2. UN. Human rights
BSSB.BE ohchr.org 06.04.2018
*Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights UN reports.
Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine 16 November 2017 to 15 February 2018.
The investigation and trials related to the 2 May 2014 violence in Odesa continued to be one-sided, undermining the rights of victims and the accused. The two acquitted defendants (members of ‘pro-federalism’ groups) who were immediately rearrested on 18 September 2017 remained in detention pending trial for new charges.
70 On 22 December 2017, the Shevchenkivskyi district court of Kyiv sentenced the gang leader to a four-year suspended sentence with a two-year probation period (verdict available at http://reyestr.court.gov.ua/Review/71189809) and released him. The court established that he was paid USD 20,000 to organize 200-300 young, athletically-built men to “protect public order”
they noticed journalist Viacheslav Veremii videotaping them from a taxi, the accused together with other ‘titushky’ dragged him out and severely beat him with bats. When he tried to escape, one shot him in the back, causing his death. Despite these facts, the court accepted the defence’s arguments that the accused ordered others not to touch the victim and the shooter acted on his own initiative, thus accepting the qualification of the crime as “hooliganism”.
The gang leader was arrested on 29 March 2014 and remanded in custody on charges of killing Viacheslav Veremii, however, on 27 May 2014, due to threats he allegedly received while in detention, he was placed under house arrest as well as provided with protection by the State Protection Service. Shortly after, the prosecutor changed the qualification of crime from murder to hooliganism. On 22 August 2014, the accused was released from house arrest under personal recognizance.
The three ‘titushky’ are accused of attempting to murder six protesters using firearms, attacking and intimidating protesters using bats and sticks, and carrying out a “joint criminal intention aimed at counteracting peaceful protests” together with unidentified individuals between 22:30 hrs on 18 February to 2:30 hrs on 19 February 2014.
During that period, “volunteer battalions” were often involved in apprehensions. Torture was most often reported by detainees held in Kharkiv SBU, particularly in 2015. Methods used included suffocation with a gas mask, dislocation of joints, electric shock and mock execution. Detainees also received death threats and threats of a sexual nature, both against themselves and their families, and were denied access to medical care. The torture would usually continue until the detainees signed self-incriminating statements.88 Members of armed groups were reportedly usually subjected to more violence. Released detainees also told OHCHR they were subjected to excessive use of force during apprehension and not granted access to legal counsel until they “confessed”.
“OHCHR documented the cases of eight individuals detained and tortured by SBU in Kharkiv in 2015. For example, three of these individuals were arrested separately in May 2015, handcuffed and had bags placed over their heads. They were taken to the Kharkiv SBU building, where they were interrogated and tortured separately for hours by methods including suffocation with a gas mask, dislocation of joints, electric shock, and mock execution. The detainees also received death threats and threats of a sexual nature against their families. SBU officers forced these men to sign self-incriminating statements and refused them access to a lawyer. They were transferred to a hospital where a doctor refused to document visible injuries. In another example, also in May 2015, a man was arrested by SBU. On the way to the Kharkiv SBU building, the perpetrators stopped the vehicle and tortured him with electric current. Upon reaching the SBU building, the victim was further tortured until he “confessed” to planning terrorist acts. As of 15 August 2017, all four of these victims remained in pre-trial detention. The Military Prosecutor’s Office has launched an investigation into these allegations.” OHCHR 19th Report, para 58.
Some threats recanted by interviewed victims were: “we will put you inside a basin with chlorine”, “I will cut your leg and will leave you forever in MGB basement”, “send you to the frontline”, “you don’t want to be disabled, do you?”, “I will go pick up a drill and drill through your legs”, “we have three main directions: to threaten, frighten, prevent access”, “we will put you back in the cell and deal with your wife”, “everything that was until now –were just flowers. You will be placed into the cell with faggots and get raped”, “they threatened to bring my wife, torture her on the table [with electric shock], put her in the next cell, rape her and make me listen to how she screams”.
Some examples from victims’ interviews include: “I was facing the wall and the guards shot above my head. I was scared to death”; “Somebody leaned in and said ‘You must remember this sound for the rest of your life. Then I heard the bolt reload and two people talking: ‘Wait… what if the cartridge is real?’ – ‘I am not sure if it is real or blank’. Then the gun was fired into my direction”; “I was taken outside with a plastic bag over my head and told to pray. Then I heard someone loading a gun. Then they told me they changed their mind. On another day, I was put in a coffin and told to get ready to die, then I heard someone nailing it. After approximately an hour, I dared to open it, and was beaten for that.”
Electric shocks were administered on the neck, ears, feet, legs, arms and genitals. For example, a female detainee described one of her evenings in Izoliatsiia detention facility: “One evening a number of men came to the room. They put a bag on my head and forced me into a different room. There I was put on a metal table face down and tied with duct tape. My socks were taken off and someone connected wires to my toes and turned on electricity. It was extremely painful through my whole body. They demanded I confess to cooperating with some people from the government-controlled side.
