Unequal Equality: Monitoring of Human Rights Violations in Ukraine for 2014-2016

By Iryna Berezhnaya

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others” ~ George Orwell

I want to start by saying that all persons present know perfectly that it is impossible to build a legal state by illegal methods; and the rights of one person end where the rights of another begin. In addition, it is the equality of all citizens, and tolerance towards people with different beliefs and points of view is the basis of a European state.

In Ukraine the right to life, the right to freedom of expression, the right to travel, the right to work, the right social security and pensions are currently under threat, systematically recorded are violations of personal and property rights of a human, the right to a fair trial, the rights of national minorities. The problem of internally displaced persons remains, as well as many others.

And now we shall focus on the specific facts of violation of basic, fundamental human rights in the post-Maidan Ukraine! Alas, but there so many facts that I am apologizing in advance for possible excess of the regulations.


Uncontrolled territories of Ukraine in the East are the worst in terms of the respect of fundamental and inalienable human rights and freedoms. Serious violations and abuses of human rights continue in the form of regular attacks, killings, arbitrary and illegal detentions, extrajudicial executions, torture, ill-treatment, trafficking, lack of justice and accountability, as well as illegal deprivation of economic and social rights, which affect about 5 million people living in the areas affected by the conflict.

Ukraine does not comply with its own obligations to the citizens who remained on the uncontrolled territories, the most vulnerable civilian populations in the area of the ATO are children, the disabled and the elderly. Since the government of Ukraine did not ensure the timely evacuation of children from children’s homes, the disabled and the elderly, it endangered their lives and health. A large number of them do not have the necessary medicines or even sufficient food and water. According to UNICEF, 1.3 million children and adults face a serious problem of access to clean water, because of the damaged or destroyed water lines and an acute shortage of water in areas affected by the conflict in the Eastern Ukraine. At the same time the Interim Procedure dated January 21, 2015 set the entry and exit procedures to/from the territories beyond the control of the Government of Ukraine, which some citizens were artificially separated from the others, that is a gross discrimination on a territorial basis, and created additional obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian supplies – by setting a ban on the transport of commercial goods with food and medicine, complicated procedures for registering providers of humanitarian aid and the taxation of humanitarian aid. Due to the lack of simplified procedures for the delivery of humanitarian aid convoys are often blocked at checkpoints for hours. Not to mention the illegal blocking of humanitarian supplies by the nationalist armed militants with the connivance and support of the Kiev authorities.

The Ukrainian government does not pay attention to 77 institutions of Donbass, where persons are de jure under its protection – psychiatric hospitals, boarding schools with pensioners, children and bedridden patients. Thus, we can talk about Ukraine’s violation of its obligations to ensure the right to life.

Right to social protection

After the illegal decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine dated 11.07.2014 No. 595 to freeze the payment of pensions and social benefits to citizens who have not moved from the area of the ATO, there have been no allocations from the state budget for social benefits, including pensions, as well as for social institutions, which continue to operate in the areas not controlled by Ukraine. Thus, the citizens’ right to social protection is totally violated.

Our “Institute of Legal Policy and Social Protection” won 3 courts of Ukraine’s national courts and almost a year ago, on October 16, 2015 the entire panel of judges of the court chamber of the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine has issued a ruling on the legality of decisions of courts of first instance and appeal, obliging Ukraine to pay pensions and social benefits to all citizens residing in the uncontrolled territory of Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

However, the current government refuses to implement the above decision of the court, as evidenced by the official response of public authorities.

So, instead of executing the court decision, which has long entered into force, currently the Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine and the Pension Fund of Ukraine illegally suspended payments of pensions and social benefits not only to residents of non-controlled territory, but also to all temporally displaced persons (TDPs) without any apparent legal grounds. At the same time, Deputy Prime Minister of Ukraine Pavlo Rozenko at the official briefing lamented that died an insufficient number of pensioners – residents of the Donbass, who have legally registered as migrants.

