World Bulletin / News Desk
Addressing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) permanent council in Vienna on the human rights situation in Ukraine, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic warned of "a high risk of the reescalation of wide-scale hostilities" in Ukraine if action is not taken to separate the sides.
“Minsk is still the best chance for a sustainable peace," he added.
Simonovic said that to date 9,500 people have been killed in the conflict. He added that 60 percent of the casualties were caused by mortars shells and howitzers, weapons prohibited under the Minsk agreement.
Ukraine and Russia, with the mediation of France and Germany, in February 2015 signed the Minsk cease-fire agreement, which includes the withdrawal of heavy weaponry from combat areas, and of all foreign armed formations, the release of all hostages and unlawfully detained persons, as well as political reforms and decentralization in the eastern Ukrainian regions.
“Mines, booby traps, and unexploded remnants of war also continue to be a major threat to civilians, and systemic coordination of mine action activities by all sides is strongly needed,” said Simonovic.
He said cooperation between the government and armed groups is "crucial" in finding the people missing in the conflict.
Simonovic also expressed his concern about Crimea and the worsening situation of the Crimean Tatars.
“Anti-extremism and anti-terrorism laws have been used to criminalize non-violent behavior and stifle dissenting opinion, while the judicial and law enforcement systems have been instrumentalized to clamp down on opposition voices,” he said. “Worst affected are Crimean Tatars, whose main representative body, Mejlis, has been banned, and whose representatives I met during my visit.”
He added, "I urge the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation to overturn the decision to ban their main representative body.”
Simonovic said: “We need to see an end to the conflict, accountability for the killings and violations since 2014, and justice for the victims and their families."
Crimea was formally annexed by Moscow in March 2014 after an illegal independence vote on the heels of violent anti-government protests in the Ukrainian capital Kiev that led to the overthrow of the president.
The UN General Assembly voted almost unanimously to proclaim the annexation illegal.
Along with many UN countries, including the U.S. and the EU, Turkey does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory.