I. Executive summary
Since early 2018, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)1 has been paying particular attention to the issue of civic space2 and fundamental freedoms in Ukraine. OHCHR notes a lack of accountability in most of the documented cases of attacks against journalists and other media professionals, civic and political activists, and defence lawyers. As long as such impunity remains unaddressed, space for the promotion and protection of fundamental freedoms is at risk.
Ahead of the presidential and parliamentary elections in March and October 2019 respectively and of the local elections in October 2020, this report provides a brief overview of developments that have affected the enjoyment of freedoms of opinion and expression, association, peaceful assembly, religion or belief, and political rights. Persistence or an increase of attacks on human rights pertinent to elections could have an impact on the exercise of the right to participate in the upcoming electoral processes and affect their fairness and credibility. The report puts forward recommendations to improve the human rights environment in the context of elections and to thereby strengthen conditions for peaceful and inclusive elections.
During the reporting period, OHCHR documented 164 violations and identified a set of concerns regarding restrictions to civic space, including failure of the authorities to ensure security for peaceful assemblies and inability to protect groups at risk, lack of investigation and accountability for perpetrators, and attempts to limit civic space by means of shaping the regulatory framework. In at least 34 documented incidents, perpetrators are directly linked or affiliated with extreme right-wing groups.3 4. In the context of elections, the Government should be particularly diligent in ensuring respect for fundamental freedoms and condemn and address acts of violence, intimidation, intolerance or discrimination based on any grounds, including political opinion. Peaceful and inclusive elections require an environment where all human rights, in particular the rights to equality and non-discrimination, to freedoms of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, are fully respected and enjoyed by all individuals.
This report covers the period from 1 January 2018 to 15 January 2019 and focuses on territory where the Government exercises effective control and where the aforementioned elections will be carried out. Thus, the report does not refer to the situation in territory controlled by the self-proclaimed ‘Donetsk people’s republic’ and self-proclaimed ‘Luhansk people’s republic’ and in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation.4