UN: Five years on, most human rights recommendations remain valid

Report
from UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
Published on 12 Mar 2019
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KYIV (12 March 2019) – Most of the recommendations made in Ukraine by the UN Human Rights Office over the past five years have not been implemented and remain valid, says a UN report published today on the human rights situation in Ukraine.

“Active armed conflict, occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, impunity and lack of justice aggravate the human rights situation in Ukraine. This 25th report can serve as a roadmap ahead of the upcoming elections. Parties should do more to stop the conflict, protect civilians in the hostilities and occupation, safeguard civic space and bring an end to impunity”, said Fiona Frazer, the Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

Ahead of elections, the UN Human Rights Office urges the Government to act to protect the space for civic expression. Impunity for attacks on media professionals, civil society activists, lawyers and political opponents weakens Ukraine’s democratic institutions and fuels intolerance, discrimination and violence, and could impact the integrity of upcoming elections, says the report*.

The report covers the period between 16 November 2018 and 15 February 2019, when the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission documented 315 of human rights violations that affected 202 victims**. The Government of Ukraine was responsible for 126 violations of those recorded, while 154 violations were attributed to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. The Russian Federation, as the occupying Power in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine***, was responsible for 35 of documented violations, all of which occurred in Crimea.

This reporting period saw the lowest number of conflict-related civilian casualties for the entire conflict period: a man and a woman were killed; and 11 men and three women were injured. In 2018, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission documented 279 civilian casualties, of which 55 were killed and 224 injured. The total civilian death toll of the conflict reached at least 3,321 as of 15 February 2019; up to 9,000 civilians were injured. The report analyses the direct impact of the armed conflict on more than five million people, including those living in isolated villages along the contact line and over 1.3 million internally displaced persons.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission continued its work in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, despite restrictions to its activities. The report notes that people there continue to be subject to decisions and structures imposed outside Ukraine’s legal and institutional framework. Of additional concern is that the expression of any critical opinion or alternative view in this territory could lead to arbitrary detention or other punishment.

Over the reporting period, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission documented 172 human rights violations that involved arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment committed on both sides of the contact line. Eighteen are attributed to the Government, and 154 are attributed to the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. Of these 154 violations, most occurred in previous years and were documented during the reporting period.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission continued not to have access to places of detention in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. The report reiterates the need for regular, unimpeded and confidential access to detainees in this territory, as an essential safeguard.

In cases where Ukrainian authorities charge people with affiliation to, or links with armed groups, the report highlights the persistent practice of prolonged pre-trial detention and the use of pressure to obtain confessions. In total, the report speaks of 89 violations of the right to a fair trial in conflict-related criminal cases that were documented during the period under review. Five years after the killings of 98 people at Maidan and violence in Odesa on 2 May 2014 that led to 48 deaths, the report notes no meaningful progress in the investigations and prosecutions of perpetrators.

In Crimea, that remains occupied by the Russian Federation, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission continued to document violations of human rights and international humanitarian law. The report details cases of intimidation of human rights defenders, stifling dissent and criminal convictions of Crimean Tatars for alleged membership in religious Muslim groups banned in the Russian Federation. In total, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission documented 38 violations in Crimea during the reporting period. Of which 25 occurred within this period: the Government of the Russian Federation was responsible for 35 and the Government of Ukraine for three.

“We recognize that peaceful resolution of the conflict can be challenging and long. But five years is a long time for millions of Ukrainians to live surrounded by death, destruction and despair in eastern Ukraine. Five years is also a long time to see accountability elude those responsible for killings at Maidan and violence in Odesa. The newly elected Ukrainian leadership has a real chance to restore peace and to ensure justice, fulfilling promises to Ukrainian people”, concluded Fiona Frazer.

  • More information can be found in a separate report by the UN Human Rights Office on Civic space and fundamental freedoms ahead of the presidential, parliamentary and local elections in Ukraine in 2019-2020.
    ** This represents an increase compared to a number of violations documented during previous reporting period. Between 16 August and 15 November 2018, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission documented 242 violations.
    *** This report was prepared in accordance with the UN General Assembly resolution 68/262, reaffirming the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and General Assembly resolutions 71/205, 72/190, and 73/263 recognizing Crimea as a territory of Ukraine temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation.

ENDS
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