In Dialogue with Ukraine, Human Rights Committee Asks about Situation of Human Rights in Ukraine and in the Occupied Territories of Ukraine
The Committee on Human Rights today concluded its review of the eighth periodic report of Ukraine on measures taken to implement the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, inquiring about measures taken to ensure that human rights were safeguarded, both in Ukraine and in the occupied territories of Ukraine.
A Committee Expert recognised the current limitations on Ukraine’s ability to fully implement the Covenant in territories controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, and in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. However, this did not exempt it, particularly from its positive obligations to protect individuals in those territories. Could the delegation indicate any measures, legislative or practical, taken to ensure the Covenant rights of all persons, not only citizens of Ukraine, residing in temporarily uncontrolled territories? The Committee asked about the situation of internally displaced persons as well as about the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.
Valeriia Kolomiiets, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine for European Integration and head of the delegation, said that public authorities in Ukraine were continuing to take steps aimed at strengthening human rights protection mechanisms in the country. The Russian Federation continued to violate human rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The activity of independent mass media was practically stopped. Persecution on national and religious grounds was carried out systematically. The possibility of obtaining education in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages was eliminated. Mass enforced issuing of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens was ongoing.
Ms. Kolomiiets said that in September 2021, the Government approved the action plan for the implementation of the strategy of de-occupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. In 2020, an electronic version of the certificate on registration of internally displaced persons was introduced and they were entitled to receive financial compensation for destroyed housing. Social protection of internally displaced persons not employed during the quarantine due to COVID-19 was also strengthened.
A member of the delegation said that the State Service of Ukraine was in regular contact with the Crimean Tatars and Jehovah Witnesses. It had no problems safeguarding the rights of these people in the areas controlled by Ukraine. Ensuring the rights of this category of people was dependent on de-occupying Ukrainian territories. There was no problem in Ukraine, the problem existed in the occupied territories of Crimea and the eastern regions.
The delegation of Ukraine was comprised of representatives of the Office of the Prosecutor General, the State Service, the Central Election Commission, the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the National Police, State Committee for Television and Radio Broadcasting, National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine, the Security Service, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Education and Science, the Social Policy for European Integration, the National Agency of Ukraine for Corruption Prevention, the State Bureau of Investigation, Culture and Information Policy of Ukraine, Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories for European Integration of Ukraine, and the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
In concluding remarks, Yevheniia Filipenko, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stressed that the response of the Ukrainian delegation testified to Ukraine’s national efforts to improve the human rights situation. Ukraine would focus on implementing its priorities under the Covenant.
Photini Pazartzis, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, in concluding remarks, said the Committee recognised the current limitations of the Ukrainian ability to fully implement the Covenant in the State party, including in parts of the territory that were not under it effective control. However, while the State party was commended for all the efforts it had taken for implementing the rights under the Covenant, it was urged to continue in these efforts to ensure respect of the rights guaranteed under the Covenant throughout its territory, including the respect of those rights wherever the operations of the State party could affect the inhabitants of such territories.
The Committee will issue its concluding observations and recommendations on the report of Ukraine at the end of its one hundred and thirty-third session, which concludes on 5 November. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage. The meeting summary releases prepared on the public meetings of the Committee can be found here. The webcast of the Committee’s public meetings can be accessed at http://webtv.un.org/.
The Committee will next meet in public at 3 p.m. on Friday, 29 October to discuss the progress reports presented by the Special Rapporteur on follow-up to concluding observations and on follow-up to views.
The Committee has before it the eighth periodic report of Ukraine (CCPR/C/UKR/8).
Presentation of the Report
VALERIIA KOLOMIIETS, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine for European Integration and head of the delegation, introducing the report, said that public authorities in Ukraine were continuing to take steps aimed at strengthening human rights protection mechanisms in the country, including through the ratification of a series of international laws. In 2021, the National Strategy in the Field of Human Rights was updated and the Action Plan for its implementation until 2023 was adopted. Within the framework of the Human Rights Strategy for 2018-2021, laws on the simplification of pre-trial investigation of certain categories of criminal offences, on ensuring the accessibility of court premises for people with disabilities, on procedures for recognition as a stateless person, and on indigenous peoples of Ukraine were adopted. On 1 January 2020, the Electoral Code came into force, which, among other things, set a requirement for political parties and their local organizations to adhere to the gender quota in the electoral lists of candidates, as well as regulated the issues of exercising the right to vote in elections by citizens of Ukraine regardless of their registered place of residence.