I recall that paragraph 8 of the Set of Actions for implementation of the Minsk Agreement of February 12, 2015 provided for the full restoration of social and economic relations, including social transfers, such as pensions and other payments.

I also want to note that at a meeting of the UN General Assembly on 12.11.2015, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ivan Shimonovic, in its report called on the Government of Ukraine to fulfill the Ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine of 16.10.2015 and immediately pay to the Ukrainian citizens residing in the so-called ATO area the entire debt in respect of social payments and pensions, and renew regular payments in the future.

The Institute of Legal Policy and Social Welfare has submitted a statement to the European Court of Human Rights on the failure by the Government of Ukraine to execute domestic courts’ decisions, which leads to starvation of the residents of Donbas.

In addition, today they still record the facts of illegal detention carried out by Ukrainian law enforcement agencies (mainly, by the Ukrainian Security Service) and the military and paramilitary groups (most notably, former volunteer battalions, now officially included in the Armed Forces of Ukraine, the National Guard and police).

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So, after the publication on July 21 of the report by the human rights organization Amnesty International- “You do not exist: Arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances and torture in the east of Ukraine”, the Ukrainian Security Service has released 13 people from the so-called “secret prison”, which is the office of the SBU in Kharkov. Human rights defenders were able to talk to five of those released. Three of them – Nikolay Vakaruk, Viktor Ashikhin and Dmitry Korolev stated that they intend to seek justice. Two others wished to remain anonymous saying that they feared reprisals.
According to human rights defenders, at least five people are still in secret detention.

Before the publication of the report, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch met with the chief military prosecutor Anatoly Matios and handed him over a list of 16 people who are in the “secret prisons” in Kharkov. Tellingly, 12 of the 13 released were in this list.


All this became possible also because violation of human rights in Ukraine is fixed at the legislative level! On May 21, 2015 the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Resolution on the approval of the application for derogation from the Ukraine’s international obligations with respect to human rights in Donetsk and Lugansk regions on the state-controlled territory. On June 5, 2015 the Government of Ukraine informed the Secretary General of the United Nations and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe that Ukraine will derogate from some of the state obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights 1950.

This decision provides for a retreat from the rights that have been interpreted by the Human Rights Committee of the United Nations Organization, as such, from which no derogation is permitted! They include the right to an effective remedy and due process rights, in particular the supervision by the judicial authority on the lawfulness of detention, as well the right of citizens to social protection, a fair trial and the right to free movement.

By this resolution the MPs in fact legalized lawlessness on the front-line areas and deprived the citizens of Ukraine living on the state-controlled territory in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the right of entry to and exit from Ukraine, to the appeal to the appellate and cassation, as well as in the ECHR, any court decisions on compensation for material and moral damages in the event of unlawful criminal prosecution, extrajudicial killings, or other illegal acts. Also the government eliminated for these citizens the prohibition on state interference in private and family life.

Our “Institute of Legal Policy and Social Protection” yet in June 2015 challenged these documents as illegal in the Supreme Administrative Court of Ukraine (SACU).

I draw your attention that the Monitoring Mission of the United Nations on human rights in Ukraine repeatedly pointed out in its reports the above violations and demanded that the Ukrainian government to take immediate action and to cancel these barbaric to European countries legal acts. However, to date, no actions have been taken on the part of the Government and the Parliament.

Human rights in the information area and right to privacy

Recently disregard of these personal human rights in the post-Maidan Ukraine led to a violation of other rights – such as the right to life.

The most unprecedented example of improper collection and disclosure of information about individuals is infamous site-killer with Orwellian name “Peacemaker”, created in the fall of 2014 and supervised personally by the adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs, the People’s Deputy of Ukraine – Anton Gerashchenko!

