by H.E. MR. Pavlo KLIMKIN
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF UKRAINE
at the High Level Segment
of 31st regular session of the Human Rights Council
Geneva, March 1, 2016
I congratulate you on the assumption of the post of the President of the Human Rights Council for its 10th cycle.
This year marks a number of important events in the field of human rights. Among them is the 10th anniversary of establishing this Council with the main purpose of effectively addressing and preventing human rights violations, universally promoting and protecting human rights worldwide.
However, one State – which ironically is a current Member of the Human Rights Council – today not only abuses fundamental human rights on its own territory, it violently denies the right of its neighbors to enjoy human rights and freedoms, thus becoming the world's largest exporter of grave human rights abuses.
Two years ago, when Ukrainians decided to defend their dignity and right to live in a free country, Russia came to our soil with arms and military personnel, as it first happened in Georgia in 2008.
Russian aggression against Ukraine has led to 9.000 deaths, more than 20.000 injured and almost two million displaced. During these two years of aggression, a 40 000-strong army has been built up in the Donbas, financed, equipped and maintained by Russia and commanded by Russian officers.
What has the Russian Federation brought to the occupied territories of Ukraine?
Under Russian occupation, Crimea has become a "gray zone" where injustice, terror, intimidation, kidnapping and torture prevail. The occupying authorities commit systematic and large-scale violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, wage a hidden war against dissidents, destroy the signs of linguistic, religious and cultural identity of Ukrainians and the indigenous people of Crimea – Crimean Tatars. Just a few weeks ago, on 11-12 February, Russian occupation authorities in Crimea conducted massive illegal searches and arbitrarily detained thirteen citizens of Ukraine – representatives of the Crimean Tatar people.
The constant presence of international organizations, including the UN, Council of Europe and OSCE must be allowed in the peninsula to monitor the status of human rights. Our Council should urge the Russian Federation as the occupying power to open Crimea to conventional and monitoring mechanisms of international human rights organizations. However, a comprehensive evaluation of the human rights situation in Crimea should be measured only by legal standards in accordance with existing international legal instruments, not by political considerations of the occupying authorities. In this regard, we consider that the recent mission to Crimea of the Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe may facilitate the permanent access to Crimea.
In the other part of Ukraine invaded by the Russian Federation – Donbas – people continue to suffer from indiscriminate shelling, the presence of anti-personnel mines and remnants of war. Residents of Donbas are particularly vulnerable to human rights abuses, including killings, arbitrary and incommunicado detention, torture and ill-treatment which is exacerbated by the absence of the rule of law and of redress mechanisms.
For the current government in Moscow, it is just a normal pattern of behavior, a part of everyday life marked by curtailing the space for civil society, independent media and political opposition, as well as an unprecedented rise in violent extremism, aggressive nationalism, neo-Nazism and xenophobic manifestations. Against the backdrop of an increasingly deteriorating human rights situation in Russia the state of affairs with human rights, fundamental freedoms and rule of law in the Russian Federation merits closer attention by the UN Human Rights Council.
We believe that there is no place for impunity for any human rights violations, regardless of where and by whom they are committed. Ukraine is investigating each and every case of such violations in the territory of Donbas and will make every effort to bring to justice those responsible for committing them.
Early today Minister Lavrov mentioned the situation in Ukraine. His rhetoric reflects the policy of “distorting mirrors” or “parallel reality” being pursued nowadays by the Russian leadership as the vast majority of human rights violations in Ukraine, referred to by Mr. Lavrov, are committed in the occupied Crimea and in the Donbas region specifically by the Russian side and its proxies.
We insist on the crucial importance of the Minsk Agreements and their implementation by the Russian Federation. Russia fails to deliver on its commitments while all the keys to a sustainable ceasefire reside in Moscow. The unconditional release of hostages and political prisoners, the most emblematic of which is Nadiya Savchenko, rests in the same place.
Ukraine has been persistent in pursuing the return of peace and order to Donbas. In fact, upon my visit to Geneva I’ll be heading for the next round of Normandy talks.
We need further support from the international community, including the UN, OSCE, Council of Europe and this Council, to put additional pressure on the party which neglects its obligations. We are grateful to the independent international human rights missions to Ukraine, including the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission and the OSCE Human Rights Assessment Mission, for their hard work being conducted in Ukraine and highly value their reports documenting numerous compelling accounts of human rights violations in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The UN efforts to improve the humanitarian situation in the east of my country, including the adoption of the next Humanitarian Response Plan-2016 for Ukraine, are of particular importance in this context.
Despite the ongoing external aggression, my country has embarked on a path of comprehensive reforms. Taking forward the human-rights agenda of the reforms is an integral part of this work, which includes implementation of the National Human Rights Strategy and the respective National Action Plan - both elaborated with the broadest engagement of civil society and technical assistance from international organizations including the UN.
Following up on Council resolutions 26/30 and 29/23 “Cooperation and assistance to Ukraine in the field of human rights”, we committed ourselves to close cooperation with the OHCHR and other international human rights mechanisms, as well as to taking on board their recommendations. I invite all interested delegations to take part in the interactive dialogue, to be held on March 22, aimed at discussing human rights challenges in my country.
Terrorism, violent extremism and intolerance have taken on many forms and manifestations. We see it in Donbas and in Crimea as a result of Russian aggression in Ukraine; we see it in abhorrent and repeated attacks on medical facilities and civilian infrastructure in Syria. We face it in cruel actions by ISIL militants, in total disrespect for women’s and children's rights.
Ukraine is profoundly concerned about the impunity enjoyed by perpetrators of such violations all over the world. There is an inherent need for thorough examination of all human rights violations as well as for relentless efforts aimed at the prevention of human rights abuses.
We must keep exploring ways to ensure effective human rights protection for all and searching for solutions in order to ultimately eliminate serious human rights violations.
I thank you.