Ukraine: UN official cites ‘worsening’ human rights situation in southern, eastern regions

United Nations News Centre

21 May 2014 – The southern and eastern regions of crisis-racked Ukraine are now awash in weapons and the scene of numerous cases of illegal detentions and abductions, a senior United Nations human rights official warned today, noting that he had discussed with the parties some rights-based and humanitarian de-escalation measures.

"The human rights situation in the east of the country has worsened. There are more arms being used as well as numerous violations being committed,” Ivan Šimonović, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, told reporters following his briefing to the Security Council on his latest report on the situation in the country as well as his recent visit to Kyiv and strife-torn Donetsk and Odessa.

The 36-page report was released on 16 May and is the second to be produced by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, based in five Ukrainian cities, and covers the period from 2 April to 6 May. It documented an “alarming” deterioration of the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine, including serious problems emerging in Crimea, citing numerous examples of targeted killings, torture and beatings, intimidation and some cases of sexual harassment, committed mostly by anti-Government groups.

“As a result of violence in the east and south of the country 127 people have died,” said Mr. Šimonović today, echoing the report’s findings of illegal detentions and abductions, especially affecting journalists as well as members of the electoral commissions, “which make elections in the east more difficult."

Continuing, he said that in the east of the country, aprat from security challenges, the situation has worsened due to common criminality and its rise. In addition, social and economic rights are being affected, although social services do work “but with some disruptions.” Yet, there is a serious danger that such services could break down, and if the overall situation deteriorates further, there is a likelihood that such a breakdown could spark a massive outpouring of people from the region.

As for the situation in Odessa, where reportedly clashes at a trade union building in the Black Sea city sparked a fire that killed and wounded dozens of people earlier this month, Mr. Šimonović said that what seems to be “beyond doubt is now the number of victims: 48 victims – six of them – and all of them were among pro-Ukrainians, died from gunshot wounds.”

“That happened previously during conflicts between the two groups in the centre of the city,” he said, explaining that the other victims were anti-Government protesters that were either in the Trade Union building that were affected by the fire, or people who were jumping from the building to escape the consequences.

“About [the] causes of the fire, it is being examined and it’s very technical, however, it is also beyond doubt that Molotov cocktails have been thrown by both sides, flying from the building and into the building," he said, telling reporters that there were five investigations under way on the events, including those being carried out by national authorities in Kyiv and by independent bodies.

Asked whether the dire conditions he had spoken of were the right atmosphere for the holding of elections, he said “it is certainly not a favourable climate” but the UN human rights team was not involved in the actual polls. “We observe violations related to elections.”

In that regard, he said that a “striking example” had been the abduction of members of the electoral commissions and “intimidation of [those officials], which negatively impacts the possibility of organization elections in the east of the country.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47855#.U6Lqn9hOXDc

 

‘Alarming’ deterioration of human rights in eastern Ukraine – UN report
United Nations News Centre

16 May 2014 – A United Nations report released today documents an “alarming” deterioration of the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine, including serious problems emerging in Crimea, citing numerous examples of targeted killings, torture and beatings, abductions, intimidation and some cases of sexual harassment, committed mostly by anti-Government groups.

Following the release of the report produced by her 34-member monitoring team in Ukraine, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay called on “those with influence on the armed groups responsible for much of the violence in eastern Ukraine to do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart.”

The 36-page report is the second to be produced by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, based in five Ukrainian cities, and covers the period from 2 April to 6 May.

While noting that many peaceful rallies and demonstrations continue to take place in Ukraine, the report describes “an increasing tendency in some critical urban areas for rallies of opposing groups to be held simultaneously, often leading to violent confrontations.”

It also notes “repeated acts of violence against peaceful participants of rallies,” mainly those in support of Ukraine’s unity. “In most cases, local police did nothing to prevent violence, while in some cases it openly cooperated with the attackers,” said a news release on the report.

It lists numerous specific examples of targeted killings, torture and beatings, abductions, intimidation and some cases of sexual harassment – mostly carried out by well-organized and well-armed anti-Government groups in the east.

The report also draws attention to missing persons, including 83 still unaccounted for after disappearing during the events related to the original “Maidan” protests in the capital, Kyiv. In the east, there has been a worrying rise in abductions and unlawful detention of journalists, activists, local politicians, representatives of international organizations and members of the military, the report says.

