(Kyiv) – Both sides in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine have detained and abused people with complete impunity, Human Rights Watch said today at a joint press conference with Amnesty International in Kyiv. In a statement released in Kyiv jointly with Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch reiterated its call for the Ukraine government and the Russia-backed separatists to stop all arbitrary and secret detentions and ill-treatment of detainees and ensure accountability for abuses that have occurred.
In July 2016, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch released a joint report, “You Don’t Exist,” documenting prolonged, arbitrary, and sometimes secret detentions – that is, enforced disappearances – as well as ill-treatment of detainees by both the Ukrainian authorities and Russia-backed separatists. Since then, based on the information obtained and verified by the organizations, the Kharkiv branch of Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) has released all 18 people it had forcibly disappeared, the last three in December. However, Ukrainian authorities have not acknowledged either the detentions or the releases and have not taken effective steps to ensure accountability for these abuses.
“Though freeing the detainees was a positive step, we are concerned about the SBU’s continued denial of enforced disappearances,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The lack of effective investigation by Ukraine’s authorities fosters a climate of lawlessness and perpetuates impunity for grave human rights violations.”