Increasing violence in eastern and southern Ukraine is resulting in more and more death and destruction, the top United Nations human rights official said today, calling on all sides in the conflict to make a greater effort to find a peaceful resolution, particularly ahead of the 25 May presidential election.
As she urged all sides to do more to resolve the crisis, especially in towns which have seen a recent surge in violent protests, Navi Pillay, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, appealed to armed opposition groups to “stop all illegal actions, including detaining people and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukraine’s laws and Constitution.”
She added that these “organized and well-armed groups” should lay down their weapons, free arbitrarily detained persons, and vacate occupied public and administrative buildings.
Ms. Pillay also called on the Government to ensure that military and police operations are undertaken in line with international standards.
“It is extremely important that the authorities themselves demonstrate full respect for the rule of law and scrupulously protect the human rights of all, including the Russian-speaking population,” the High Commissioner said.
She also called on authorities to carry out “prompt, transparent and comprehensive” investigations into events in Odessa and Donetsk eastern regions, where dozens of people have been killed in recent days.
Briefing reporters in Geneva, Ms. Pillay’s spokesperson, Rupert Colville, said the Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR) is calling for authorities to undertake “inclusive and participatory dialogue” and to take “serious steps to halt the rhetoric of hatred and confrontation, before the situation spirals totally out of control”.
Ukrainian officials have announced that the presidential election will be held later this month. It was originally scheduled for May of next year, but was brought forward following the political crisis in the country. The upcoming polls “represent the best opportunity for Ukraine to begin the process of reconciliation and stabilization,” Ms. Pillay said.
She urged authorities to permit genuine peaceful demonstrations, both as a matter of international law and “as a release valve for people’s legitimate fears and frustrations”.
The High Commissioner also emphasised the need to create an environment where freedom of expression and opinion are fully respected, allowing journalists the space to work.
OHCHR teams are currently monitoring the human rights situation from five locations in the country and are due to publish their next report on 15 May.