The Situation in Ukraine
- Human Rights
UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
Thank you, Madam President, and thanks to Assistant-Secretaries-General Simonovic and Fernandez-Taranco for their briefings.
Australia supports the ongoing work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the human rights situation in Ukraine, which is important to enabling the Council to assess developments in Ukraine – a task clearly needed by us.
As we have seen, the sixth report of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission is – yet again – of serious concern.
There have been some encouraging developments in the reporting period, and since, particularly the ceasefire agreement and the Minsk Protocol in early September, the restoration of law and order to some parts of eastern Ukraine, and the partial drawdown of some Russian military personnel and equipment from Ukrainian territory.
But of grave concern are the continuing hostilities in parts of eastern Ukraine that have caused well over 300 fatalities – both civilian and combatants – since the ceasefire began. The latest report details significant casualties; significant numbers of displaced people; the dreadful state of critical infrastructure; and thousands of children unable to access education.
Australia calls for all parties to uphold the ceasefire and engage in genuine constructive dialogue to find a political solution.
The report paints a very disturbing picture of life in the eastern Ukraine territories occupied by armed groups. Yet again we have another UN report documenting the break down in law and order in areas under separatist control. Reports of abductions for ransom and forced labour, torture and extra-judicial killings – are the hallmarks of criminality and illegitimacy.
The killing of a staff member from the International Committee of the Red Cross from shelling in Donetsk is deplorable and highlights – once again – the need for all parties to respect international humanitarian law. Any violations of international humanitarian law – by any party to the conflict –must be properly investigated and perpetrators held accountable.
Upholding the ceasefire is an important enabling step towards a political solution. But so too, of course, is the preservation of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
We are troubled by credible reports – including from the Organisation for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) – of significant numbers of foreign fighters continuing to move across the Russian border into Ukraine, and of large scale attacks against Ukrainian border checkpoints. This must stop. The Ukrainian-Russian border must be secured, ideally with permanent monitoring under expanded OSCE verification. It is disturbing that Russia has blocked this.
We have noted the reports of the possible use of banned munitions and of indiscriminate shelling. We have also noted that the Government of Ukraine has rejected allegations of its own role in any such abuses. The facts should be established. And if there are any such abuses, they should cease.
We also note that the ongoing violations of the ceasefire prevent resettlement of the many thousands of IDPs this conflict has generated. As ASG Simonovic has emphasised, this is very worrying with the onset of winter.
Ukraine will hold parliamentary elections in two days (26 October). Ukrainians have a right for these elections to be held freely, fairly and transparently, and without external interference. They must take place in a secure environment, which protects freedom of expression, and peaceful assembly and association, and within Ukraine's legislative framework.
Announcements by the self-proclaimed 'Donetsk and Luhansk People's Republics' that they intend to hold separate elections in November contravene both the letter and spirit of the Minsk Protocol and undermine efforts towards finding a sustainable political solution within Ukraine's legislative framework. These purported elections can have no legitimacy.
As the report notes, the parallel governance structures being created in Donetsk and Luhansk do not comply with international norms and standards. Nor, of course, do they comply with Ukraine's constitution.
The report again draws this Council's attention to disturbing, multiple and ongoing human rights violations in the illegally annexed territory of Crimea, including the imposition of Russian laws which restrict freedom of expression, peaceful assembly, association and religion. The persecution and intimidation of Crimea's Tatar population is unacceptable.
The international dimensions of the conflict in Ukraine are known to us all – including to families in Australia still grieving their loss on flight MH17.
All available information, including the independent Dutch Safety Board's preliminary investigation report, is consistent with the assessment that MH17 was shot down by a surface-to-air missile fired from a location under the control of Russian-backed separatists.
Australia, along with our Dutch and Malaysian partners, remains committed to returning to the crash site when conditions are safe to do so. And to doing all we can to bring to justice those responsible for the downing of MH17 and the murder of all those on board.
To conclude, Madam President, we must not overlook the root cause of the situation in eastern Ukraine: Russia's persistent campaign of deliberate destabilisation.
There is a clear path forward to end the violence in eastern Ukraine. Russia must withdraw all its support to separatists; remove all its military forces and assets from Ukrainian territory; respect Ukraine's borders, and observe its obligations under the Minsk agreement; and engage in genuine dialogue with Ukraine.
Russia's continued refusal to heed the international community's call to de-escalate this crisis can only lead to Russia's further isolation.