Lives in Ukraine being lost in accountability vacuum, warns UN rights expert
18 September 2015 – The Ukrainian Government and the armed groups operating in the country must implement a proper system of accountability to end the violence, an independent United Nations human rights expert warned today.
"Thousands of people have died in Ukraine over the last two years, both in the context of a brutal armed conflict in eastern Ukraine and in the rest of the country," said the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, speaking at the end of his first official visit to the country.
While in Ukraine, Mr. Heyns examined the level of protection of the right to life, as well as the measures taken to prevent unlawful killings.
He also observed the effects of shelling, and raised concerns that many civilian casualties might have been avoided if the parties to the conflict had taken stronger measures to mitigate such losses.
Highlighting allegations of indiscriminate shelling, as well as the placing of artillery in civilian-populated areas, including schools and hospitals, the expert expressed his concern that there was "very little evidence that either the Government or the armed groups investigate any of these allegations."
On a more positive note, the ceasefire negotiated at Minsk in February 2015 has largely been observed during the last few weeks. "The opportunity should be used by both sides to put measures into place to reduce the toll that the war is exacting from everyone concerned," said Mr. Heyns.
At the same time, he highlighted allegations of serious violations taking place in Crimea.
"Ukraine faces serious challenges, and violations will almost inevitably occur," said Mr. Heyns. "The only way forward is for all parties actively to confront that fact and to ensure that a functioning system of accountability for a common set of standards is put into place."
Independent experts or special rapporteurs are appointed by the Geneva-based Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.
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