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Statement in response to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, H.E. Thorbjørn Jagland
10 June 2016 13:53

Delivered by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk, Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the International Organizations in Vienna, at the meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council on 9 June 2016

Mr. Chairman,

We join previous speakers in warmly welcoming the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, H.E. Thorbjørn Jagland at the meeting of the Permanent Council and thank him for his comprehensive presentation. While aligning with the EU statement, the Delegation of Ukraine would like to make some remarks in its national capacity.

At the outset, we wish to note that Ukraine enjoys dynamic and productive co-operation with the Council of Europe in advancing democratic reforms in the country to consolidate democracy, rule of law and protection of human rights in line with the European standards.

Recent meetings of the President of Ukraine H.E. Petro Poroshenko and the Minister for Foreign Affairs H.E. Pavlo Klimkin with Secretary General Jagland served to exchange views on a significant progress achieved by the Ukrainian authorities in the democratic reform in the country and outline further priority areas of co-operation.

The adoption by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of the amendments to the Constitution of Ukraine regarding the judiciary on 2 June 2016, as well as decentralization reform, elaborated in close cooperation with the Venice Commission, comprehensive anti-corruption measures and the new laws on the public prosecution service and on the national police constitute important achievements and Ukraine is committed to maintain this positive dynamic.

We recognize the importance of Ukraine-Council of Europe Action Plan. We look forward to continuing close interaction with the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities and other bodies to ensure the success of reforms in Ukraine.

 

Mr. Secretary General,

Since your last address to the Permanent Council dramatic changes occurred in the European security and human rights’ landscape with the emergence of what has been recognized as the most serious crisis since the end of the Cold war. This crisis stemmed from the direct military aggression of the Russian Federation against Ukraine which resulted in the illegal occupation and annexation by Russia of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as conflict in Ukraine’s region of Donbas. By resorting to aggression against Ukraine the Russian Federation flagrantly violated the norms of international law, the OSCE principles and political commitments and the Council of Europe legally-binding obligations. Notably, the attempted annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia is the first instance in Europe since World War Two when a country uses force to expand its own territory.

Two years of illegal occupation of Crimea have been marked by blatant violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Crimean population. According to the latest 14th Report of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, Crimean residents have witnessed a sharp deterioration of the human rights situation, including abductions and disappearances, the shutting down of media outlets and the silencing of dissenting voices through the initiation of repressive measures, targeting mainly pro-Ukrainian activists and Crimean Tatar community. Russia as the occupying power bears full responsibility for these violations and the failure to stop them. The UN Mission also reports a total breakdown of the rule of law and human rights in the temporary occupied areas of Donbas. Against the backdrop of this chilling assessment, we fully concur with your view, Mr Secretary General, expressed today that the local elections in those areas must be held in accordance with the law, the Constitution and established standards, otherwise more problems will be created.

Mr. Secretary General,

Ukraine appreciates your aspiration to find viable solutions to secure the respect of human rights in the illegally occupied Crimea. In this regard, we are grateful for your prompt reaction to the ban of the Mejlis, which epitomised systematic persecution of the Crimean Tatars.

Many times the Council of Europe has stressed that a sustainable political solution to the crisis in and around Ukraine must be based on full respect for Ukraine’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

We strongly believe that any attempt to erode the existing position of the Council of Europe on Crimea should be considered as an attempt to erode the fundamental principles and purposes of the Council of Europe.

It remains critical that both the Council of Europe and the OSCE pursue decisive steps to help addressing systemic human rights violations in the temporary occupied territories of Ukraine. The work should be focused on ensuring full and unrestricted access for conventional and standard monitoring human rights bodies of the Council of Europe and relevant UN and OSCE`s mechanisms, including as a part of regular monitoring cycles on Ukraine.

Distinguished colleagues,

The present Russia’s external aggression cannot be considered in separation from Russia’s significant departure domestically from the principles of democracy, rule of law and human rights which it committed to observe, in particular when joining the Council of Europe in 1996.

We took note of the recent Conclusions by the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) in Respect of the Russian Federation, that none of ECRI’s recommendations of 2013 addressed to the Russian authorities have been implemented. The Commission found, in particular, that while the programme on tolerance in Russian society across the country was not restored, the recent developments in the field of education indicate “a return to the promotion of military ideology from the former Soviet times”.

In view of a sharp increase in manifestations of radicalism, aggressive nationalism, chauvinism, intolerance and xenophobia in Russia, we encourage the Council of Europe to offer Russia assistance to help overcoming these disturbing trends inconsistent with the OSCE commitments and Council of Europe obligations.

We stress that close monitoring and reporting on the human rights’ situation in Russia must be one of the important tasks for the Council of Europe. Such activities must also cover reports of torture against the illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and serious violations of their rights to a fair trial, as well as deteriorating conditions for the Ukrainian national minority in Russia.

In conclusion, let me once again thank H.E. Thorbjørn Jagland for addressing the Permanent Council and wish him every success in his demanding activities.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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