Human rights violations in temporarily occupied territories, cases of inappropriate treatment by law enforcement officers, problem of secret detention places, delays with ratification of Istanbul Convention, pressure on anti-corruption activists, lack of tolerance to LGBT community and frequent impunity of perpetrators are mentioned as key human rights problems in Ukraine in 2017 in Amnesty International report.
Human rights situation in the occupied Crimea
According to Amnesty International, human rights situation in Crimea deteriorated over the last year, especially for people disloyal to Russian occupational authorities. Pressure and persecution are focused mainly on Crimean Tatars. The report mentions multiple examples of politically motivated criminal prosecution against disloyal citizens. One of widespread grounds for persecution is accusation of “extremism”, based on membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, organization prohibited in Russia, but not in Ukraine. “According to the international humanitarian law, the occupied territory should subject to the legislation of the country it belonged to before the occupation. Russian Federation violates these provisions, taking people to court on the basis of its own legislation. Secondly, according to the international humanitarian law, detainees should not be taken away from the occupied territory, but court hearings take place in Rostov, not in Crimea. Finally, the case is brought before a military court, and this is a blatant violation,” noted Oksana Pokalchuk, Director of Amnesty International Ukraine. “There are a lot of politically motivated cases. People expressing dissident opinions are accused of ‘terrorism’”, she added. Russia still refuses access to Crimea for international human rights organizations.
After formerly published Amnesty International report about secret places of detention of the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU), twenty persons were released from such places of detention. However, the appropriate investigation did not follow, the victims remained procedural witnesses in the respective cases.
Human rights defenders still have no access to detention places in the areas not controlled by the government. “We will continue our attempts to get access and monitor human rights situation there, and we call our colleagues from other organization to do the same. Our persistent attempts will demonstrate to the authorities of the so-called ‘LPR’ / ‘DPR’ that we have not forgotten about the problem, that we want to know what is going on there,” emphasized Ms. Pokalchuk.
Women’s rights and LGBT rights
Amnesty International urges Ukrainian authorities to ratify the Istanbul Convention in order to ensure more efficient response to domestic violence and protection of women’s rights. “Ratification of the Istanbul Convention would be a step to the real commitment to counter domestic violence and protect women and children, excluding any discrimination. We are concerned by the fact that the laws which had already been adopted were adopted without the word ‘gender’. This puts at risk protection of several marginalized groups of women,” Ms. Pokalchuk noted. According to Lesya Kharchenko, activism coordinator at Amnesty International Ukraine, there is a significant demand for ratification of the Istanbul Convention in Ukrainian society.
Concerning the situation with LGBT rights, the report mentions as a step forward the Kyiv Pride-2017, which had the highest attendance compared with the previous years, and the appropriate security measures during the event. Meanwhile, there is still a high level of intolerance to LGBT community in the society in general, and 2017 was marked by an increased number of attacks on LGBT.
Pressure on anti-corruption activists
Human rights activists are concerned with growing governmental pressure on anti-corruption activists and NGOs, in particular, the demand to submit e-declarations of assets and a draft law (not adopted yet) introducing some more complicated financial reports for NGOs with budgets exceeding the amount of 300 poverty line incomes, and a penalty of cancelling NGO’s non-profit status in case of violations. The report also mentions tax police raids in offices of NGOs “Patients of Ukraine” and All-Ukrainian Network of People Living with HIV/AIDS. “This is a pressure on the civil society, on people who want to stand for human rights and fight corruption in Ukraine,” stressed Oksana Pokalchuk.
Freedom of speech
The report also mentions the law enforcement raids to the offices of media holding “Vesti” and “Strana.ua”, deportation of four foreign journalists (two from Spain and two from Russia) on demand of the SBU, on allegation of “threatening Ukraine’s national interests”, as well as taking into custody freelance journalist Vasyl Muravytskyi, who cooperated with Russian media, on allegation of “spreading anti-Ukrainian materials”. Human rights defenders also point to lack of progress in the investigations of the murders of journalists Oles Buzyna (2015) and Pavel Sheremet (2016).
Amnesty International welcomes Ukraine’s decision to suspend supply of arms to South Sudan but calls to break the signed contracts at all and ratify Arms Trade Treaty, signed by Ukraine in September 2014.