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This Is What Council Of Europe Commissioner Told Us After Visiting Rebel-Held East Ukraine
14 July, 2015
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What You Need To Know:

✔️ Humanitarian situation in East Ukraine is 'very grave'
✔️ Travel restrictions across the demilitarization zone 'violates human rights' 
✔️ “I’ve heard a lot of allegations of corruption at those checkpoints and I’ve myself witnessed a very long lines at them
✔️ Ukraine officials have to condemn rising LGBT violence in Ukraine, protect the minority from extremists

“The humanitarian situation [in Eastern Ukraine] is very grave, especially in the non-government controlled area, but also in the government-controlled area near the buffer zone and the frontline”, Nils Muižnieks, the Human Rights Commissioner at the Council of Europe says after his one-day trip to separatist-controlled area in Eastern Ukraine. Speaking of challenges prosecuting war-related crimes committed by both sides of the conflict, the Commissioner stresses the utmost importance of documenting all human rights violation in the region despite the security challenges. Although he stays ‘neutral’ on the issue of reluctance of the Ukrainian government to adopt the Rome Statute that will put the war-zone in the International Criminal Court jurisdiction.

Muižnieks is concerned about reported restrictions of movement along the East Ukrainian frontline and treat them as human rights violations too: “I’ve heard a lot of allegations of corruption at those checkpoints and I’ve myself witnessed a very long lines at them. It is in Ukraine’s interest to facilitate the movement back and forth to reduce the isolation of this region. To make sure that citizens of Ukraine who live on the that side do not face under restrictions and they can come to visit their relatives, get their pensions, get their benefits.”

The Commissioner has also condemned recent violence against the Kyiv LGBT Pride participants that left over a dozen of people injured, including police officers. “People with different point of view have also the right to express themselves as long as they don’t engage in hate speech or violence. Let them have their say as well, this is what freedom of expression is about. But LGBTI persons are very vulnerable in many places in Europe, they need special political support from the elite and special protection from the police,” Nils Muižnieks adds. He ties the rising violence against Ukrainian LGBTI community with general spike of tolerance towards using force in post-revolutionary societies: “in situation of conflict and economic crisis the people are looking for scapegoats, the extremists are not being prosecuted as they should be and vulnerable groups, especially LGBTI persons, other minorities, will be the first to be scapegoated and to suffer.”

Nils Muižnieks, the Human Rights Commissioner at the Council of Europe spoke to Maxim Eristavi in Kyiv on July 4th, 2015.