GENEVA — The United Nations says widespread corruption, propaganda and misinformation are to blame for escalating tensions in Ukraine. In a report released Tuesday, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights calls for perpetrators of rights violations to be held accountable for their actions.
The United Nations report looks at the root causes of the crisis facing Ukraine. It blames current disquieting events in the country on widespread corruption and economic inequality, on lack of accountability for human rights violations by security forces and on a weak rule of law.
The U.N. human rights office says protests in November in Ukraine's capital, Kyiv, which were largely peaceful, turned violent and became radicalized because of the excessive use of force by the Berkut special police and other security forces.
The report says 121 people - mainly protesters - died during the demonstrations. It also cites numerous cases of torture and ill treatment. The U.N. investigators say violations related to the Maidan protests should be investigated and perpetrators held accountable.
Gianni Magazzeni, chief of the Americas, Europe and Central Asia Branch of the U.N. human rights office, says the current disintegration of the situation in Ukraine is due to the lack of respect for international norms and the rule of law. He says the government must ensure good governance and the protection of minority rights.
“One issue that the press release issued by the high commissioner this morning says is, of course, avoiding misinformation, propaganda, and incitement to hatred because, of course, if there are different narratives, if there are different points of views as to what are the facts on the ground, there are possibilities for those to increase the level of insecurity, increasing the potential for violence, for non-respect of international human rights norms," Magazzeni said.
The report released Tuesday is based on information collected during two missions to Ukraine in March by Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic and a team of U.N. rights monitors on the ground.
Monitors found credible allegations of harassment, arbitrary arrests and torture targeting activists and journalists who were opposed to the March 16 referendum annexing Crimea to Russia. The U.N. report also criticizes the lack of freedom of expression and assembly and other key rights in the disputed region.
The investigators note the situation in eastern Ukraine, home to a large ethnic Russian minority, is particularly tense. Magazzeni says in a VOA interview that the government made a mistake when it sought to repeal a law that deemed Russian a regional language in southern and eastern Ukraine. He says the acting president has addressed this problem by vetoing the proposal.
“The government of Ukraine is doing all what is necessary in order to address some of the underlying human rights issues and trying to prepare the country for the elections on the 25th of May, which we hope will be free and fair and will even more consolidate their ability to work fully in line with the constitution of 2004 and the International human rights requirement they have," he said.
Among its many recommendations, the United Nations report calls for all those who have committed human rights violations during the unrest to be held accountable. It says all citizens should have the right to participate equally in public affairs and political life.