While some have subsequently been released, the bodies of a number of others have been dumped in rivers or other areas, and some remain unaccounted for. The problem has been especially marked in and around the town of Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region, with a group called the ‘Slovyansk self-defence unit’ heavily implicated.

The report also notes cases when the State Security Service and army units operating in the east have been accused of killing individuals and of being responsible for forced disappearances.

“Security and law enforcement operations must be in line with international standards and guarantee the protection of all individuals at all times,” the report says, adding that “law enforcement bodies must ensure that all detainees are registered and afforded legal review of the grounds of their detention.”

The report draws particular attention to the deteriorating climate facing the media in eastern Ukraine, noting that journalists, bloggers and other media personnel either based in the region, or visiting, are facing “increasing threats and acts of intimidation, including abduction and unlawful detention by armed groups.”

There are numerous examples of harassment, intimidation and blocked broadcasting in eastern Ukraine and especially in Crimea, where a number of radio and TV stations have had to cease broadcasting altogether.

The report notes numerous difficulties arising from the fact that “the legislation of the Russian Federation is being enforced on the territory of Crimea,” which is creating difficulties for Crimean residents given the many differences with Ukrainian laws.

One example concerns the halting on 6 May of the opioid substitution therapy programme that had been available to HIV/AIDS patients in Crimea as well as in the rest of Ukraine. “The majority of former OST patients now face deterioration in their health condition due to the fact that this treatment has been curtailed,” the report states.

The report highlights a number of other emerging problems in Crimea, especially in relation to the Crimean Tatars and minorities, including alarming developments surrounding the issue of citizenship; the freedom of movement of their leaders; cases of physical harassment; restrictions on Crimean Tatar media; and fears of religious persecution of those who are practising Muslims. Already, more than 7,200 people from Crimea – mostly Tartars – have become internally displaced in other areas of Ukraine.

The High Commissioner urged all Ukrainian political leaders to avoid any actions that would further inflame the situation, noting that the country’s population should be allowed to vote on their future in a peaceful and secure environment during the elections scheduled for 25 May.

“Free, fair and transparent presidential elections – in line with relevant international standards – are an important factor if tensions are to be reduced and law and order restored, which of course is essential for the peaceful development of the country and all its inhabitants.

“Instead, the continuing rhetoric of hatred and propaganda, coupled with killings and other acts of violence, is fuelling the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine,” she stated.

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=47809#.U6LqudhOXDc

 

UN report documents “alarming” deterioration in human rights in eastern Ukraine
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

GENEVA / KYIV (16 May 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said Friday that a new UN report produced by her 34-strong monitoring team in Ukraine shows “an alarming deterioration in the human rights situation in the east of the country, as well as serious problems emerging in Crimea, especially in relation to the Crimean Tatars.”

She called on “those with influence on the armed groups responsible for much of the violence in eastern Ukraine to do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart.”

The 36-page report is the second to be produced by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, based in five Ukrainian cities, since it was deployed by the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March. It covers the period from 2 April to 6 May.

The report makes a number of observations and recommendations relating to the programme of legal reforms under way in the country, including expressing concerns about the “Law on the restoration of the credibility of the judiciary in Ukraine” which entered into force on 10 May.

While noting that many peaceful rallies and demonstrations continue to take place in Ukraine, the report describes “an increasing tendency in some critical urban areas for rallies of opposing groups to be held simultaneously, often leading to violent confrontations.” It also notes “repeated acts of violence against peaceful participants of rallies, mainly those in support of Ukraine’s unity and against the lawlessness in the cities and villages in eastern Ukraine. In most cases, local police did nothing to prevent violence, while in some cases it openly cooperated with the attackers.”

Listing numerous specific examples of targeted killings, torture and beatings, abductions, intimidation and some cases of sexual harassment – mostly carried out by well-organized and well-armed anti-Government groups in the east – the report also draws attention to missing persons, including 83 still unaccounted for after disappearing during the events related to the original “Maidan” protests in Kiev. In the east, there has been a worrying rise in abductions and unlawful detention of journalists, activists, local politicians, representatives of international organizations and members of the military, the report says. While some have subsequently been released, the bodies of a number of others have been dumped in rivers or other areas, and some remain unaccounted for. The problem has been especially marked in and around the town of Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region, with a group called the ‘Slovyansk self-defence unit’ heavily implicated.

