KYIV, Ukraine (Dec. 1, 2016) — Since the summer of 2016, fighting in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass has increased once again, putting civilians living there in greater danger. All parties to the conflict, and their international partners, need to take immediate, practical steps to protect civilians caught between warring parties on the frontlines, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) said in a report released today in Kiev.
Some of CIVIC’s recommendations are to abide by the Minsk Agreements’ restrictions on heavy weapons, to make efforts to effectively separate civilians from military forces, to eliminate the use of mines and booby traps, and to streamline checkpoint procedures at contact line crossings. In addition, the Ukrainian government should adopt a government-wide policy on civilian protection similar to those established by the U.S. and NATO, and improve security forces’ training on international humanitarian law and civilian protection.
To accompany the report, CIVIC is also releasing a short documentary, “Lives on the Line,” by Ukrainian filmmaker Iryna Solomko. This 6-minute documentary tells the stories of civilians who have been living in an active conflict zone for over two years, and is available on the CIVIC web site.
The 43-page report, We Are Afraid of Silence: Protecting Civilians in the Donbass Region,documents the hardships and dangers of life along the 400-km long stretch of fighting positions where Ukrainian and separatist forces have dug in since Spring 2014. It tells the stories of people like Nataliya, who lost her daughter and 10-month old granddaughter just a few hours before they were scheduled to leave Horlivka to escape imminent fighting.
Sadly, her story is hardly unique, because as many as 100,000 people live in the areas between the combatants, a strip of land known as the “Grey Zone.” Another 800,000 live within 5 km on both sides of the line of contact, well within range of indirect fire weapons like mortars and artillery. According to the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, since the start of the fighting almost 10,000 people have died, more than 22,000 have been injured. The Ministry of Social Policy of Ukraine says some 1.7 million have been displaced.
“The government in Ukraine has taken some encouraging steps to strengthen the protection of civilians in recent months. These efforts should be encouraged and strengthened, as civilians who have lived under fire for two years expect and deserve better, ” said CIVIC Executive Director Federico Borello. “Likewise, the de facto authorities in the self-proclaimed ‘People’s Republics’ should abide by the Minsk Agreements and respect international norms pertaining to the treatment of civilians.”
This report is the first assessment CIVIC has conducted in Ukraine and is informed by more than a decade of institutional experience researching conflicts and working with governments, militaries and international organizations to create policies and practices that conform to international best practices in protecting civilians in conflict.
We Are Afraid of Silence is based on more than 100 interviews with civilians conducted in Ukraine between June and October 2016. CIVIC also held more than 40 conversations with representatives from the Ukrainian government, military and intelligence organizations, members of parliament, civil society and community representatives, and members of the international community. Most of the civilian interviews were conducted in towns and villages affected by the fighting in 2016, including Marinka, Avdiivka, Opytne, Krasnohorivka, Mariupol, Horlivka, and Donetsk City.
Notes to editors:
The mission of Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate for the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.
For more information, please contact:
In Washington, DC, Chris Allbritton: +1 917 310-4785 or firstname.lastname@example.org