ADC “Memorial” at OSCE ODIHR side event “Donbas: surviving hell”

ADC “Memorial” took part in the side event “Donbas: surviving hell”, which was organized during the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE ODIHR) meeting in Warsaw.

Representatives of human rights organizations from Ukraine – Center for Civil Liberties, Kharkiv Human Rights Group, East-Ukrainian Center of Civil Initiatives, “Peaceful Shore”, “Vostok-SOS” – reported about the illegal arrests, placement in illegal detention centers, forced labor, extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances , torture and gender-based violence in the conflict zone in Eastern Ukraine.

An estimated 3 million people living in the military conflict zone were left without access to legal defense, their lives and wellbeing are in the hands of armed men. Over one third of the more than 150 cases documented by human rights activists of Kharkiv Human Rights Group have to do with manifestations of gender-based violence against women and men. Experts pointed out that the law enforcement agencies of Ukraine do not document and do not investigate these crimes properly.

Expert of ADC “Memorial” reported on homophobic aggression against members of sexual minorities on the territories controlled by the so-called Donetsk and Lugansk People’s Republics (DPR and LPR). Russian homophobic legal regulations, prohibiting “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relations”, found their way into the so-called laws LPR and DPR, while even proposals for introduction of death penalty for homosexuality were broadcasted, although never adopted. According to eyewitnesses, in Gorlovka posters were hung, which read “Homosexuality is disgusting and should be prosecuted by law in DPR”. There is evidence of execution of a gay person at a roadblock in Yasinovataya. Almost all LGBTI respondents interviewed by ADC “Memorial” testified about numerous threats to their lives and security in areas affected by war, where they lived in fear of being denounced and attacked. Witnesses noted widespread homophobia among armed separatists, some of them (e.g. Cossacks in Krasny Luch, Rovenki, Anthracite, Sverdlovsk) were particularly biased and aggressive towards LGBTI: abducted and detained people were subjected to homophobic abuse, torture and violence, extorting ransom, as well as forced to work on digging the trenches in areas hit by sniper fire. Transgender people found themselves in particularly difficult situation, as their actual appearance and photos in identity documents sometimes differ significantly. As a result they were afraid to leave the house, found themselves deprived of medical and humanitarian assistance, they could not leave the war zone, etc.