On June 6, millions of people throughout the world celebrate the Day of the Russian Language, an international holiday established by the United Nations as part of a program to support and develop multilingualism and cultural diversity. Multilingualism is an important factor in ensuring harmonious communication between nations, promoting tolerance and mutual respect. The issue of observance of linguistic rights and freedoms of citizens is particularly acute in multinational countries where native speakers have the status of a national minority.
The Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities enshrines the right of members of such minorities to use the heritage of their culture, and also to use their language in private and in public, freely and without interference or any form of discrimination. At the same time, states shall take the necessary measures where required to ensure that persons belonging to minorities may exercise fully and effectively all their human rights and fundamental freedoms without any discrimination, express their characteristics and develop their culture, language, religion, traditions and customs, and have adequate opportunities to learn their mother tongue or to have instruction in their mother tongue.
In violation of international law, the Law of Ukraine “On ensuring the functioning of the Ukrainian language as a state language”, adopted in the spring of 2019, introduces a number of discriminatory norms, including restrictions on the use of minority languages in the media, increasing the number of Ukrainian language classes for children of national minorities to the detriment of their mother tongue. Public events, such as scientific conferences, round-table talks, seminars and symposia can only be held in Ukrainian or English. The legislation prescribes penalties in case of violation of the requirements.
In accordance with the law, Ukrainian shall become the only official language in the country and shall be used in education and medicine, in labour relations and customer service, as well as in other areas except for private communication and religious rites. Every citizen is obliged to be able to speak the Ukrainian language perfectly, because there is a punishment envisaged for its improper use. Given the new spelling rules introduced recently, it has become rather complicated to follow this requirement. Thus, a mother of a seventh-grade student of a school in Kiev has already filed a lawsuit with the district administrative court demanding to cancel the new version of Ukrainian spelling and invalidate the relevant decree of the Ukrainian government, as, according to her, officials had exceeded their authority and did not take into account the real state of development of the Ukrainian language, making it difficult to learn and use competently.
In addition, according to the law, local authorities, including regions with a predominant population of members of national minorities, are prohibited from interfering in the framework of usage of the Ukrainian language in any way. An attempt to provide official status or additional opportunities to use any other language may be considered as actions aimed at a violent change or overthrow of the constitutional order, which is a serious crime.
Discriminatory statements by Ukrainian politicians and far-right activists, the progressive encroachment on the use of mother tongue and the national-cultural identity was the reason for Donbass residents to make the choice, refusing to support the coup d’état in Ukraine in 2014. In response, military aggression was unleashed against the civilian population by the armed forces of Ukraine, which killed thousands of people.
Donbass is a truly multinational region with more than 130 ethnic groups, therefore the principles of mono-national domination and discrimination are alien and unacceptable for its residents. The Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic, based on the generally accepted principles of equality, guarantees all fundamental human rights and freedoms, including for members of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic minorities, without any discrimination and in accordance with principles of rule of law.
In her activities, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic stands guard over constitutional rights and freedoms of people, ensures their protection and monitors their compliance.
Upon a human rights violation, the need to restore one’s rights, to obtain legal advice or appeal against actions (omission) of state bodies or authorities, citizens can apply to the Ombudsman in a way that is convenient for them.
Now, the majority of applications are still verbal and submitted through personal reception either with the Ombudsman or authorities 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 5 June, executives of the DPR Ombudsman Office conducted an on-site reception of citizens in the administration of Torez. Seven citizens asked for legal advice and assistance in the restoration of their rights by representatives of the Ombudsman. In response to issues raised, they provided exhaustive explanations of the norms of the current legislation. Also, one written appeal was accepted for further consideration by the DPR Ombudsman within her competence.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 2833 complaints. In the period of work between 1 and 7 June 2019, 2 citizens attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 76 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 8 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 16 persons received legal counselling, and 10 persons were assisted through on-site reception. 6 written appeals were approved for consideration, 16 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 58 calls were received via hotlines, 14 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 224 appeals, violations in civil law – 302 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 34 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 101 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 185 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 116 appeals, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 1095 appeals, issues connected with hostilities – 545 appeals, other issues – 231 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 07.06.2019
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 – 372 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 42 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 198 appeals, migration legislation issues – 284 appeals, labour legislation issues – 97 appeals, healthcare issues – 93 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 9 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 07.06.2019
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 07.06.2019
- 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 31 May, as a result of hostilities outside Donetsk, a DPR serviceman born in 2000 sustained shrapnel non-penetrating wound to the shoulder.