In 2021, the National Strategy for Promoting the Development of Civil Society in Ukraine until 2026 was adopted to base the activities of the State on the approach: “no solutions for civil society without civil society”. On 1 July 2021, amendments ensuring the exercise of rights to private property of agricultural land by citizens of Ukraine came into force. The draft law on personal data protection was under the consideration of Parliament. It provided for the possibility of citizens to control the processing of their personal data, strengthening liability for violations of legislation in this field. On 1 July 2020, amendments came into force to the Criminal Code on strengthening criminal liability for the violation of equality of citizens depending on their race, nationality, religious beliefs, disability and other grounds. A draft law on amendments to the Code on Administrative Offences and the Criminal Code on combatting discrimination was under consideration of the Parliament.
In September 2020, the Coordinating Commission for interaction between executive authorities to ensure equal rights and opportunities for women and men was established. Ukraine was working on the amendment of a few pieces of legislation to ensure that women’s rights in the country were safeguarded. Ukraine had also made amendments to the legislation and had taken a certain set of measures to ensure equal opportunities for mothers and fathers caring for children. In 2019, the Council on Freedom of Speech and Protection of Journalists was established to improve the protection of the information space in the interest of information security of Ukraine, realisation of citizens’ rights to freedom of speech, obtaining reliable information, and ensuring guarantees of legitimate professional activity of journalists. In July 2021, the law on indigenous peoples of Ukraine was adopted to guarantee the rights of indigenous peoples, and the protection of their cultural, informational and other rights. In July 2021, the strategy for promoting the realisation of the rights and opportunities of persons belonging to the Roma national minority for the period up to 2030 was approved. In 2021, the concept “anti-Semitism” was defined and its prohibition was established as well.
The concept of “trafficking in human beings” in the Criminal Code was brought in line with the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organised Crime and the Protocols Thereto. Within the framework of the strategy for reforming judicial system and related legal institutions until 2020, a new Supreme Court was established - the Supreme Anti-Corruption Court became operational and access of citizens of Ukraine to justice was improved. The independence of the judiciary was strengthened as well. In 2021, the strategy for the development of the justice system and constitutional justice for the period of 2021-2023 was adopted. Amendments were made to the legislation expanding the legal basis for conducting court hearings by videoconference with the participation of the parties outside premises of the court.
Ms. Kolomiiets stated that the Russian Federation continued to violate human rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The activity of independent mass media was practically stopped. Persecution on national and religious grounds was carried out systematically. The persecution of the community of the Orthodox Church of Ukraine was systematically carried out. The possibility of obtaining education in the Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages was eliminated. Mass enforced issuing of Russian passports to Ukrainian citizens was ongoing. The work of checkpoints on the demarcation line in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts was blocked. In September 2021, the Government approved the action plan for the implementation of the strategy of de-occupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. In 2020, an electronic version of the certificate on registration of internally displaced persons was introduced and they were entitled to receive financial compensation for destroyed housing. Social protection of internally displaced persons not employed during the quarantine due to COVID-19 was also strengthened.
Questions by Committee Experts
A Committee Expert recognised the current limitations on Ukraine’s ability to fully implement the Covenant in territories controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, and in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation. However, this did not exempt it, particularly from its positive obligations to protect individuals in those territories. Could the delegation indicate any measures, legislative or practical, taken to ensure the Covenant rights of all persons, not only citizens of Ukraine, residing in temporarily uncontrolled territories? The Committee drew attention to the situation of internally displaced persons, the implementation of the ceasefire agreement, and the draft law on the principles of the State policy of the transition period.
A Committee Expert asked about facilitating the procedure for receiving a birth certificate. The delegation was asked about the intention of Ukraine to resume procedures towards establishing an adequate legal framework, as well as to ensure in practice, that victims could seek the full implementation of the views through effective mechanisms and procedures? How did the State party intend to strengthen its cooperation with the Committee in monitoring the implementation of views?
A Committee Expert enquired about practical measures for ensuring women’s rights in Ukraine. Particularly, a concern was expressed that the Istanbul Convention had not yet been submitted to Parliament for ratification. The delegation was asked to indicate how it intended to encourage reporting of incidents of domestic violence, to strengthen the victim referral mechanism, to increase the operational capacity of law enforcement and the criminal justice system, to implement urgent protective orders and restraining orders effectively, and to investigate and sanction perpetrators adequately. The Experts also asked about measures to combat gender-based violence in conflict areas.
