Statement of Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group and ADC Memorial
Ukraine: Report to the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is an opportunity to assess the situation of Roma people and find effective ways to respond to hate crimes
In 2016, Ukraine delivered a report on its implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. At the time, the overall situation did not appear critical. Many problems arose from the actions of the Yanukovych government or the armed conflict, and members of the new government agreed with the recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, which took the opinions of the authors of alternative reports submitted to the Committee (including a report from KHPG and ADC Memorial) into consideration.
The prescribed four years have passed, and Ukraine was due to present a new report on its implementation of the Convention and the Committee’s previous recommendations in April 2020. This report has not been submitted yet, although its preparation could provide a good reason for assessing the overall situation and developing systemic steps to improve it.
In 2020, on the threshold of a new review, the situation appears much worse and has even become critical in terms of Roma rights. Over the past four years Roma people in Ukraine have suffered pogroms and attacks with regularity. These included a pogrom in the village of Loshchinovka, Odessa Oblast (2016), an attack, arson, and the razing of a temporary Roma settlement in Kyiv (Lysaya gora, April 2018), attacks on Roma settlements in the villages of Rudnoye, Lviv Oblast and Bolshaya Berezovitsa, Ternopil Oblast (May 2018), an attack on a temporary Roma settlement in Kyiv (Goloseyevsky, June 2018), and the burning of two houses where Roma lived in Ivano-Frankivsk (March 2019). In 2017, a 50-year-old Roma man, Nikolai Kaspitsky, was shot after armed local residents organized an attack against a group of Roma people in the village of Olshany, Kharkiv Oblast. On June 23, 2018, a group of Roma people were attacked outside Lviv. A 24-year-old Roma man named David from the village of Rovnoe, Zarkapattia Oblast was killed and four people—two 19-year-old men, a 30-year-old woman, and a 10-year-old child—were injured.
There have been two cases of racial discrimination and violation of Roma rights over the past month (April 2020). In late April, the mayor of Ivano-Frankivsk gave an order to remove Roma people from the city and criticized the police for being unable to manage this task. The next day he explained that he was referring to a specific group of Roma who were panhandling in the city center, violating quarantine, and living in a square, and said that he did not believe his statement was discriminatory. Several days later, unknown assailants in Kyiv attacked Roma people, lighting their tent on fire, beating a man, and threatening a pregnant woman.
Even though law enforcement bodies have instigated criminal cases in the attacks and several of these cases have gone to trial, the level of aggression against the Roma has not dropped. Rather, this aggression has become systemic and widespread. There are many reasons for this, including the non-integration of Roma people into Ukrainian society and structural discrimination, the activities of right-wing groups and their ties to local governments, society’s overall aggression and fatigue from the armed conflict, and other deeply-rooted causes and conditions.
An assessment of Ukraine’s implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination and preparation of the state report could create a forum for thoughtful discussion about the current situation. This discussion must have the goal of assessing the entire situation and its causes and conditions and should involve not just representatives of national state bodies and NGOs, but also the victims’ families, local government bodies, and the media. The results of this public conversation must then be discussed with experts from the Committee, whose opinion will help develop viable mechanisms for improving the situation. This situation will not solve itself on its own, and without a response, the violence and discrimination seen over the past five years will only continue to surge and result in new victims.