Denisova, McDonald discuss observance of human rights in temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.

Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Liudmyla Denisova and U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Kara McDonald have discussed the observance of human rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

According to Ukrinform, Denisova wrote about this on her Facebook page.

During the online meeting, the ombudsman expressed concern over Russia's military build-up and ongoing aggression along Ukraine's borders, which violates the right to life and security.

According to Denisova, two out of seven checkpoints are operating in eastern Ukraine - Stanytsia Luhanska and Novotroitske. Due to the blockade of the entry-exit checkpoints, Ukrainians from the temporarily occupied territories cannot receive pensions and social benefits.

She also stressed that 280 people, including 44 servicemen, were still being held illegally in the said territories. Some 258 Ukrainian citizens are missing. Russia is politically persecuting 133 Ukrainian citizens, 114 of whom have been illegally imprisoned in Russia and in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea.

Denisova also said that a ban on freedom of speech had actually been in place in the occupied territories, particularly in Crimea, for the past seven years. Journalists are pressured, tortured, illegally detained, searched and threatened. Evidence of this is the situation with the illegal detention in Crimea of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Vladyslav Yesypenko.

Denisova briefed McDonald about the measures being taken to restore his rights and release him.

Both parties also discussed the observance of human and civil rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Denisova answered McDonald's questions concerning the observance of the rights of members of national minorities and problematic issues related to the prevention of domestic violence.

The ombudsman said that at the end of last year she presented a special report entitled "The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Roma community in Ukraine." Among a number of legal, social and economic problems, one of the key issues is the issue of Roma access to education.

As for the observance of the rights of members of the LGBTI community, she said that during the pandemic, community members cannot get information about their partners in hospitals, cannot help them, donate blood for them, or become donors. She said that "for the second year in a row we are trying to do everything possible for the parliament to adopt a bill on civil partnership, which applies not only to same-sex couples, but also to heterosexual people who live together and cannot exercise their rights."

According to Denisova, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of domestic violence. She said the number of calls to the government hotline, police and social security services had increased by 62%.

According to Denisova, in her annual report for 2019, she recommended that the Verkhovna Rada ratify the Istanbul Convention. Progress has already been made in this area: together with the government, public organizations, with the support of First Lady Olena Zelenska, a bill on the ratification of the Istanbul Convention has been prepared, and "we are waiting for its submission to the Verkhovna Rada," Denisova said.

Denisova thanked McDonald for the high assessment of the work of the Verkhovna Rada human rights commissioner, as well as for the proposal to continue bilateral cooperation in the field of protecting human and civil rights and freedoms.

On March 17, Denisova presented Verkhovna Rada Chairman Dmytro Razumkov with an annual report of the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights on the state of observance and protection of human and civil rights and freedoms in Ukraine for 2020.

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