I was electrocuted twice”. Another detainee in Izoliatsiia stated “On many occasions my cellmates were taken out somewhere, tortured with electricity and returned with burns on their ears, fingers and genitals”. A detainee from Luhansk said “they would attach one wire to the handcuffs, and another wire to parts of the body – a nose, ears, genitals”.
Suffocation was done almost to the point of unconsciousness or triggering seizures. For example, a detainee held in Luhansk witnessed “a person would be forced to wear a gas mask, and an air hole would be closed, causing a person to suffocate.”
For example: “They started asking about military positions, then twisted my arms and led me downstairs, intentionally pushing me against the walls, so I would hit my head. Then they slammed my head against the boiler. Then six or seven men brought me to a room, forced to undress and made me kneel facing the wall. Then they hit me a few times, racked the slide and put a machine gun to my head saying I can make my last wish. Then someone entered the room and I heard a dialog: ‘Oh, don’t do it, his blood will be everywhere’ – ‘No worries, I will clean the floor’. Then I heard click of a slide and was ordered to get dressed. They twisted my hands and led me upstairs. Again, they were slamming me against the walls and the boiler.”
Comment by the Information and Press Department on the recent report by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine
We have familiarised ourselves with the 21st report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine covering the period from November 16, 2017, to February 15, 2018, which was circulated in Geneva.
We took note of the information about lower number of civilian casualties in the Donbass conflict. However, the statistics of losses are still shocking at 12 killed and 61 wounded.
Of particular concern is the fact that the number of casualties from shelling civilian targets from rocket systems has doubled. At the same time, observers managed to reliably establish that the Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics account for three quarters of all the casualties during the reporting period, for which likely “the government is responsible”.
The number of civilian deaths resulting from explosions of mines, booby-traps and IEDs remains inordinately high.
We join the appeal of the Monitoring Mission to the parties to the conflict asking them to strictly comply with the ceasefire agreements, including to withdraw heavy artillery from the line of contact. We emphasise the need to restore critically important infrastructure. Disruptions in the work of water treatment and power plants have left more than half a million residents of Donetsk without drinking water, electricity and heating, and put the region on the brink of an ecological disaster. We would like to remind the Ukrainian authorities that the shelling of civilian infrastructure is a direct violation of their international legal obligations.
The level of gross human rights violations on the part of the Ukrainian law enforcement agencies and the Security Service recorded by the Monitoring Mission, which, according to the most recent UN reports, are systemic in nature, causes major concern. These include unlawful confinement, kidnapping, detention with no outside communication, torture, sexual violence, and using anti-terrorism legislation to crack down on political opposition and dissent in society. Again, the UN mission members had to admit that the Ukrainian authorities lacked political will and interest in conducting a full-scale investigation into all the cases of human rights violations by members of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and the Security Service. This feeds the atmosphere of permissiveness and impunity in the country.
The lack of progress in investigating the crimes committed in Odessa in May 2014 is no longer surprising given these circumstances.
We are seriously concerned by the findings of the UN mission members regarding Kiev’s discriminatory policy against the citizens of Ukraine residing in Donbass. The authorities’ reluctance to pay pensions and social benefits to residents of southeastern Ukraine, lack of procedures for reimbursing their own citizens for the loss of housing and property resulting from the actions of the Ukrainian military, the artificial restrictions on crossing the contact line by the people have led to further impoverishment of the poorest groups of the population, further dividing Ukrainian society and, thus, reducing the chances for national reconciliation in the future.
We share the Monitoring Mission’s concerns regarding the mounting offensive by the Ukrainian authorities against civil and political freedoms in that country, including increased attacks on freedom of expression, freedom of the media and physical attacks on journalists. According to the National Union of Journalists of Ukraine, 90 media workers were attacked in 2017 alone. We support the UN demand to ensure prompt, effective and unbiased investigations into all violations caused by the work of the Myrotvorets website, to revise state policy on forming TV and radio content, and to cancel the disproportionately strict bans on imports of printed products into that country.
We are concerned about the numerous cases of discrimination and violence against representatives of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and its worship sites established by the UN mission. According to the Monitoring Mission, the issue is not about isolated instances of intolerance against the UOC, but a coordinated campaign which is being carried out with the obvious connivance of official authorities and law enforcement officers.
We urge Kiev to carefully heed to the assessments and recommendations provided by the Monitoring Mission and the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe regarding the law On Education, which grossly violates the rights of the linguistic minorities living in that country, especially Russian speakers. We look forward to the authorities making the necessary amendments to article 7 of the law, withdrawing private schools from its sphere of application and providing for sufficient education in minority languages at public schools.
Again, we are forced to remind everyone that the mandate of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine does not include reviewing the situation in third countries. The Republic of Crimea and the city of federal importance Sevastopol are part of the territory of the Russian Federation, and the latest attempt to include an assessment of the human rights situation in this Russian region in the report on Ukraine is inappropriate.
- The publication is not an editorial. It reflects solely the point of view and argumentation of the author. The publication is presented in the presentation. Start in the previous issue. The original is available at: ohchr.org