Ukraine's human rights situation continues to worsen due to hostilities, COVID-19 pandemic – OHCHR
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) notes a significant improvement in the security situation in eastern Ukraine compared to the previous reporting period after the agreement to strengthen the ceasefire regime came into force on July 27, 2020, according to a new report from the Office.
Three civilians were injured as a result of active hostilities during this reporting period and no one was killed. However, OHCHR is concerned about the persistent high number of civilian casualties, including children, caused by mine explosions and explosive remnants of war, said head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine Matilda Bogner at a press conference in Kyiv on Thursday.
According to her, during the reporting period, eight people were killed (seven men and one woman) and another 28 were injured (20 men, five boys and three women). Two more civilians, including a girl, were injured in an accident involving a military vehicle. OHCHR recorded four attacks on civilian targets, none of which resulted in damage, compared to 72 in the previous six months.
Bogner stressed that the restrictions associated with COVID-19 continue to be a heavy burden for civilians who need to cross the contact line. "From August 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021, the number of crossings of the contact line in both directions decreased by 96 per cent compared with the same period in 2019-2020 (294,000 and 7,117,000 crossings, respectively). Women and older persons, who comprised the majority of those crossing before the COVID-19 lockdown, were particularly affected," she said.
The head of the monitoring mission added that restrictions on freedom of movement across the contact line especially affect pensioners who live in the territory not controlled by the Ukrainian government, since they face problems with access to pensions, it is difficult for families to register the birth of children. "According to OHCHR estimates, up to 65,000 children do not have Ukrainian State-issued birth certificates," she said.
Bogner also said that almost seven years after the start of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, no comprehensive state policy of legal protection and redress for civilians affected by the conflict was introduced.
The head of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine also expressed concern that the SBU continues the practice of holding people believed to be members of or otherwise associated with the self-proclaimed republics in unofficial places of detention, which is in violation of Ukraine's international obligations.
Bogner added that while the number of cases of torture and ill-treatment related to the conflict has decreased in recent years, OHCHR is concerned over the practice of torture and ill-treatment by law enforcement officials in non-conflict-related cases, in particular cases of violence on the part of police.
She also pointed out that seven years after the tragic events on the Independence Square in central Kyiv ended, OHCHR continues to monitor trials for prosecution for the killings and violent deaths of people during the protests. "Despite the gradual progress, there is still no justice for the victims," Bogner said.