19 March 2018, Kyiv – There is a systemic lack of accountability for human rights violations in Ukraine, according to a report published today by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission. It calls for perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses to be held responsible for their actions and for victims to obtain justice.

The report covers the period from 16 November 2017 to 15 February 2018. It was marked by the simultaneous release of detainees by the parties to the conflict in eastern Ukraine on 27 December 2017.* The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission interviewed 64 individuals released by the Government and the armed groups, recording their accounts of inhumane conditions of detention, torture or ill-treatment, including instances of sexual violence, threats of violence, and/or violations of fair trial guarantees. These reflect systemic human rights violations made more acute by the armed conflict.

The last months saw the lowest numbers of civilian casualties since the start of the armed conflict. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission recorded 12 conflict-related civilian deaths and 61 injuries, which is a 16 per cent decrease compared to the preceding three months.** Despite this, the number of civilian casualties due to shelling and light weapons increased by 66.7 per cent, indicating that armed hostilities continue to pose a serious threat to people.

With the continuing impact of hostilities on civilians and their property, the report stresses the need for a comprehensive policy to guarantee the right to remedy and reparation for all civilian victims of the conflict regardless of their place of residence or the affiliation of the perpetrator. Moreover, recently amended legislation ‘On the status of war veterans and their social protection guarantees’ excludes from social protection hundreds of civilians living in territory controlled by armed groups who have been injured, and now live with a disability. The report also notes that there has been no progress in establishing an effective and accessible restitution and compensation mechanism for damaged or destroyed property.

The UN Human Rights Mission will closely monitor the implementation of the recently adopted law on restoration of sovereignty.*** Some of its provisions lack clarity raising questions as to human rights implications.

The report reconfirms an increase in cases of arbitrary deprivation of liberty by armed groups, a trend observed since summer 2017. The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission continues to seek access to detainees in armed-groups-controlled territory, to meet and speak with them in private.

Noting the forthcoming 2019 elections in Ukraine, the report cautions against developments diminishing civic and political space. In particular, it examines nine cases of physical attacks against media professionals and incidents which forcefully hindered their work, and ten cases of attacks on peaceful assemblies and people who expressed an alternative opinion or belong to a minority group.

Although a number of criminal investigations have been initiated and certain efforts undertaken to prosecute perpetrators, the report notes unwillingness, both within law enforcement and politically, to effectively investigate human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by state actors and extreme right-wing groups.

Particularly worrisome, the report highlights continuous intimidation and pressure on judiciary. An example of this is the case of Nelia Shtepa, former mayor of Sloviansk, whose trial has been restarted for the fourth time. This is due to a cascade of recusals by judges, as a result of pressure by law enforcement and right-wing groups. Shtepa was arrested in July 2014, spent more than three years in pre-trial detention, and currently is under house arrest.

The report, again, reiterates the need for more progress in bringing to justice those criminally responsible in cases with multiple victims, such as the killings during the Maidan protests and violence in Odesa on 2 May 2014.

In armed group-controlled territory, the space for expressing critical opinion remained severely curtailed, and freedom of religion and belief continued to be infringed upon. The report cites the adoption of a ‘law’ in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ which bans all “religious groups” not directly linked to traditional religions. Another restriction, on the freedom of movement, was observed in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’, with the adoption of a ‘decree’ prohibiting ‘civil servants’ from travelling to government-controlled territory. Its actual impact on people’s ability to move freely across the contact line is yet to be seen.

The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission is aware of pre-conflict prisoners held in penal colonies in territory controlled by armed groups who have requested transfer to government-controlled territory to serve out their sentences. 186 people have been transferred from territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ since August 2015. The Mission urges representatives of the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ to take practical steps to begin transferring pre-conflict-prisoners.

Guided by three United Nations General Assembly resolutions, the report provides an overview of the human rights situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and city of Sevastopol, where the Russian Federation has obligations toward the population of Crimea as an occupying power, under international humanitarian law.**** The Russian Federation authorities continued to restrict fundamental freedoms, disproportionately affecting the Crimean Tatar community. At least 4,800 male residents of Crimea were conscripted into the Russian Federation armed forces through two conscription campaigns in 2017, in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. In addition, the report highlights the 97 per cent decrease in the number of students taught in Ukrainian language since 2014.

“People we speak to want peace. Victims of human rights violations and abuses demand justice. We need more determination to stop hostilities, to bring perpetrators to account, and to introduce laws, policies and practice that promote reconciliation and social cohesion,” said Fiona Frazer, the Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine.

ENDS

* Under the framework of the “all for all” simultaneous release foreseen in the Minsk agreements, the Government of Ukraine released 234 conflict related detainees while armed groups released 75 individuals.

** In total, over 3,000 civilians have been killed, including 298 on board of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 on 17 July 2014, and between 7,000 and 9,000 have been injured during the conflict.

*** Law no. 7163 “On Particular Aspects of Public Policy Aimed at Safeguarding the Sovereignty of Ukraine over the Temporarily Occupied Territory of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine”, adopted 18 January 2018, signed by the President 20 February, and entered into force 24 February.

**** 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

To read the full report in English, please visit:

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/ReportUkraineNov2017-Feb2018_EN.pdf

In Ukrainian:

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/ReportUkraineNov2017-Feb2018_UKR.pdf

In Russian:

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/ReportUkraineNov2017-Feb2018_RU.pdf

For more information or media enquiries, please contact Iryna Yakovlieva at +380503868069 or e-mail iyakovlieva@ohchr.org