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Persistent and grave human rights violations in spite of relative calm in eastern Ukraine – Zeid

GENEVA (1 June 2015) – A new report issued today by the UN Human Rights Office details the serious human rights violations and abuses that persist in eastern Ukraine, including shelling, executions, arbitrary and illegal detentions, torture, ill-treatment, human trafficking and the lack of justice and accountability, as well as deprivation of economic and social rights that are deeply affecting the five million people living in the conflict-affected areas.

The tenth report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, which covers the period from 16 February to 15 May 2015, states that there has been a notable decrease in indiscriminate shelling after the adoption of the 12 February Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements. However, the shelling has not stopped, nor have armed hostilities between Ukrainian armed forces and armed groups, meaning that civilians continue to live in fear. Civilian casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance are still considerable.

“While some areas in the conflict zone have remained calm, such as the city of Luhansk, others have become the scenes of escalating hostilities since 11 April. The vicinity of Donetsk airport and the contested village of Shyrokyne in the Donetsk region remained the major flashpoints where heavy weapons were intensively used. Reports of sophisticated heavy weaponry and fighters being supplied from the Russian Federation persisted,” the report notes.

Between mid-April 2014 and 30 May 2015, at least 6,417* people, including at least 626 women and girls, have been documented as killed and 15,962* as wounded in the conflict zone of eastern Ukraine. This is a conservative estimate and the actual numbers could be considerably higher.

“Serious human rights abuses, intimidation and harassment of the local population perpetrated by the armed groups continued to be reported. The [monitoring mission] received new allegations of killings, torture and ill-treatment, as well as cases of illegal deprivation of liberty, forced labour, looting, ransom demands and extortion of money on the territories controlled by the armed groups,” the report states.

“Even with the decrease in hostilities, civilians continue to be killed and wounded,” High Commissioner Zeid stressed. “We have documented alarming reports of summary executions by armed groups and are looking into similar allegations against Ukrainian armed forces. We also have horrific accounts of torture and ill-treatment in detention, both by armed groups and Ukrainian law enforcers.”

The impact of the conflict on the economic and social rights of civilians continues to be dramatic, the report states, adding that “the interruption of access to basic services is life-threatening and can have a life-long impact on a large portion of the population, hindering the post-conflict recovery of the society.” The difficult economic situation has also led to a worrying, increased risk in human trafficking.

Residents of the territories controlled by the armed groups continued to be increasingly isolated from the rest of Ukraine and suffer from a lack of protection in the absence of the rule of law. The situation of the most vulnerable, particularly older people, individuals with disabilities, families with children and people in institutional care, is particularly dire, with many of them having no source of income or being deprived of access to basic social services. The permit system introduced by Ukrainian authorities continues to significantly limit the freedom of movement across the contact line, putting lives at risk. Those seeking to obtain permits can face corrupt practices and long delays.

The report also highlights the lack of justice and accountability for violations that occurred during the Maidan protests more than a year ago, during which at least 117 people died and more than 2,295 were wounded. Similarly, no one has yet been prosecuted in relation to the violence of 2 May 2014 in Odesa.

The situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea** remains worrying, characterized by human rights violations committed by the de facto authorities applying the laws of the Russian Federation. The report notes that arrests, ill-treatment, torture and intimidation continue to be perpetrated against political opponents, primarily in the Crimean Tatar community, with the knowledge or participation of ‘law enforcement’ or affiliated groups. Legal safeguards for detainees are all but absent. The exercise of the rights to freedom of expression, assembly and religion is mostly limited to groups or individuals loyal to the de facto authorities. Administrative measures, including registration requirements, are used as control mechanisms and tools to prevent the spread of dissenting views.

“Millions of ordinary women, men and children in Ukraine have suffered tremendous hardship, violence and have been living in fear for more than a year now,” the High Commissioner said. “Too many have had their homes and livelihoods destroyed and their lives torn apart, with no sign of justice, accountability, compensation or redress.”

“I urge all parties involved in the hostilities to seek common ground, through sustained dialogue, to fully implement the 12 February Package of Measures, to end the fighting, and to ensure that all violations of human rights and international humanitarian law are investigated, regardless of the perpetrators,” the High Commissioner said.


* Figures marked with an asterisk have been updated beyond the period covered by the report. The casualty figures are estimated by OHCHR and WHO.

** The status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea is prescribed by General Assembly resolution 68/262

To read the full report, please visit: http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/10thOHCHRreportUkraine.pdf

For more information and media requests, please contact please contact Rupert Colville (+41 79 506 1088 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org)

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