[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] on Tuesday expressed grave concern [press release] over the escalating unrest in Ukraine [BBC timeline] that has brought increasing destruction and death to the region. Pillay urged opposition groups to “lay down their weapons” and to work toward a peaceful resolution of the ongoing political crisis involving Ukraine and Russia. Pillay specifically called for an investigation into the violence that recently occurred in Odessa and Donetsk, Ukrainian towns in the South and East, respectively, which “led to the deaths of dozens of people.” More broadly, she expressed the need for the police and military to abide by international standards in regard to arbitrary detention of persons, the seizing of public buildings and the facilitation of peaceful protest. Pillay urgently appealed to national and local authorities to undertake “inclusive and participatory dialogue … at all levels to de-escalate tensions and prevent further violence,” especially in light of the upcoming Ukrainian presidential elections schedule for May 25.
Pillay’s statement comes as the situation between Russia and Ukraine continues to deteriorate. Last month, at the request of the new Ukrainian government, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened [JURIST report] an investigation into alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes in the Ukraine. The requested investigation specifically involves claims that ousted [JURIST report] president Viktor Yanukovich is responsible [JURIST report] for the killing of more than 100 protesters. Ukraine also requested that the ICC investigate alleged crimes committed by Russian-backed militias within Ukraine. In an effort to diffuse violence in the area, Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU issued [JURIST report] a joint statement last month promising amnesty to protesters and to those that seized public places, provided they surrender their weapons and with the exception of those found guilty of capital crimes. This amnesty promise came two days after the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights issued [JURIST report] a report detailing rights violations that occurred both before and after the protests that began [JURIST report] last November.