UKRAINE: attacks against SEMA Ukraine member Valentyna Buchok must stop

14/08/2020
Statement

Paris-Geneva, August 14, 2020 – On June 20, 2020, women’s rights defender Valentyna Buchok was severely injured after a grenade exploded in her backyard in Ivanopillia village in Eastern Ukraine. As a former prisoner in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic”, Ms. Buchok has been threatened and attacked before for denouncing torture, arbitrary killings and sexual violence by her captors. The Observatory (FIDH-OMCT) calls on the competent authorities to conduct an impartial, transparent and effective investigation into this and previous attacks against Ms. Buchok and to ensure her physical integrity and psychological well-being under any circumstances.

In the morning of June 20, 2020, Ms. Valentyna Buchok, a women’s rights defender and an active member of the Ukrainian Survivor Network (SEMA Ukraine), was severely injured when a grenade exploded in her backyard in Ukrainian government-controlled Ivanopillia village, Kostiantynivsky District, Donetsk Region. Ms. Buchok was transferred to the hospital with shrapnel injuries to her head, left arm and both legs. Fortunately, no vital organs were hit. At the time of publication of this statement, Ms. Buchok has not fully recovered from the attack and still experiences a lot of pain as some shrapnel remains in her body.

The Observatory is concerned that the attack could have been an act of reprisal for her public position and speeches[1]following her release from illegal detention in the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People´s Republic” (“DPR”). Ms. Valentyna Buchok was captured in February 2017, while at work as an electrician in DPR-controlled Donetsk. She was wrongfully sentenced to 17 years in prison for “espionage” (under Article 321 of the DPR Criminal Code) but released as part of a prisoner exchange in December 2017. Since that time, Ms. Valentyna Buchok has been speaking out about her time in captivity and the human rights abuses committed against herself and others.

After the June 20 attack, Ms. Buchok’s friends called the police of the government controlled city of Kostiantynivka, after which Ms. Buchok was officially given victim’s status. The General Police Directorate of the Donetsk region is now investigating the case for "premeditated murder attempt".

This was not the first time that Ms. Valentyna Buchok was targeted. Twice in the past there were attempts to kill her. For example, on October 15, 2019, she narrowly escaped a grenade attack, because her husband spotted the trip wire in time. In addition, many ominous threats have been made against Ms. Buchok, including by spilling blood in her backyard and the killing of her cats.

The Observatory strongly condemns the latest attack against Ms. Valentyna Buchok and calls on the Ukrainian authorities to guarantee, under any circumstances, her physical integrity and psychological well-being, and to carry out a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough investigation into the above-mentioned attacks in order to identify all those responsible, prosecute them before an independent tribunal and provide the victim with effective remedies. We also urge the Russian authorities, which wield control over the DPR, to ensure that human rights defenders and human rights organisations in Eastern Ukraine are able to carry out their legitimate activities, without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

[1] See for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bRv_Ui_A4VQhttps://www.radiosvoboda.org/a/donbas-realii/30684894.html , https://nv.ua/radio/inverythatplace/donbass-plennye-zhenshchiny-stavshie-zhertvami-nasiliya-reportazh-novosti-ukrainy-50060988.html , http://totalaction.org.ua/news/84 , https://www.prostir.ua/?news=dosvid-balkan-dlya-ukrajiny-zhinky-yaki-perezhyly-nasylstvo-v-hodi-vijny-obhovoryly-shlyahy-vidnovlennya-spravedlyvosti

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