Violation of the norms and principles of international humanitarian law during the military confrontation on the territory of Donbass has become a common practice for the armed forces of Ukraine.
In particular, Article 14 of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts (hereinafter – Protocol II) provides for the obligation to protect objects indispensable to the survival of the civilian population. Attacks on them are unacceptable and regarded as the use of prohibited methods of warfare. However, civilian infrastructure objects of this category are often subject to targeted attacks by the armed formations of Ukraine.
The Ukrainian side gave security guarantees for carrying out repair work on the Yuzhnodonbassky water channel near the village of Vasylivka, Yasinovatsky district, for the period from May 20 to June 20, 2019. However, the Ukrainian armed formations violated the guarantees on the very first day, which obstructed the work of repair crews, so they had to take refuge in a shelter. The shelling continued on May 23 and 24. Due to the high level of risk to the life and health of personnel, as well as to ensure the safety of the equipment of the Communal Enterprise “Voda Donbassa” Company” (Water of Donbass), the repair and restoration work did not begin until a steady period of silence. The work was continued only on May 29.
The use of prohibited methods of warfare by the armed formations of Ukraine is not limited to attacks on civilian infrastructure. For more than five years, residential areas of the settlements of the Donetsk People’s Republic, located near the contact line, have been subjected to daily shelling, leading to civilian victims, including the elderly, women and children.
Part 2 of Article 13 of Protocol II prohibits acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population. “The civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack,” the document says.
This did not prevent the armed forces of Ukraine from committing another act of aggression against peaceful citizens of Donbass on the evening of May 30, aimed at intimidation and destruction of lives. As a result of targeted shelling in the village of Veseloe using anti-tank missile systems, a man born in 1956 and an eight-year-old girl sustained shrapnel injuries.
During the night of May 27 to 28, a woman born in 1948 and a girl born in 2013 were injured as a result of a blast of an explosive device carried by an unmanned aerial vehicle and dropped on a house in the Nikitovsky district of Gorlovka. This is far from the first case of targeted use of unmanned combat aerial vehicle against the civilian population of the Donetsk People’s Republic, despite the outright prohibition established by paragraph 7 of the Minsk Memorandum of September 19, 2014. Previously, residents of the urban-type settlement Staromikhailovka (November 7, 2018) and the urban-type settlement Panteleimonovka (November 22, 2018) were subjected to similar attacks.
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic informs international human rights organizations about these and other documented facts of violations by the Ukrainian side of norms and principles of international humanitarian law, as well as obligations stipulated by the Minsk agreements. This is a necessary measure taken in order to draw the attention of and encourage the world community to help prevent the escalation of the conflict and improve the human rights and freedoms situation in the context of armed confrontation in the territory of Donbass.
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 29 May, staff of the DPR Ombudsman Office conducted an on-site reception of citizens in the administration of Yenakievo. 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 oral and three written appeals were accepted for further consideration by the DPR Ombudsman within her competence.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 2638 complaints. In the period of work between 25 and 31 May 2019, 27 citizens attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 47 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 5 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 24 persons received legal counselling, and 7 persons were assisted through on-site reception. 20 written appeals were approved for consideration, 17 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 34 calls were received via hotlines, 18 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 212 appeals, violations in civil law – 278 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 32 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 91 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 171 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 111 appeals, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 1024 appeals, issues connected with hostilities – 501 appeals, other issues – 218 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 31.05.2019
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 – 354 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 41 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 184 appeals, migration legislation issues – 263 appeals, labour legislation issues – 90 appeals, healthcare issues – 86 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 31.05.2019
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 31.05.2019
- 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 27 May, as a result of the attack by Ukrainian armed formations with the use of an unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) outside Gorlovka, a civilian woman born in 1948 sustained shrapnel wounds of various severities and a mine-blast trauma, a child born in 2013 sustained multiple bruises and a neurosis.
As a result of hostilities in Novoazovsk region, a DPR serviceman born in 1993 sustained blunt shrapnel wounds.
On 30 May, as a result of shelling in Kuibyshev region by Ukrainian fighters, a civilian man born in 1955 sustained a mine-blast trauma and a non-penetrating shrapnel wound; a child born in 2011 sustained shrapnel wound of left elbow joint.
Within the period between 24 and 30 May 2019, 5 persons, including 1 DPR serviceman, 1 civilian woman, 1 civilian man and two children 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 30 May 2019, 81 persons, including 58 DPR servicemen, 7 civilian women and 14 civilian men sustained injuries of various severities.
Between 24 and 30 May 2019, 5 DPR servicemen died in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 30 May 2019, 75 persons, including 75 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 4809 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 31.05.2019, 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 31 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 25 and 31 May 2019, 5 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1304 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7155 persons, including 1749 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, 2402 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 450 underage children, 4753 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1299 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 28 May representatives of the Ombudsman Office conducted a follow-up inspection of living conditions and living environment for children in Donetsk special boarding school No.19.
At the moment, 84 children with visual and hearing impairments aged 5 to 19 are students (grades 1 to 11-12) of the facility. At the time of the inspection, 10 children had been on a trip to Moscow, where they had excursions. The excursion has been organized with the support of charitable organizations.
Representatives of the Human Rights Ombudsman noted the improvements made since the previous visit, held on October 30, 2018. Thus, the boarding school was additionally equipped with 10 computer complexes for visually impaired children, 5 special printers and 5 Braille machines, which are actively used in the educational process.
As part of the visit, representatives of the Ombudsman Office met the leading staff of the institution. They discussed living conditions, medical treatment, education, cultural and disciplinary measures. They also followed up the implementation of recommendations given as a result of the previous inspection.
Education and living environment for children in the Donetsk Special Boarding School No.19 received a positive assessment from the staff of DPR Ombudsman Office.