On May 20, 2019, three international human rights organizations (Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Freedom House) published an open letter to the newly elected President of Ukraine Vladimir Zelensky, in which they focused on major concerns in the country in the field of human rights and freedoms. Some of them are related to the situation caused by the armed conflict in Donbass, as well as to discrimination and persecution of persons expressing disagreement with the policies of the regime that came to power in Ukraine as a result of the coup d’état in 2014.
The letter expressed concerns of human rights activists over violence against civil society activists and members of various minorities, which is often not investigated properly, and the perpetrators go unpunished. It also clarifies that such attacks are often committed by far-right groups, whose actions not only lack proper legal assessment, but even find support from representatives of the Ukrainian government. The lack of effective control of security services and law enforcement agencies by civil society is regarded as an important factor that leads to systematic violations of human rights and freedoms.
Only in 2018, representatives of human rights organizations documented 31 cases of physical attacks on journalists, as well as over 200 incidents of violations related to freedom of speech in Ukraine. These include sanctions against the media for their position, which allegedly undermines the sovereignty of the country, bans on entry to foreign journalists, unprecedented pressure from the judicial system, and the lack of investigation of attacks.
Crimes related to the conflict in Donbass remain unpunished. Human rights defenders documented a number of cases of unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment committed by representatives of state authorities. They also pointed out the lack of adequate response from the authorities to reports of people being held in “secret prisons” by the Security Service of Ukraine.
The letter said that the political decisions of the Ukrainian leadership regarding Donbass residents are discriminatory and create unnecessary obstacles to cross the line of contact and receive social benefits. Human rights activists reminded that the Ukrainian authorities have certain obligations under international law, including counteracting discrimination, ensuring social justice and equality.
These and other facts of human rights and freedoms violations against citizens of the region were repeatedly mentioned in statements and letters to international human rights organizations by the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic. As part of the Minsk negotiation process, Daria Morozova, as a plenipotentiary representative of the Donetsk People’s Republic in the Humanitarian Subgroup of the Trilateral Contact Group on peaceful settlement in Donbass, insists on the need to resume a peaceful dialogue to develop effective mechanisms for resolving social and humanitarian issues that are critical to citizens on both sides of the line of contact.
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 22 May, senior executives of the DPR Ombudsman Office conducted an on-site reception of citizens in the administration of Snezhnoe. They provided exhaustive explanations of the norms of the current legislation. Also, four written appeals were accepted for further consideration by the DPR Ombudsman within her competence.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 2481 complaints. In the period of work between 18 and 24 May 2019, 8 citizens attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 26 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 5 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 23 persons received legal counselling, and 8 persons through on-site reception. 7 written appeals were approved for consideration, 14 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 38 calls were received via hotlines, 12 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 195 appeals, violations in civil law – 255 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 27 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 83 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 159 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 101 appeals, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 972 appeals, issues connected with hostilities – 485 appeals, other issues – 204 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 24.05.2019
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 – 346 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 39 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 174 appeals, migration legislation issues – 242 appeals, labour legislation issues – 84 appeals, healthcare issues – 81 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 6 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 24.05.2019
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 05.04.2019
- 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 17 May, as a result of shelling in Kominternovo village, Novoazovsk region, two DPR servicemen born in 1980 and 1981 sustained perforating gunshot bullet wounds.
On 18 May, in Vasilevka village, Yasinovataia region, a DPR serviceman born in 1969 sustained mine-blast trauma and multiple limb injuries as a result of a landmine explosion.
As a result of hostilities in Novoazovsk region, two DPR servicemen born in 1981 and 1982 sustained shrapnel injuries.
On 21 May, in Leninskoe village, Novoazovsk region, a DPR serviceman born in 1982 sustained injuries as a result of a mine explosion.
On 22 May, as a result of shelling of Gorlovka suburbs, a DPR serviceman of 29 years old sustained shrapnel wounds.
Within the period between 17 and 23 May 2019, 7 DPR servicemen 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 23 May 2019, 76 persons, including 57 DPR servicemen, 6 civilian women and 13 civilian men sustained injuries of various severities.
Between 17 and 23 May 2019, 2 DPR servicemen died in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 23 May 2019, 75 persons, including 70 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 4804 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 24.05.2019, 252 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 96 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed.
– 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 24 May 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.
During the period of work between 18 and 24 May 2019, 5 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1315 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7145 persons, including 1748 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, 2395 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 447 underage children, 4750 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1301 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, representatives of the Ombudsman Office inspected living conditions, social services and the provision of medical care in the Residential social care institution “Boarding house for senior citizens and disabled persons with a geriatric care department, Gorlovka.”
At the moment, 109 citizens of advanced age and physically challenged citizens in need of constant care, household and medical services live in the Boarding house.
The personnel look after patients 24 hours. The Boarding house has a therapeutic room, a procedure room, a dentist’s and a room for physiotherapy procedures, as well as a laboratory, physical therapy and massage room, and a steam autoclave. In a case of need, a doctor is invited from the local clinic for the examination of patients and prescribing medication. In order to ensure the best adaptation to new conditions and to involve patients in activities, the necessary psychological support is provided by a social worker.
Cultural and leisure activities, including with the participation of performing groups, are held in the assembly hall. The boarding house has a small library and a prayer room, where a churchman conducts morning prayers and worship on religious holidays, as well as conversations on spiritual subjects with an individual approach to each patient.
As a result of the inspection, staff of the Human Rights Ombudsman Office gave a positive assessment to the provision of social services and medical care in the Residential social care institution “Boarding house for senior citizens and disabled persons with a geriatric care department, Gorlovka.”