Statement of the head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, for the launch of 15th OHCHR Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine

To attention of all media:

It was brought to our attention that  the statement made by head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission, Ms. Fiona Frazer on 15 September was translated wrongly from English into Ukrainian (8:44-9:35 of the video), which has led to factual errors and differs from the original statement. Below is English version of the statement, which are accurate as delivered. The bit that was factually incorrect due to interpretation is highlighted in bold and underlined.

We would appreciate if you could correct these errors in your media reports.


FULL STATEMENT by Ms. Fiona Frazer, head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission

Good morning

I am pleased to present today the 15th report of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the human rights situation in Ukraine. This report covers the period from 16 May to 15 August 2016. Many of the human rights issues and trends highlighted in the report continue to be very relevant today.

  1. The human cost of the conflict: Since the start of the armed conflict in April 2014 until today – 15 September 2016, OHCHR has recorded 32,071 casualties (these are civilians, Ukrainian military and members of the armed groups). Of these: 9,640 people were killed and 22,431 injured. We estimate that of those killed, 20 per cent were civilians. As before, this is a conservative estimate based on available data.
  2. During the reporting period, from 16 May to 15 August 2016, OHCHR recorded 188 civilian casualties in the conflict zone: 28 killed and 160 injured. This is a 66 per cent increase compared to the previous reporting period of 16 February – 15 May 2016. Of these civilian casualties, over 60 per cent were caused by shelling from various artillery systems, in apparent violation of the Minsk Agreements.
  3.  The second half of August was characterized by a further increase in civilian casualties: with an additional 11 killed and 53 injured recorded in the last two weeks, again mostly as a result of shelling.
  4.  While the situation improved since the ceasefire was restored on 1 September, the situation along the contact line remains deeply unstable.  There has been a decrease in civilian casualties. By 15 September, we recorded 10 injuries in the conflict zone. This once again proves that only genuine de-escalation of hostilities can prevent the death toll of the conflict from increasing further.   We join all those, and call again for the implementation of the ceasefire.
  5. During the reporting period, hostilities affected the provision of healthcare by medical facilities and hospitals, limiting access to healthcare for patients. Our teams recorded the impact in two particular cases: on 24 June 2016, the children’s ward of a polyclinic in Biuriuzove neighbourhood in Donetsk city was shelled. On 23 July 2016, Hospital No. 21 in Kuibyshevskii district of Donetsk city was fired upon for two hours, while the hospital was attending to the medical needs of 60 patients. Two patient rooms and the surgical ward were severely damaged by mortar and automatic rifle fire, seriously affecting the hospital’s capacity.
  6.  People continue to be affected by the daily limitations on their freedom of movement, as they move back and forth across the contact line. During the reporting period up to 26,000 to 32,000 people were crossing the contact line on a daily basis.  The long queues and risk to their lives remains their biggest concern. People wait for up to 36 hours, including overnight, with no or limited access to shade, latrines, water, medical aid, or shelter in case of shelling. As temperatures exceeded 30 degrees Celsius over the summer, some people, mostly elderly lost consciousness while standing in line. During the reporting period, three civilians died at checkpoints due to delayed emergency medical assistance. Since the 15 August, the numbers crossing have reduced to approximately 25,000 people per day.  While recognising the security concerns, we continue to urge the Government to revise the temporary order and that all parties to the conflict should facilitate the freedom of movement of civilians across the contact line by creating additional transport corridors, equipping checkpoints with the necessary facilities, simplifying procedures, and allowing access of independent monitors.
  7. Meanwhile, those who have fled their homes and are internally displaced, face serious impediments to their economic and social rights. Equal protection of all people affected by the conflict is crucial for the peaceful rehabilitation of Ukrainian society. We urge the Cabinet of Ministers to de-link IDP registration from all social entitlements not related to the IDP situation, including pensions. We also call on the Government to change the recently introduced IDP residence verification system to ensure IDPs’ right to freedom of movement and free choice of residence, and put in place a comprehensive strategy that looks captures the need for durable solutions.
  8.  Over the last three months, OHCHR has noted incremental improvements in access to places of deprivation of liberty. This is a critical development, as over 70 per cent of cases documented by OHCHR over the last three months contained allegations of torture, ill-treatment, and incommunicado detention.We continue to have regular and unimpeded access to the penitentiary facilities in Government controlled areas.
    • OHCHR notes that the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) has undertaken trainings for its personnel on torture prevention. OHCHR has, however, continued to document cases of torture and ill-treatment by the Government and armed groups, once more underscoring the urgent need for regular access to places of deprivation of liberty, provision of medical care for victims, and accountability for documented violations and abuses.
