or­dered the si­lenc­ing of Gon­gadze, and lots of other sup­port­ing ev­i­dence, the or­ga­niz­ers of the mur­der have not been brought to jus­tice nearly two decades later.

The cur­rent as­sault on civil so­ci­ety looks very planned, a re­ac­tion to the surge of civic ac­tivism since the EuroMaidan Revo­lu­tion ousted Pres­i­dent Vik­tor Yanukovych in 2014. Some of Ukraine's most pow­er­ful cit­i­zens fear be­ing jailed and stripped of their stolen as­sets. So it ap­pears they've taken aim at one of the few un­tamed sec­tors of so­ci­ety.

At least 14 of the 50 ac­tivists have been as­saulted in Odesa, with Oleg Mikhai­lik be­com­ing the lat­est tar­get on Sept. 23. Most of them were crit­ics of Odesa Mayor Hen­nady Trukhanov, who has stayed afloat de­spite fac­ing charges of cor­rup­tion, hav­ing Russian cit­i­zen­ship and links to or­ga­nized crime.

For their in­abil­ity or un­will­ing­ness to in­ves­ti­gate these and most other high-pro­file cases, Pros­e­cu­tor Gen­eral Yuriy Lut­senko, In­te­rior Min­is­ter Arsen Avakov and Se­cu­rity Ser­vice of Ukraine Chief Va­syl Hryt­sak must be fired. But the ul­ti­mate re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko. Lut­senko and Hryt­sak are his ap­pointed cronies, and Avakov is his ally.

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