U.N. report describes widespread violations of human rights in areas of Ukraine under Russian or Russian puppet control

For a sobering look at what is going on in the Donbas ant the Crimea, behind the headlines, see

Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, 16 September 2014“.”

The U.N. report describes both the influx of fighters from Russia in late August, and widespread violations of human rights in areas of Ukraine under Russian or Russian puppet control, as well as some abuses by militias on the Ukrainian side.

The report states, in part, the following:

3. Between 24 August and 5 September, fighting escalated in the east. Armed groups of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ were bolstered by an increasing number of foreign fighters, including citizens of the Russian Federation2. On 27 August, the so-called ‘prime minister’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’, Alexander Zakharchenko, stated on Russian State television that 3,000-4,000 Russians were fighting alongside the armed groups, including former or serving Russian soldiers, on leave from their posts. Incursions were made by the armed groups into areas that the Government forces had recently regained particularly in the Donetsk region. In a number of areas, Ukrainian armed forces reported being bombarded by the armed groups with advanced weaponry. Ukrainian forces were pushed back from their positions in other areas of the southeast, including the border town of Novoazovsk, captured from Ukrainian armed forces on 27 August.

9. Armed groups continued to terrorise the population in areas under their control, pursuing killings, abductions, torture, ill-treatment and other serious human rights abuses, including destruction of housing and seizure of property. They abducted people for ransom and forced labour and to use them in exchange for their fighters held by the Ukrainian authorities. They also continued to practice forced mobilisation of civilians and threatened the local population with executions. Reports also continued of parallel governing structures being set up in the ‘Donetsk and Luhansk peoples’ republics’. An unlawful ‘criminal code’ was adopted by the so-called ‘presidium of the council of ministers’ of the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’; and entered ‘into force’ on 18 August. Modelled on the criminal code of the Russian Federation, its provisions include the establishment of military tribunals to implement death sentences to be applied in cases of aggravated murder.

10. There have also been continued allegations of human rights violations committed by some volunteer battalions under Government control, which have been undertaking police functions in many of the liberated towns and villages. The Government needs to exercise more control over all of its forces, including the volunteer battalions, and to ensure accountability for any violations and crimes committed by their members.

18. In the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, the human rights situation continued to be marked by multiple and ongoing violations. As previously reported, the introduction of Russian Federation legislation, in contravention with General Assembly resolution 68/262, continued to curtail freedoms of expression, peaceful assembly and association, religion or belief. Property rights have been violated through ‘nationalisation’ and the illegal seizure of property by decision of the de facto authorities and actions by the so-called ‘Crimean self-defence’. Law enforcement personnel continued to conduct searches, particularly among the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian population, claiming to look for ‘extremist’ material. The number of IDPs from Crimea on mainland Ukraine has further increased to 17,794.10 The HRMMU continued to seek access to Crimea, and reiterated a request to establish a sub-office there.

It should come as no surprise that those who trample the rule of law on the international level also do the same within conquered territories under their control, and at home.

The Trenchant Observer

About the Author

The Observer
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by The Observer, an international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. He is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States (IACHR), where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, The Observer has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. The Observer speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, The Observer has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on the best articles that have appeared in the blog.

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