A Ukrainian scientist participating in protests in Kiev was kidnapped from a hospital, severely beaten, and abandoned to die of hypothermia.
CCS joins Human Rights Watch in calling for investigation of this crime, including possible governmental connection by perpetrators.
President Viktor Yanukovych
No. 11 Bankova Street
February 18, 2014
We are an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world. We write now in concern about the kidnapping, beating and death of Yuri Verbitsky.
Dr. Verbitsky, a geophysicist and member of the Ukraine National Academy of Sciences, was discovered frozen on January 22, 2014 after being kidnapped from a hospital in Kiev, where he was treated for an eye wound received during a demonstration, according to media reports. The initial protestors, concerned with the issue of Ukraine’s ties to the European Union, had been joined by scientists from Ukrainian research institutes opposing a government decree subjecting any organization that received money from abroad to intensive security surveillance as “foreign agencies.” Verbitsky was likely to be involved in both issues.
According to a January 24, 2014 report by Human Rights Watch, Igor Lutsenko, a fellow activist who accompanied Verbitsky to the hospital, was kidnapped together with Verbitsky on January 21, 2014. A group of seven to ten men took Lutsenko and Verbitsky by minivan to a remote area, questioned them, and beat them repeatedly and severely over a period of several hours. Lutsenko told Human Rights Watch that the men seemed to be in collusion with security forces because their questions focused on the protesters’ anti-government activities. After Lutsenko had heard him moan and scream, the men took Verbitsky away, and released Lutsenko. Verbitsky’s dead body was found the next day in a village in the Kiev district. A preliminary hospital report said he died of hypothermia, without mention of his injuries. According to Ukrainian reports, Verbitsky had multiple broken bones including more than ten broken ribs.
We understand that Ukrainian authorities have opened a criminal investigation into the kidnapping and beating of both men, and into Verbitsky’s death. As Human Rights Watch said, the investigation should be “independent, effective and should include any evidence of government collusion.” These attacks appear to punish Verbitsky’s rights of expression and protest against government actions and his ability to get treatment after an injury suffered during a demonstration. We urge you to exert every effort available to your government to resolve this shocking occurrence.
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
- Ukraine: Police Beatings, Kidnappings in Kiev (hrw.org)
- Dispatches: Missing Ukraine Activist Found Beaten (hrw.org)
- Beaten to Death in Ukraine: A Staggering List of Protesters’ Injuries (vocativ.com)
- Torture stokes fear among Ukraine’s opposition (stripes.com)
- A hero’s grave in Ukraine’s west for the father who went east for the … (telegraph.co.uk)