Comment by the Information and Press Department on the recent report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine

Monday, 19 March 2018 13:37

We have familiarised ourselves with the 21st report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine covering the period from November 16, 2017, to February 15, 2018, which was circulated in Geneva.

We took note of the information about lower number of civilian casualties in the Donbass conflict. However, the statistics of losses are still shocking at 12 killed and 61 wounded.

Of particular concern is the fact that the number of casualties from shelling civilian targets from rocket systems has doubled. At the same time, observers managed to reliably establish that the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics account for three quarters of all the casualties during the reporting period, for which likely “the government is responsible”.

The number of civilian deaths resulting from explosions of mines, booby-traps and IEDs remains inordinately high.

We join the appeal of the Monitoring Mission to the parties to the conflict asking them to strictly comply with the ceasefire agreements, including to withdraw heavy artillery from the line of contact. We emphasise the need to restore critically important infrastructure. Disruptions in the work of water treatment and power plants have left more than half a million residents of Donetsk without drinking water, electricity and heating, and put the region on the brink of an ecological disaster. We would like to remind the Ukrainian authorities that the shelling of civilian infrastructure is a direct violation of their international legal obligations.

The level of gross human rights violations on the part of the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and the Security Service recorded by the Monitoring Mission, which, according to the most recent UN reports, are systemic in nature, causes major concern. These include unlawful confinement, kidnapping, detention with no outside communication, torture, sexual violence, and using anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on political opposition and dissent in society. Again, the UN mission members had to admit that the Ukrainian authorities lacked political will and interest in conducting a full-scale investigation into all the cases of human rights violations by members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Security Service. This feeds the atmosphere of permissiveness and impunity in the country.

The lack of progress in investigating the crimes committed in Odessa in May 2014 is no longer surprising given these circumstances.

We are seriously concerned by the findings of the UN mission members regarding Kiev’s discriminatory policy against the citizens of Ukraine residing in Donbass. The authorities' reluctance to pay pensions and social benefits to residents of southeastern Ukraine, lack of procedures for reimbursing their own citizens for the loss of housing and property resulting from the actions of the Ukrainian military, the artificial restrictions on crossing the contact line by the people have led to further impoverishment of the poorest groups of the population, further dividing Ukrainian society and, thus, reducing the chances for national reconciliation in the future.

We share the Monitoring Mission’s concerns regarding the mounting offensive by the Ukrainian authorities against civil and political freedoms in that country, including increased attacks on freedom of expression, freedom of the media and physical attacks on journalists. According to the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, 90 media workers were attacked in 2017 alone. We support the UN demand to ensure prompt, effective and unbiased investigations into all violations caused by the work of the Myrotvorets website, to revise state policy on forming TV and radio content, and to cancel the disproportionately strict bans on imports of printed products into that country.

We are concerned about the numerous cases of discrimination and violence against representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its worship sites established by the UN mission. According to the Monitoring Mission, the issue is not about isolated instances of intolerance against the UOC, but a coordinated campaign which is being carried out with the obvious connivance of official authorities and law enforcement officers.

We urge Kiev to carefully heed to the assessments and recommendations provided by the Monitoring Mission and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe regarding the law On Education, which grossly violates the rights of the linguistic minorities living in that country, especially Russian speakers. We look forward to the authorities making the necessary amendments to article 7 of the law, withdrawing private schools from its sphere of application and providing for sufficient education in minority languages at public schools.

Again, we are forced to remind everyone that the mandate of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine does not include reviewing the situation in third countries. The Republic of Crimea and the city of federal importance Sevastopol are part of the territory of the Russian Federation, and the latest attempt to include an assessment of the human rights situation in this Russian region in the report on Ukraine is inappropriate.

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