The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights issued its report on the human rights situation in
Ukraine on May 15, 2014. Written in
the bland blame-no-particular-side style of the United Nations, it nevertheless
reads as an indictment of Russia’s
“illegal” annexation of Crimea, of the human rights abuses ongoing in Crimea,
and of the illegal destabilization activities in east Ukraine supported by Russia.
The report recognizes that
Ukraine has taken the steps called
for by the Geneva Agreement of April 17 with respect to constitutional changes,
decentralization, and amnesties.
The report comes down hard on armed groups that illegally seize and occupy public and administrative buildings and proclaim “self declared” regions and commit human rights abuses, such as abductions, harassment, unlawful detentions, in particular of journalists.
The report notes warns: “In eastern
freedom of expression is under particular attack through the harassment of, and
threats to, journalists and media outlets. The increasing prevalence of hate speech is further fuelling
tensions. Both these factors are deepening divisions between communities and
exacerbating the crisis. All parties must take immediate steps to avoid
incitement and radicalization.” (I don’t know of threats to journalists,
kidnappings, and harassment of journalists by the Ukrainian side, so the report
must refer to Russia’s
The UN report also calls for investigations of the tragic loss of life in
Odessa (which Ukraine has
already agreed to) and the loss of life during the Maidan demonstrations.
The report calls for transparent, fair, and democratic presidential election on May 25 but reports arbitrary restrictions, conflicts and incidents, which impacts and curtails their ability to campaign with voters.
Although a clear indictment of Putin’s
Russia and its
proxies, skeptics can argue that no one pays particular attention to the
pronouncements of the United Nations. I would beg to differ. The United Nations
is an important instrument of Putin’s power and authority. He uses his veto
power on the Security Council to veto important votes that he deems are
contrary to his interests (such as the condemnation of the Crimean annexation).
Whereas we might not take the United Nations that seriously, Putin must. It is a shame that this report has received so little attention in the media.