The illegal practices by special services and armed groups of Ukraine revealed recently have caused a stir. These practices were committed in the context of the conflict in Donbass and related to enforced disappearances and illegal imprisonment, as well as the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment.
The coup d’etat in Ukraine in 2014, among other things, has led to a dramatic deterioration in the situation of promoting and protecting human rights and freedoms, ensuring the rule of law and order. The situation was further aggravated by the armed aggression unleashed by the Ukrainian authorities against Donbass citizens. Not only volunteer battalions, mainly formed by right-wing radical groups, but also state power structures began the practice of inhuman methods of pressure, qualifying as gross violations of international law, as well as the Ukrainian legislation itself, against persons who disagree with the policies of the new regime.
Due to the military-political confrontation, hundreds of citizens were abducted and illegally detained, which is a violation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Article 1 of the Convention, ratified by Ukraine, provides for that no one may be subjected to enforced disappearance. Moreover, “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.”
Of particular concern is the fact that the Ukrainian side continues this practice up to now, when international human rights organizations have pointed out in their thematic reports that such actions are inadmissible and have to be suppressed. For example, at the end of June of this year, the Ukrainian Security Service abducted a retired serviceman of the Donetsk People’s Republic Vladimir Tsemakh from his home in Snezhnoe, who is now pressured to give false evidence in the case of the crash of MH17 of Malaysian Airlines over the Donbass territory, on its way from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur.
And this is far from an isolated case. “The SBU arbitrarily detain, torture, ill-treat and intimidate individuals, including in unofficial places of detention, in order to obtain information, pressure them to confess or cooperate,” the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights noted in its Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine for the period from February 16 to May 15, 2019.
Such illegal acts, as a rule, are not properly investigated, court hearings are delayed, and those responsible continue to commit crimes. As a result, the unfavorable trend of discriminating the population on political and territorial grounds, degradation of the judicial system in favour of the regime that seized power in Ukraine, as well as the deterioration of the human rights and freedoms situation, is becoming obvious. At the same time, a change of power in the country has not made any difference for the established policy, or at least a political rhetoric justifying crimes that are committed against dissidents.
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic uses all means available to protect the rights and freedoms of Donbass residents. Information on violations of international law is reported to international human rights organizations; the Minsk negotiation platform is actively used to resolve certain issues. In her statements, Daria Morozova focuses on the inadmissibility of the practice of enforced disappearances and illegal deprivation of liberty, as well as the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and calls on the Ukrainian side to return to the path of following the principles of democracy and humanism, respect for human rights and freedoms.
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 staff 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 31 July, representatives of the DPR Ombudsman Office conducted an on-site reception of citizens in the administration of Amvrosievka region. At the on-site reception, a question was raised concerning the removal of trees that might be dangerous to pedestrians crossing the curtilage. Representatives of Ombudsman Office promptly gave advice on the above-mentioned issues.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 4013 complaints. In the period of work between 27 July and 2 August 2019, 5 persons attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 40 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 8 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 22 persons received legal counselling. 12 written appeals were approved for consideration, 10 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 37 calls were received via hotlines, 6 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 367 appeals, violations in civil law – 410 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 49 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 141 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 225 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 166 appeals, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 1568 appeals, issues connected with the political and military situation in DPR – 757 appeals, other issues – 330 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 02.08.2019
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 – 510 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 49 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 288 appeals, migration legislation issues – 440 appeals, labour legislation issues – 139 appeals, healthcare issues – 129 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 13 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 02.08.2019
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 02.08.2019
- 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 July, as a result of shelling in Novoazovsk region, two servicemen born in 1970 and 1990 sustained mine-blast traumas and shrapnel wounds of various severities.
On 1 August, as a result of shelling in Novoazovsk region, 5 servicemen born in 1978, 1970, 1977, 1984 and 1970 sustained injuries of varying severities.
Within the period between 26 July and 1 August 2019, 7 DPR servicemen sustained injuries in the Donetsk People’s Republic as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
Within the period between 1 January and 1 August 2019, 141 persons, including 97 DPR servicemen, 16 civilian women and 25 civilian men and 3 children sustained injuries of various severities as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
Within the period between 26 July and 1 August 2019, 1 DPR serviceman died in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 1 August 2019, 116 persons, including 108 DPR servicemen, 5 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 4845 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
In the reporting period, the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic hasn’t received any appeals on arrest.
Based on the updated figures as of 02.08.2019, 253 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 101 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed.
– 152 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 2 August 2019, 460 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).
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 27 July and 1 August 2019, 7 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1075 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 6878 persons, including 1694 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, 2278 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 430 underage children, 4600 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1264 children.