Another Committee Member expressed concerns about the continued reports of arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment committed by officers of the Security Service of Ukraine and measures the Service intended to undertake to prevent these unlawful practices. The Expert asked about the intentions of Ukraine to address the concern of arbitrary detention in the context of conscription into the Ukrainian armed forces, particularly in Kharkiv, and further reports on measures taken to facilitate the voluntary transfer of pre-conflict prisoners from territory controlled by self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk’ and ‘Luhansk’ republics to the territory controlled by the State party. The delegation was asked to indicate when and how Ukraine intended to take further measures to adequately address prolonged pre-trial detention, particularly for children?
While understanding the difficult situation Ukraine was facing in terms of restoring its control over the temporarily occupied territories, a Committee Expert asked about the lifted derogations and the remained derogations under the Covenant during the state of emergency. The Expert enquired about the restrictive measures taken by the authorities with regard to countering the COVID-19 pandemic. What were the results of the implementation of the State Programme on Ensuring the Equality of Rights and Opportunities between Men and Women? Regarding women’s rights, the Expert wanted to know more about the measures taken by Ukraine to ensure equal women’s representation.
While the information showed that the overwhelming number of civilian casualties had occurred in armed group-controlled territory rather than in government-controlled territory, what overall measures was the Government taking to prevent civilians casualties, to enhance the protection of the civilian population in the conflict zone against the risks to life and health caused inter alia by shelling, mines and explosive remnants of war, and to ensure accountability for conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries?
The Committee was aware that the Ukrainian courts had issued at least four decisions to provide reparations to families of civilians killed due to the conflict, granting the families the amount requested in their claims. It was concerning that the Government had not implemented these judgements, appealing them instead. Given the fact that obtaining such judgements was a long and complex process, would the right to remedy and reparation in such cases be better upheld through the introduction of an administrative procedure for reparation claims?
A Committee Expert asked about the law to fight discrimination, noting and welcoming the adoption of some new legislative provisions. However, the Expert noted that some recommendations concerning the protection of sexual minorities were not explicitly stated in the new legislation. The delegation was asked to comment on the measures taken to protect internally displaced persons from discrimination. Regarding the attacks on the Roma population, the Committee Expert asked about the measures taken by the State party to protect this minority, as well as progress on providing identification documents for the Roma, and the strategy developed by the Government to safeguard the Roma population. The Committee Expert asked about the law on peaceful assemblies, in relation to the Maidan events.
Committee Experts enquired about the interpretation of legislation concerning hate crimes committed on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. The Experts commended that the State party had adopted the law on the legal status of missing persons in July 2018 to establish mechanisms for identifying, registering and searching of missing persons and protecting their relatives, mainly in the context of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. It was also commendable that the State party had set up an inter-agency Commission on Missing Persons due to Special Circumstances and established procedures for the operationalisation of the Unified Register of Missing Persons due to Special Circumstances, however, the Committee asked for more details on this Register and the way it worked in practice.
There were several recent reports that indicated that torture and ill treatment of persons deprived of their liberty were still widely prevalent, particularly at the time of apprehension and during interrogation. Could Ukraine provide information as to what steps it intended to take in order to put in place adequate safeguards in order to prevent the alleged cases of torture and ill treatment, as well as to ensure a prompt, thorough and independent investigation on allegations of torture and ill treatment? Furthermore, the Committee enquired about the inconsistency of the definition of “torture” under article 127 of the Criminal Code of Ukraine with international standards and requirements. Did the State party have plans to take steps to amend the provision of the crime, as well as to take steps to increase the penalties for the crime of torture which currently was not commensurate with the gravity of the crime?
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation of Ukraine explained that the current legislation in place reflected the approach of the country to indigenous peoples, and believed it was a serious milestone in their development. The next draft legislation called “on the status of the transition period” was subject to consultations, including with the Venice Commission. This law was a framework law, and further legislative proposals would follow that would improve the situation. An Action Plan was also adopted recently, which foresaw concrete action to be implemented in the next four years. It foresaw the possibility to review the plan every year. There was also a decision to adopt a strategy for economic improvement of the temporarily occupied territories.
