Interactive dialogue on the OHCHR periodic update on Ukraine, 12 June 2017

Thank you Mr. President,

Human Rights Watch welcomes the periodic reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine provided by the Office of the High Commissioner.

We share the High Commissioner’s concerns over the impact repeated ceasefire violations in Eastern Ukraine have on daily lives of civilians. All parties should investigate attacks that caused civilian casualties and damaged civilian infrastructure and facilities, including schools, youth summer camps, and hospitals. We also urge the Ukrainian government to endorse the Safe Schools Declaration and to take concrete measures to deter the military use of schools.

We welcome the steps taken by the Ukrainian authorities that facilitate the crossing of the line of contact in eastern Ukraine, such as the move to make the e-pass permanent and steps to facilitate crossing for residents of the grey zones. But as high summer temperatures will bring new hardship to vulnerable civilians, more efforts are urgently needed, such as securing shelters from the sun, provision of water, sanitation and toilet facilities, and giving priority to assisting older persons, persons with disabilities, young children, and pregnant women.

While we had welcomed the release of all detainees who had been forcibly disappeared and held at the unlawful detention facility at the Kharkiv compound of Ukraine's security service, we remain concerned about the total lack of accountability for these serious violations. Russia-backed separatists have provided no information on incommunicado detention documented in separatist-held areas. 

We are also deeply concerned about the Ukrainian government’s recent restrictions on freedom of expression and access to information that are not only unlawfully disproportionate to any legitimate security concern, but are also harmful and counterproductive. This includes a 15 May decree banning public access to Russian social media platforms, news outlets, and a major search engine widely used in Ukraine and the requirement to activists and journalists reporting on government corruption to file public declarations of their assets.

Human Rights Watch has continued to document the harassment of pro-Ukraine activists and the Crimean Tatar community in Russia-occupied Crimea. Authorities exercising effective control on the Crimean Peninsula should urgently end persecution of members of the Crimean Tatar community and the arbitrary actions against defense lawyers and other peaceful critics.

Finally, Human Rights Watch urges Ukraine’s international partners to make it clear to Ukrainian authorities that the future of the country should be enshrined on the principles of respect for human rights and the rule of law. They should privately and publicly, including at this Council, call on the Ukrainian authorities to reverse the recent backslide on freedom of expression, to fully investigate allegations of arbitrary detention and torture by Ukrainian forces, and expedite consideration of the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.