This site draws up openly the hit lists of dissidents with putting personal data not only of the citizens who are accused without trial for serious crimes, but also the information on the members of their families, including children with an indication of addresses of their schools, universities and kindergartens. Today, this site illegally posted details of more than 700 000 citizens, which are considered by the administrators of “Peacemaker” as separatists, criminals without court convictions and other legal grounds, including more than 10 000 – journalists.

The site content does not correspond to its name, the operation of the site is aimed at inciting enmity and hatred. Moreover, the site completely ignores the presumption of innocence and in fact violates the intangible rights of persons not involved in crimes.

After the scandalous publication of personal data of Western journalists, accredited by the DNR and LNR, all international institutions have rebelled and demanded the immediate closure of the site, but the adviser to the Minister of Internal Affairs – Anton Gerashchenko and the Interior Minister Avakov himself immediately declared publicly that they are not going to close the Internet-Resource, on the contrary, they announced a new package of personal data for another 2500 journalists!

And none of the international organizations publicly denounced that, in addition to journalists, thousands of Ukrainian citizens are illegally included in the “execution” list for 2 years. And the opposition journalist Oles Buzyna and the politician Oleg Kalashnikov, the day after the publication of their personal data on the “Peacemaker”, including residential addresses, were brutally murdered in broad daylight near the entrances to their homes and immediately on the website “The Peacemaker” in the “dossier” on these people came mark “liquidated”.

In addition, the lists on the site “Peacemaker” were handed over to the Security Service of Ukraine, State Border Service of Ukraine with the requirement to conduct additional “enhanced screening” of all citizens in the lists, when crossing the border.

The Ukrainian ombudsman Valeriya Lutkovska also stated that the publication of personal data on the above website violates human rights. Moreover, she expressed the need to amend the legislation, which would allow in the event of unlawful processing of personal data to block the work of a site, regardless of the server location.

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However, neither the criticism by European politicians, Ambassadors, or human rights defenders, nor the negative effects of the site did make its founders, or the police (which is in fact the same people!) to close this website. By the way, my colleague Elena Bondarenko and I appealed to the Ministry of the Interior into the threats to us and our loved ones in connection with the deployment of our personal information on this site and have the official status of “victim” in an open criminal proceedings.


Today people are still pursued for their expressions, criticism of the existing government and their opposition activities.

Thus, Alla Aleksandrovskaya – the people’s deputy of Ukraine of four convocations, the First Secretary of the Kharkiv Regional Committee of the Communist Party and an honorary citizen of the city of Kharkiv is in custody for more than two months.

Alla Aleksandrovskaya was detained on June 28, 2016, and subsequently the court chose the detention without the right to bail as a preventive measure. She was charged with Part 2 of article 110 (encroachment on the territorial integrity and inviolability of Ukraine) and Part 3 of article 369 (offer, promise or giving of an undue advantage to a service person) of the Criminal Code of Ukraine.

At the same time, Alla Aleksandrovskaya is an elderly woman who is 67 years old, but she is contained in a prison without the possibility of medical treatment. So, on 14 July 2016 Alla Aleksandrovskaya was taken to the emergency hospital and emergency care, as claimed her son Alexander, this was done without notifying the lawyers in the strictest secrecy, ostensibly to prevent an attack on the convoy. According to him, Alla Aleksandrovskaya has serious health problems, but the power keeps holding her, though she represents no threat, in custody, while releasing thousands of murderers and perpetrators of grave and especially grave crimes, according to Savchenko law.

Persecution of the dissent Alla Aleksandrovskaya could not hide from the eyes of the European public. The case of Alla Aleksandrovskaya received international attention, as the international organization were informed: “Reporters without Borders”, “Doctors without Borders», Amnesty International, the OSCE, the Red Cross and others.

In the city of Kharkov the meeting with Aleksandrovskaya was visited by parliamentarians from European countries and the former Prime-Minister of Ukraine Mykola Azarov has addressed an open letter to the US Ambassador to Russia John Tefft, CE Secretary General Thorbjørn Yangland, as well as the number of EU embassies to help in the liberation of the Aleksandrovskaya.

