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Launch of the third cycle of UPR process in Ukraine: Let's start with an alternative view

19 April 2017, Kyiv - Presentation of the alternative reports in the frame of the 3rd UPR cycle Ukraine UNIVERSAL PERIODIC REVIEW: AN ALTERNATIVE DIMENSION brought to Kyiv over 70 human rights defenders from NGOs and the Ombudsperson’s Office.

In November 2017, Ukraine will present its report in the frame of the 3rd cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which is a unique process involving a review of the human rights records of all UN Member States. The UPR is a State-driven process, which provides the opportunity for each State to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to fulfill their human rights obligations. At the same time being primarily a peer review instrument involving states, the opportunities the UPR offers to advance human rights protection can only be realized to their full extent through the involvement and mobilization of national human rights institutions, local grass-root organizations.

In her welcoming remark Valeriya Lutkovska, Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights focused on impotence to create and nurture a UPR platform which could convert into an enhanced and empowered cooperation between the government, human rights activists and the Ombudsperson’s Office and media in promoting and protecting human rights. “This is my country; I live here and wish that the human rights were respected in Ukraine. The UPR alternative reports of the Ombudsperson and CSOs can be a powerful driving force in helping the state to advance the human rights agenda forward,” said the Ombudsperson.

Thus, the Ombudsperson and numerous CSOs coalitions provided their alternative submissions with key findings, concerns and recommendations to the government. In this regard t, e UNDP Ukraine in cooperation with Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and in coordination with the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine were opening floor for all stakeholders to present their alternative visions and discuss it with the Government. In 16 alternative reports CSOs covered the more critical human rights issues: promotion of the rule of law, ensuring freedom of association, peaceful assembly, and expression, combating discrimination and ensuring tolerance, combating torture and inhuman treatment, children rights in Ukraine, gender equality, women rights,  gender-based violence, the conflict-related human rights violations, rights and freedoms of Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine.

During the previous UPR cycle, Ukraine received 145 recommendations from 47 countries, out of them the Government accepted 115, partially accepted 3, and rejected 28 recommendations. Most recommendations to Ukraine concerned such areas as combating discrimination and ensuring tolerance (40 recommendations), promotion of the rule of law (30), penitentiary system (16), implementation of international convention (15), advocating and promoting the rights of the child (14). Therefore, many of the reports presented by CSOs referred to the low level of implementation of the previously received recommendations, as well as to the new challenges caused by the conflict. 

The submission prepared by the “Justice for Peace in Donbas” CSO Coalition prepared with UNDP support dealt with the human rights violations committed during the conflict, including the problems of illegal apprehension and detention, recruitment of children in armed forces, sexual violence, shelling of medical facilities and other critical issues. For instance, human rights activists managed to identify over 150 illegal places on detention on both sides of the contact line. Based on more than 280 interviews with victims of human rights violations, more than 90 women who survived sexual violence in the prisons established by illegal military groups were identified. The activists also documented at least 30 cases of recruiting children in the armed conflict in Donbas since the hostilities broke out, some of them were even younger than 15, which as per the international humanitarian law is clearly defined as a war crime. Additionally, a number of missing persons is naturally high during an armed conflict; according to the data of the NGO “Myrnyi Bereh,” a total of 1,023 persons are currently considered missed with a total of 598 civilians including 19 children. The authors of the report proposed their recommendations to solve the above-mentioned problems.

Ms. Svitlana Kolyshko, Human Rights Team Lead UNDP in Ukraine, stressed: “In 2012 UNDP took the lead in exploring the avenues of this mechanism for promotion of the human rights agenda in Ukraine, raising awareness of this framework and ensuring that all stakeholders benefit from participating in the preparation of the UPR of Ukraine. And in 2017 we still believe in the importance of establishment solid bridges between Government and civil society as the key element for the success of development and reforms in any country. Today’s event, bringing together civil society, national human rights institution and governmental representatives, provides great opportunities for all stakeholders to hear, to be heard, to build proactive cooperation aimed at protection and promotion of human rights in Ukraine”.

Thereby, this event provided a platform for coordination of the CSOs’ alternative positions to better advocate them in Geneva in this November, where Ukraine will take the floor during the Session of the UN Human Rights Council during the consideration the outcome report of the UPR Working Group for Ukraine. This sets a new agenda for the next 4 years during which Ukraine is to implement all the accepted recommendations to improve the situation with human rights in the country.