As conflict continues UN rights expert urges Ukraine to step up aid

“The Ukrainian Government must exercise primary responsibility and act urgently to alleviate the severity of the challenges facing thousands of women, men and children with little prospect of safe return to their homes before winter sets in,” said the Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons (IDPs), Chaloka Beyani. His comments came at the end of a ten-day visit to Ukraine, during which he monitored the situations in Kyiv, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhzhya, Luhansk and Donetsk regions. Mr. Beyani warned that with winter fast approaching, the rapidly falling temperatures were imposing “increasing hardship” for the many IDPs currently housed in temporary facilities. In addition, many of those displaced had “quickly exhausted” their financial resources and were completely reliant on support for shelter, food and other essential needs. “The elderly, disabled, chronically ill, pregnant women and single mothers require special care and provisions, which are difficult to secure for themselves away from their homes,” he said. Already in its seventh month, the conflict in Ukraine has taken an estimated 3,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people seeking to flee the violence and indiscriminate shelling. According to one recent UN estimate, there are more than 200,000 registered IDPs from the east while the actual number of unregistered IDPs may be two or three times higher. At the same time, a reported 800,000 other refugees have crossed the border into Russia in recent months.Mr. Beyani called on the Ukrainian Government to accelerate its efforts in assisting the IDPs through several measures, including the “urgent adoption” of an IDP law based on international human rights standards, the full registration and profiling of all IDPs, and ensuring that all IDPs remain free from arbitrary arrest and detention, torture and ill-treatment. “Ukraine must learn from the experiences of similar situations in the region where internal displacement has become protracted,” Mr. Beyani continued, adding that the Ukrainian Government could draw lessons that would help it put into place “vital policies, frameworks, support structures and programmes.”Such measures, he noted, would ultimately help Ukraine “move towards a situation in which many internally displaced persons can return safely to their homes or find alternative durable solutions as envisaged.” The Special Rapporteur commended civil society actors, churches and volunteers who, with the support of UN agencies and other NGOs, were making “heroic efforts” around the country despite meagre resources and once again called on the Government authorities to work closely with them. Independent experts, or special rapporteurs, are appointed by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council to examine and report back on a country situation or a specific human rights theme. The positions are honorary and the experts are not UN staff, nor are they paid for their work.Mr. Beyani will produce a full report, along with recommendations, to be presented to the Council in June 2015.

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