I. Executive summary
This twenty-fourth report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is based on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU),1 and covers the period from 16 August to 15 November 2018.
OHCHR documented 242 violations during the reporting period. This represents an increase of the violations OHCHR documented compared with those documented in the previous report, covering the period from 16 May to 15 August. 2 Among the violations documented during this reporting period, 35 violations occurred previously. Such delayed reporting is commonly caused by the fact that it often takes time for survivors of sexual violence, ill-treatment and torture to be located, or for them to speak about their experiences.
The Government of Ukraine was responsible for 147 violations of those recorded, armed groups for 28 of those recorded, and the Government of the Russian Federation (as the occupying power3 in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol4 ) for 32 of those recorded.5 4. Throughout the reporting period, operations in territory controlled by the selfproclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ have been restricted.6 Ongoing discussions through regular meetings with representatives of both ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ have yet to secure the resumption of OHCHR operations in the territory they control, as well as unimpeded confidential access to detainees in this territory.
The Russian Federation, the occupying power in Crimea, has still not granted OHCHR access to the peninsula in line with UN General Assembly resolutions 68/262, 71/205 and 72/190. Given those conditions, OHCHR continued remotely monitoring the situation of human rights under the temporary occupation of the Russian Federation, through interviews with victims and their families, lawyers, and missions to the Administrative Boundary Line with Crimea.
Civilian casualties continued declining in keeping with the established trend in 2018.
During the reporting period, this was furthered with the two consecutive recommitments7 to the ceasefire agreed by the Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk. Between 16 August and 15 November, OHCHR recorded 50 civilian casualties (14 deaths and 36 injuries), which constituted a 52.4 per cent decrease compared with the previous reporting period.
Nevertheless, clashes and localized exchanges of fire contributed to enduring insecurity. Government forces and armed groups continued the practice of positioning themselves and advancing within populated areas, thus dividing villages, subjecting civilian residents to heightened risk and disrupting their ways and means of coping with the effects of the conflict on their lives. Approximately 36 per cent of civilian casualties during the reporting period were caused by shelling or light weapons, the majority recorded in armed group-controlled territory and are attributable to the Government.
Large segments of population, including vulnerable groups, such as older persons, children and persons with disabilities, suffer from the socio-economic barriers created by the armed conflict. Disproportionate restrictions of freedom of movement along and across the contact line continue to disrupt people’s access to social entitlements (such as pensions and social benefits). This also inhibits access to basic services, including water, sanitation, heating, and health care. Given the lack of reparations and compensation for death, injury and damage or destruction of property, the social and economic condition of the conflict-affected population, including internally displaced persons (IDPs) continued to deteriorate.
During the period under review, there were a number of improvements to the framework governing the ability of internally displaced persons to exercise their right to social security and protection. The Government of Ukraine must now effectively implement these measures to make a difference in people’s lives. Ensuring the exercise and effective protection of social and economic rights is a vehicle for social cohesion and can contribute to fostering peace and stability.
OHCHR continued documenting violations of the right to a fair trial of individuals charged with conflict-related criminal cases, in particular those related to forced confessions and violation of presumption of innocence. Physical attacks against lawyers dealing with such cases remain a concern. OHCHR observed positive developments in identification of an internal troops sniper suspected of killing a protester on 20 February 2014 in the context of mass assemblies at Maidan. No essential progress has been observed in prosecution of killings on 2 May 2014 in Odesa.
OHCHR also continued documenting cases of increasingly violent attacks against journalists and media professionals, civil society activists, affiliates of political parties and defence lawyers in conflict-related cases perpetrated by members of extreme right-wing groups, narrowing democratic and civic space in Ukraine. Such attacks have become increasingly visible, fuelling intolerance and discrimination, stifling freedom of expression and risk compromising the rule of law essential to ensuring the integrity of the forthcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. Despite evidence available, including the public claiming of responsibility by members of extreme right-wing groups on social media, law enforcement often fails to bring perpetrators of such violent attacks to account. OHCHR documented 59 violations of the fundamental freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, religion or belief, as well as the right to non-discrimination and equal protection under the law, during the reporting period, which is a 31 per cent rise in documented attacks compared to the previous reporting period of 16 May to 15 August 2018.
OHCHR noted increased tensions among Orthodox communities and churches in Ukraine in the context of developments regarding granting of autocephaly to an Orthodox church in the country. On 11 October 2018, the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to proceed with granting autocephaly to an Orthodox Church of Ukraine. 8 Given the heightened tensions between Orthodox communities, OHCHR urges all interested groups and individuals to take all necessary actions to prevent any potential outbreak of violence.
OHCHR is also following the progress of draft legislation setting out a new State language policy and encourages its review to ensure a fair correlation between the preservation of the State language as a tool for integration within society, and the protection of the rights of minorities, noting that the development of such legislation must be coordinated.
In the absence of any sign of improvement in the overall human rights situation in Crimea, the Russian Federation continued imposing and applying its legal system on the peninsula in contravention of its obligations as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention.9 OHCHR documented 44 human rights violations in Crimea. These violations include arbitrary application by Russian Federation authorities of anti-extremism legislation in Crimea, which has stifled dissent, instilled fear and denied individuals their freedoms of expression and association.
OHCHR carried out 300 specific follow-up activities to facilitate the protection of human rights connected with the cases documented, including trial monitoring, detention visits, referrals to State institutions, humanitarian organizations and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and cooperation with United Nations human rights mechanisms, 10 as well as representatives of ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’.
Based on the information documented, OHCHR dedicated increased resources to technical cooperation and capacity-building activities. OHCHR conducted two training sessions on prevention of arbitrary detention, torture and conflict-related sexual violence, as well as on the protection of freedom of movement and housing, land and property rights, provided analysis and recommendations concerning the draft law on the State language policy, and provided support to the recently established Civilian Casualty Mitigation Team (CCMT) within the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) of the Armed Forces of Ukraine.