Published: 9 Dec 2016 | By Joyce Man
Whither verkhoventsvo prava?
The disappearance of the rule of law in eastern Ukraine
As we mark the third anniversary of the beginning of the Maidan demonstrations, lawlessness continues to reign in eastern Ukraine. A report released on 11 July 2016 by Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks (hereafter: ‘Commissioner’s report’) shows that forced disappearances, ill-treatment, torture and impunity remain common. Together with other reports released by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in June 2016, and one by Amnesty International (AI) and Human Rights Watch (HRW) in July 2016, it paints a bleak picture of a region severely feeling the absence of the rule of law – and in need of remedy.
Since the outbreak of the armed conflict in the Donbas region and the annexation of Crimea in April 2014, more than 9,000 people have lost their lives. Up to 40,000 of those residing close to the contact line live without recourse to the rule of law. “Those who live in the conflict-affected areas, particularly those located between check-points on opposing sides, continue to be vulnerable to lawlessness,” the Commissioner writes in his report. The situation has become, in the words of the OHCHR, one of “a total breakdown in the rule of law”.
The reports released by the Commissioner, OHCHR, AI and HRW detail the extent to which the rule of law is absent. In particular, the Commissioner, who visited Kyiv, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk, focused on accountability for human rights violations in eastern Ukraine.