I. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
1. This is the eleventh report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation of human rights in Ukraine, based on the work of the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU)1. It covers the period from 16 May to 15 August 2015 (2).
2. During the reporting period, the situation in Ukraine continued to be marred by
ongoing armed hostilities in some areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions reportedly fuelled by the presence and continuing influx of foreign fighters and sophisticated weapons and ammunition from the Russian Federation. These hostilities continued to result in violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law. Lack of accountability for such acts persisted, particularly in areas affected by the conflict, including territories controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ 3 and self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ 4, and other parts of Ukraine under the control of the Government.
3. Despite the absence of large-scale offensives since mid-February 2015, locally-
contained escalations of fighting occurred in various places, notably in the Government- controlled town of Mariinka (Donetsk region) on 3 June, and near the Government-controlled village of Starohnativka and the village of Novolaspa сontrolled by the armed groups (both in Donetsk region), on 9 and 10 August. The withdrawal of heavy weapons from the contact line as foreseen in the Minsk Agreements remained partial with the armed groups and the Ukrainian military using mortars, canons, howitzers , tanks and multiple launch rocket systems in daily clashes and exchanges of fire along the contact line.
4. Shelling of populated areas on both sides of the contact line, especially of the cities of Donetsk and Horlivka (controlled by the armed groups) and of the Government-controlled towns of Avdiivka and Mariinka – all in Donetsk region – persisted and, together with explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continued to claim civilian lives. In total, since mid-Аpril 2014 until 15 August 2015, at least 7,883 people (Ukrainian armed forces, сivilians and members of the armed groups) have been killed, and 17,610 injured in the conflict area in the east of Ukraine5 . HRMMU noted an increase in civilian casualties in this three month reporting period with 105 civilians killed and 308 injured compared to the previous three month reporting period when 60 civilians were killed and 102 civilians were injured. In the post-ceasefire period of 16 February to 15 August 2015, HRMMU recorded 165 civilian deaths and 410 civilians injured.
5. More centralized civilian ‘administrative structure s’ and ‘procedures’ continued to develop in the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. These include the ‘legislature’, ‘judiciary system’, ‘ministries’ and ‘law enforcement’. ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ reportedly began issuing passports to residents of the territories under its control. Among other ‘laws’, ‘legislative bodies’ of ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ have adopted a number of ‘legislative acts’ governing criminal prosecution 6 in the territories under their control. The HRMMU notes that all these ‘structures’ and ‘procedures’ in neither way conform to international law and national legislation of Ukraine.
6. HRMMU continued to receive and verify allegations of killings, abductions, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence, forced labour, ransom demands and extortion of money on the territories controlled by the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. It also received reports of isolated incidents where armed groups disrupted religious services and intimidated several religious communities. An estimated three million people continue to reside in the territories under control of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ without protection from the human rights violations and abuses of the armed groups and their supporters. The estimated hundreds of people held by the armed groups are at particular risk of being tortured, ill-treated or otherwise abused.
7. Very limited progress has been achieved so far into investigations of human rights violations committed by the armed groups in the east. Ukrainian law enforcement entities claim that investigations are impeded by the lack of due access to the sites and the difficulty in identifying suspects and weapons. Available court decisions sanctioning members of the armed groups are mainly linked to charges of trespassing and violating the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as the illegal handling of weapons; most defendants have pleaded guilty and been handed down a prison sentence with a probation period. HRMMU has received testimonies of plea bargains being made by individuals under torture or duress.
8. HRMMU continued to observe a persistent pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention by Ukrainian law enforcement officials (mainly by the Security Service of Ukraine) and military and paramilitary units (primarily by former volunteer battalions now formally incorporated into the Ukrainian armed forces, National Guard and police), which is often accompanied by torture and ill-treatment of detainees, and violations of their procedural rights. HRMMU continues to advocate for proper and prompt investigation of every single reported case, and for prosecution of perpetrators.
9. Accountability continued to be sought for the killing and other human rights violations committed during the Maidan protests in Kyiv, and for the deaths which occurred on 2 May 2014 in Odesa. With regard to Maidan, the jury trial7 in the case of the two Berkut (special riot police) officers accused of killing 39 protestors in Kyiv on 20 February 2014 during the Maidan protests, started on 6 July 2015. Seven other Berkut officers have been in pre-trial detention charged with killing of protest ors on 18 and 20 February. Investigations into the involvement of other identified Berkut officers and former senior Government officials in the killing of protestors have been protracted. Likewise, limited progress has been observed in accountability into the 2 May 2014 violence in Odesa. OHCHR is concerned with the protracted investigation into the negligence of the police and fire brigade surrounding the violence in the city centre and fire at the Trade Unions building, which resulted in 48 deaths that day. To date, only ‘pro-federalism’ supporters have been charged with mass disorder in the city centre, which result ed in six deaths.
10. On 16 June, the Temporary Order 8 issued by the Government of Ukraine on 21 January 2015 to impose movement limitations for individuals and cargo between the Government-controlled territories and territories controlled by the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, was revised further following advocacy by national and international organizations. On 7 July, the Government launched a web-portal to obtain electronic permits required fоr crossing the contact line. The full enjoyment of the freedom of movement, however, has remained problematic. Civilians still spend hours, and even overnight, at check points located along one of the three transport corridors. With the cessation of bus services between the Government-controlled territories and territories under the control of the armed groups, those without private means of transport have to walk several kilometres. While waiting at check points over long periods of time, civilians are exposed to shelling as well as ERW and IEDs along the roads.
