Despite the ceasefire agreed on in February 2015, the sporadic fighting between Russia-backed rebels and Ukrainian forces in eastern Ukraine continues to injure and kill civilians. In the fall and winter of 2014, Human Rights Watch documented the use of cluster munitions by pro-government forces and Russia-backed rebels in eastern Ukraine. Cluster munitions are banned under the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention, although both Ukraine and Russia have yet to ratify the treaty. All parties to the conflict should stop indiscriminate attacks that harm civilians, including by discontinuing the use of cluster munitions and unguided rockets. A full investigation is required into the use of such weapons over the course of the last year, and clear action to prevent them being deployed in future including ratification of the Convention by both states.
Ukraine should ratify the Rome statute, which would give the International Criminal Court jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute abuses committed by both sides to the conflict. This should be done without time restrictions or other limitations.
All sides to the conflict should stop attacks on schools and education and the use of schools as military bases.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has led to the internal displacement of over 1 million people. While many people fled, thousands of civilians remain trapped in conflict-affected areas in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, unable to leave. The Ukraine government should simplify, as a matter of urgency, the process for issuing passes required to travel between government-controlled and rebel-held areas. It is a necessary step that will improve the plight of civilians trapped in conflict-affected zones and facilitate access to humanitarian aid, in line with the Minsk agreements. The existing system of passes is overly bureaucratic and has severely restricted the freedom of movement of civilians in rebel-controlled areas seeking to reach safety and access life-saving services, including medical treatment, available in Ukraine-controlled areas. The system of passes also significantly impedes delivery of humanitarian aid.
Travel restrictions imposed by the government resulted in shortages of medicines and medical supplies and led to the interruption of life-saving treatment for certain categories of patients. For instance, over 700 patients who were receiving opioid-substitution therapy in the rebel-controlled regions have had their live-saving treatment interrupted after the supplies of OST ran out in March. OST medicines are readily available in governmental territories but cannot be delivered due to the absence of a government-approved delivery procedure. Ukrainian authorities should as a matter of urgency adopt regulations allowing delivery of certain types of life-saving medicines from government-controlled territory to rebel-held areas.