By Tom Miles
United Nations monitors in Ukraine have found an alarming deterioration in the human rights situation in the east of the country and serious problems emerging in Crimea, UN human rights chief Navi Pillay said on Friday.
“Those with influence on the armed groups responsible for much of the violence in eastern Ukraine (must) do their utmost to rein in these men who seem bent on tearing the country apart,” Pillay said in a statement accompanying the 37-page monitoring report.
The 34-strong monitoring mission’s report, which covers the period from April 2 to May 6, said police and local authorities in eastern Ukraine connived in illegal acts and the takeover of towns by armed groups, which undermined the rule of law and guarantees for human rights protection.
Ukraine is preparing to hold presidential elections on May 25, and the monitors said fair and democratic elections would be an important factor in helping to calm the situation. But several candidates had reported intimidation and attacks and the monitoring mission said it had concerns about their security.
The report said there had been a “wave of abductions and unlawful detentions of journalists, activists, local politicians, representatives of international organizations and members of the military”.
But it also said the UN monitors were trying to verify reports of abuses by Ukrainian government forces, and said it had credible reports of people being detained by the army in a way that amounted to forced disappearances.
In Crimea, it expressed concern about the treatment of journalists, sexual, religious and ethnic minorities, AIDS patients and citizens who had not applied for Russian citizenship, who faced harassment and intimidation.
Citizens who have not obtained the right to residency by January 2015 could face deportation from the peninsula, which Russia has annexed, it said.