On the issuance of birth certificates, a draft was also being prepared to deal with this issue. The delegation said that progress on the ceasefire was within the power of the Russian Federation. Special textbooks were published for primary school children regarding mine safety, and a video was produced and broadcast across the country, including on railway trains. There was good cooperation with the Red Cross who were able to conduct training for raising awareness of the risks of mines and explosive remnants war. Working groups were effectively coordinating processes in the field.
The delegation said that according to Ukrainian legislation, a requirement where internally displaced persons were made to register would be discriminatory. Measures to simplify the procedure were introduced, including a mobile app for faster registration. The Ministry for Social Policies had developed a set of measures to combat domestic violence and the list of measures foreseen by this document included the creation of a unified register, as well as the creation of a special support service for the protection of the victims. Training was provided to all officials who had to work with victims of domestic violence. An additional number of shelters, day centres and mobile brigades were envisaged to be put into force throughout the country. A hotline with a number of services that served the victims informed about all the rights to which the victims were entitled, including how they could reach the police or the ambulance services. There was a roadmap for improving this hotline further. There were awareness raising campaigns targeting different groups of the population through social adverts. Educational, cultural and religious representatives were also involved. Every year, there was an Action Against Violence Day.
As regards the Istanbul Convention, the Ministry of Social Policy had finalised a law on this and it was now before the High Council. Concerning the State register on combatting domestic violence, the State programme on combatting domestic violence, which was running until 2025, foresaw the creation of such a register. From 2022, a technical section would start creating it. As regards the State programme for ensuring equality between men and women, the wage gap had shrunk to 20 per cent and the participation of women in decision making had increased. The role of women in the political life was also increasing. A series of measures would also come into force, focused on results, and directly linked to the Sustainable Development Goals. The police reported on the number of cases and reports received on domestic violence offences, which in the opinion of the delegation demonstrated the effectiveness of the programme zero tolerance for domestic violence. Criminal offences related to domestic violence were also developed. All the necessary information was available to the population, as well as a mobile app, which was developed to report quickly and safely to the police and other officials.
The State Service of Ukraine was responsible for developing the Roma Rights and Opportunities Strategy, which was adopted this year. The document aimed at gathering information on the Roma population, legal and non-discriminatory protection, education, health, employment, culture, art and language. Numerous Ukrainian and international institutions were involved in drafting this document. The plan envisaged action plans on regional and national measures. Eight thematic groups were formed to address each of the goals of the strategy. Regarding the problem of passport identification, the Agency provided for numbers of passports issued in the previous years. Birth certificates were also a problem for the Roma population, but the Government had launched a programme to facilitate the distribution of these certificates. The Agency was in regular contact with the Crimean Tatars and Jehovah Witnesses and it had no problems safeguarding the rights of these people in the areas controlled by Ukraine. Ensuring the rights of this category of people was dependent on de-occupying Ukrainian territories. There was no problem in Ukraine, the problem existed in the occupied territories of Crimea and the eastern regions.
There was a draft bill in Parliament, which aimed to establish liability for a public appeal to violence on grounds of intolerance or express hatred and other deliberate acts, as well as a law on countering discrimination, in particular defining the term “intolerance”.
Concerning the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government had declared a number of restrictive measures, including in education and transportation. Quarantine amendments, which provided for restrictions of movement on legal grounds, had been introduced. The measures introduced in Ukraine did not contradict the articles of the Covenant, which were necessary for the existence of democratic society. Moreover, the Government had taken measures to ensure the rights of the most vulnerable groups were also safeguarded during the pandemic. The Ukrainian authorities were also ensuring that information from the Committee was distributed in all languages and using various platforms for raising awareness on international obligations throughout the society. On the work of the judiciary, the delegation said that there were no mechanisms for reviewing the work of the judges, based on the recommendations of the United Nations.
YEVHENIIA FILIPENKO, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said she would be coordinating the responses of the delegation at the second meeting.
Generally positive trends were noted when it came to criminal charges following incidents of torture and other forms of improper treatment. The delegation said that in 2020, 83 criminal cases were investigated by the prosecutors and 188 were investigated this year. Work was undertaken with regional prosecutors to investigate allegations of torture and sets of trainings were carried out.
