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UN recommendations should serve as roadmap to rights protection & reform in Ukraine

Update by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Situation in Ukraine - December 2019

Human Rights Watch welcomes the new report of the UN Human Rights Office on the situation in Ukraine. We urge the Ukrainian authorities to embrace its recommendations as a matter of priority.

We are concerned that the government continues to require people living in non-government controlled areas to register as internally displaced and regularly travel to government controlled areas to access social benefits. This creates unnecessary hardship for many older people in accessing pensions, while those unable to regularly cross could not access their pensions at all. Lack of basic facilities at some crossing points remains a problem. Over a dozen people, mostly elderly, died from health complications in 2019 while trying to cross the line of contact.

We join the condemnation by the UN Monitoring Mission of unlawful conscription by Russian authorities in occupied Crimea, and the sanctioning of those who refuse to comply. Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, an occupying power may not compel residents of the occupied territory to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces. It also explicitly prohibits any “pressure or propaganda which aims at securing voluntary enlistment.” Russia should immediately cease these practices and release Crimeans who have been forced to serve in the Russian forces.

Independent media remain under pressure in Ukraine. This year, again, dozens of journalists were attacked, injured, threatened, or prosecuted on dubious charges. In June, investigative journalist Vadym Komarov died from severe head injuries he sustained in a May attack. The organizers of the attack against activist Kateryna Handziuk, who died in November 2018 from the wounds sustained from an acid attack, are yet to be identified. Groups advocating hate and discrimination continue to put ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and rights activists at risk. While law enforcement made demonstrable efforts to protect women’s rights rallies in March and the Equality March in June, on other occasions they failed to protect vulnerable groups. The authorities should bring those responsible for such attacks to justice.

President Zelensky’s pledge to curb corruption and end the conflict with Russia should go hand in hand with a commitment to address key human rights concerns. The recommendations included in HCHRO report should be a roadmap for his administration.

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