UN Finds Human Rights Violations in east Ukraine, Crimea; Russia Condemns the Report

UN Finds Human Rights Violations in east Ukraine, Crimea; Russia Condemns the Report

The United Nations found numerous human rights violations in east Ukraine and Crimea. The violations include illegal takeovers of government and public buildings, armed men running around towns with no penalties, and kidnappings of elected officials, journalists, and residents. From Reuters:

“Those with influence on the armed groups responsible for much of the violence in eastern Ukraine (must) do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart,” U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement accompanying the report.

The Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) said the illegal occupations of the buildings hinder a resident’s “access to legal remedies, due process and overall guarantees for human rights protection.” They also noted there have been many cases of harassment and intimidation since the armed men took over the buildings.

The most alarming violations, though, are the killings and kidnappings. Ukrainian Deputy Volodymyr Rybak was kidnapped and found dead a week later with signs of torture on his body and a large slash across his stomach. A student, Yuriy Dyakovskiy, was found dead with similar signs of torture on his body. The forces also held eight members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) because the forces believed the members were spies. The pro-Russian forces have kidnapped numerous journalists, including American Simon Ortrovsky. On May 2, pro-Russians captured journalists from SkyNews, CBS and Buzzfeed for a few hours. The HRMMU said “the journalists and local staff were blindfolded, held at gun point, interrogated, and threatened. One female journalist was reportedly sexually harassed.”

The report found that the freedom of expression is also under fire in east Ukraine. The pro-Russian forces additionally seized local television stations and media outlets. Armed men seized a station in Donetsk on April 27 and forced the station manager to only broadcast Russian TV.

Human rights violations in Crimea have escalated since Russia annexed the Black Sea peninsula from Ukraine in mid-March. The targets are “journalists, sexual, religious and ethnic minorities, AIDS patients and citizens who had not applied for Russian citizenship.” The HRMMU said there are at least 7,207 internally displaced persons (IDPs) who cannot return to Crimea. The majority are Crimean Tatars, including Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev. When fellow Tatars crossed the border to bring Dzhemilev to Crimea, they were also stopped and refused entry for several hours.

The Tatars still in Crimea are reporting more harassment and violence towards them by the Russians. Here are a few violations found by the HRMMU:

147. The HRMMU has received reports from the “Standing Committee on inter-ethnic relations” in Crimea that on 9 April the memorial of Akim Dzhemilev, a famous Crimean tatar choreographer, in the village Malorechenskoye (near Alushta) had been desecrated. The “Chair of the State Council” of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea has instructed police to respond to any reported acts of vandalism in Crimea.

149. On 21 April, a group of unidentified men, describing themselves as members of the ‘self-defence unit’ broke into the building of the Parliament of the Crimean Tatar people and removed the Ukrainian flag, harassing verbally and physically female employees.

Russia immediately condemned the report and accused the UN of ignoring violations by the pro-Ukrainian authorities in east Ukraine.

“The complete lack of objectivity, glaring disparities and double standards leave no doubt that its authors carried out a political order to whitewash the self-proclaimed authorities in Kiev,” the [Russian Foreign] ministry said in a statement.

It said the report’s authors had tailored information from sources “to fit preconceived conclusions: the justification of the Kiev junta and the demonization of the protest movement in the southeast”.