GENEVA (6 May 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Tuesday expressed deep concern about the surge in violence in Ukraine, which is resulting in more and more deaths and destruction.
“I urge all sides to make a much greater effort to find a peaceful resolution to the current crisis, especially in the various towns in eastern and southern Ukraine that have been racked by increasingly violent confrontations,” she said.
“Armed opposition groups must stop all illegal actions, including detaining people and seizing public buildings in violation of Ukraine’s laws and Constitution. These organized and well-armed groups should lay down their weapons, free arbitrarily detained persons, and vacate occupied public and administrative buildings.”
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 stressed the need for the authorities to carry out prompt, transparent and comprehensive investigations into the events in Odessa and Donetsk regions that led to the deaths of dozens of people in recent days, including the fire in the trade union building in Odessa last Friday in which more than 40 people are believed to have died.
“Inclusive and participatory dialogue needs, as a matter of urgency, to be undertaken at all levels to de-escalate tensions and prevent further violence,” Pillay said. “Leaders at national and local levels need to take serious steps to halt the rhetoric of hatred and confrontation, before the situation spirals totally out of control.”
“Genuine peaceful demonstrations must be permitted, both as a matter of international law and as a release valve for people’s legitimate fears and frustrations,” she added. “Policing should facilitate such assemblies while ensuring the protection of participants, irrespective of their political views.”
Pillay also emphasised the need to create an environment where freedom of expression and opinion are fully respected, condemning all attacks on, and harassment of, journalists.
“All sides must allow journalists space to work,” she said. “This is a key element in ending the increasing misinformation, disinformation and hate speech that has been colouring conflicting narratives and fuelling the development of artificial, destructive and deeply dangerous divisions between communities.”
Pillay added that journalists themselves should make strenuous efforts to be objective, and to avoid incitement.
She also noted that very little time remains before the elections on 25 May, which represent the best opportunity for Ukraine to begin the process of reconciliation and stabilization.
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights currently has a monitoring mission of 34 staff based in five locations, and is due to publish its next report on the human rights situation in Ukraine on 15 May.