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Ukraine’s MFA points out omissions in UN’s human rights report

Ukraine’s MFA points out omissions in UN’s human rights report

Comment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the fourth report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, July 28, 2014

On July 28 the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published the fourth report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, which was prepared as a result of the work of the UN Monitoring Mission for Human Rights for the period between June 8 and July 15.

The Monitoring Mission deserves a  positive assessment for its extensive work collecting and analyzing the facts of the human rights situation in our country, especially in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, as well as in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, where terrorists supported by Russia are conducting an undeclared war against the Ukrainian people.

The Monitoring Mission is continuing to record cases of gross violations of human rights by members of the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk “people’s republics,” especially the right to life. It is important to note that not only individuals but entire towns and villages are used by terrorists as “human shields.” Armed militants kidnap civilians for ransom, prisoner exchanges, or for use as forced labor, often torturing and killing them.  According to Monitoring Mission, since the middle of April, armed groups in eastern Ukraine have kidnapped hundreds of people, including 46 journalists, 112 police officers, 91 soldiers and border guards, 26 OSCE representatives, 22 deputies, members of political parties, and heads of local councils. The fate of 375 people remains unknown.

The professionalization of the armed groups is quite obvious and openly acknowledged, the report says. Their leaders, many of whom are Russian citizens, have significant experience in military conflicts in Chechnya and Transnistria.

Special consideration should be given to the report’s position on the circumstances surrounding the kidnapping , illegal transfer, and detention on the territory of the Russian Federation of the Ukrainian citizen N. Savchenko and the flagrant violation of her rights by the Russian side, especially the refusal to allow any visit by the Ukrainian consul — a situation she was compelled to protest by declaring a hunger strike.

Children who find themselves in the battle zone, especially the orphans and disabled, are suffering the most and, according to the authors of the document, are often used by terrorists as hostages. The report provides specific cases of child abductions by the terrorists and attempts to transfer the children illegally to the Russian Federation.

A separate section of the report is devoted to the territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, where harassment and discrimination against ethnic Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and members of religious minorities and minorities in general continues, as well as against activists who opposed the “Crimean Referendum” of March 16 this year. People continue to disappear without a trace and Russian and Crimean Tatar periodicals are under threat of liquidation. Individuals with HIV/AIDS and drug addicts are in a very difficult situation because of Russian legislation that bans the use of replacement therapies. It has been reported that twenty of these patients have died since June 10  and others have resumed the use of illegal drugs.

The report also notes the increase in the numbers of internally displaced persons from Crimea and the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. According to the OHCHR, a new wave of internally displaced persons from Crimea is expected in the coming months, including business representatives, teachers, those who did not wish to give up Ukrainian citizenship, and families with children of draft age who do not want their children to serve in the Russian army.

Additionally, the report reviews the implementation of human rights and freedoms in Ukraine under current  conditions, especially the right to peaceful assembly, association, freedom of expression, and freedom of movement, religion and also economic, social and cultural rights. In particular, it expresses concern about the difficulties encountered by Ukrainians when entering or exiting from occupied Crimea.

The report contains information on the preparations for constitutional and legislative changes, the reform of the police, the fight against corruption and so on. The authors carefully examine the most prominent cases, such as: human rights violations during the protests on Maidan (November 2013 — February 2014) and the tragedy in Odesa on May 2, 2014. The Mission notes the complete cooperation on the part of Ukrainian law enforcement agencies during the course of these investigations.

In general, the Ukrainian side considers the addendum to the report containing the Monitoring Mission’s preliminary recommendations generally positive and worthy of consideration. This also applies to the recommendations made to Ukraine over the past several years during the delivery of periodic compliance reports to  the Human Rights Conventions and during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

On the occasion of the publication of the report, the High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement that touches on another tragic event that occurred after the period covered by the report — the crash of the Malaysia Airlines airliner on July 17, 2014. The UN High Commissioner states that the downing of the aircraft was a violation of international law that may amount to a war crime.

Along with giving a generally positive review of the fourth report of the OHCHR, we find it necessary to draw attention to certain points.

In their attempt to employ primarily humanitarian approaches during the preparation of this report and by citing facts and figures without explanation, the authors occasionally fail to fully present the essence of what is happening.

Thus, when the Monitoring Mission gives an assessment of the difficult situation in eastern Ukraine and notes the intensification of ATO (antiterrorist operation), it avoids emphasizing the root causes of this state of affairs: the intensification of the illegal activities of illegal armed groups and their rejection of the peace plan proposed by the President of Ukraine, Russia’s continued support of the terrorists, to whom it supplies weapons, military equipment and mercenaries, the continued terrorization of civilians, the kidnappings and looting, and the growing threat to security not only for Ukraine but for the region and the world, as demonstrated by the Malaysia Airlines tragedy.

When referring to the strengthening of propaganda “on both sides,” the authors of the report fail to mention the negative impact of Russian propaganda on the situation in Ukraine and the illegal activities of Russian media in Ukraine, which actually are the primary drivers for inflaming hatred and causing stress in eastern Ukraine. In particular, when referring to the banning of a number of Russian TV channels in Ukraine, the Monitoring Mission does not indicate the reason — the “hate speech” (which, according to the UN High Commissioner’s statement, must be removed) and the incitement to international antagonism by these media.. A striking example: the interview on Russian Channel One on July 7,  with N. Pyshniak, the false witness to the ‘crucifixion of a three-year-old boy by Ukrainian soldiers on a bulletin board in the central square of Sloviansk’ and the “cruelty shown to his mother.”

While understanding the complexity of the tasks facing the OHCHR in the context of providing an unbiased, objective assessment of the situation in Ukraine, we are forced to conclude that the Monitoring Mission has been silent on the subversive role of the Russian Federation on events in the eastern part of our country as well as on the deterioration of human rights in the country as a whole  — a deterioration that is obvious not only to the Ukrainian government but which this time, unfortunately, was not adequately reflected in the report or in the press release on the occasion of the report’s publication. Appealing to “both sides” while ignoring the “third side” or rather the “primary side,” appears to us, at the very least, short-sighted if not dangerous.

Ukraine is ready to continue to develop and deepen cooperation with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other human rights bodies of the UN with the goal of appropriately protecting human rights while considering the needs of the population in all the regions of our country.

Translation: Anna Mostovych

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