Statement on persecution of anti-corruption activist Vitaliy Shabunin
On the night of July 23, 2020, an explosion occurred in the house of Vitaliy Shabunin, chairman of the board of the Anti-Corruption Action Center in Kyiv, after which the house caught fire. Fortunately, no one was injured: Vitaly and his children were outside, and the parents could run outside.
Immediately after the explosion, Shabunin said it was a premeditated act, because all the equipment has been functioning properly. Two weeks ago the gas service had checked the gas meter and all connections.
The Anti-Corruption Action Center develops anti-corruption legislation and promotes anti-corruption bodies in Ukraine - the National Anti-Corruption Bureau (NABU), the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office (SAP), the Agency for Investigation and Asset Management, and the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court.
Recent years, Vitaliy Shabunin and other representatives of the Anti-Corruption Action Center have been systematically facing persecution, including physical assaults, fabricated criminal cases, and commissioned discrediting campaigns.
Thus, on March 22, 2016, the Pechersk District Court of Kyiv granted investigators of the Prosecutor General's Office access to information and the right to seize items and documents of the Anti-Corruption Center, including those that constitute banking secrecy. GPU investigators allegedly investigated the embezzlement of funds allocated by the US government and European partners to reform the prosecutor's office.
In September 2016, Vitaliy Shabunin reported about being surveyed, as well as about pictures of his house published online and data on transfers of funds of the NGO "Anti-Corruption Action Center". The activist appealed to law enforcement officers with a complaint about illegal surveillance and leaked information, but no reply he received since.
On April 9, 2017, a picket took place near Vitaliy Shabunin's house, aiming to make pressure on the activist and to discredit him. The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) would be involved in organizing of the picket.
On May 11, 2017, Oleksandra Ustinova, employee of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, said that she and her home were being surveilled by people who were making a film about her at the request of the Security Service of Ukraine in order to discredit her.
On June 7, 2017, Vitaliy Shabunin was summoned to the military registration and enlistment office, although since 2000 the activist has been declared unfit for military service due to his health condition. He was attacked with a gas canister near the military registration and enlistment office.
On June 9, 2017, the Investigative Department of the Kyiv Fiscal Service, at the request of MP Pavlo Pynzenyk, instituted criminal proceedings against the leaders of the Anti-Corruption Action Center for alleged non-payment of taxes by the organization.
Another criminal case was opened against Vitaliy Shabunin himself - as a result of an incident that took place on June 8 near the military registration and enlistment office, during which the activist was suspected of "inflicting bodily injuries on journalist Filimonenko while performing his lawful professional activities." Later, the Boryspil District Prosecutor's Office opened criminal proceedings against Oleksandra Ustinova, a board member of the Anti-Corruption Action Center, on charges of obstructing journalistic activities.
On July 17, 2018, Vitaliy Shabunin was attacked near the building of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor's Office in Kyiv. The participants of the counter-action - a group of young people wearing the camouflage uniforms - poured greens and threw cakes at Vitaliy Shabunin, who was the organizer of the rally of anti-corruption activists.
At the same time with these attacks and ongoing criminal cases, some media outlets that are systematically disregarding journalistic standards and social media have been running a dirty discrediting campaign against the Center for Combating Corruption and Vitaliy Shabunin in recent years to destroy trust in anti-corruption activists.
All this is taking place in the context of constant impunity of attacks against other anti-corruption activists in Ukraine, which are not properly investigated by law enforcement agencies. In particular, in 2019, human rights activists recorded 83 cases of persecution of civil society activists in Ukraine, 29 of which concerned activists who fight corruption, organized crime and illegal construction. In the first half of 2020, ZMINA documented at least 48 cases of attacks and pressure on civil society activists in Ukraine, including 12 incidents involving anti-corruption activists.
They are forced to state that Ukraine remains a dangerous country for public activists and human rights activists, and its active citizens, who are trying to promote reforms and fight corruption, are often forced to pay for it with safety, health and even their lives, as this was the case of killed activist Kateryna Gandziuk.
In view of this, we, the representatives of civil society organizations, demand:
- from the National Police and the Prosecutor's Office:
- to conduct an effective, timely, complete and independent investigation of the attack on the house of Vitaly Shabunin, to establish not only the direct perpetrators of this attack, but also its instigators;
- taking into account systematic persecution and threats to ensure state protection to Vitaliy Shabunin and his family;
- to conduct an effective investigation into attacks on other anti-corruption activists in Ukraine.
- from the Temporary Commission of Inquiry of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to exercise parliamentary control over the investigation of the attacks on Kateryna Gandziuk and other public activists:
- to take control of the investigation into the explosion and arson of Vitaliy Shabunin's house, as well as attacks on other anti-corruption activists.
- from the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky :
- to publicly condemn Vitaliy Shabunin's attacks on other anti-corruption activists in Ukraine, as well as the discrediting campaigns and anti-Western rhetoric against those advocating for reform and overcoming corruption;
- to take personal control of the investigation into the explosion and arson of Vitaliy Shabunin's house, as well as attacks on other anti-corruption activists.
- from the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine and the President of Ukraine :
- to dismiss Interior Minister Arsen Avakov as a person personally responsible for sabotaging police reform and systematic impunity in investigating attacks on civil society activists in Ukraine over the past six years.
ZMINA Human Rights Center
Institute of Mass Information
Postup Human Rights Center
Human rights platform
Human Rights Education House - Chernihiv
All-Ukrainian Association "Avtomaidan"
Media initiative for human rights
NGO "Not Indifferent"
Luhansk Regional Human Rights Center "Alternative"
Human Rights Defender Coordination Center
Laboratory of Legislative Initiatives
Ukrainian School of Political Studies
Kharkiv Anti-Corruption Center
NGO "Center for Development and Democracy"
Human Rights Center "Action"
Kharkiv Institute of Social Research
NGO "Lawyer of the Future"
Network of protection of national interests "ANTS"
NGO "Material evidence"
Center for Civil Liberties
NGO "Analytical Platform"
NGO "STAN Youth Organization"
NGO "Human Rights Vector"
NGO Platform "Public Control"
HOF "Public Alternative"
Institute for the Development of Social Innovations
Transparency International Ukraine