11. The regulations of the revised Temporary Order, particularly the prohibition of
commercial cargo of food and medicine, taxation of humanitarian aid, and the availability of only one transport corridor for cargo, have complicated the delivery of food and medicine to the territories controlled by the armed groups. Furthermore, the process of ‘registration’ of humanitarian organisations introduced by the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ in June 2015, has complicated the operation of external or externally supported humanitarian actors in the areas controlled by armed groups. Since mid-July, such humanitarian assistance has been severely curtailed as the armed groups consider registration as a pre-condition to operate. This lack of access and delivery of humanitarian assistance is of particular concern with the approach of winter. It is also of concern that the Russian Federation has continued to send white-truck convoys without the full consent or inspection of Ukraine, and their exact destination and content could not be verified.
12. People living in the territories controlled by armed groups continued to face obstacles in exercising any type of rights: civil, political or economic, social and cultural. They experience particular problems in accessing quality medical services and social benefits. In order to receive their benefits, people have to either move or regularly travel across the contact line to the Government-controlled areas. Adults aged from 21 to 60 years old and families with one or two children in the territories controlled by the armed groups are becoming increasingly vulnerable due to their limited access and entitlement to social and humanitarian assistance. The quality of food and water available to the population affected by the conflict is also deteriorating, leading to a decreasing standard of living.
13. The situation for those residing on both sides of the contact line is especially dire, as their access to humanitarian and medical aid is impeded due to security reasons and the prohibition of the transportation of cargo. This has resulted in an increase in prices on the available goods. HRMMU notes that the National Human Rights Strategy9stresses the necessity of “ensuring the rights of persons living in the settlements of Donetsk and Luhansk regions where state authorities temporarily do not perform or partially perform their duties”.
14. The conflict aggravates the overall economic deterioration in the country causing further hardship for the population. Since the beginning of the year, real income dropped by 23.5 per cent, wage arrears reached UAH 1.9 billion (approximately USD 87 million), while prices for basic commodities have increased by 40.7 per cent. Deterioration of the economic situation makes it more difficult for the Government to progressively realize economic and social rights.
15. The growing number of internally displaced persons (over 1.4 million)10 and of wounded civilians and soldiers, have created new challenges for the Government of Ukraine to ensure proper access to quality medical care. So far, Ukrainian and international volunteers, private donors and charity foundations have provided most of the rehabilitation services and necessary equipment.
16. In July and August, HRMMU observed two transfers 11to the Government-controlled areas of convicts and pre-trial detainees, who due to the conflict had fallen within the ‘penitentiary system’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’. Initiated by the Ombudsperson of Ukraine, the transfers resulted from her negotiations with the ‘ministry of justice’ and the ‘penitentiary administration’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’. HRMMU facilitated the process, using its good offices to act as an initial intermediary between the parties, which enabled a group of foreign prisoners and detainees to be transferred to the Ukrainian penitentiary system and thus returned to the judicial system under which they were sentenced or were facing trial.
17. As reported previously12, on 5 June, the Government of Ukraine notified the United Nations and the Council of Europe about its decision to derogate from certain obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. The derogation will have a negative impact on the enjoyment of human rights in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. A positive development was thesigning on 6 July by President Poroshenko of a law enabling Ukraine to join the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance3.
18. On 31 July, the Constitutional Court approved a package of constitutional amendments on decentralization developed by the Constitutional Commission14, which is expected to be adopted by the Parliament before the local elections on 25 October 2015. Another package of constitutional amendments concerns the judiciary and is aimed, inter alia, at increasing its independence from the President and the Parliament.The package incorporates comments from the European Commission for Democracy through Law and is pending final approval by the Constitutional Commission. A package on human rights, which is to increase conformity of the Constitution with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and UN human rights instruments is under development.
19. On 14 July, the Parliament of Ukraine adopted a law on local elections which will govern nation-wide local elections scheduled for 25 October 2015 (except for the “territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea” and “certain territories15 of Donetsk and Luhansk regions” where elections will not be held “because of temporary occupation and armed aggression of the Russian Federation and impossibility to ensure the observance of OSCE standards regarding elections”). The ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ announced its ‘local elections’ would be held on 1 November, while the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ is still to determine a date; should these ‘elections’ be held, they would contravene the Constitution of Ukraine and the Minsk Agreements.
20. The situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea 16, the status of which is
prescribed by General Assembly resolution 68/262, continued to be characterized by human rights violations committed by the de factoauthorities. Former Maidan activists resident in Crimea continued to be under scrutiny of the ‘investigative’ bodies. Dissenting voices continued to be effectively silenced and denied any public space, especially as regards to those Crimean Tatars organizations which the de facto authorities consider non-loyal or claim to be extremist. HRMMU notes with concern that the increasingly restrictive conditions placed by the de facto authorities applying legislation of the Russian Federation on the activities of civil society organizations could lead to the impossibility for them to re-register and operate in Crimea, and, as a result, significantly infringe full enjoyment of freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association by local population. The right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health continues to be affected by problems in obtaining medical treatmentand delays in assisting patients.
21. OHCHR positively notes the efforts of the Government of Ukraine in bringing
together the Ministries of Defence, Justice, Social Policy and Office of the Prosecutor General under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, to discuss and respond to the findings of the tenth OHCHR report. A number of actions are to be welcomed; in particular, OHCHR notes the decision to strengthen the human rights training of members of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine.