GENEVA - A new U.N. report finds an increase in civilian casualties and widespread human rights violations in conflict-ridden eastern Ukraine.
The U.N. Human Rights Office reports nearly 8,000 people have been killed and almost 18,000 wounded since Russian-backed rebel groups in eastern Ukraine began their military offensive against the government in mid-April 2014.
This latest report on the human rights situation in Ukraine covers the period from May 16 to August 15. The report notes that the number of civilian casualties more than doubled during this period in comparison with the previous three months. It says 105 people were killed and 308 injured, compared to 60 killed and 102 injured between mid-February and mid-May.
Gianni Magazzeni, chief of global operations for the U.N. Human Rights Office, says ongoing hostilities in some areas of eastern Ukraine's Donetsk and Luhansk regions reportedly are being fueled by the presence and continuing influx of foreign fighters and sophisticated weapons and ammunition from Russia.
“The report refers to allegations of killings, abductions, torture, ill-treatment, sexual violence, forced labor, ransom demands, and extortion of money in the territories controlled by the so-called Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics," he said. "An estimated three million people continue to reside in these territories — three million people — and they are without protection with respect to their human rights.”
Magazzeni notes the rebel authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk also have begun issuing passports to residents and have enacted a number of so-called laws pertaining to criminal prosecutions. He notes these procedures do not conform to either international or Ukrainian law.
The report also accuses the Ukrainian Security Service and military and paramilitary units of engaging in a persistent pattern of arbitrary and incommunicado detention. It says detainees often are subject to torture, ill treatment and violations of their legal rights.
The ongoing hostilities are creating enormous social and economic hardships for the Ukrainian population as a whole. Since the beginning of the year, the report notes, real income has dropped 23.5 percent and prices for basic commodities have gone up by nearly 41 percent.
U.N. monitors express concern about ongoing human rights violations committed by the de facto authorities in Crimea. They say dissidents in this territory, which was illegally annexed by Russia in March 2014, are kept under close scrutiny. It says dissenting voices, especially those of Crimean Tatars, continue to be silenced.