25 years ago, on March 27, 1994, at the time of the first parliamentary elections in Ukraine, a referendum was held in the territory of Donetsk and Lugansk regions, formally named a “consultative poll”, despite the fact that it was organized and held by the regional councils based on the Law of Ukraine “On the All-Ukrainian and local referenda.” The expression of the will of Donbass residents demonstrated a common position, which remained unchanged, although it was deliberately ignored by the authorities throughout the following years.
In 1994, the turnout was 72%, which was unusual for that period in Ukraine. 80% of citizens voted for the federal structure to be introduced in the Constitution of Ukraine and 87% – for the use of the Russian language as a state language along with the Ukrainian language. In addition, 89% of the voters expressed a desire to use it in document management and record-keeping, education and science. Also, 89% of the votes were in favour of the signing of the CIS Charter and the full participation of Ukraine in the Economic Union and in the Interparliamentary Assembly of Member Nations of the Commonwealth of Independent States, which was consistent with the vector of Eurasian integration.
These fundamental ideas, reflecting the civilization paradigm and values of Donbass, did not see any implementation in the legislation of Ukraine. Moreover, they were deliberately ignored and neglected as they contradicted the policy of a gradual derussification. The opinion of the people was never heard, but only used for political slogans during the election campaigns, because it contradicted the policy of ukrainization, of rewriting the history, changing the cultural values and breaking away from the family of post-Soviet states.
The coup d’état that occurred in Kiev in 2014, with the active participation and under the banner of the far-right radicals, was perceived as a deadly threat to the preservation of the cultural and historical identity of the people in eastern Ukraine. Therefore, it is not surprising that the results of the referendum on self-determination of the Donetsk People’s Republic, founded on the people’s desire to defend the principles voiced during the “consultative poll” of 1994, were so illustrative and unambiguous. Residents of Donbass had been waiting 20 years for the government to respond to the will expressed under the Ukrainian legislation in 1994 and in the subsequent years. Only in the conditions of the acute socio-political crisis, they took their fate in their own hands, declaring the course to protect their values and preserve the unity with the Russian world.
In turn, the Kiev regime continued to ignore the opinion of the people and made no effort to ensure the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Instead, Ukrainian authorities unleashed armed aggression against their own citizens. Inequality, intolerance, persecution and destruction became the main part of the policy of Ukraine towards Donbass residents and those who didn’t support the regime.
The post of the Human Rights Ombudsman has been established in order to ensure state protection of the rights and freedoms of citizens, to prevent any form of discrimination regarding the exercise of rights and freedoms in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
In her activities, the Ombudsman interacts with international organizations to provide information and document cases of violations committed by Ukraine. A due legal assessment and a consolidated position of the world community regarding the inadmissibility of encroachment on human rights and freedoms and negligence are of particular importance for de-escalating the conflict and finding ways to resolve it peacefully. The Donetsk People’s Republic expresses its firm commitment to the peaceful settlement as well as to the Minsk negotiation process.
Citizens can apply to the Ombudsman in any suitable way. Now, the majority of applications are still verbal and submitted through personal reception either with the Ombudsman or the heads of the Office, addressing the Public Complaints and Appeals Department, via hotlines and via web-reception on the Website of the Ombudsman. There is a possibility to file a written complaint that may be submitted either in person or via e-mail.
On 27 March, staff of the DPR Ombudsman Office together with representatives of the City Administration and other authorities conducted an on-site reception of citizens in Dokuchaevsk.
Three citizens attended the reception in order to get assistance in restoring their rights and receive clarifications. They were provided with detailed explanations of the norms of the current legislation. Thanks to the cooperation of the administration of Dokuchaevsk, all the issues have been promptly resolved.
As regards issues demanding further consideration, written appeals were accepted for review by the DPR Ombudsman within her competence.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 1588 complaints. In the period of work between 23 and 29 March 2019, 11 citizens attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 47 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 16 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, 14 persons received legal counselling and 15 persons through on-site reception. 8 written appeals were approved for consideration, 9 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 24 calls were received via hotlines, 17 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 121 appeals, violations in civil law – 153 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 19 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 35 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 96 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 55, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 590 appeals, issues connected with hostilities – 381 appeals, other issues – 138 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 29.03.2019
Violations in criminal law
Сomplaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary
Social, humanitarian and economic issues
Violations in civil law
Сomplaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen
issues connected with hostilities
Administrative and legal violations against citizens
complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials
Among all incoming correspondence to the Ombudsman of DPR, the one which deals with the issues of exercise of social rights of citizens and violations of these rights is the most frequent. These issues are: pension and social payments, benefits, disability, humanitarian aid – 233 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 32 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 113 appeals, migration legislation issues – 114 appeals, labour legislation issues – 37 appeals, healthcare issues – 59 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 2 appeals. (Diagram 2).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens on social and humanitarian issues, received by the DPR Ombudsman`s Office as of 29.03.2019
Pension and social payments, benefits, disability, humanitarian aid
Migration legislation issues
Transportation, communication and consumer rights
Labour legislation issues
Issues of education, culture and sport
Issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services
The majority of complaints are traditionally received from Donetsk, by territory (Diagram 3).