On 1 June, as a result of shelling by Ukrainian servicemen against Leninskoe village, a civilian man born in 1965 sustained mine-blast trauma, shrapnel penetrating wound to the abdomen, shoulder, cheekbone area, a civilian woman born in 1956 sustained contusion.
As a result of shelling in Kominternovo village, Novoazovsk region, a civilian woman born in 1956 sustained multiple shrapnel wounds to the back.
On 5 June, as a result of shelling in Gorlovka, a civilian man born in 1986 sustained mine-blast trauma, shrapnel wound of the left shoulder girdle.
Within the period between 31 May and 6 June 2019, 5 persons, including 1 DPR serviceman, 2 civilian women and 2 civilian men sustained injuries as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine in the territory of the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 6 June 2019, 86 persons, including 59 DPR servicemen, 9 civilian women and 16 civilian men and two children sustained injuries of various severities as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
Between 31 May and 6 June 2019, 3 DPR servicemen died in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 6 June 2019, 83 persons, including 78 DPR servicemen, 2 civilian women and 3 civilian men died as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
To be specific, since the beginning of the armed conflict 4812 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 hasn’t received any appeals on arrest.
Based on the updated figures as of 07.06.2019, 251 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 95 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed. It has been reported that one persons from the list of detainees has been released as he has served his sentence.
– 156 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 hasn’t received any appeals on missing persons.
As of 7 June 2019, 461 persons are considered missing. They could have been taken prisoner in Ukraine.
- 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.
Between 15 May and 5 June 2019, representatives of the Donetsk People’s Republic delivered humanitarian assistance.
1816 citizens living in social objects of the Donetsk People’s Republic received humanitarian packages with food, hygiene products and household chemicals. Citizens who suffered from injuries or material damage as a result of hostilities, people persecuted by other states for supporting the Donetsk People’s Republic and persons with disabilities are eligible for the assistance.
The humanitarian assistance has been provided as part of the cooperation between the Human Rights Ombudsman Office and the International Committee of the Red Cross.
During the period of work between 1 and 7 June 2019, 8 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1098 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7140 persons, including 1743 children have been registered as persons affected as a result of the conflict. 77 social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) have been opened in the territory of DPR. 54 of them operate, 23 of them are held in reserve. Currently, 2394 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 448 underage children, 4746 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1295 children.
- Protection of children’s rights
The protection of the rights and freedoms of vulnerable categories of citizens is provided for in international instruments, such as the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Social Charter, as well as in legislation 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, according to the established schedule of visits to child social institutions, on 6 June Staff of DPR Ombudsman Office inspected the provision of services in Social Rehabilitation Centre in Gorlovka for disabled persons and children with disabilities.
At the moment, 57 children under 18 and 5 persons aged 18-25 with physical and mental disabilities undergo outpatient treatment in the institution.
An individual rehabilitation plan is developed for each patient in the institution, taking into account the diagnosis, the current physical and mental state, personality traits and health opportunities. The patients demonstrate a positive dynamic of recovery thanks to the diligent and faithful work of specialists, the use of art therapy, mechanotherapy, sand therapy and other methods.
The institution also conducts classes with parents of the patients, aimed at improving their psycho-emotional state, establishing trusting parent-child relationships and developing the necessary models of family education.
In order to facilitate comprehensive development of the spiritual and creative potential of the patients, the Centre regularly organises cultural and leisure activities dedicated to holidays and memorial days, as well as poetry readings, sports games and contests, competitions, meetings with interesting people and representatives of religious organizations. The patients visit public cultural events, including those in the Russian Federation.
The conditions of providing services in the Social Rehabilitation Centre in Gorlovka for disabled persons and children with disabilities received a positive assessment.