Civil society scrutinizes Ukraine’s human rights efforts ahead of UN Periodical Review

Apr 26, 2017

Ahead of the 3rd United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review of Ukraine’s performance of human rights, Ukrainian civil society reviews the government’s successes and failures in combating discrimination, promoting the rule of law and other human rights issues.  

In November 2017, Ukraine will present its national report to the UN Human Rights Council under the 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism. This provides the opportunity for each UN Member State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in their country, and to fulfil their human rights obligations.

Back in 2012, at the outset of the 2nd UPR cycle, UNDP took the lead in exploring the use of this mechanism to promote the human rights agenda in Ukraine, raising awareness about this framework and ensuring that all stakeholders benefit from participating in preparation of the UPR of Ukraine. Under the UPR 2nd cycle in 2012, Ukraine received 145 recommendations from 47 Member States on problematic issues that needed to be addressed, and accepted nearly 80% of them.

Most recommendations to Ukraine concerned areas such as combating discrimination and ensuring tolerance, promoting the rule of law, improving penitentiary system, implementing international conventions, advocating and promoting the rights of the child.

In 2015, with UNDP support, over 80 civil society organizations united under the UPR Coalition prepared an interim shadow report to evaluate the implementation status of UPR recommendations received by Ukraine in 2012, while focusing on new conflict-related human rights challenges.

This April, to provide updated independent insights on how successful the Ukrainian Government acts on the recommendations to improve human rights in the country, the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights (Ombudsperson) and numerous CSO coalitions presented their alternative visions and discussed it with the Government at a meeting co-organised by UNDP, the Ombudsperson, and the Ministry of Justice.

In their 16 alternative reports, CSOs targeted critical human rights issues, such as ensuring freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression, combating discrimination and ensuring tolerance, promoting the rule of law, combating torture and inhuman treatment, implementing core international conventions, supporting children rights, gender equality, women’s rights, tackling gender-based violence, and addressing conflict-related human rights violations. Many reports referred to the low level of implementation of the 2012 recommendations, as well as to the new challenges caused by the conflict.

Particularly, the UNDP-supported Justice for Peace in Donbas coalition, which unites 17 civil society organisations (CSOs) dealing with conflict-related human rights violations, highlighted the existing problems of illegal apprehension and detention, recruitment of children in armed forces, sexual violence, shelling of medical facilities, and other critical issues caused by the armed conflict in Donbas.

Human rights activists identified over 150 illegal places of detention on both sides of the conflict line. Based on more than 280 interviews with victims of human rights violations, over 90 women who survived sexual violence in the prisons established by illegal military groups were identified. The activists also documented at least 30 cases of recruiting children in the armed conflict in Donbas since the hostilities broke out, some of them younger than 15, which is clearly defined as a war crime as per international humanitarian law. According to the collected data, a total of 1,023 persons are currently considered missing with a total of 598 civilians including 19 children. The report includes the authors’ concrete recommendations to solve these problems.

 

The alternative Reports have been prepared with support of UNDP projects “Democratization, Human Rights and Civil Society Development Programme in Ukraine” and “Strengthening Capacities of the Office of the Ombudsperson” implemented with financial support of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.