Call for joint Ukrainian-Russian human rights mission for Donbas
Representatives of human rights organizations in Ukraine and Russia have addressed an open appeal to Ukraine’s Human Rights Ombudsperson, Valeria Lutkovska; Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsperson Ella Pamfilova and the Chairperson of the Russian Human Rights Council under the President, Mikhail Fedotov.
As activists and human rights workers from Ukraine and Russia monitoring human rights violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, they ask the recipients to take joint efforts to stop the widespread violations of human rights in the conflict area.
“Clearly observation of human rights on Ukrainian territory is first and foremost the concern and responsibility of the Ukrainian authorities. At present, however, many of the rights violations in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts are being committed under Russia’s flag and with the involvement of Russian nationals.
Working in Donbas, we see and understand that the situation at present is to a large extent not controlled by any of the parties to the conflict. It is however quite possible that the involvement of official figures responsible for the protection of human rights and representing the Russian Federation can exert influence on people who have declared their wish to be subjects of the Russian Federation.
The very creation of a joint mission would confirm that observance of human rights is outside and above politics. Such a mission would unquestionably inspire greater trust than any unilateral structures.
The most serious issues which a joint mission could provide significant help in resolving are achieving the release of civilians held against their will although they had no part in the armed confrontation, and ensuring (monitoring) observance of the rights of people detained in the region of conflict.
No accurate figures are available for the number of people held hostage by armed groups from the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic, however we are certainly talking about scores of people held prisoner.
We know that they are being held in seized administrative buildings in Luhansk; Donetsk; Slovyansk; Kramatorsk; Horlivka; and Artemivsk (with this list not exhaustive).
Most of the hostages are civic activists and their relatives; ordinary people speaking out in favour of Ukrainian unity and sovereignty; journalists and people taking part in the presidential election process (members and heads of election commissions; representatives of presidential candidates; and authorized figures).
Many of the captives have been subjected to bad and inhuman treatment; beatings; torture. The prisoners are not given medical assistance. Some have been held in such conditions for several weeks.
Relatives are unable to learn the whereabouts of those abducted and somehow improve their conditions.
Violations of the rights of people detained by the Ukrainian enforcement bodies in the area of conflict also need close attention. We know of cases where lawyers have not been allowed to see detainees; where people have been held without charges being laid; of humiliating or ill-treatment of detainnes; of people who do not have the authority taking part in operation and investigative measures.
Taking into account the above, we would ask you to consider the following requests and suggestions:
1. Issue a public call to all groups involved in detaining and holding civilians to stop this unacceptable practice and to release all captives without any exceptions and without any additional conditions;
2. Carry out a joint monitoring trip, visiting the main places where civilians are being held against their will in order to hold negotiations aimed at obtaining the unconditional release of all captives without any exception;
3. Initiate the creation of a joint official Ukrainian and Russian working group which could monitor rights violations by parties to the conflict; take measures and draw up recommendations on putting an end to such violations; and publish reports on the violations identified and action taken. This working group should include people already taking part in monitoring of human rights abuse, including members of the Russian Human Rights Council under the President and members of human rights organizations from both countries. It would also be expedient to invite members of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine to take part as observers.
The authors of this appeal, members of Ukrainian and Russian civil society are willing to provide you with all information they have about rights violations in the conflict area.
The appeal is signed, among others, by (Ukraine) Yevhen Zakharov, head of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group; Oleksandra Matviychuk, head of the Centre for Civil Liberties; Josef Zisels, executive vice president of the Congress of National Communities of Ukraine; Arkady Bushchenko, executive director of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Mykola Kozyrev, head of the UHHRU board; EuroMaidan SOS; Luhansk Civic Sector; InfoCentre Donbas and the Postup Human Rights Centre [Luhansk]
(Russia) Oleg Orlov, member of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Council; Lev Ponomaryov, executive director of the movement For Human Rights; Jan Rachnski from the Russian Memorial Society; Ella Polyakov from the human rights organization Soldiers’ Mothers, St Petersburg; Andrei Yurov, Coordinator of the International Human Rights Group on the situation in Ukraine.
The appeal is also supported by Ludmila Alexeeva, head of the Moscow Helsinki Group; Valery Borshchev [MHG]; Svetlana Gannushkina, head of the Civil Assistance Committee; Sergei Kovalyov, President of the Human Rights Institute; Arseny Roginsky, head of the board of the International Memorial Society; Alexander Cherkasov, head of the Memorial Human Rights Centre Council