The objective coverage of the events is crucial to ensuring the observance of human rights and freedoms in armed conflict. As part of the military-political confrontation in Donbass, the Ukrainian side is engaged in an active struggle aimed at information dominating and concealing facts of violations of international law.
Recently, there has been a negative trend of targeted attacks on media personnel by the Ukrainian armed forces. So, on June 27, the crews of the News Front and RIA Novosti news agencies came under shelling in the Aleksandrovka urban-type settlement, when they recorded the consequences of the previous artillery attack. On July 2, employees of the Russia TV channel, the News Front news agency, and an American journalist Patrick Lancaster were in a similar situation in the village of the Trudovskaia mine in Donetsk. On July 7, the crew of the Zvezda TV channel came under fire in the village of Kominternovo, Novoazovsk region. Based on the above incidents, the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation initiated relevant criminal cases.
According to international law, journalists enjoy the same protection as civilians, which means that the actions of the armed forces of Ukraine violate Part 2 of Article 13 of Protocol (II) additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the protection of victims of non-international armed conflicts, and shall qualify as the use of prohibited methods of warfare.
The Ukrainian side commits crimes against representatives of the media not only in the conflict zone. In its quarterly reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights regularly records violations of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as freedom of the media. Thus, in the report for the period from February 16, 2019 to May 15, 2019, OHCHR expressed concern about cases of interference in the work of media personnel, physical attacks and intimidation by a number of subjects, including radical groups and state authorities of Ukraine.
OHCHR clearly documented such violations, and also indicated the lack of due response from law enforcement agencies. “In particular, investigations and court cases launched in the context of attacks by individuals against those exercising their civic freedoms were subject to delays and inappropriate qualification of the charges,” the report says.
During the 41st regular session of the UN Human Rights Council on July 10, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore, in her statement on the situation in Ukraine, expressed concern about “interference in the activities of media, including physical attacks and acts of intimidation, the death of a famous investigative journalist on June 20″. We are talking about Vadim Komarov, who worked on materials on corruption and embezzlement in Cherkasy.
At the same time, the cases of attacks on journalists and physical violence against them in Ukraine are far from being isolated. Among them there are such high-profile incidents as the murder of Oles Buzina, Pavel Sheremet and several others. In the majority of cases, these facts are not investigated properly, and the perpetrators are not found or not held accountable.
Not only individual journalists, but also the media are under pressure from the Ukrainian authorities. For example, on July 11, NewsOne TV channel addressed international human rights organizations “because of the pressure by Ukrainian authorities through aggressive radicals, as well as constant threats against journalists and staff.”
Article 34 of the Constitution of Ukraine guarantees everyone the right to freedom of thought and speech, as well as the free expression of their views and beliefs. However, the facts on the ground indicate that both media professionals and ordinary citizens, if their political opinion is other than that of the official ideology of the Ukrainian regime, are subjected to harassment, pressure, and attacks.
Thus, armed aggression was unleashed against Donbass residents, who expressed their disagreement with the coup d’état of 2014. During the conflict, the Ukrainian side repeatedly grossly violated the requirements and norms of international humanitarian law, using prohibited methods and means of warfare. “I urge international human rights organizations to give due legal assessment to the actions of the Ukrainian authorities, which are unacceptable in the civilized world and lead to a new round of escalation of violence,” Daria Morozova, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic, said on July 11.
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 10 July, executives of the DPR Ombudsman Office conducted an on-site reception of citizens in the administration of Yasinovataia.
Eleven persons asked the human rights defender for assistance in restoring their violated rights as well as for legal counselling. At the on-site reception, the following issues were raised: issuing a passport of a DPR citizen, recognition of property rights for a detached house, and receiving a pension in connection with the loss of the breadwinner.
A representative of Ombudsman Office gave advice on the above-mentioned issues and provided a detailed clarification of the norms of the current legislation.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 3639 complaints. In the period of work between 6 and 12 July 2019, 7 persons attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 52 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 4 written appeals have been received; 5 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 11 persons received legal counselling, and 11 persons were assisted through on-site reception. 27 written appeals were approved for consideration, 10 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 62 calls were received via hotlines, 9 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 312 appeals, violations in civil law – 384 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 46 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 125 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 213 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 155 appeals, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 1413 appeals, issues connected with the political and military situation in DPR – 694 appeals, other issues – 297 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 12.07.2019
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 – 460 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 47 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 255 appeals, migration legislation issues – 404 appeals, labour legislation issues – 121 appeals, healthcare issues – 115 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 11 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 12.07.2019
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 12.07.2019
- 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 5 July, as a result of hostilities outside Yasinovataia, a DPR serviceman born in 1974 sustained a mine-blast wound and blunt shrapnel wound to the face.
As a result of hostilities in Novoazovsk region, a DPR serviceman born in 1997 sustained blunt shrapnel wound.
On 6 July, as a result of shelling at Mayorsk checkpoint, a civilian woman born in 1980 sustained a perforating bullet wound of soft tissue of the right shin.
As a result of shelling of Bessarabka village outside Gorlovka, a civilian man born in 1974 sustained shrapnel wound to lower-third of the right forearm.
On 11 July, a DPR serviceman born in 1990 sustained mine-blast trauma and multiple shrapnel wounds to his lower limbs as a result of hostilities in Novoazovsk region.
Within the period between 5 and 11 July 2019, the Human Rights Ombudsman Office was reported on the following injuries sustained as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine: 5 persons, including 3 DPR servicemen, 1 civilian man and 1 civilian woman.
Within the period between 5 and 11 July 2019, 5 persons died in the Donetsk People’s Republic, including 1 civilian woman, who died as a result of shelling in Gorlovka, and 4 DPR servicemen.
Within the period between 1 January and 11 July 2019, 108 persons, including 102 DPR servicemen, 3 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 4837 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 12.07.2019, 249 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 101 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed.
– 148 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 12 July 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 6 and 12 July 2019, 5 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to being affected by the conflict. There are currently 1077 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7052 persons, including 1738 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, 2351 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 442 underage children, 4701 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1296 children.