Representatives of the European Parliament, such as MEP from Germany Gabriele Zimmer and other deputies appealed to the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko, a formal letter with the request to stop political repressions in the country and the release Alla Aleksandrovskaya from custody.

In addition, on July 11, 2016 the European Court of Human Rights (hereinafter – ECHR) has expressed concern about the state of health of Alla Aleksandrovskaya. According to Aleksandrovskaya’s lawyer Alexander Shadrin, the European Court of Human Rights opened the proceedings on the basis of his application in the interest of defendant (on the proper medical care).

Currently, through the representatives of the “Right Sector” and other militant organizations an impact is made on Aleksandrovskaya’s lawyer, the prosecution requires the consideration of the criminal case in the mode of video conference from jail, depriving Aleksandrovskaya of her right to participate in the public hearing process.

Given the above, it is clear that the law enforcement authorities of Ukraine do not respond to appeals by Ukrainian and international human rights organizations, and the patient who is the respected woman of advanced years Alexandrovskata hitherto contained in inappropriate conditions in detention.

Another political prisoner – the People’s Deputy of three convocations Oleksandr Yefremov, was detained by law enforcement agencies July 30, 2016 on suspicion of infringement of the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and August 1, 2016 Pechersk District Court of Kiev chose for Yefremov the preventive measure in the form of detention until September 28, 2016.

I draw your attention to the fact that on August 10, 2016 press conference, the General Prosecutor of Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko officially stated: “Yefremov – this is perhaps the first and only of all my work the decoy, to whom according to the evidence I have negative attitude. Even with respect to such a citizen whose actions I with all my heart, tell you straight, I hate, I will be guided solely by the law”.
Obviously, there will be no objective and fair pre-trial and trial on charges of Yefremov in Ukraine, as Attorney General openly expresses hatred for political prisoners Alexander Efremov putting pressure on the court.

A separate problem is unmotivated cruelty to political opponents. One of the cynical manifestations of such cruelty was ordered assassination attempt April 28, 2014 to the mayor of Kharkiv – Gennady Kernes, in which he was seriously wounded. This brutal crime outraged the whole country. Given that yet on March 17, 2014 Gennady Kernes said about the threats in his address, and did not rule out that these threats could be Avakov, the head of the Interior Ministry, I personally sent a deputy request to the Acting Prosecutor General of Ukraine Oleh Makhnitskyi with a request to take personal control of the investigation of this resonant crime!

However, to date, neither the customer nor the killer is identified, and prosecution of this cynical crime suspended. Law, justice and law and order are not operating in the country!
Also we may not leave without response the cruel, barbaric, resonant, cynical murder of lawyer Yuriy Grabowski, who was the official defender of the citizen of the Russian Federation Alexander Alexandrov accused by the state of Ukraine.

Failure by the governmental and, first of all, law enforcement agencies to establish a monopoly on the use of force leads to tragic consequences, which from the point of view of human rights qualify as a violation of the right to life. It should be emphasized that the practice of the ECHR shows that the state should not only avoid creating by their own actions the threats to human life, but should also implement safeguards to protect the life!

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Other violations are also recorded in Ukraine.


This is also related to the investigation of Odessa tragic events in May 2014, resulted in the deaths of 48 people: 6 resulting from gunshot injury, 32 — in the fire in the House of Trade Unions because of smoke and gas, 10 people fell out of windows during the fire and crashed. Among deceased there were 7 women and a minor.

Moreover, despite the claims of the international institutions to investigate specified Odessa tragic events more carefully, in practice there is only radical soldiers of the nationalists organizations interfere into the investigation process, which is none but dependent now. For instance, in November 2015 Odessa panel of judges in the tragic case of the 2nd of May, being forced by the armed rebels, have written letter of resignation. Therefore, representatives of the “Right sector” don’t even try to give the impression of the independent investigation, аnd apply their pressure on the court.

