Opposition activists carry the Ukrainian national flag during an action of protest against the current regime in Kiev, Ukraine, Saturday, May 18, 2013. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)


Dokumentation: Human Rights Watch World Report 2021. Country chapter Ukraine: Events of 2020

Willkürliche Verhaftungen, Attacken auf LGBT-Personen und Drohungen gegen Journalistinnen und Journalisten: Der Bericht fasst die Menschenrechtsverletzungen aus dem Jahr 2020 zusammen.

Juni 2020: Ein LGBT-Aktivist protestiert gegen Polizeigewalt und fordert den Rücktritt von Innenminister Arsen Awakow.Juni 2020: Ein LGBT-Aktivist protestiert gegen Polizeigewalt und fordert den Rücktritt von Innenminister Arsen Awakow. (© picture-alliance, ZUMA press)

The armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continued to take a high toll on civilians during 2020, from threatening their physical safety to limiting access to food, medicines, adequate housing, and schools.

The Covid-19 pandemic worsened these trends. Travel restrictions imposed by Russia-backed armed groups in parts of eastern Ukraine and by Ukrainian authorities in response to the pandemic had a devastating impact on economic and social rights, exacerbating hardship for civilians and driving them deeper into poverty. Older people, women, children, and people with disabilities were hit the hardest.

Armed groups controlling parts of Donetska and Luhanska regions continued to carry out arbitrary and incommunicado detentions and use ill-treatment and torture in conflict-related cases, including to extract confessions. Justice for conflict-related abuses by government forces, including arbitrary detentions, torture or ill-treatment remained elusive.

Members of groups advocating hate and discrimination continued putting ethnic minorities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people and rights activists at risk, subjecting them to physical attacks and hate speech.

The government proposed legislative amendments that threaten freedom of expression and media. Journalists and media workers faced harassment and threats connected to their reporting.

Armed Conflict

Flare-ups in hostilities, notably in March and May, led to civilian casualties. According to data by the United Nations human rights monitoring mission, in the first seven months of 2020, 18 civilians were killed and 89 injured by shelling, small arms weapons fire, mine-related incidents and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) strikes. Schools and educational facilities continued to be damaged by shelling, small arms and light weapons fire. Most of incidents occurred in the nongovernment-controlled areas.

Armed groups in Donetsk and Luhansk regions carried out incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment, including beatings, asphyxiation, electric shocks, and sexual violence.

Draft legislation is pending in parliament that would provide reparations to civilians for loss of life, health, and property during the conflict.

In the first half of 2020, government policies linking pension eligibility with displaced persons’ status continued to discriminate against and create hardship for older people living in nongovernment-controlled areas by forcing them to regularly travel across the line of contact to access their pensions. In February, parliament failed to pass legislation that would have addressed this linkage on the premise that the state budget could not cover the cost of arrears owed to these pensioners.

As a result of harsh Covid-19 restrictions imposed by armed groups in parts of Donetska and Luhanska regions and by Ukrainian authorities at least 1.2 million people living in conflict-affected areas have been unable to get their pensions or re-unite with family since March.

Ukraine authorities required people entering from nongovernment-controlled areas to install a smartphone app to monitor compliance with restrictions, even though many people do not own a smartphone. They also require people to self-isolate for 14 days, which is prohibitively expensive for older people living in these areas. In a welcome move, authorities temporarily lifted the requirement for internally displaced pensioners to undergo regular identification checks for the duration of the quarantine. Restricted access to pensions pushed older people deeper into poverty, forcing them to cut back on food, hygiene products, and vital medications.

Armed groups in Donetska region introduced severe travel restrictions in response to Covid-19, effectively prohibiting residents with local residence permits from leaving during the pandemic. Those with residency permits in government-controlled areas who wanted to leave Donetsk were required to sign a document undertaking not return until the end of the pandemic. When one of the four entry-exit checkpoints in Donetsk region reopened, armed groups only admitted people based on pre-approved lists, and required a 14-day quarantine in medical facilities for those entering the area under their control. Armed groups in Luhanska region only admitted people who have local residence registration but imposed no restrictions on leaving.

Rule of Law, Administration of Justice

The trial of four defendants over the 2014 downing of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, which began in the Netherlands in March, continued, with interruptions due to coronavirus restrictions. All four suspects were being tried in absentia.

No progress was made in the investigation and trials in cases related to 2014 clashes in Odesa, which claimed the lives of 48 people.

In December 2019, an appeals court released five former officers of the Berkut riot police, under investigation in the case of the killing of 48 protesters and attempted killing of 80 during the Maidan protests in Kyiv in February 2014. They were subsequently transferred to Donetsk and Luhansk as part of a prisoner exchange.

In February, authorities placed a law enforcement official under house arrest on charges of killing a Maidan protester in February 2014. Two months later, he was released on bail. In March, investigators detained two men for the abduction and torture of two Maidan protesters in January 2014, one of whom died as a result. At least two other investigations continued into the killings of protesters. One of these was against former president Viktor Yanukovich.

In April, authorities placed a Maidan activist under house arrest in connection with the February 2014 arson of the Party of Regions office, which led to the death of one man.

In August, Ukrainian groups expressed concerns about a smear campaign against the deputy prosecutor general, tasked with overseeing the work of the department for investigations of crimes committed during the armed conflict.

In September, parliament passed in first reading a draft law that would incorporate into domestic legislation provisions concerning the investigation and prosecution of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Women’s Rights

The Covid-19 pandemic disproportionately affected women, who account for over 80 percent of Ukraine’s healthcare and social workers. The pandemic-related restrictions led to a surge in domestic violence, with reported cases increasing by 30 percent. According to service providers, victims were often unable to escape abuse during the pandemic due to lack of shelter space and inadequate police response.

In February, President Volodymyr Zelensky pledged to submit the Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on the Prevention of Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) to parliament for ratification, pending additional instructions by relevant ministries. The government signed the convention in 2011.

Gemeinsam herausgegeben werden die Ukraine-Analysen von der Forschungsstelle Osteuropa an der Universität Bremen, der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Osteuropakunde e.V., dem Deutschen Polen-Institut, dem Leibniz-Institut für Agrarentwicklung in Transformationsökonomien, dem Leibniz- Institut für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung und dem Zentrum für Osteuropa- und internationale Studien (ZOiS) gGmbH. Die bpb veröffentlicht sie als Lizenzausgabe.