Donbas residents are systematically subjected to sexual violence by militaries – UN report
11:49 / 21 Feb. 2017 / 606
The released of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Report covers more than 30 incidents of sexual abuse or harassment occurred in the period from March 2014 to January 2017 on both sides of the demarcation line.
– The number of cases that were referred to in this report does not reflect the true extent of violations. Now quite difficult to assess, the majority of such cases had become known over the years after the end of the conflict, – Natalia Pylypiv, the representative of the UN human rights monitoring mission in Ukraine articulated at the Report presentation.
According to the study, individuals who had fallen under the custody of law enforcement officers, the armed forces or illegal armed formations of self-proclaimed republics are most often the victims of sexual violence. Also, cases of sexual abuse revealed over the civilian population, at the entry/ exit control points along the contact line – both by government forces and armed separatists. The risk of sexual violence increased due to the presence of military or armed groups in the communities.
The OHCHR reports on cases of sexual violence and threats in the places of detention of persons who are suspected of separatism, for the purpose of punishment, humiliation or admission of guilt registered on the Government controlled territories. Although the victims of such actions became mostly young men, threats also apply to the female members of their families. Similar cases have been happened during 2014-2015, but OHCHR has evidence that this practice is still happening.
The abovementioned practice is common on the territories beyond Government control. As the authors of the report pointed out, in the early stages of the conflict, the threat of rape was used by illegal armed groups as a pressure element – so the victims were forced to share business or looting. Later, sexual violence was increasingly used by militants of the self-proclaimed republics to detainees’ ideological opponents – people with pro-Ukrainian position.
Checkpoints across the contact line became another place of sexual crimes dissemination. As of January 2017 an average of 25 thousand people – mostly elderly people, women, and families with children crossed the checkpoints. In June 2015, OHCHR received several reports of sexual violence and harassment towards women (civilians and humanitarian workers) at checkpoints. Since the majority of victims are regularly cross the contact line, they are afraid to talk about these cases.
A relatively fresh case reportedly happened in mid-September 2016 at a government-controlled checkpoint in Donetsk region. The officer on duty at the checkpoint said a problem with her passport, and sent her to the SBU point. Picked up the passport, he was locked with a woman in the room, he told her about his sympathy towards her, forcibly began to covet her. She cried and begged him to let her go. Half an hour later the employee agreed to release the victim. Later, the woman called the police but as of January 15, 2017, no progress in the investigation of the case.
OHCHR reported about the cases where victims of violence at checkpoints have became a pregnant woman and a woman who was traveling with children. The reason for the detention and rape, in both cases, according to the victims, was an attempt of militant “to prevent removal of children from the republic.”
The report also contains a number of cases of sexual violence by the military or the militants in towns on both sides of the conflict.
“Rape, harassment, forced prostitution here are one of the elements of systematic human rights violations by the armed people”, – Natalya Pylypiv said.
OHCHR draws attention to the prevailing impunity for sexual violence.
“We are aware of several attempts to investigate rapes on the territories beyond Ukrainian Government control. But they in any way do not meet even the minimum requirements of justice and the protection of victims of violence, “- Natalia Pylypiv admitted.
However, such crimes remain without investigation on the government-controlled territory.
The military prosecutor’s office informed the OHCHR that by the end of December 2016, they received only three criminal proceedings relating to the allegations of sexual abuse. Another two cases investigated by the National Police but at the end of December 2016 the production had been closed due to lack of evidence. The only criminal proceeding in the case of sexual violence, which is still ongoing, is “Tornado” battalion’s case.
The reason for this impunity, according to the authors of the report, is in the usage of the results of medical examination, which is done in the first 72 hours after the rape. It is also reinforced by the shortage of policemen, judges, and officers’ indelicacy towards victims of sexual violence. In these terms the OHCHR in its recommendations to the Ukrainian government it emphasizes the need for the introduction of amendments to the Criminal Code, as well as reforming the entire system of assistance to victims of violence in general.
“The victims of such crimes, of torture in the East of Ukraine almost completely deprived of access to psychological and medical assistance. More or less qualitatively assistance is provided by non-government organization in the cities, “- Natalia Pylypiv noted.
As it was reported before one million children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in the East of Ukraine.
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