As for the situation in the conflict zone, 30,000 criminal cases were noted, mostly relating to enforced disappearances and illegal deprivations of liberty. As for crimes of Security Services of Ukraine, 39 criminal cases were launched since 2014, two cases were sent to court, and one security officer was convicted. Currently there were nine open cases, and 28 cases were closed. A special investigation unit on Maidan was set up in 2020 and 46 acts were referred to court and six people were detained. Further statistics were presented pertaining to the work of the special investigation unit on Maidan. The investigations were not stopped by the amnesty as this was regulated within the Criminal Code.
Questions by Experts
One Expert asked about the freedom of movement, mentioning difficulties facing citizens who were crossing the checkpoints. Would checkpoints be repaired because people crossing them were doing so in difficult conditions which included, dealing with the cold, and a lack of drinking water and medical support. Did the Government envisage repairing the checkpoints and facilitating the freedom of movement?
The Expert noted tensions between supporters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the new Ukrainian Orthodox Church. There were nine cases in the Kiev and Rivne regions involving violence by supporters of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.
What was even more worrying was the involvement of non-religious actors in these tensions, including local authorities and far-right groups, as well as the inaction of the police during the incidents. Ukraine should prosecute those passively responsible for this violent situation. Moreover, the Parliament had adopted restrictions on the access of clergymen of religious organizations affiliated with religious centres of the Russian Federation to the premises of the Ukrainian armed forces on the basis of national security considerations, which was not compliant with the Covenant.
Another Expert asked a question on measures taken to ensure effective protection against refoulement. There seemed to be important gaps with respect to certain asylum procedures in Ukraine, particularly regarding access to the Ukrainian territory for potential asylum seekers in airport transit zones. The barriers included the absence of an effective appeal mechanism and lack of legal assistance. How would Ukraine address this gap? What measures did the State party intend to take to ensure interpretation and legal aid to asylum seekers in such situations?
Focusing on electoral issues, the Expert raised the issue of misuse of State resources at national and local levels during the presidential and parliamentary elections in 2019. There were reports of clientelism, patronage and widespread claims that campaigns were largely funded outside of the campaign finance framework. The delegation had provided information on steps taken towards addressing the alleged election irregularities during the 2019 election. Could they clarify what type of specific violations of the electoral law these criminal proceedings were based on?
The Expert asked questions relating to the protection of minorities. The first question was on the use of minority languages and the delegation was asked to report on progress achieved in addressing the legislative gap relating to the realisation of the language rights of minorities? There were concerns that some provisions of the law undermined the right of minorities to use their own language. The second question was on article 7 of the law on education as it appeared to stipulate a different treatment among different categories of Ukrainian citizens as well as among their respective languages. How did the State party intend to address or revise these discriminatory and differential treatments between different Ukrainian citizens and languages?
Another Expert asked questions on the right to privacy. What safeguards were in place to ensure that surveillance, interception of communications and access to data, retention of communications data and other surveillance activities by law enforcement agencies complied with article 17 of the Covenant? Were all types of surveillance activities conducted subject to judicial authorization? The delegation was asked to report on measures taken to investigate the disclosure by the nationalist website Myrotvorets of personal data of thousands of Ukrainian and foreign journalists branded as supporters of terrorist groups. What steps were being taken to prevent the unlawful dissemination of personal data via the Internet and what possibilities were available to individuals to protect the right to privacy? How many cases concerning violations of privacy issues had come before Ukrainian courts? Was the adoption of the draft law on data protection expected in 2021?
The Expert asked questions relating to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, noting the attacks on journalists and civil society activists, including murder. What measures were taken to investigate harassment and assaults by various actors, including extreme right-wing groups? Did the prosecution classify attacks against journalists under the Criminal Code? An update on the status of investigations and trials in cases of killings of journalists was requested.
The Expert asked questions relating to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The Committee was concerned that the Ukrainian Public Broadcasting Company remained underfunded and that the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting was not sufficiently independent. There were concerns about the violation of the confidentiality of journalistic sources in practice, particularly with respect to journalists reporting on high-profile cases of corruption. What measures was the State party taking to investigate these incidents? A draft law on whistle blower protection was introduced to the Verkhovna Rada in 2016 but it was not adopted. What steps could the Government take to protect whistle blowers?