The report also notes cases when the State Security Service and army units operating in the east have been accused of killing individuals and of being responsible for forced disappearances. “Security and law enforcement operations must be in line with international standards and guarantee the protection of all individuals at all times,” the report says, adding that “Law enforcement bodies must ensure that all detainees are registered and afforded legal review of the grounds of their detention.”

The report draws particular attention to the deteriorating climate facing the media in eastern Ukraine. “Journalists, bloggers and other media personnel either based in the region, or visiting, are facing increasing threats and acts of intimidation, including abduction and unlawful detention by armed groups,” the report states, noting allegations that “at the check-points of Slovyansk, there are lists of journalists and others that the armed group is seeking, with photographs and personal data.”

The UN Human Rights office monitors say that they were aware of “at least 23 journalists, reporters, photographers (both foreign and Ukrainian nationals) who have been abducted and unlawfully detained, primarily in Slovyansk.”

“The struggle for control of the media outlets, and who is able to broadcast where, continues inside Ukraine, particularly in the east,” the report adds, citing numerous examples of harassment, intimidation and blocked broadcasting in eastern Ukraine and especially in Crimea, where a number of radio and TV stations have had to cease broadcasting altogether.

The report notes numerous difficulties arising from the fact that “the legislation of the Russian Federation is being enforced on the territory of Crimea, at variance with the UN General Assembly resolution 68/262.” This, it continues, “is creating difficulties for Crimean residents as there are many differences with Ukrainian laws.” One particular example concerns the halting on 6 May of the opioid substitution therapy (OST) programme that had been available to HIV/AIDS patients in Crimea as well as in the rest of Ukraine. “The majority of former OST patients now face deterioration in their health condition due to the fact that this treatment has been curtailed,” the report states.

The report highlights a number of other emerging problems in Crimea, especially in relation to the Crimean Tatars and minorities. The Crimean Tatars, who were accused of treason and forcibly deported en masseto Central Asia by the Stalin government of the USSR 70 years ago on 18 May 1944, were only allowed to return to Ukraine during the 1990s.

The report notes alarming developments surrounding the issue of citizenship following the agreement between the Russian Federation and the authorities in Crimea, which stipulates that the citizens of Ukraine and stateless persons permanently residing in Crimea or in Sevastopol shall be recognized as the citizens of the Russian Federation. There are reports that those who did not apply for citizenship by the deadline of 18 April “are facing harassment and intimidation.”

Crimean Tatars are facing numerous other problems: these include the freedom of movement of their leaders (several of whom were denied entry when trying to go back to Crimea from other parts of Ukraine); cases of physical harassment; restrictions on Crimean Tatar media; fears of religious persecution of those who are practising Muslims; and a threat by the Crimean prosecutor that the work of the Parliament of the Crimean Tatars People may be announced illegal and terminated. Already, more than 7,200 people from Crimea – mostly Crimean Tartars – have become internally displaced in other areas of Ukraine.

The report notes that the regional office of the Ombudsperson in Crimea has been forced to close, and expresses concern for “NGOs based in Crimea who will now operate under the law on foreign agents of the Russian Federation. This will potentially affect their operations, as it places restrictions on the receipt of foreign funding. There is no such law in Ukraine.”

The High Commissioner urged all Ukrainian political leaders to avoid any actions that would further inflame the situation, noting that the country’s population should be allowed to vote on their future in a peaceful and secure environment during the elections scheduled for 25 May.

“The report notes how presidential candidates are being harassed and sometimes physically attacked,” she said. “Free, fair and transparent presidential elections – in line with relevant international standards – are an important factor if tensions are to be reduced and law and order restored, which of course is essential for the peaceful development of the country and all its inhabitants. Instead, the continuing rhetoric of hatred and propaganda, coupled with killings and other acts of violence, is fuelling the escalation of the crisis in Ukraine,” she said.

The full report can be accessed at: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/HRMMUReport15May2014.pdf

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=14606&LangID=E

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