Round table “Revival of liberated cities: human rights defense issues and ways to address them”

19 Aug 2014

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Slovyansk, Lysychansk, Severodonetsk… What is happening with the liberated east Ukrainian cities? What core human rights issues arise in the areas where combat was raging just yesterday, and who can aid in tackling those challenges?

 These and many other questions linked to human rights observance on the territories that have witnessed the Anti-Terrorist Operation (ATO) were raised at the round table “Revival of liberated cities: human rights defense issues and ways to address them”, which took place on 19 August in Kyiv. The event convened over 30 representatives of the civil society, lawyers, officials of liberated cities, community representatives, specialists of the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Internal Affairs, Office of the Ombudsperson, as well as international organizations.

The discussion began by sketching out the mechanism of mobile human rights defense groups and their role in documenting human rights violations. Throughout the last month, mobile groups of the Center for Civil Liberties and Euromaidan SOS in collaboration with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group have conducted monitoring visits to a number of cities, including Lysychansk, Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, Chervony Liman and Severodonetsk.

The event participants raised issues of hostage liberation (both civil and military), detentions carried out by armed personnel in the ATO zone, and inapplicability of procedures foreseen by the current laws for initiation of criminal proceedings in such circumstances. Special emphasis was made on undue documenting procedures for crimes committed by illicit armed groups, as well as absence of systemic investigations or gathering of evidence in the premises where armed groups were quartered. A separate section of the discussions was dedicated to information vacuum that exists on the liberated territories and the necessity to sustain stable links between the members of territorial communities and the government to prevent the eastern part of the country from breaking off from the nationwide information field.

The round table resulted in a number of recommendations and proposal to the authorities regarding improvement of the current situation in the areas adjacent to the ATO zone. The list and essence of these recommendations may be expanded and the draft document is open for proposals.