Kyiv, July 28, 2014. The UN monitoring mission found evidence of serious human rights abuses by Russia-supported fighters in eastern Ukraine, noted the increasingly dire humanitarian situation in the conflict zone, and documented political repression in Russia-controlled Crimea. These statements were made by Armen Harutyunyan, the Head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, during his presentation of the fourth Report on the Human rights situation in Ukraine at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. The UN mission urges that more be done to stabilize the situation in eastern Ukraine and bring the perpetrators of human rights abuses to justice.
The newest report “documents the grave human rights abuses that have been committed by armed [pro-Russia] groups in eastern Ukraine during the reporting period of 8 June until 15 July, 2014. This includes abductions, detentions, torture, and executions that have been used to intimidate the population in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” Harutyunyan said. The report refers to the “armed groups” as pro-Russian fighters in the region, while pro-government national guard units are described as “battalions.” Furthermore, the UN monitoring mission noted that the number of internally-displaced people (IDPs) has increased since the third United Nations report on the human rights situation in Ukraine. Currently, the number of displaced persons is more than 101,000. The UN mission also noted that more than 14,000 people have left Crimea since the Russian-backed referendum, and notes “harassment and intimidation against Ukrainian nationals, Crimean Tatars, representatives of religious minorities, minority groups in general, and activists who opposed the 16 March referendum.”
Mr. Harutyunyan pointed to specific abuses committed by pro-Russian fighters in eastern Ukraine, and the UN monitoring mission documented “evidence of four cases” of executions by these armed groups. The new report provides evidence that pro-Russian fighters are using civilians as human shields by embedding themselves in the local population. The “armed groups are placing themselves among populated zones, and this is increasing the number of civilian casualties,” Harutyunyan said.
In addition, the UN mission monitored the human rights situation in the rest of Ukraine, and noted that more can be done to ensure political pluralism in the country as a whole. The UN mission recommends more reforms, in addition to the ones currently proposed by the parliament, in order to encourage a more democratic Ukraine. Lastly, the latest report urges that new constitutional changes proposed by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko be widely discussed and published in minority languages, including Russian.