Authorities criticised for slow response to human rights violations
In January 2019, the NGO Forum of Ukraine presented their 2019 Action Plan. According to the information published on the Forum web page, the aim of the action plan is to alleviate people suffering and restore the lives of those affected by the conflict in Eastern Ukraine, through loyal and sound investment in civil society.
In January 2019, the International Partnership for Human Rights published a briefing paper on the main human rights concerns by national and international civil society in Ukraine. According to the organisation, Ukraine has made some progress in respecting fundamental rights. However, there are still areas that require attention and intervention from the authorities to improve the way in which the right to association, the right to freedom of expression and the right to peaceful assembly are respected and protected.
On 20th February 2019, according to reports, two protests took place in Kyiv and Odessa. The protests were organised by the staff and students of the Odessa National Medical University (ONMEDU) who have been calling for the resignation of acting Health Minister Ulana Suprun. According to the site, around 200 staff and students from the Odessa National Medical University (gathered in the streets of Kyiv on Wednesday, 20th February 2019.
On the same day, protesters also congregated in Odessa at the building of the university. There were reports that unidentified people, believed to be in support of Suprun, attempted to block access to the university and to storm the administration building.
Among the issues leading up to the protests is that the acting Health minister refused to approve the 2019 budget for ONMEDU resulting in unpaid salaries and bursaries for over 3000 staff members and 14,000 students since January 2019.
The persecutions of the Crimean Tatars continue in the country. On 28th March 2019 the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group reported about the arrest of 20 tatars, most of whom are activists who support the political prisoners in the region, their families, and report on human rights abuses. Their homes were also raided and arbitrarily searched by law enforcement officers without court orders.
In late February 2019, in the context of the presidential election in Ukraine, journalists at Bihus.info (an investigative journalism publication from Ukraine) published the results of several fraud investigations in the defence industry. A few days before publishing the investigation, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported that the journalists from Bihus.info were being monitored and surveilled.
CPJ's Europe and Central Asia program coordinator, Gulnoza stated:
"Following and monitoring the work of journalists is clearly designed to intimidate the press and is unacceptable…. Those behind the surveillance of journalists from Schemes and Bihus.Info must stop, and Ukrainian authorities must conduct an investigation to find out who is responsible for it and hold them accountable."
In a separate incident, in early March 2019, reporters Katerina Kaplyuk and cameraman Boris Trotsenko, who work for the investigative news show "Schemes," a project of U.S. funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Ukrainian Service, were assaulted by government officials. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, the two reporters had gone to the offices of the village council of Chabany, south of Ukraine's capital, Kiev, to interview an official for an investigation into alleged private use of state owned land, when officials started throwing blows at them.
In February 2019, Amnesty International expressed concern that Ukraine has failed to prevent or investigate "numerous" human rights violations committed in 2018 against human rights activists, political opponents, and ethnic minorities.
In their report, Amnesty International stated:
"In almost all instances, the law enforcement authorities have been slow to react and perpetrators were rarely, if ever, brought to justice."