And the State by no means guarantees independent and fast process of investigation, and does not protect the judges from the pressure. Meaning that, despite camera recordings, shamelessly and in violation of laws the rights of judges, suspects, injured or aggrieved and their relatives are being interfered with, as long as the State continues to stay on the sidelines.

The situation with the investigation on Kyiv protests in winter 2013-2014 is no better, which is openly declared by the legal defenders.
Whereas the State possess all and any instruments and full authority to investigate everything adequately and on the grand scale, lack of action and deliberate dragging of the investigation evokes suspicions in intentional attempt to hide real masterminds and those responsible for killing of people on the 20th of February, 2014.

Meanwhile, illustrative trails over security forces related to the events of winter, 2013-2014 years shows justice to be discriminatory, and assumption of innocence to be ignored, as well as the principle of personal responsibility. In particular, attorneys of former soldiers of Berkut Special Police Force, Serhii Zinchenko and Pavlo Abroskin, having been accused of alleged murders of Euromaidan 39 activists, state that there are no proves of the soldiers’ guilt in the case records.

Right to Work

The talented actors, female singers and musicians are being ostracised and in violation of international and Ukrainian legislation, deprive them of the right to work and profession! Thus, the Minister of Culture of Ukraine Yevhen Nyshchuk has criticized in harsh terms Ani Lorak and Taisia Povalii. The Politician has expressed his discontent with tours of the both singers over the Russian cities and towns, and has recommended them not to return to Ukraine. Thereafter radical nationalists made an attempt to derail Ani Lorak’s concert in the Ibiza nightclub, Odessa, and then her solo concerto in Palace Ukraine, Kyiv, also. In response to such actions the Minister of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Avakov, avowed that militia forces would not take part in keeping the public order during Ani Lorak’s concerts in the future. “There is neither a statute, no a law providing for necessity to protect the singers who openly provoke the society”.

But Deputies of Zaporozhzhia and Lviv Cities Coulcils have taken things a step further and banned any tours, concerts, plays, and other cultural events by those expressing their disagreement with acting authorities, which shall be direct violation of the constitutional provisions, show of discrimination and infringement of right to work and choosing a trade.


The Government and Authorities constantly violate the right to freedom of peaceful assemblies! For example, on the 6th of October, 2015, militia fellows, Kyiv, applied physical force to disperse the activists of Financial Maidan, protesting at the Bessarabska Ploshcha(Square) to express their disagreement with actions of Ukrainian governmental authorities.

Another case is that on the 22nd of June, 2016, deputies of the Boryspil Town Coulcil during a special session adopted a decision to prohibit the peaceful procession of the Cross by Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) through Borispol, which is the grossest breach of the Constitution of Ukraine.


On the 14th of June, 2015, the parliament adopted a new Law “On Local Elections” according to which any person has the right to vote only at its registration place. Therefore, indicated means that IDPs cannot vote at the place of their temporary place of residence, that de-facto deprived them of the right to participate in the election process. According to the principle of 22 UN guiding principles on internal relocation, IDPs shall be beyond any discrimination due to their relocation, in particular while using their right in the community deeds (on an equal footing) and their right to vote. For better understanding, IDP – 3,7% of the electorate of Ukraine.

In conclusion, I’d like to tell, the systematic violation of human rights in Ukraine shows that it is now that the new approach is necessary to apply to the State Policy. It is important to begin the construction of Europe in Ukraine now, giving up on methods of force in political struggle, illegal putting of pressure on opponents, on favoring infringements and violations of human rights and freedoms, and on negation of the rule of law.

It is the development of the democratic, tolerant and peaceful Ukraine that shall be a unifier for both all and any political forces, and Ukrainian society. They shall stop to use human rights as fine, but just declaratory slogan, and their protection shall be based on distinct and transparent state policy. But with acting governmental bodies it’s just herding cats.

Ukrainians uniting around the principles of rule of law and legitimacy will not only preserve Ukraine as integral state, but also lay the foundation to its future as a prosperous country.

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