Let me first of all thank the High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein for his brilliant presentation and update. I hope that next year he will pay a visit to Ukraine and get first-hand additional information of the developments on the ground.
We are fully aware that in spite of significant achievements and tremendous efforts taken by the Ukrainian Government together with civil society to further improve the human rights situation in our country, it is still far from being ideal.
That is what my Government was proceeding from by inviting the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in March 2014 with the purpose of learning about and documenting the situation in our country and to assist us in overcoming existing and emerging challenges. We are grateful to the Mission and the Office of the High Commissioner for their dedication and hard work. Today we have its 16th report on the table.
We carefully study and analyze all OHCHR’s information and recommendations contained in every report. However critical the findings could be for the Ukrainian authorities, they really help us to get a full picture and to better evaluate the situation, to address issues of concern and to meet existing challenges. We note with appreciation that progress in several areas has been reflected in the latest document.
However, the main challenge for us today that has the greatest impact on the human rights situation as well as on all spheres of the life of Ukrainians is Russian aggression against my country.
This aggression has highlighted new problems related to the protection of human rights in the areas of occupation. Horrifically, the death toll of Russia’s war against Ukraine has already risen to 10,000. Hundreds more remain in unlawful captivity in the occupied Ukrainian regions of Donbas and Crimea while round 1.7 million Ukrainians have had to leave their homes and become IDPs.
According to numerous OHCHR reports, the uncontrolled sections of the border between Ukraine and Russia remain the source of escalation on the ground as flows of Russian weaponry and military personnel into Donbas persist.
Murder, torture, harassment, illegal detention and the enforced disappearances and persecution of journalists, human rights defenders and activists are among the most widespread human rights violations in the occupied Crimea. Millions live in fear of being labeled extremists, terrorists or Ukrainian spies and risk being thrown into jail or abducted without trace.
It is evident in the cases of Oleh Sentsov, Oleksandr Kolchenko, journalist Mykola Semena and dozens of others. The processes that led to their detention or restriction in movement much too often were marred by violations of fair trial guarantees and of the presumption of innocence, which should have led to the release of the accused – but the appeals remained denied.
Moreover, the Russian occupying authorities do not limit themselves to individual persecutions. The suppression of the activities of Mejlis, which is viewed by many Crimean Tatars as a traditional representative and legitimate organ of an indigenous people, as well as intimidation, expulsion, or incarceration of its members had a detrimental effect on the exercise of political and civil rights of persons belonging to the whole Crimean Tatar community. All these individuals are now at risk of arrest and repression because of their involvement with an “extremist” organization.
We must all stay firm and consolidate our efforts in seeking the establishment of direct international monitoring in occupied Crimea and holding the occupying authorities responsible for failing their obligations under international law.
This is the main aim of the resolution “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)” initiated by my country and approved by the UN General Assembly Third Committee on 15 November. Later this week, the document will be considered by the GA plenary, and I take this opportunity to invite all the delegations to support it.
The resolution puts forward simple and legitimate requests: the UN Secretary General is invited, through consultations with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, to seek ways and means to ensure access to Crimea for regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms, and OHCHR is requested to prepare a thematic report on the situation of human rights in Crimea before the 72nd UN General Assembly session. We ask for this, because, nearing the third year from the beginning, OHCHR reports have become an important source of information for a wide range of regional and global international organizations.
The UN GA resolution "Situation of the human rights in the ARC and the city of Sevastopol" is intended to give a further political impetus to the issue of human rights for the residents of the peninsula and to facilitate access to international monitoring bodies.
I predict that the delegate of the Russian Federation is preparing to take part in this interactive dialogue with the purpose of plunging us into a parallel reality in which Russian diplomats, together with their Minister Sergey Lavrov, are living. We will hear once again that there are no Russian soldiers and weaponry in Donbass, that Crimea is open for monitoring by international organizations, that Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians on the peninsula fully enjoy all human rights, including the right to education, preferring “the great and mighty Russian language” and culture to their native language.
It is too easy to unmask such a kind of false tale. We have a very fresh example within the Council of Europe. Recently, in late November three well-known and respectable monitoring bodies and their delegations were denied entry to Crimea to carry out their mandate.
We all are tired of these lies. And we all know the truth.
Gross violations of human rights by the Russian Federation on Ukrainian territory can only be stopped by de-occupying Crimea, withdrawing Russian regular military forces, mercenaries, weaponry and hardware from Donbas, and releasing the hostages and illegally detained Ukrainian citizens.
International monitoring is crucial to that end. Various human rights mechanisms, in particular HRC special procedures, can play their role. We welcome, in this regard, the recent request of the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances addressed to the Russian Federation on the number of cases in Crimea, and expect a proper follow-up.
We remain committed to continued cooperation with the OHCHR in improving human rights situation in my country, and look forward to further interactive dialogues during 34th and 35th HRC sessions pursuant to the resolution 32/29.