EU-Ukraine Human Rights Dialogue
March 22, 2019.
Kyiv, 21 March 2019
The European Union and Ukraine held their annual Human Rights Dialogue on 21 March 2019 in Kyiv. It is the fifth time this event is held since the signature of the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement in 2014.
Respect for democratic principles, the rule of law, good governance, human rights and fundamental freedoms are the founding principles of the Association Agreement to which the EU and Ukraine have jointly committed.
The meeting was held in an open and constructive atmosphere, allowing a thorough exchange of views on the current human rights situation and on progress since the last dialogue, held in May 2018 in Brussels.
The EU and Ukraine reiterated their grave concern over the continuing deterioration of the human rights situation on the Crimea peninsula, including the situation of Crimean Tatars, following its illegal annexation by the Russian Federation. Both sides condemned the human rights violations and abuses in the areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are not under the full effective control of the Government of Ukraine. They also called for the immediate release of all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and the Crimean peninsula, including Pavlo Hryb, Oleh Sentsov, Edem Bekirov, Oleksandr, Kolchenko, Mykola Semena, Volodymyr Balukh, Emir-Usein Kuku, the 24 Ukrainian servicemen captured by Russia on 25 November and others. Both sides stress the importance of granting access to special medical treatment for Ukrainian detainees in need.
The EU and Ukraine discussed ways to ensure the respect for human rights and to mitigate the humanitarian impact of the conflict in eastern Ukraine and of the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula. The two sides also discussed ways to protect the rights of the internally displaced persons (IDPs), including ensuring realisation of their voting rights, full access to health care, social facilities and other state services as well as de-linking of pension payment from IDP status. The work of the Ministry for Temporary Occupied Territories and IDPs and the adoption of the Action Plan for the Strategy on IDP integration were welcomed. While welcoming the legislative progress on humanitarian mine action, they agreed on the need to introduce amendments enabling international partners to directly fund humanitarian mine action.
Both sides recognised the key role played by civil society and free and independent media for the democratisation of Ukraine. In light of recent attacks against civil society and media representatives, the sides discussed ways to advance the safety of civil activists, journalists and media outlets, and the peaceful rallies and agreed on the necessity to swiftly investigate all cases to bring those responsible to justice.
The two sides also recognised the important role of the Public Service Broadcaster and the need to ensure sufficient resources and stability of its management for its proper functioning.
The EU and Ukraine agreed on the importance of free and fair elections as one of the cornerstones underpinning the EU-Ukraine Association Agreement. With the view of the upcoming parliamentary elections, they discussed the need to harmonise electoral legislation in line with the OSCE/ODIHR recommendations. The EU informed about its ongoing support to strengthen Ukraine's resilience in on cyber security and tackling disinformation ahead of elections.
Non-discrimination policy was also on the agenda of the Dialogue, including the rights of LGBTI persons and the respects for the rights of ethnic, linguistic, religious and national minorities. In the context of the implementation of the law on education, the EU and Ukraine agreed on the need to take fully into account the Venice Commission opinion. Usefulness of seeking the Venice Commission opinion on the draft Law on the use of State language was also highlighted as well as the need for any legislative changes on issues affecting minority rights to be based on an inclusive consultative process involving all stakeholders.
The participants discussed the prevention of ill-treatment and torture and the ongoing reforms in the area of law enforcement to address these issues, with a view to strengthening the respect for human rights in Ukraine. The EU and Ukraine agreed on the need for further progress in the investigations of the crimes committed during the Maidan protests, and the violent events in Odesa on 2 May 2014, emphasising the need to address the shortcomings identified by the International Advisory Panel of the Council of Europe, and to bring responsible instigators and perpetrators to justice. It was also agreed that there is a need to continue the reform of law enforcement agencies as foreseen in the Ukrainian Human Rights Action Plan.
The EU and Ukraine discussed further steps to strengthen gender equality and fight against gender-based violence. The EU encouraged Ukraine to swiftly ratify the Istanbul Convention. The parties also discussed ways to improve the respect for the rights of the child.
The EU and Ukraine cooperate well in international fora in the field of human rights. Ukraine provided the EU with information on preparations for the ratification of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. This is a commitment Ukraine has made under the Association Agreement and the transitionary provisions of the Constitution end in summer 2019.
The EU delegation was led by Mr Richard Tibbels, Head of Division for bilateral relations with Eastern Partnership countries in the European External Action Service. The Ukrainian delegation was led by Mr Sergei Petukhov, Deputy Minister of Justice of Ukraine. In line with usual practice, the EU held consultations with representatives of Ukrainian civil society and international organisations prior to the dialogue.
The dialogue is held back-to-back with the Justice, Freedom and Security subcommittee which takes place on 22 March.
The next Human Rights Dialogue meeting between Ukraine and the EU is scheduled to take place in Brussels in spring of 2020.