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“Call for justice, not retribution”

Ukraine army cuts off main road to Sloviansk by Maksymenko Oleksandr (Flickr/2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0))

9 October 2014 – In spite of a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine, at least 331 fatalities were recorded since 5 September 2014, according to the latest report released by the UN Human Rights Office.

“While the ceasefire is a very welcome step towards ending the fighting in eastern Ukraine, I call on all parties to genuinely respect and uphold it, and to halt the attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure once and for all,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said at the report launch. From mid-April to 6 October, at least 3,660 people were killed and 8,756 wounded in eastern Ukraine.

“For almost half a year, residents of the areas affected by the armed conflict have been deprived of their fundamental rights to education, to adequate healthcare, to housing and to opportunities to earn a living. Further prolongation of this crisis will make the situation untenable for the millions of people whose daily lives have been seriously disrupted,” Zeid said, referring to the estimated 375,792 internally displaced people (IDPs). In addition, nearly 40,000 small and medium businesses in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have ceased activity due to the fighting, leaving thousands without income.

“During the reporting period, international humanitarian law, including the principles of military necessity, distinction, proportionality and precaution continued to be violated by armed groups and some units and volunteer battalions under the control of the Ukrainian armed forces,” the report states, referring to daily reports of skirmishes, shelling and fighting. “Armed groups continued to terrorise the population in areas under their control, pursuing killings, abductions, torture, ill-treatment and other serious human rights abuses, including destruction of housing and seizure of property. There have also been continued allegations of human rights violations committed by some volunteer battalions under Government control.”

The report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine further notes a sharp increase in detentions by the armed groups, as well as alarming reports of torture and ill-treatment of detainees, including mock executions and sexual violence, and reports of ill-treatment of those detained by Ukrainian armed forces and police.

The UN High Commissioner Zeid expressed deep concern about this lack of rule of law. He stressed that all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law must be investigated and prosecuted.

The report notes that two laws pending the President’s signature – one providing for an amnesty (apart from some grave offences), the second offering special status to parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions-, could “play a critical role in reconciliation and creating an environment for sustainable peace.”

“This is a call for justice, not retribution”, said the High Commissioner. “All parties must ensure that there are no reprisals for perceived collaboration or affiliation with an opposing camp. It is crucial for the authorities to defuse such tensions.”

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