Ukraine: Peace and justice remain elusive – UN report

News and Press Release
Originally published
View original

20 June 2018 – There has been no meaningful progress in the human rights situation in the armed conflict zone and other parts of Ukraine, says a report published today by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. The report covers the period between 16 February and 15 May 2018.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission documented 201 cases of human rights violations and abuses, almost the same number as in the previous reporting period (when 205 cases were documented). The Government of Ukraine was responsible for 61 per cent of violations, while 17 per cent were attributed to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. The Russian Federation was responsible for 22 per cent of documented violations, all of which occurred in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

Nineteen civilians were killed and 62 injured during the reporting period, most due to the escalation in fighting in April 2018 (this represent a nine per cent increase compared with the previous reporting period). From the beginning of the conflict to 15 May 2018, at least 3,023 civilians have been killed and between 7,000 and 9,000 were injured.

As well as claiming lives, the hostilities undermine people’s right to live in dignity, restricting their access to drinking water, healthcare and pensions, as well as affecting their ability to safely go to school or work, travel without hindrance, and receive compensation for damaged property. Parties to the conflict must prioritize protection of civilians and strictly adhere to the ceasefire, the report says. The intentional targeting of civilians, recorded in four incidents endangering staff of the Donetsk Filtration Station, is unacceptable and a grave violation of international law.

During the reporting period the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine documented 93 cases, on both sides of the contact line, involving 149 credible allegations of arbitrary detention, torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence and/or threats to physical integrity, committed on both sides of the contact line. In 28 of these cases (representing 38 human rights violations and abuses), the incidents occurred during the reporting period, which is more than double the number of violations documented by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission occurring in the previous reporting period. The Government of Ukraine was responsible for 22 of these human rights violations, and armed groups for 15.* The report reiterates that the lack of effective investigation into previously documented cases of arbitrary detention and torture remains a critical human rights issue.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission continues to be denied confidential access to detainees and places of deprivation of liberty in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, heightening concerns about detention conditions and treatment of detainees. The continued practice of incommunicado detention creates a further risk of torture and ill-treatment.

The report describes systemic fair trial rights violations in conflict-related cases. Defendants in such cases may remain in custody for up to four years, pending a verdict, without a full examination of whether their detention is reasonable and necessary.

The report also highlights reported state interference with the judiciary: judges who released individuals accused of terrorism- or separatism-related charges from pre-trial detention became themselves the subject of criminal investigations.

Investigations continue into the killings that took place four years ago at Maidan in Kyiv and during the 2 May violence in Odesa with no progress in achieving justice for the victims.

In territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, the parallel structures that have assumed judicial and government-like functions do not provide safeguards for human rights protection in line with international standards, the report says. Within these structures, individuals are arbitrarily detained and denied contact with their families or lawyers of their choice.

The report examines 42 documented cases of attacks on the exercise of freedom of expression, freedom of the media, and freedom of peaceful assembly and association, as well as cases of discrimination, hate speech and violence targeting minority groups (including LGBTI and Roma). The majority of these were reportedly perpetrated by extreme right-wing groups, most often with impunity. The report warns that proliferation of intolerance threatens the rule of law, pluralism and inclusiveness, jeopardizing Ukraine’s civic and democratic space.

In territory controlled by armed groups, the space for freedom of expression and freedom of the media remains highly restricted. With few critical voices publicly expressed, the report says they may have been silenced, including by means of intimidation, expropriation of property and deprivation of liberty.

In the absence of access to Crimea, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission continued to closely monitor the human rights situation on the peninsula from its offices in mainland Ukraine.** The findings of this report, based on 24 documented cases, reconfirm that the Russian Federation, in violation of international humanitarian law, continued to arrest dissenters, criminalize free speech and forcibly deport people from Crimea.

The report voices concern about the health of filmmaker Oleh Sientsov*** who has reportedly been on hunger strike in a penal colony of the Russian Federation since 14 May 2018. International humanitarian law prohibits forcible transfers of detainees (and other protected persons) from occupied territory to the territory of the occupying power.

The report ends with a set of recommendations to the Government of Ukraine, all parties involved in the hostilities in the east, the Russian Federation and the international community.

“We will persist in calling for justice for victims and for perpetrators to be brought to account. Lack of accountability feeds impunity and undermines peace efforts,” said Fiona Frazer, Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.


  • One incident occurred in “no man’s land” and cannot be attributed to a specific party. The number of cases documented is affected by restrictions on the Mission’s access to places of deprivation of liberty and freedom of movement in territory controlled by armed groups. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission enjoys access to detention facilities and freedom of movement in government-controlled territory.

** UN General Assembly resolution 68/262, reaffirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine, General Assembly resolution 71/205, recognizing Crimea as a territory of Ukraine which is temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation, and General Assembly resolution 72/190 urging the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations as an occupying power in Crimea.

*** Oleh Sientsov was transferred from Crimea to a detention facility in the Russian Federation in May 2014, and sentenced in 2015 to 20 years of imprisonment on terrorism charges.

To read the full report in English, Ukrainian, and Russian please click here