Citizens affected by the armed conflict in Donbass increasingly face various forms of discrimination and human rights violations in Ukraine. In particular, this concerns obligations to pay pensions and social benefits under the current legislation, as indicated in the Report on Human Rights Situation in Ukraine for the period from August 16 to November 15, 2018, which was prepared by the Office of the Nations Human Rights.
The document noted that in violation of the right to social security fixed by the legislation of Ukraine, residents of Donbass continue to face obstacles in receiving pension and other payments, which is the only source of income for many. “Large groups of the population, including vulnerable groups, namely the elderly, children and people with disabilities, suffer from socio-economic obstacles created by the armed conflict,” the UN Report says.
Restoration of socio-economic relations, including the full resumption of the payment of pensions and social benefits, is provided for in paragraph 8 of the Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements, the implementation of which is still blocked by the Ukrainian side. Statements by representatives of the official Kiev about the readiness to make changes to the existing discriminatory mechanism of social payments continue to be declarative. In fact, the actions of the executive branch are aimed at aggravating the situation.
Thus, residents of Donbass can receive pensions and social benefits only in the territory under the control of the Government of Ukraine, which poses additional difficulties for people with disabilities. Citizens have to obtain the status of a temporarily displaced person (IDP) and regularly undergo verification under the unlawful requirements introduced in mid-2017, which prohibit them from staying on the territory beyond the control of the Government of Ukraine for more than 60 days, which is a reason for depriving from the IDP status, and the right to receive social benefits.
Some positive changes might be observed in this issue thanks to a decision adopted on May 3, 2018 by the Supreme Court of Ukraine, which recognized the verification procedure as unlawful. Also, on September 4, the Grand Chamber of the Supreme Court of Ukraine rejected the appeal of the Pension Fund of Ukraine and declared illegal the practice of refusing to pay pensions to IDPs.
Despite being recognized as contrary to the current legislation, attempts to discriminate residents of Donbass in terms of receiving social benefits continue. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine at its meeting on January 16, 2019 supported the draft law “On the Verification and Monitoring of State Transfers”. The document provides for total re-registration of recipients of social benefits and pensions. Based on that, Ukrainian authorities may deprive a number of citizens of social benefits or reduce their extent, declaring some of its elements illegal.
The complexity of implementing the continuously changing requirements of Ukraine to the residents of Donbass has been aggravated by the transport blockade of the Donetsk People’s Republic. The OHCHR also mentions this in the Report, pointing to the severe restrictions on freedom of movement along the line of contact and through it, which continue to impede access to social benefits for persons affected by the armed conflict in the territory of Donbass. In some cases, such an anti-human policy of the Ukrainian authorities leads to the premature death of elderly people who are forced to regularly visit Ukraine in order not to lose pensions. Thus, since the beginning of the year, seven people of advanced age have died queuing at checkpoints: on January 5 – two persons, on January 9 – one person, on January 10 – three people, and on January 16 – one person.
Violation of the rights of citizens to social security and the creation of unlawful bureaucratic obstacles in obtaining social payments provided for by law, which leads to deaths, is another evidence of the fact that residents of Donbass are discriminated on a territorial basis. It is unacceptable for a democratic state, which Ukraine sees itself.
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic monitors the observance of the rights and freedoms of citizens, the restoration of violated rights and taking adequate measures to prevent violations.
Citizens can apply to the Ombudsman in any suitable way. Now, the majority of applications are still verbal and submitted through personal reception either with the Ombudsman or the heads of the Office, addressing the Public Complaints and Appeals Department, via hotlines and via web-reception on the Website of the Ombudsman. There is a possibility to file a written complaint that may be submitted either in person or via e-mail.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 436 complaints. In the period of work between 12 and 18 January 2019, 4 citizens attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 35 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 8 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 7 persons received legal counselling. 8 written appeals were approved for consideration, 15 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 36 calls were received via hotlines, 16 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 11 appeals, violations in civil law – 13 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 1 appeal, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 6 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 13 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 4, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 82 appeals, issues connected with hostilities – 20 appeals, other issues – 25 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 18.01.2019
Violations in criminal law
Сomplaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary
Social, humanitarian and economic issues
Violations in civil law
Сomplaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen
issues connected with hostilities
Administrative and legal violations against citizens
complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials
Among all incoming correspondence to the Ombudsman of DPR, the one which deals with the issues of exercise of social rights of citizens and violations of these rights is the most frequent. These issues are: pension and social payments, benefits, disability, humanitarian aid – 36 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 3 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services 19 appeals, migration legislation issues – 13 appeals, labour legislation issues – 5 appeals, healthcare issues – 6 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 0 appeals. (Diagram 2).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens on social and humanitarian issues, received by the DPR Ombudsman`s Office as of 18.01.2019
Pension and social payments, benefits, disability, humanitarian aid
Migration legislation issues
Transportation, communication and consumer rights
Labour legislation issues
Issues of education, culture and sport
Issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services
The majority of complaints are traditionally received from Donetsk, by territory (Diagram 3).
