Item 10: Ukraine
18 June 2020
I am honoured to present on behalf of the High Commissioner OHCHR’s 29th periodic report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, covering key human rights developments from 16 November 2019 to 15 February 2020, with recommendations to stakeholders.
It is based on 52 site visits, including to settlements along the contact line; monitoring of 118 court hearings; and 129 in-depth interviews of victims and witnesses of human rights violations and abuses, as well as relatives of victims, lawyers, Government representatives, civil society and other interlocutors.
After six years, the conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to exact a toll on civilian lives and economic and social rights.
During the reporting period, OHCHR recorded 19 civilian casualties – 2 deaths and 17 injuries, a 55 per cent decrease from the previous three months. However, following the reporting period, and in a reversal of this trend, we have recorded a sharp rise in civilian casualties, with 12 killed and 67 injured from 1 January to 31 May. The majority of these recent casualties occurred in territory controlled by the armed groups.
All parties involved in hostilities in eastern Ukraine should take action to implement the Secretary-General’s appeal for a global ceasefire, and facilitate a concerted response to COVID-19, which requires urgent, coordinated and comprehensive responses.
I note that since March, our Office has heightened our monitoring and reporting of COVID-related human rights issues and provided technical support to the Government and other stakeholders, in particular with respect to people in vulnerable situations. They include older people in long-term care facilities, people in detention, people with disabilities, homeless people, and Roma.
Our Office remains concerned about continued restrictions on crossing of the contact line in eastern Ukraine, and the lack of clear criteria for crossings on humanitarian grounds. We call on the Government and the self-proclaimed ‘republics’ to facilitate humanitarian crossings of the contact line, and to prepare safe conditions for the full reopening of all crossing points.
At the end of December, 222 detainees were simultaneously released by the Government of Ukraine and the self-proclaimed ‘republics’. This was the first major simultaneous release to occur in two years. OHCHR had previously interviewed many of the detainees released by the Government, documenting patterns of torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detention, and procedural violations including the holding of persons in unofficial places of detention. The Security Service of Ukraine was a major perpetrator of these human rights violations. Although cases of torture, ill-treatment and arbitrary detention decreased considerably in 2018 and 2019, as compared to 2014 and 2015, they remain a serious concern.
Interviews with detainees released by self-proclaimed ‘republics’ confirmed our previous findings of systematic practices of torture and ill-treatment. This included, use of electric shocks, asphyxiation, mock executions and sexual violence, notably in the so-called ‘Izoliatsiia’ centre in Donetsk. We also found a consistent pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’. It is urgent to enable access of international monitors to detention centres across this territory.
In territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘republics’, the space for free expression has shrunk further, with social media remaining as the only platform available to express critical views.
We welcome the Government's adoption of a revised Electoral Code, which addresses our recommendations to enfranchise internally displaced people and labour migrants in elections. We encourage much stronger action to pass the draft law on "realization of the rights of indigenous people and national minorities of Ukraine” , which is now well past its deadline, in order to ensure a fair balance between the legitimate aim of strengthening and promoting the Ukrainian language and sufficiently safeguarding language-related rights of national minorities.
In the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation, conscription campaigns continued in violation of international humanitarian law. At least 3,000 men from Crimea were enlisted into the Russian armed forces in the reporting period. At least 21,000 men from Crimea have been conscripted since 2015. Furthermore, in 2019, at least 191 individuals considered “foreigners” under Russian law –109 of them Ukrainian citizens – were deported, in violation of international humanitarian law. The Secretary-General's interim report on Crimea will be presented during the 44th session of the Council.