GENEVA, SWITZERLAND - A report by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights finds civilians in conflict-torn eastern Ukraine remain at risk of human rights violations and death despite an easing of hostilities between the Ukrainian government and Russian-backed rebels in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The U.N. report welcomes recent diplomatic measures taken by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, France and Germany to ease the plight of civilians caught in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. France and Germany mediated a December 9 meeting in Paris between Russia and Ukraine, aimed at finding a peaceful solution to the conflict. Some 13,000 civilians have been killed since war broke out in April 2014.
The U.N. reports the freedom of movement by civilians has improved. It says they now can move safely across the contact line that separates the warring parties to visit their families.
Despite this positive development, U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kate Gilmore says civilians in the conflict zone remain unprotected and are subject to abuse and gross human rights violations.
Gilmore warns that as long as active hostilities continue, people are at risk of being maimed or killed. She says her office has received reports of killings and extrajudicial executions committed on both sides of the contact line.
“We also continued to document cases of arbitrary arrests and detention, of torture and ill-treatment of Ukrainians occurring in government-controlled territory and in territory controlled by the so-called self-proclaimed ‘republics’ as well as in the Russian Federation.”
The U.N. report also documents violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in March 2014.
U.N. monitors say they have received reports that Ukrainians apprehended in Crimea have been deported to Russia, where they have been subjected to torture and denied access to medical care.
The Ukrainian ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Yurii Klymenko, says the report reflecting the situation on the ground is not encouraging. He says the rebels in the Donbass continue to break a cease-fire agreed to in June in Minsk. He says shelling continues causing deaths, injuries and destruction.
The ambassador accuses Russia of resorting to fraud and trickery to legitimize its illegal occupation of Crimea, while persecuting and penalizing innocent people living in the occupied territory. Russia annexed Crimea after Moscow declared the region Russian territory.