UN raises concerns on Ukraine human rights

By Erol Avdovic, Thursday, April 17, 2014

UN upset on human rights violations in Eastern Ukraine and the abolition of freedoms of Crimean Tatars

UN upset on human rights violations in Eastern Ukraine and the abolition of freedoms of Crimean Tatars

UNITED NATIONS – Immediate action should be taken to halt the violence in Eastern Ukraine given the significant human rights implications and those responsible for arming paramilitary groups should be held accountable, the UN Security Council was told Wednesday. 

Human rights violations need to be urgently investigated and verified and while Ukrainian security forces have the right to defend their country from disorder and chaos, they must also play their role in maintaining public order in accordance with human rights standards, Ivan Simonovic, the UN’s assistant secretary general for human rights said. 

“The arming of the protesters and their transformation in to quasi-paramilitary forces must be stopped,” Simonovic said. “Anyone inciting violence and providing arms to protesters can be held accountable for the resulting tragic consequences. 

There are clear lines between what can be considered the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly and the violent behavior of armed protesters, Simonovic told the council.  

“In all cases, security forces should not use force unnecessarily or excessively,” he said. “Such a process should take into consideration the concerns of all those who live in Ukraine, including minorities, and address issues such as language rights.”

- Crimean Tatars’ concerns

Simonovic also addressed media manipulation which, he said, contributed to a “climate of fear and insecurity” in Ukraine, particularly prior to the Crimea referendum which was supported by Russia.  

The presence of paramilitary and self-defense groups, as well as soldiers in uniform without insignia, jeopardized the free exercise of voter rights in deciding referendum on March 16, according to Simonovic.

The UN’s assistant secretary general for human rights also criticized the rush by the new authorities in Crimea adopt a fresh constitution on April 11,  just days after the referendum, the adoption of which raised human rights concerns among ethnic Tatars. 

The Tatar Mejlis, the body representing the Tatars, has raised concerns about the total lack of public debate as well as the exclusion of Crimean Tatars from the drafting process of the new constitution.

Simonovic said those Crimeans who do not accept Russian citizenship will face obstacles in guaranteeing their property and land rights, access to education and healthcare, and simple enjoyment of civil and political rights.

The UN intends to issue a further report on human rights violations in Ukraine on May 15, Simonovic said. He called anyone with “relevant information” on human rights violations to share it so the United Nations can verify, further investigate and include it in the next report.

Simonovic also called for a “meaningful national dialogue” based on the Ukraine’s obligations to respect legal international human rights treaties that Kiev has already ratified.

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