UN Report Details Atrocities In Ukraine While Fighting Escalates

July 14, 2016
Ukrainian soldier in the Avdeyevka industrial park on Tuesday night. Screenshot from YouTube video.

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UN Report Details Atrocities In Ukraine While Fighting Escalates

One Ukrainian soldier was killed and six wounded yesterday.

Colonel Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, military spokesman for the Presidential Administration, told reporters today one soldier had been killed by mortar fire outside Avdeyevka.

Four soldiers were wounded by enemy fire while the other two were injured by a tripwire mine.

The Ukrainian military claims that Russian-backed forces conducted 72 attacks yesterday.

According to this morning’s ATO Press Center report, Russian-backed fighters used 152 mm artillery to shell positions in Maryinka, west of Donetsk, while 122 mm self-propelled artillery shelled nearby Krasnogorovka.

120 mm mortars were used in attacks on both settlements, as well as Starognatovka, Bogdanovka, Novogrigoryevka, Vodyanoye, Shirokino, all in the south.

122 mm artillery and both 120 and 82 mm mortars were used in attacks to the north Donetsk, with mortars also used to the north of Gorlovka.

Yesterday the Ukrainian military released video of an intense fire-fight in the Avdeyevka industrial park, northeast of Donetsk:

In the Lugansk region, positions near Novotoshkovskoye were attacked with 82 mm mortars and anti-aircraft guns. Those near Stanitsa Luganskaya were attacked with grenade launchers. 

One civilian was wounded in Maryinka.

According to the Donetsk Regional Police, a man, born in 1976, was wounded by shelling at around 19:00 in the government-controlled suburb.

The self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) claims that Ukrainian forces opened fire 449 times in the last 24 hours.

According to the DNR, Ukrainian forces used heavy artillery and mortars to shell the outskirts of Donetsk and Gorlovka, as well as several settlements in the south.

The DNR ‘defense ministry’ claimed that ten houses in western Donetsk and the southern village of Kominternovo were damaged. 

The DNR says that two civilians were wounded.

Two women, born in 1981 and 1955 were reportedly injured by shelling in the Petrovsky district of Donetsk last night. 

Photos of damage in the Petrovsky district: 

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has released a report on killings in Ukraine since the beginning of the crisis.

In addition to the killings of protesters and activists during the Maidan revolution and the May 2, 2014 clashes in Odessa, the report discusses non-combat deaths in the east of the country.

The report describes reports of deaths in the following categories:

Civilians killed by use of firearms near military sites:

  • 3 in government-controlled territory
  • 4 in separatist-controlled territory

Execution of surrendered or hors de combat fighters:

  • 1 by Ukrainian forces
  • 13 by Russian-backed forces

Summary or arbitrary executions of civilians or POWs:

  • 15 by Ukrainian forces, including one mentally disabled man, in addition to the unsolved murder of journalist Oles Buzina and the negligent death of a civilian, Denys Fomenko, who appears to have been fatally wounded by an explosive device after being forced to get off a bus at a Ukrainian military checkpoint and walk home.
  • 36 by Russian-backed forces, including the killing of a six-year-old Roma child with two members of her family.

    Another 10 bodies were discovered in a mass grave that may have either been executed by Russian-backed forces or died as a result of shelling or non-violent causes during battle for Slavyansk.

 Death during deprivation of liberty:

  • 2 while held by Ukrainian forces
  • 6 while held by Russian-backed forces

Killings within military or paramilitary groups:

  • 2 Ukrainian fighters
  • 3 Russian-backed fighters

Four civilians disappeared in government-controlled territory and may have died in incidents connected with the Ukrainian Security Service (SBU) and the Aidar, Azov and Tornado volunteer units.

In addition, the OHCHR report describes one summary execution and ten possibly fatal disappearances in Russian-occupied Crimea.

The OHCHR concludes: 

Killing has become a widespread phenomenon in Ukraine since January 2014, starting with the Maidan events and escalating as of April 2014 with the conflict in the east. While the majority of deaths were directly caused by the armed hostilities, OHCHR observes – along with intergovernmental organizations, international NGOs, NGOs from Ukraine and the Russian Federation, and other actors – a persistent pattern of violations and abuses of the rights to life and to physical integrity in the country.

Impunity for killings remains rampant, encouraging their perpetuation and undermining prospects for justice. No one has yet been brought to account for the violent deaths during the mass assemblies of 2014 and 2015. Similarly, no perpetrators have been brought to justice for the deaths resulting from violations of international humanitarian law, as in the cases of the conduct of armed hostilities or executions of persons hors de combat. Accountability for the killing of civilians or for deaths during the deprivation of liberty is still rare.

OHCHR welcomes the efforts of the Government of Ukraine to bring perpetrators from its own ranks to justice. It also notes that the Office of the Chief Military Prosecutor is carrying out pre-trial investigations into alleged cases of killing, torture and ill-treatment of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians by members of the armed groups of the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and the self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’. OHCHR acknowledges the difficulties in furthering accountability, including due to the lack of access to the territories where many of the alleged acts took place.

At the same time, OHCHR has observed an apparent lack of motivation to investigate some cases and a formalistic approach in the work of investigative bodies, especially when it concerns acts allegedly committed by Ukrainian forces. Cover-up and political bias are not uncommon, especially when alleged perpetrators belong to the ranks of the military and law enforcement. As a result, some perpetrators continue to enjoy impunity. Changes of measures of restraint often provide alleged perpetrators with opportunities to escape from justice. While, forensic experts do not always pay sufficient attention to documenting signs of torture on bodies recovered from the conflict zone, investigators also do not always task forensic experts to answer questions whether a body bears signs of torture. Material evidence related to a summary deprivation of life is often collected poorly and is not properly preserved. 

Relatives of victims are often the ones urging authorities to initiate an investigation. In some cases law enforcement officials only register the case in the Unified Register of Pretrial Investigations (ERDR). They barely carry out any investigative actions, citing various pretexts: in particular the lack of access to territories not under the control of the Government of Ukraine where suspects might be hiding; and the absence of the body of the alleged victim.

OHCHR notes that the National Human Rights Strategy recognizes ineffective investigations into violent deaths as a systemic problem. One of the expected results of the National Human Rights Action Plan is the availability of legal remedies and mechanisms, including for effective investigation of violations of the right to life. It is stipulated that a draft law to be developed on amending legislative acts in order to create compensation mechanisms for those who become victims due to the drawn out and ineffective investigation in the deaths of their relatives.

Parallel ‘law enforcement’ entities, set up in the ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and ‘Luhansk people’s republic’, have reportedly investigated some killings which occurred in the territories under their control. These entities do not have any legal status under Ukrainian law. Their ‘investigations’ appear to be selective, focusing exclusively on acts committed by armed groups which have been disbanded or otherwise re-organized for their alleged lack of discipline or loyalty. The ‘investigations’ appear to lack due process and fair trial guarantees.

All available accountability mechanisms – both national and international – must ensure that those responsible, directly or as superior, for killings and other violations, abuses and crimes are brought to justice. 

Meanwhile the Ukrainian Prosecutor-General announced today that a rifle used in the killings of protesters on the Maidan in February, 2014, has been found.

MP Volodymyr Ariev said that the broken-up sniper rifle used by members of the Berkut riot police unit was found along with parts from several automatic weapons in a pond in Kiev’s Holosiyvsky district.

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2016-07-14 13:13:02

— Pierre Vaux