On August 6, 2019, residents of the Donetsk People’s Republic paid tribute to Andrei Stenin, a journalist of IIA Rossiya Segodnya, who died on duty in the territory of the Donbass in 2014. Also on this day, as a result of shelling by the armed formations by Ukraine near the village of Dimitrovka, iKorpus employees Sergei Korenchenkov and Andrei Vyachalo also died.
This is far from the isolated case when media representatives become victims of armed aggression by Ukraine in the territory of Donbass. Among them, there are Italian news photographer Andrea Rokkelli, VGTRK correspondent Igor Kornelyuk and his sound engineer Anton Voloshin, Pervyi Kanal cameraman Anatoly Klyan, Donetsk journalist Vsevolod Petrovsky and several others.
Currently, the negative trend of attacks on media personnel by the armed forces of Ukraine continues to be observed. Only during the summer of this year, several incidents occurred. Thus, on June 27, film crews of the News Front and RIA Novosti news agencies came under fire in the urban-type settlement of Aleksandrovka when they recorded the consequences of the previous artillery attack. In a similar situation in the village of Trudovskaya mine in the city of Donetsk on July 2, there were staff of the Rossiya TV Channel, the News Front news agency, as well as American journalist Patrick Lancaster. On July 7, a camera crew of the Zvezda TV Channel came under shelling in the village of Kominternovo, Novoazovsk region, while it recorded the consequences of shelling of the church and civilian infrastructure in the village of Kominternovo, Novoazovsk region.
The above indicates that there are deliberate actions of the Ukrainian side to ensure an information blockade, unilateral coverage of the conflict in the Donbass and the creation of obstacles for the Ukrainian residents and the world community to receive unbiased information about the events.
At the same time, representatives of the Ukrainian media are also attacked as they express a point of view other than that of the regime that seized power in Ukraine as a result of the coup d’état in 2014. The killing of Ukrainian journalists Oles Buzina, Dmitry Sheremet and some others, and attacks on the offices of media companies caused a stir. Editor-in-chief of RIA Novosti Ukraina Kirill Vyshinsky was arrested by the Security Service of Ukraine for carrying out his responsibilities on unjustified charges of treason. He has been in custody for more than a year and continues to fight in court for the restoration of justice.
These and other facts of restrictions on freedom of speech, violations of freedom of opinion and expression, as well as freedom of the media are regularly described in international reports by international human rights organizations. In the Report on the Human Rights Situation in Ukraine for the period from February 16 to May 15, 2019, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights was alarmed by the many cases of interference in the work of media workers, physical attacks and intimidation by a number of actors. Among them are not only activists of right-wing radical groups, but also representatives of state bodies of Ukraine. Human rights activists note that the Ukrainian side does not provide liability for attacks on journalists and media workers. “In particular, investigations and court cases launched in the context of attacks by individuals against those exercising their civic freedoms were subject to delays and inappropriate qualification of the charges,” the report says.
The Ukrainian authorities, while continuing to declare their commitment to the democratic development and European values, flagrantly violate the rights and freedoms of Donbass residents and citizens of Ukraine. This applies not only to freedom of speech and the media, but also to other civil rights, including discrimination on the grounds of place of residence and political opinion, as well as in sensitive areas such as language rights and freedom of religion. During the conflict, the armed forces of Ukraine systematically ignore the norms and requirements of international humanitarian law.
As part of her activities, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic records facts of violations of human rights and freedoms by the Ukrainian side. All available methods and means are used to ensure their protection and compliance. Information about the reported violations is communicated to international human rights organizations, pressing issues are raised during the meetings of the Humanitarian Subgroup of the Contact Group for the peaceful settlement in Donbass. These actions are aimed at intensifying the efforts of the world community to influence the leadership of Ukraine in order to prevent the escalation of the conflict as well as deterioration of the social and humanitarian situation in the region, as well as to restore the violated rights and freedoms of citizens.
In her activities, the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic stands guard over constitutional rights and freedoms of people, ensures their protection and monitors their compliance.
Upon a human rights violation, the need to restore one’s rights, to obtain legal advice or appeal against actions (omission) of state bodies or authorities, citizens can apply to the Ombudsman in a way that is convenient for them.
Now, the majority of applications are still verbal and submitted through personal reception either with the Ombudsman or staff 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.
On 7 August, staff of DPR Ombudsman Office held an on-site reception of citizens at the City Administration of Debaltsevo. At the on-site reception, the issue of unlawful criminal prosecution was raised. As a response to the above question, detailed clarification of the norms of the current legislation and of the procedure of appeal to DPR General Prosecutor’s Office was provided. Representatives of Ombudsman Office promptly gave advice on all issues concerned.
Since the beginning of 2019, the Ombudsman received 4175 complaints. In the period of work between 3 and 9 August 2019, 4 persons attended personal reception of the Ombudsman, 35 persons received counselling by the Appeals department, 10 citizens received counselling by the Working Group on Issues of Temporary Displaced Persons, and 19 persons received legal counselling, 1 person – through on-site reception. 29 written appeals were approved for consideration, 13 – have been reviewed among those received earlier. 49 calls were received via hotlines, 18 applications were received via e-mail.
