Location Ukraine Ukraine

Human rights in Ukraine: general review

Human Right Watch has issued its annual report on human rights in the world.

The armed conflict in Eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainian government and Russia-backed armed groups entered its fifth year. “Total impunity for conflict-related abuses persisted in 2018. The government took further steps to restrict freedom of expression and association.” Violence by radical groups promoting hatred put ethnic minorities, LGBT people, activists, and journalists at risk, report ads.

Here are essential parts devoted to Ukraine. Some mistakes in names were corrected.


According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission, as of October, at least 212 civilians were injured or killed in 2018, mostly from shelling and light weapons fire. Shelling across or near the contact line (in Eastern Ukraine – edit.) separating the two sides continued to damage civilian homes and infrastructure and to threaten civilian lives. Since 2014, 740 education facilities were damaged during the conflict, 16 from January to October 2018. Both sides carried out indiscriminate or deliberate attacks on schools and used them for military purposes. Authorities continued to enforce discriminatory policies requiring pensioners from armed group-controlled parts of eastern Ukraine to register as internally displaced persons (IDPs) and maintain residency in government-controlled areas to access their pensions. Rules prohibit them from spending more than 60 consecutive days in armed group-controlled regions, or risk suspension of their pensions. In two separate cases, Ukrainian courts found several provisions of decrees regulating pension payments to be discriminatory and ordered authorities to cease restricting access to pensions. However, authorities did not observe these rulings. Older people and people with disabilities eligible for priority crossing and assistance at the contact line faced difficulty accessing these services. Authorities on duty at the contact line often did not identify those eligible nor ensure they were provided with assistance.

Ukraine’s Security Service (SBU) continued to deny the secret and prolonged detention of 18 civilians in its Kharkov secret detention facility from 2014 to 2016. All 18 were unofficially freed by the end of 2016 and their detention was never acknowledged. In February, one of the former detainees, Konstantyn Beskorovaynyi, was rein-stated as a plaintiff in a case he filed with the prosecutor’s office in July 2016. In March, a court ruled to reopen the criminal investigation. Investigations are stalled in the cases of four others who filed complaints. Justice for conflict-related abuses and crimes committed during the 2014 Maidan protests and mass disturbances in Odessa remained unaddressed several years later, despite numerous pledges from Ukrainian authorities to ensure justice. Law enforcement failed to preserve evidence after the events and to prevent suspects from fleeing the country. In April, appeals hearings began against the acquittal of 19 anti-Maidan activists who were on trial for offenses related to the May 2, 2014 Odessa mass disturbances, which pitted pro-Maidan and anti-Maidan groups against each other, and in which 48 people died and more than 200 were injured. At time of writing, no progress was made in the appeal proceedings.


Criminal proceedings continued against former members of the Berkut riot police battalion, charged with killing and injuring protesters in the February 2014 Maidan protests. In April, charges against a pro-Maidan protester, Ivan Bubenchik, for killing two police officers in February 2014 were dropped after the prosecutor general cited a 2014 law exempting protesters from prosecution for certain crimes committed during the Maidan protests. Bubenchik remains under investigation for illegal use of weapons and endangering law enforcement.

The Ukrainian government continued restrictions on freedom of expression, freedom of information, and media freedom, seeking to justify them by citing the need to counter Russia’s military aggression in eastern Ukraine and anti-Ukraine propaganda. According to the Institute for Mass Information, a media freedom watchdog, as of October, 201 press freedom violations took place in 23 regions. These ranged from threats and intimidation to restricting journalists’ access to information. In May, an appellate court upheld a regional court’s decision to suspend the re-trial of Ruslan Kotsaba, a journalist who had been prosecuted on treason charges for calling for boycotting conscription. The court concluded that the prosecution failed to properly formulate the indictment. In May, the SBU deported two journalists from the main Russian-state television channel, Channel 1, alleging that they had planned to spread disinformation about Ukraine. Also in May, the Ukraine editor of the Russian state wire service, RIA Novosti, in Ukraine, Kiri

ll Vyshinsky, was arrested on treason charges for his alleged participation in “propaganda campaigns” to legitimize Russia’s actions in Crimea. Security services raided the outlet’s office in Kyiv. In October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) extended indefinitely its September 18 ruling requesting that Ukrainian authorities refrain from reviewing 17 months’ worth of cellphone data of RFE/RL reporter Natalia Sedletska. Authorities requested the data as evidence in a criminal investigation against National Anti-Corruption Bureau Director Artem Sytnyk, who is accused of disclosing state secrets to journalists.


A March 2017 law requiring activists and journalists investigating corruption to publicly declare their personal assets remained in effect. Although many refused to comply, at time of writing none were prosecuted. Authorities did not conduct effective investigations into numerous assaults against anti-corruption and other community activists. In November 2018, Kateryna Handzyuk, an anti-corruption activist, died from burn wounds inflicted in a July acid attack. (Both Handzyuk and her killers were far-right activist, that is why it was internal conflict in the Maidan camp. – edit.)

Hate Crimes

Members of groups advocating hate and discrimination carried out at least two dozen violent attacks, threats, or instances of intimidation against Roma people, LGBT people, and rights activists in several Ukrainian cities. In most cases, police failed to respond or effectively investigate. In March, hate groups attacked events to promote women’s rights in Kyiv, Lviv, and Uzhgorod. In Kyiv, they physically assaulted participants while police looked on. In June, members of a far-right group attacked a Roma settlement in Lviv, killing a man and seriously injuring several others. In October, court hearings began for four of the nine suspects in the case, eight of whom are minors. In April, members of a radical group in Kyiv, authorized by the local municipality to carry out patrolling, attacked a Roma settlement. They torched tents and chased women and children with rocks and pepper spray. Two criminal investigations were launched, but at time of writing, those investigations had not led to any prosecutions.

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