The number of appeals (complains, applications) from citizens, received by the DPR Ombudsman`s Office as of 18.01.2019
- Death toll, injuries to civilians and soldiers as a result of hostilities in the territory of the Donetsk People`s Republic.
Almost every day the DPR Ombudsman’s Office records cases of violations of Donbass citizens’ rights by Kiev authorities: the right to life, to security of the person.
On 13 January, as a result of shelling near Debaltsevo by Ukrainian armed formations, a DPR serviceman of 39 years old sustained a bullet wound to the neck, shrapnel wound to the lumbar spine.
On 14 January, as a result of hostilities in Novoazovsk region, a DPR serviceman born in 1967 sustained blunt gunshot wound to the left thigh.
Within the period between 11 and 17 January 2019, 2 DPR servicemen were injured as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 and 17 January 2019, 6 persons, including 3 DPR servicemen and 3 civilian men sustained injuries in the territory of the DPR as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
Within the period between 1 January and 31 January 2019, no casualties among civilians or servicemen were documented.
To be specific, since the beginning of the armed conflict 4729 persons died, including 81 children.
Officially confirmed information on individuals, who have been wounded since the beginning of the conflict continues to be reported to the Ombudsman’s Office in DPR.
- Register of the prisoners of war, missing soldiers
This week the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic didn’t receive any appeals on arrest.
Based on the updated figures as of 18.01.2019, 272 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 104 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been confirmed. 2 persons have been added from the list of persons whose whereabouts are unknown or are pending clarification by the Ukrainian side.
– 168 persons whose whereabouts are unknown or are pending clarification by the Ukrainian side.
This week the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic didn’t receive any appeals on missing persons.
As of 18 January 2019, 455 persons are considered missing. They might be held in Ukrainian captivity.
- Register of displaced persons and affected citizens.
At the time of armed conflict, the civilian population living in the zone of fighting and near the contact line is often affected. With the view to protect the human right to life and security of the person, and to provide assistance to victims as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine, social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres).
Since the beginning of the conflict 5380 referrals for accommodation in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres etc.) have been issued, 137 of them – in 2018. With the coming into force of the Order of the Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic No. 137 of 24.04.2018, Territorial authorities in cities and districts are now responsible for accommodating affected civilians. Social housing objects, which used to carry out activities under the patronage of the Ombudsman Office, are authorized to supervise the authorities.
During the period of work between 12 and 18 January 2019, 8 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to internally displaced persons. There are currently 1365 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 7288 persons, including 1816 children under the age of eighteen have been registered as persons affected as a result of the conflict. 75 social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) have been opened in the territory of DPR. 52 of them operate, 23 of them are held in reserve. Currently, 2468 individuals live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 469 underage children, 4820 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1347 children under eighteen.
- Employment situation in the DPR
The Republican Employment Centre is the main institution responsible for providing jobs to the population.
As reported by the Centre, in the period from 1 and 18 January 2019:
- there were 11.7 thousand vacant positions registered in the Centre by employers;
- there were 8.0 thousand job-seekers registered at the Employment Centre. Among them: 4.4 thousand have been employed (450 of them – on permanent positions, 3.9 – temporarily).
The employment centres give vocational training referrals to job-seekers for professions that are in demand on the labour market or according to specific jobs registered by employers, as well as to facilitate their future entrepreneurial activity. As at 18 January 2019, 35 persons undergone vocational training (1 person – training and 34 persons – retraining).
The training covered 7 professions: an electric and gas welder, a bricklayer, a cook, a maintenance technician, a furnace equipment inspector, a hairdresser, a repair and maintenance electrician.