All appeals received can be divided into nine categories: violations in criminal law – 385 appeals, violations in civil law – 435 appeals, administrative and legal violations against the DPR citizens – 50 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of judiciary – 146 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of law-enforcement authorities and servicemen – 234 appeals, complaints against the acts or omissions of government officials – 176 appeals, social, humanitarian and economic issues – 1623 appeals, issues connected with the political and military situation in DPR – 780 appeals, other issues – 346 appeals (diagram 1).
The number of appeals (complaints, applications) from citizens, submitted to the Office of DPR Ombudsman as of 09.08.2019
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 – 526 appeals; transportation, communication and consumer rights – 49 appeals; issues of housing legislation, protection of consumers of housing and public utility services – 296 appeals, migration legislation issues – 458 appeals, labour legislation issues – 146 appeals, healthcare issues – 134 appeals, issues of education, culture and sport – 14 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 09.08.2019
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 05.04.2019
- Death toll, injuries to civilians and soldiers as a result of hostilities in the territory of the Donetsk People`s Republic.
The DPR Ombudsman’s Office documents cases of violations of Donbass citizens’ rights by the Ukrainian side: the right to life, to security of the person.
On 8 August, as a result of shelling in Novoazovsk region, a DPR serviceman born in 1973 sustained shrapnel wound to the right part of abdominal wall, small back and the right thigh.
Within the period between 2 and 8 August 2019, 1 DPR serviceman sustained injuries in the Donetsk People’s Republic as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
Within the period between 1 January and 8 August 2019, 142 persons, including 98 DPR servicemen, 16 civilian women and 25 civilian men and 3 children sustained injuries as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
Within the period between 2 July and 8 August 2019, no deaths among civilians and servicemen were documented in the Donetsk People’s Republic.
Within the period between 1 January and 8 August 2019, 116 persons, including 108 DPR servicemen, 5 civilian women and 3 civilian men died as a result of armed aggression by Ukraine.
To be specific, since the beginning of the armed conflict 4845 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
In the reporting period, the Ombudsman’s Office in the Donetsk People’s Republic received two appeals on arrest: two men born in 1966 and 1991 were detained in 2018 by representatives of law-enforcement agencies of Ukraine.
Based on the updated figures as of 09.08.2019, 255 persons are held by the Ukrainian side including:
– 102 of those whose presence on the territory of Ukraine had been established and confirmed (1 person has been transferred from the list of persons whose whereabouts are unknown or are pending clarification by the Ukrainian side).
– 153 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 hasn’t received any appeals on missing persons.
As of 9 August 2019, 460 persons are considered missing. They could have been taken prisoner in Ukraine.
- 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).
With the coming into force of the Order of the Head of the Donetsk People’s Republic No. 137 of 24.04.2018, Territorial commissions in cities and districts are now responsible for accommodating affected civilians. They work under supervision of the Republican Commission on Resettlement of Affected Persons chaired by the DPR Human Rights Ombudsman.
During the period of work between 3 and 9 August 2019, 10 persons have applied to the Ombudsman’s Office on the issues related to being affected by the armed conflict. There are currently 1075 accommodation places in the Donetsk People’s Republic available for citizens affected by hostilities. Since the beginning of the conflict, 6889 persons, including 1689 children have been registered as persons affected as a result of the conflict. 77 social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) have been opened in the territory of DPR. 54 of them operate, 23 of them are held in reserve. Currently, 2282 persons live in social housing objects (dormitories, preventative clinics, health care centres) of the Donetsk Administration, including 428 underage children, 4607 persons live in the housing fund of the DPR, including 1261 children.
- Protection of children’s rights
The need to protect the rights and freedoms of children is provided for in the Geneva Declaration of the Rights of the Child, 1924, and the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly on November 20, 1959, recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (Articles 23 and 24), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (Article 10), as well as in national legislation (Article 31 of the Constitution of the Donetsk People’s Republic).
The Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic pays special attention to this issue in her activities. In the view to ensure effective protection of children’s rights and freedoms by the state, according to the established schedule of visits to child social institutions, on 6 August representatives of the Ombudsman Office conducted a follow-up inspection of living conditions and educational process in Amvrosievka boarding school No.4.
Since last visit, the number of children who attend the school increased by 40. Currently, 219 orphans and children deprived of parental care aged 3-18 live in the institution. In July 2019, 25 children were transferred here from the state educational institution “Torez Children’s Home for children of preschool and primary school age.”
The human rights defenders noted that the institution pays special attention to vocational education and reading. Also, students attend activity clubs and sports groups. During the warm season, physical education classes are held outside, in the sports ground.
As part of the visit, representatives of the Ombudsman Office met the leading staff of the institution. They discussed living conditions, medical treatment, education, cultural and disciplinary measures.
As a result of the inspection, education and living environment for children in the Amvrosievka boarding school No.4 received a positive assessment from the staff of DPR Ombudsman Office.