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UN: Rights Abuses on Rise in War-torn E. Ukraine

FILE - Valentina Fedoryak and her husband stand outside their home damaged by shelling in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Nov. 12, 2014.
FILE - Valentina Fedoryak and her husband stand outside their home damaged by shelling in Donetsk, Eastern Ukraine, Nov. 12, 2014.

A new United Nations report found the presence of large numbers of sophisticated weapons as well as foreign fighters, including Russian soldiers, have led to a worsening of the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine.

The report issued by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights said serious human rights violations persist in eastern Ukraine despite a tenuous cease-fire between the government and rebels.

This seventh U.N. monthly report on Ukraine shows the situation in the rebel-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine has worsened.

The report said more than 4,300 people were killed and more than 9,900 wounded in the conflict-affected areas from mid-April to November 18.

Death toll rising

According to the U.N., an average of 13 people have been killed every day since the government and rebels reached agreement on a cease-fire in early September. The report said this number indicates that the death toll, which had been falling, is again on the rise.

U.N. monitors also report the number of internally displaced people has sharply increased to nearly 467,000, including 19,000 from Crimea. The monitors noted almost a half-million other people have fled to Russia.

Gianni Magazzeni, the chief of the Americas, Europe and Central Asia Branch of the U.N. Human Rights Office, said parallel governance systems have emerged in the self-proclaimed republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.

Magazzeni said there has been a total breakdown in the rule of law in these territories. And the influx of sophisticated weaponry and foreign fighters into the region has a bearing on the deterioration of human rights, he said.

“We have also increasing reports of torture, arbitrary detention, summary execution, forced labor, sexual violence, including some very graphic descriptions of individuals that were held by the armed groups and have been able to talk in freedom with our monitoring missions and have revealed very, very disturbing details of their situations and conditions of detention," Magazzeni said.

He said U.N. monitors have also received reports on the use of cluster munitions in both urban and rural areas.

Magazzeni said it is important that an urgent and thorough investigation into these disturbing reports takes place.

“Clearly, if it was proven as a fact that cluster munitions have been used, that may amount to war crimes," he said. "So, that is another clear element because of the wide radius, because of their indiscriminate impact, especially if used in a highly populated area.”

The report also documents human rights violations committed by Ukrainian security forces, but it notes these pale in comparison to the widespread and serious violations being committed by the rebels in eastern Ukraine.

Abuses in Crimea

U.N. monitors said the human rights situation in Crimea has seriously deteriorated since Russia annexed the peninsula from Ukraine in March. It said minority and indigenous groups, the Crimean Tartars in particular, are most vulnerable to abuse.

The report documents a growing number of disappearances and deaths, which have not been investigated.

It also accused the so-called authorities in Crimea of conducting raids on private homes and other facilities, actively searching for weapons and religious literature. It said these raids overwhelmingly target Crimean Tartar properties.