The same Expert asked some follow-up questions, including on the percentage of people fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Another Expert asked a series of questions relating to judicial independence and the right to a fair trial. The work of the High Commission for the Qualification of Judges was marked with incidents as more than 1,680 judges had resigned, which had caused a shortage of judges. Moreover, in 2019 the anti-corruption prosecutor's office published the results of an investigation according to which a group of judges of the Kiev administrative court interfered in the resignations and appointments of members of the High Commission for the Qualification of the Judges in order to avoid their evaluation. What had caused the massive voluntary resignation of judges? Did this cause a problem of lack of judges, especially in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions? Had the High Commission for the Qualification of Judges completed the process of evaluating the judges?
The delegation was asked to provide further information on the system for appointing and removing the General Prosecutor? Were the system of random allocation of cases to individual prosecutors and the bonus system still in place?
On the right to a fair trial, an Expert gave an example of the lawyer Oleksandr Shadrin whose car was set on fire and asked about the current stage of the proceedings. A question was asked on the ban of the Communist and National Socialist parties. Were there other similar decisions that had affected other political parties? While the Constitutional Court declared such practices as constitutional, the Venice Commission stated that the ban did not comply with international standards. Did the State party intend to modify this legislation to bring it into line with those standards?
A question was also raised on the new electoral law and how it affected internally displaced persons. The recent ruling of the European Court of Human Rights condemned Ukraine for violations of the right to vote of internally displaced persons. Did the State party intend to facilitate the vote of the internally displaced persons? As for minorities, there were reports of the difficulties of some minorities, such as those from Transcarpathia or the Hungarian minority, to obtain representation in parliament. Did the State party plan to adopt any measures to promote the presence of minorities in parliament? Moreover, the Law on the Election of Deputies required a deposit from candidates to participate in elections, so the delegation was asked to inform the Committee about the amount of this deposit.
On the views of the Venice Commission, the delegation was asked if Ukraine would consider providing a more comprehensive approach that would include not only alleged violations of Russian authorities, but also alleged violations of the Ukrainian domestic actors as well.
The Expert thanked the delegation for providing information about violence against women. Data on effective investigations and sanctions imposed on perpetrators would be also welcome as well as data on prosecutions on arbitrary detention in detention centres.
On the issue of pre-trial detention, and arbitrary detention in the context of conscription, the delegation was asked how they planned to address the situation in detention centres in Kharkiv. The concern of prolonged pre-trial detention had also been reported for children, as 24 per cent of children were kept in pre-trial detention for more than a year. How could Ukraine address this problem?
The Expert raised concerns over the lack of investigation over attacks happening during peaceful assemblies organised by women human rights defenders or the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons. How did Ukraine plan to protect peaceful assemblies, investigate attacks and bring perpetrators to justice, including for the attacks on women’s marches in Kyiv, Lviv and Uzhhorod, and attacks against political figures, including by extreme right-wing groups, committed in 2018 and ahead of the 2019 elections. Could the delegation explain how and when Ukraine intended to adopt a law regulating peaceful assemblies compliant with the Covenant? Moreover, the involvement of the National Guard of Ukraine in the execution of police functions was concerning.
Replies by the Delegation
The delegation showed a short video to illustrate the situation at checkpoints in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. The delegation proceeded to explain how the EECP checkpoints had looked in the contact line in 2019 and how they looked now. Back in 2019 there were five checkpoints in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and since then, agreement had been reached to build two new ones. In November 2020, a new EECP was opened. EECP had a security and service area. Within the service area there was the provision of administrative and medical services all free of charge. COVID-19 tests were also provided in the EECPs. The main problem now was the significant reduction of crossings. In the last year, the number of crossings in the east was 3.5 million, but the numbers kept falling. This was because Russia had closed all but two checkpoints from their side, explaining this was due to COVID-19. The plan for further development of the EECPs was to be finalised by next year from the Ukrainian side, but they were blocked from the Russian side. Six thousand people living in these areas were vaccinated.
On the issue of funding of the Ukrainian Public Broadcasting Company, the delegation said that the full amount of funding as envisaged by the law was provided to them. As for the National Council of Television and Radio Broadcasting, they were operating professionally without political interference. Half of their members were appointed by the President and another half by the Parliament.
On the violation of the confidentiality of journalistic sources in practice, the cases that were mentioned had been resolved. There was legislation in place guaranteeing the confidentiality of journalistic sources. There were no allegations that there was media repression due to the situation caused by COVID-19.
