Misinformation, propaganda and incitement to hatred need to be urgently countered in Ukraine to avoid the further escalation of tension in the country, according to a UN human rights report issued on April, 15.
The report, which is based on information collected during two missions to Ukraine in March by Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović and a team of UN human rights monitors on the ground since 15 March, analyses events up to 2 April. It also anticipates and draws parallels between what happened in Crimea and events currently unfolding in eastern Ukraine.
“In eastern Ukraine, where a large ethnic Russian minority resides, the situation remains particularly tense,” the report says. “It will be important to immediately take initial measures to build confidence between the Government and the people, and among the various communities, and reassure all people throughout Ukraine that their main concerns will be addressed.”
Excessive use of force by the Berkut special police and other security forces led to the radicalisation of the protest movement, the report found. “Violations related to the Maidan protests should be investigated and addressed in order to ensure accountability of perpetrators,” the report states.
Information gathered so far indicates that 121 people were killed in violence between December 2013 and February 2014. Most acts of severe beatings, torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment were reportedly attributed to the Berkut.
The report also notes that the situation created before and after the referendum of 16 March in Crimea, which the General Assembly concluded had “no validity”, raised a number of human rights concerns pertaining to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and other civil and political rights.
The presence of paramilitary and so-called self-defence groups as well as soldiers without insignia, was not conducive to an environment in which the will of voters could be exercised freely, and the UN Human Rights’ Office delegation received many reports of vote rigging.
“A number of measures taken in Crimea are deeply concerning from a human rights perspective,” the report says. These include the introduction of Russian citizenship, making it difficult for those who opt to maintain their Ukrainian citizenship to stay in Crimea. “The current situation also raises concerns with regard to land and property ownership, wages and pensions, health service, labour rights, education and access to justice,” the report adds.
It is widely assessed that while there were some attacks against the ethnic Russian community, these were neither systematic nor widespread. There are also allegations that some participants in the protests and clashes in eastern Ukraine were not from the region, and that some had come from the Russian Federation.
For the full version of the report click here.