On April 29, the Ukrainian Crisis Media Center hosted a presentation of a report on the occupation of Ukraine’s Kadiyivka (former Stakhanov) prepared by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU). The report chronicles the events that took place in the town based on the testimonies of almost 30 local residents. The authors researched the preparations for the town’s capture, the rallies that took place there, the parties responsible for the capture and shelling of the town and the resistance they faced, as well as instances of violations of freedom of speech, attacks on journalists, enforced disappearances and alleged killings.
The report provides evidence of the involvement of Russians – armed Kuban Cossacks, Chechens and members of Russia’s military – in the town’s capture. It also cites eyewitness accounts according to which some of the city’s residents had undergone training in Russian military camps several years before the occupation.
According to Oleksiy Bida, coordinator of UHHRU’s Human Rights Abuse Documentation Center, the report took the organization six months and hundreds of hours to prepare, spent studying records and searching for information. He also mentioned that the report is already being used by judges of the European Court of Human Rights in cases initiated by those affected by the armed conflict and can become a valuable source of information for the International Criminal Court which has jurisdiction over cases involving war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Resident of Kadiyivka Yevhen Shlyakhtin who had been held captive for a month spoke live about the torture and killings of people with pro-Ukrainian views.
“I took part in gathering information about Stakhanov’s occupation. I shared what I know about patriotic rallies and my captivity, and also helped find other eyewitnesses of my hometown’s occupation. It’s my small contribution to the fight against the enemy in this “hybrid war”. Because only the truth can debunk the myths around the so-called “Russian world” and what it entails. Which is robberies, torture, humanitarian catastrophe and death,” said the former captive.
At the end of the presentation Oleksiy Bida called on all witnesses of Russia’s armed aggression against Ukraine to follow the example of Kadiyivka residents and share what they known with the Documentation Center.
“Unfortunately, a lot of time has passed since those events. Things get forgotten, or erased from the Internet. Our task is to preserve the memory of the horrific crimes committed by Russia’s armed forces in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine, to make sure that the perpetrators are punished accordingly and the victims receive appropriate compensation. History teaches us that invaders try to destroy evidence of their war crimes before leaving the occupied territory. To prevent this, we must document the occupants’ crimes for future war crime tribunals!” stressed Oleksiy Bida.
All these reports are available in Ukrainian language.
Is should be noted that the right to know the truth is one of the four the transitional justice’ pillars. At the end of last year human rights defenders presented an updated Ukrainian model of transitional justice (https://bit.ly/2yEriXA, link in Ukrainian) aimed at protecting the human rights to overcome the consequences of the armed conflict. Its concept is currently being finalized by the Working Group on reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories under the Presidential Legal Reform Commission (https://bit.ly/2S2oCdo, link in Ukrainian).
The events in Donbas have been documented since 2014 within the framework of the Human Rights in Action Program implemented by the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union under support of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
USAID is the world’s premier international development agency and a catalytic actor driving development results. USAID’s work demonstrates American generosity, and promotes a path to recipient self-reliance and resilience, and advances U.S. national security and economic prosperity. USAID has partnered with Ukraine since 1992, providing more than $3 billion in assistance. USAID’s current strategic priorities include strengthening democracy and good governance, promoting economic development and energy security, improving health care systems, and mitigating the effects of the conflict in the east. For additional information about USAID in Ukraine, please call USAID’s Development Outreach and Communications Office at: +38 (044) 521-5753. You may also visit our website: http://www.usaid.gov/ukraine or our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/USAIDUkraine.
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