The number of appeals (complains, applications) from citizens, received by the DPR Ombudsman`s Office as of 29.03.2019
- Death toll, injuries to civilians and soldiers as a result of hostilities in the territory of the Donetsk People`s Republic.
The DPR Ombudsman’s Office documents cases of violations of Donbass citizens’ rights by the Ukrainian side: the right to life, to security of the person.
On 26 March, as a result of hostilities in Novoazovsk region, a DPR serviceman born in 1961 sustained multiple shrapnel wounds to the lumbar region.
Within the period between 22 and 28 March 2019, 1 DPR serviceman was wounded in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 28 March 2019, 30 persons, including 21 DPR servicemen, 1 civilian woman and 8 civilian men sustained injuries of various severities.
Within the period between 22 and 28 March 2019, 4 DPR servicemen died in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 28 March 2019, 37 persons, including 33 DPR servicemen, 2 civilian women and 2 civilian men died as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
To be specific, since the beginning of the armed conflict 4766 persons died, including 81 children.
Officially confirmed information on individuals, who have been wounded since the beginning of the conflict continues to be reported to the Ombudsman’s Office in DPR.
- Register of the prisoners of war, missing soldiers
This week the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic haven’t received any appeals on arrest.
Based on the updated figures as of 29.03.2019, 253 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 98 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed.
– 155 persons whose whereabouts are unknown or are pending clarification by the Ukrainian side.
This week the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic received two appeals on missing persons. Two men born in 1978 and 1991 have not been in contact with their families since December and August 2018 respectively.
As of 29 March 2019, 460 persons are considered missing. They might be held in Ukrainian captivity.
- Register of displaced persons and affected citizens.
At the time of armed conflict, the civilian population living in the zone of fighting and near the contact line is often affected. With the view to protect the human right to life and security of the person, and to provide assistance to victims as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine, social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres).
Since the beginning of the conflict 5380 referrals for accommodation in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres etc.) have been issued, 137 of them – in 2018. With the coming into force of the Order of the Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic No. 137 of 24.04.2018, Territorial commissions in cities and districts are now responsible for accommodating affected civilians. They work under supervision of the Republican Commission on Resettlement of Affected Persons chaired by the DPR Human Rights Ombudsman.
This week, staff of Human Rights Ombudsman Office finished the distribution of bed linen to citizens affected by the armed conflict.
Those are residents of 23 social housing objects located in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic, namely in Donetsk, Makeevka, Khartsysk, Zugres, Shakhtyorsk and Yasinovataia.
The delivery of the humanitarian aid was organized as part of cooperation between the Human Rights Ombudsman and humanitarian organizations.
During the period of work between 23 and 29 March 2019, 16 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1305 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7166 persons, including 1748 children have been registered as persons affected as a result of the conflict. 75 social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) have been opened in the territory of DPR. 52 of them operate, 23 of them are held in reserve. Currently, 2425 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 456 underage children, 4741 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1292 children.
- Protection of children’s rights
The need to protect the rights and freedoms of children is provided for in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1924, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1959, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 23 and 24), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 10), as well as in national legislation (Article 31 of the Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic).
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic pays special attention to this issue in her activities. In the view to ensure effective protection of children’s rights and freedoms by the state, on 26 March representatives of the Ombudsman Office conducted an inspection of living conditions and educational process in the Torez Special Boarding School No.43. At the moment, 120 children in need of rehabilitation regarding their physical or mental development live there, including 1 child from the territory temporarily under control of Ukraine, who has been enrolled at the institution under the Humanitarian Programme for the Reunification of the Donbass People. The institution educates children from 1st to 9th form, as well as children in a reception class. The educational process is adapted for children with special educational needs. It is noteworthy that the school uses unique education programmes and guidance papers, which have won awards and certificates.
On 28 March, representatives of the DPR Human Rights Ombudsman Office conducted an inspection of the educational process and living conditions in Child Welfare Centre in Yenakievo, where children in difficult life situations aged 3-18 constantly live. At the moment, 43 children stay in the institution. They receive social, psychological, educational, medical, legal and other types of assistance.
The staff of the social centre take care of both physical and psychological health of pupils. Social and pedagogical correction is carried out based on individual needs of each child. The Centre facilitates that children return to their families.
As a result of the inspection, education and living environment for children in the Torez Special Boarding School No.43 and in the Child Welfare Centre in Yenakievo received a positive assessment from the staff of DPR Ombudsman Office.