    • OHCHR can independently confirm the release, on 25 July and 2 August, of thirteen individuals from the Kharkiv SBU facilities who had been subject to enforced disappearances for periods of up to two years.
    • During the reporting period, OHCHR was able to meet in the presence of local authorities some pre-conflict prisoners held in penal colony No. 124 in Donetsk region under the control of the armed groups, as well as 31 men deprived of their liberty in the context of hostilities held in colony No. 97 in Makiivka, Donetsk region.
    • The self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ continued to deny external observers unhindered access to all places of deprivation of liberty, raising concerns that cases of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (ill-treatment), including sexual and gender-based violence, may be greater than reported.
  9. OHCHR notes the efforts of the Ukrainian authorities to bring perpetrators of human rights violations and abuses in the east to account. Such efforts are a start; we hope that meaningful results will come. Based on the trials that we have monitored to date, our assessments of investigations and analysis of prosecutions, such impunity largely stems from pressure on the judiciary, an inability and unwillingness of the Office of the Prosecutor General and Office of the Military Prosecutor to investigate gross violations and abuses of human rights perpetrated in the context of the armed conflict. Impunity also affects cases of enforced disappearances and of missing persons, which in turn violates the victim’s right to truth.
  10.  In this context, journalists and media workers have played a crucial role in reporting on the daily reality of the conflict and how it affects people’s lives in eastern Ukraine and across the country.  But we have documented a notable increase in violence and harassment against journalists, and a lack of accountability for such assaults. Journalists and media workers have continued experiencing pressure from the armed groups, SBU and the armed forces when reporting on sensitive matters. Some journalists also mentioned self-censorship when they feel that certain information could harm the Ukrainian armed forces or fear that Russian or armed groups media could exploit such information for propaganda purposes. The continued campaign of Myrotvorets to publicize the names and contact details of journalists and media workers covering the conflict in armed group-controlled areas has exposed them to harassment and attacks with the clear intent to silence and influence their reporting. I appeal to you today, journalists covering the human rights situation in Ukraine to speak out against these assaults and demand answers about ongoing investigations. A free and vibrant media landscape is critical for the development of a democratic society.
  11. We know what limitations on fundamental freedoms, such as the freedom of expression, look like. In the Autonomous Republic of Crimea we have noted continued concerns in the human rights situation with the further administrative integration into the Russian Federation’s southern federal district, in violation of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 68/262 on the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
    • The right to peaceful assembly has been further curtailed by the de facto authorities and people continued to be interrogated and harassed by law enforcement agents for expressing views that are considered as extremist.
    • A deputy head of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis was ordered by a Crimean ‘court’ to undergo a “psychiatric assessment”. He has been released but we note the damage that such forced hospitalization can cause.
    • The search for missing persons remains inconclusive and investigations have yielded no results. The absence of accountability and redress for victims nurtures impunity.
  12. In this report we also emphasize what our mission has done to help to improve the human rights situation in Ukraine. In 60% of cases, we provide individual response and action to help ensure protection for victims of human rights violations and abuses and their families.
  13.  Our mission also stands ready to assist all those who hold human rights obligations in fulfilling their duties. And we have done so, through assisting in ensuring that draft legislation is in compliance with international human rights standards, through advising the authorities on their obligations and on protection gaps that come to our attention, and through issuing concrete recommendations and following up with key authorities.
  14.  Human rights are the principles that keep societies safe. Fair and impartial rule of law is the foundation of public confidence and security. We note and welcome the adoption by Parliament of much needed constitutional amendments related to the judiciary. They provide a rare opportunity to break with the past. This chance must not be squandered. The people who live in Ukraine, in any corner and on either side of the contact line, have a right to equal protection under the rule of law, to judicial institutions that are impartial and operate under due process guarantees.
  15. I would like to highlight the comment made on Ukraine by the High Commissioner for Human Rights this morning ”The escalation of hostilities along the contact line over the summer was a sharp reminder that the situation in eastern Ukraine deserves much more attention. Additional efforts are needed to find a lasting solution to this crisis and put an end the suffering of the civilian population. Human rights and justice are what people need, not further deaths and more intense hatred and destruction.”

Thank you. I am happy to answer any questions.

Original UCMC press release, please, find here.