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GENEVA - The United Nations reports widespread human rights violations are rampant in both government- and rebel-controlled areas of Ukraine, as well as in the Russian-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
The report by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
There is immediate concern about the increase in violence in the lead-up to local elections October 25 in government-controlled areas of Ukraine. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Nada Al-Nashif says extreme right-wing groups are attacking peaceful political gatherings, the offices of political parties, and political activists in their homes.
"We are further concerned that the impunity accompanying these acts of violence creates a climate of fear and self-censorship encouraging further attacks. ... The office also documented attacks against members of the media, as well as attacks against LGBTI people, and people perceived to be LGBTI," Al-Nashif said.
Al-Nashif says the credibility of the election will depend upon the ability of Ukrainian authorities to protect people from these attacks so they can exercise their right to vote freely and without fear.
Justice system violations
The report highlights widespread human rights violations in the Ukrainian justice system, including arbitrary arrest and detention, unreasonable trial delays, and the use of torture and coerced confessions.
Al-Nashif says access to justice remains out of reach in the self-proclaimed Russian-backed republics in eastern Ukraine.
"Individuals are often held incommunicado and subjected to torture and ill-treatment in order to extort confessions," she said. "Cases are dealt with behind closed doors, with individuals denied access to lawyers of their choice."
The report details human rights violations in Crimea by the Russian occupying power against Crimean Tatars, including torture, forced confessions and the suppression of religious practice for several groups, including Protestants, Jehovah's Witnesses, Muslims and Messianic groups.
Ukraine's First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova corroborates the U.N. report. As a Crimean Tartar herself, she is particularly critical of Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea and of its alleged repressive actions to shut down the voices of dissent.