Human rights activists call on Council of Europe to define human rights as priority in Donbas conflict talks
Ukrainian human rights organizations, which form the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas”, call on the Council of Europe to define the protection of human rights as a priority issue in the negotiations on settlement of the armed conflict in Donbas and promote it in constant consultations with human rights organizations which document human rights violations and international crimes being committed in the area of the armed conflict and protect the rights of the conflict victims.
This is said in the Coalition’s statement, adopted on the occasion of holding the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe these days in Strasbourg, which considers the Ukrainian issue.
The statement’s authors note that “the fall of the authoritarian regime after the shooting of Euromaidan activists in February 2014 and Yanukovych’s fleeing Russia, has opened the way to development of a democratic Ukraine on European values. Trying to stop these democratic reforms, the Russian Federation with the help of the army invaded Crimea and started a hybrid war in Donbas, hiding the direct military aggression behind the propaganda clichés about ‘coup’ in Kyiv and legality of so-called ‘referendums’ in Crimea and Donetsk and Luhansk regions.”
The human rights activists remind that only official data state that more than 9,700 people have been killed, about 22,000 people have been injured, about 2 million people have been forced to leave their homes moving to peaceful area as a result of the conflict in Donbas. In fact, the Russian Federation launched a war against Ukraine, thereby grossly violating the provisions of the UN Charter and the post-war world order.
About three million people now live in the Russian-controlled territory of the so-called “Donetsk and Luhansk people’s republics.” They live in the area where the legal procedures virtually do not exist or are extremely poor. Freedom, life, and property of people living in this area depend solely on the will of the illegal armed groups. Any person, regardless of age and gender, is at risk of being abducted, tortured, forced to slave labor. There is a network of illegal places of detention, which are called “cellars” through their unsuitability for even temporary detention of people. The humanitarian situation is also difficult enough, the cases of starvation of the elderly were documented. Paying Ukrainian state social benefits to residents in the uncontrolled territories, in accordance with the law, also remains to be a pressing issue.
In this regard, Ukrainian human rights organizations are deeply concerned that the issue of human rights has not yet become a priority in the negotiations on settlement of the armed conflict in Donbas. There is a lack of persistence in promoting the release of prisoners of war and civilian captives, which should have been regarded as a conditio sine qua non in the implementation of all the reached agreements. The absolute requirement is to establish proper control over the situation on part of the international organizations and institutions, in particular, the unfettered work of international humanitarian organizations and international monitoring missions should be ensured. There also should be provided their access to all places of detention, protection of the civilian population from the tyranny of armed men, effective investigation into serious crimes and bringing the perpetrators to justice, exerting pressure on the Russian Federation to stop violations of human rights in the occupied territories.
Instead, the issue of elections in the occupied territories is considered to be the priority against the backdrop of constant attacks on the demarcation line and delivery of military equipment over an uncontrolled part of the Ukrainian-Russian border. The fact that the elections will become a tool for legitimizing military dictatorships, instead of expressing the will, in the absence of protection of human rights is completely ignored.
The Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” is the informal union of 17 non-governmental human rights organizations and initiatives which have joined their efforts for consistent documentation of human rights violations and international crimes being committed during the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine, and for provision of legal, psychological, and other types of assistance to the conflict-affected people. The majority of the Coalition members are the non-governmental association from Luhansk and Donetsk regions. The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is also the Coalition member.