Letter to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

6 September 2014

Ambassador Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson
52 rue des Pâquis
CH-1201 Geneva, Switzerland

Dear Excellency:

The World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations (WFUWO), which represents 29 women’s organizations in 18 countries of the Ukrainian global diaspora, is in receipt of the preview text of your opening statement to the upcoming 27th Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council that will convene on Monday, September 8, 2014.

While we appreciate your expressed concern and the watchfulness of your office over the situation in Ukraine, we are also dismayed at the lack of clarity in your statement as to the source of the aggression perpetrated upon Ukraine’s territorial integrity and state sovereignty.

Regrettably, the conflict in the war zones of eastern Ukraine does necessitate actions called for by international humanitarian law.

Also, regrettably, your statement does not clearly state that the stealth invasion and annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation violated fundamental international laws, and that it is the further invasion and continuous escalation by the Russian Federation of armed conflict on Ukraine’s territory that deepens the existing impasse and threatens world peace.

The WFUWO continues to be concerned about the human rights abuses discussed in the most recent UNOHCHR report on Ukraine dated August 17 2014. These include: the increasing casualties of combat; the violence, lack of services, and economic difficulties faced by non-combatants; the inefficient evacuation to safety from the war zone of institutionalized, children, the elderly and disabled; the intense discrimination of Ukrainian nationals, Crimean Tatar and other minorities. These problems stem from the illegal activities of the armed groups supported, manned and supplied with military equipment by the Russian Federation.

According to the UNOHCHR report on Ukraine dated August 17 2014, the evacuation of institutionalized children started too late and was not properly coordinated, and armed groups prevented the evacuation of children from the conflict zone to safe areas in Ukraine. As a result, Ukrainian orphans and other institutionalized children were removed from Ukraine and sent to Russia, a grave violation of several UN conventions and treaties. After a public outcry, to which our women’s federation also contributed, a number of these children were returned to Ukraine due to the joint efforts of the Ukrainian and Russian Federation Ombudsmen and others.

As a federation of organized Ukrainian women, we are horrified by the kidnapping into the Russian Federation of Ukrainian air force pilot Lt. Nadiya Savchenko and by the news that Russian authorities are planning to confine her to the infamous Serbsky Institute in Moscow to have her undergo “forensic psychiatric evaluation.” The Serbsky Institute in Moscow has a notorious reputation for human rights abuses; during confinement there, Soviet dissidents were treated with psychotropic drugs and were subjected to profound psychological abuse. We fear for Lt. Savchenko’s health and safety, and have grave doubts that her human and legal rights will be respected.

As a federation of organized Ukrainian women, we express our solidarity with the members of the many chapters of the Committee of Mothers of Soldiers of Russia, whose children forcibly are sent to risk life and limb in the illegal struggle for Ukraine’s eastern territories. Faced with evidence of secret deployment and silenced press coverage of military funerals, the protest of the Soldiers’ Mothers has only earned them repression and official denigration having been labeled “foreign agents” by their own Russian Federation government.

As a federation of organized Ukrainian women, we also remind the world that our compatriots, the Crimean Tatar community, which is proud of its status as Ukraine’s indigenous people, and which is desirous of its Ukrainian, not Russian, citizenship, has suffered enough. The 1940 genocide and forced deportation of Crimean Tatars of 1944 is being replayed in current time. We remind the world that Ukraine has legal stewardship of Crimea by international law.

We regard with trepidation the new front at Mariupol opened up recently by renewed Russian invasion. The Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, the Honorable Yuriy Sergeyev, has stated that the current tactics and strategy employed by the Russian Federation are similar to those used in conflicts in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Osettia, and Moldova’s Transdniester breakaway region. These actions are not taken to protect the rights of the residents of the regions; rather they are aggressive moves instigated by the Russian Federation to destroy the territorial integrity of neighboring nations and arrogant disregard for international norms and established state sovereignty.

The fundamental principles of responsible and respectful adherence to international norms are being violated by the Russian Federation in pursuit of its own geopolitical and economic interests. The actions of the Russian Federation must not be allowed to continue with impunity.

We ask you to make a strong statement of condemnation of the Russian Federation for its unprovoked, violent and unilateral invasion of a sovereign nation—for actions that are costing human lives and directly threatening world peace.

We congratulate your Excellency on your appointment as the new United Nations Commissioner of Human Rights and look forward to the official OHCHR report concerning the situation in Ukraine at the conclusion of the deliberations of the 27th Session of the UN Human Rights Council.

We wish you a most productive session.

With all respect,

Irene Orysia Sushko
World Federation of Ukrainian Women’s Organizations

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