On vaccination, the delegation reported that thus far they had secured 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine through State budgets and thanks to COVAX efforts. Every person had a chance to choose the vaccine they wanted. Anti-vaccine ideas were spreading and were assisted through Russia’s disinformation efforts. Another problem was shortage of medical personnel as they were all working with COVID-19 patients. Nonetheless, last week 1.5 million people were vaccinated so the vaccination was progressing in line with the desired goal.
On minority rights, Ukraine provided opportunity within its public education to learn different languages. Being fluent in Ukrainian language was not only necessary for successful integration, it was also the right of children. Crimean Tatar language was threatened due to assimilation policies carried out during Soviet times and the ongoing Russian occupation of Crimea where most of Tatars resided.
On the investigation of attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons during equality march, these incidents were investigated and were sent to the courts.
The Prosecutor’s Office had undergone a significant reform since 2019. The prosecutors still had benefits/bonus to their salary, but this was no more than 30 per cent of the prosecutor’s monthly salary. In 2020, a strategy was designed prescribing the system of automatic allocation of cases, so this was an ongoing process. As for the detention centres in Kharkiv, there were nine criminal cases investigated against security forces and three persons had status of victims.
On the question of clergyman, this was an ecumenical issue; priests in the Russian Church were not supposed to pray with members of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. The Moscow Patriarchy broke the agreement with the Ukrainian Orthodox Church three years ago. The recent visit of the Patriarch was portrayed by the Russian media as a provocation. Finally, there was a security issue and risks for Ukrainian citizens had to be minimised. For this reason, the Parliament’s decision had to be understood in that light. This was a provisional state of affairs, it was a very heavy context, and the Committee was asked to understand all factors of the context.
On the issue of electoral campaigns and party funding, a major breakthrough was the development of an online register of spending of political parties called Politdata. This was financed through international efforts, and it was supposed to greatly contribute to overall accountability. Media and civil society actors would get reports on spending and would be able to scrutinise them. A draft law was being revised following the Venice Commission opinion.
The Gender Equality Commission was chaired by the Vice-President and it comprised Deputy Ministers and they met four times a year to discuss major issues. The Ministry for Social Policy was a central body dealing with gender equality issues and in 2020 they issued instructions on the integration of a gender-based approach across all policies and legislation. Amending any document implied mainstreaming a gendered perspective to ensure that legislative act would affect men and women on an equal footing. The gender wage §gap was 20.4 per cent. Back in 2019 it was 22.8 per cent, but in some fields such as art and information technology, it did increase to 30 per cent. Ukraine had joined the international coalition for equal pay.
On non-refolument, the delegation explained how this was regulated by the national legislation and how persons applying for international protection under the asylum system could not be extradited or returned to the State of origin. The delegation also provided information on the legal framework on family reunification and statistics on persons that were granted international protection.
As a result of the massive resignation of judges, there was a big problem of shortage of judges. Around 2,000 judges had not passed their evaluation processes. Due to this difficult situation, there were new attempts for a judiciary reform. Eight courts were not functioning because of this, as there were no judges working. In Donetsk and Luhansk regions, people were not able to be represented in courts and proceedings were prolonged for several years. The High Commission for the Qualification of Judges had not been working for two years. Until they did start working, it would not be possible to finish the process of the evaluation of judges, so 2,000 of them were still waiting to get their results. As for the independence and integrity of judges, the delegation would send to the Committee the relevant summary they had prepared on this.
A Committee Expert said that there were no responses on missing persons and enforced disappearances, so the delegation was asked to provide responses in writing.
Another Expert asked if derogations of certain articles of the Covenant were still in force.
YEVHENIIA FILIPENKO, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations Office at Geneva, stressed that the response of the Ukrainian delegation testified to Ukraine’s national efforts to improve the human rights situation. There were a number of strategic documents they were implementing and working on and Ukraine continued to be a State party to international human rights instruments. Ukraine would focus on implementing its priorities under the Covenant.
PHOTINI PAZARTZIS, Chairperson of the Human Rights Committee, said the Committee recognised the current limitations of the Ukrainian ability to fully implement the Covenant in the State party, including in parts of the territory that were not under it effective control. However, as many Committee Members had stressed, while the State party was commended for all the efforts it had taken for implementing the rights under the Covenant, it was urged to continue in these efforts to ensure respect of the rights guaranteed under the Covenant throughout its territory, including the respect of those rights wherever the operations of the State party could affect the inhabitants of such territories. The Committee had discussed the strategic documents - the draft law on the transition period would be an important document.