Monitoring of the implementation of recommendations on reform priorities (in the period 2020–May 2021).
1. To ensure effective and consistent coordination and communication between the various structures in the Parliament, the Government and the Office of the President of Ukraine in order to ensure the reintegration of the occupied territories.
Despite the institutional development of state bodies responsible for the deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, ensuring systematic and effective coordination between them remains an urgent task for the Ukrainian authorities.
Lack of coordinated position and actions of the Parliament, the Government and the Office of the President of Ukraine creates risks for activities in the field of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories (as an example we can cite the situation with criminalization of so-called “collaborationism”)., and MPs, in particular, members of the presidential faction, who register a number of bills that provide for the establishment of criminal liability for various forms of "collaboration" such as cooperation of Ukrainian citizens with the occupation authorities or with the aggressor country).
At the same time, the adoption of the Law of Ukraine "On Indigenous Peoples of Ukraine" which was developed in cooperation with the Government and submitted to the Parliament by the President of Ukraine on May 18, 2021, can serve as a good example of cooperation.
2. To increase the pressure on the aggressor state in order to stop human rights violations in the occupied territories, to insist on the introduction of independent inspection and control of the human rights situation in these territories by international institutions.
In 2021, Ukraine initiated the creation of an international consultation and coordination mechanism, the Crimean Platform, which aims to consolidate the efforts of the international community to return the Crimean issue to the agenda, protect human rights in Crimea and promote the deoccupation of the peninsula. The concept of the Crimean Platform was developed by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine on the initiative of the President of Ukraine. On August 23, 2021, the constituent Summit of the Crimean Platform is to take place in Kyiv. More than 100 international leaders are invited to participate in the event.
The Crimean Platform envisages consolidation of efforts to increase pressure on Russia for human rights violations and IHL norms. One of such crucial mechanisms is the application of personal restrictive measures (sanctions) to persons involved in systemic and large-scale human rights violations on the occupied peninsula.
It should be noted that the National Security and Defense Council has begun to work on creating an open register of national sanctions. However, the necessary changes at the legislative level have not taken place yet. At the same time, the issue of conducting independent international monitoring of the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied territory of Crimea remains relevant.
3. To develop and approve the Strategy for reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and the plan of its implementation, to institutionalize the mechanisms of implementation of this Strategy at the state level.
In March 2021, the President of Ukraine approved the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Adoption of the Strategy of deoccupation and reintegration of Crimea is a necessary step to ensure consistent systematic work of the state to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine, overcome the consequences caused by the temporary occupation of Crimea, and protect the rights and interests of Ukrainian citizens. To implement the Strategy, the Government must develop and approve an action plan within three months (this process is ongoing). At the same time, the relevant Strategy for deoccupation andrReintegration of the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions has not been developed and adopted yet.
4. To initiate consultations on the development of legislative initiatives in the field of transitional justice policy-making.
In January 2021, the draft Law “On State Policy for the Transition Period” was published for public discussion on the website of the Ministry of Reintegration. Despite some criticism of the bill by experts from NGOs, it is worth noting the Ministry's openness to comments and suggestions on the provisions of the bill. After receiving and processing the suggestions by 110 stakeholders, on June 1, an updated draft law on the principles of state transition policy for public discussion was published on the website of the Ministry of Reintegration.
5. To develop a governmental system of coordination of activities for the reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories.
At present, both the coordination between the various branches of government and the system of interaction within the Government leave many questions. In particular, the idea of creating the position of Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories in the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine was supported by public organizations precisely because of the prospect of ensuring effective coordination of executive bodies. Instead, such coordination is not always stable and systematic. Instead of intensifying work on reintegration in all ministries, there is a concentration of these issues in the Ministry of Reintegration.
6. To strengthen the regional offices of the Ministry of Reintegration in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson regions by the end of 2020.
Unfortunately, the representation of the Ministry of Reintegration in the regions has not been strengthened. Moreover, for a long time there has been virtually no regional office of the Ministry in Luhansk region. Lack of representation of the Ministry in the region creates a risk of losing the "contact" with residents of the region, which has been severely affected by the conflict, and deprives the Ministry of the opportunity to gather the information needed to make decisions at the central level.
7. To repeal the Law of Ukraine on the establishment of a free economic zone "Crimea" (FEZ "Crimea").
In February 2020, a working group was established on the basis of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights to develop a draft law on the abolition of the FEZ of Crimea. This working group included representatives of relevant ministries and departments, the Mission of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, and human rights organizations. In cooperation with the Parliamentary Committee on Tax and Customs Policy, three draft bills were developed that would repeal the Law on FEZ Crimea and ensure the full restoration of the rights of the Crimeans as citizens of Ukraine. On May 18, 2021, a group of MPs registered this package of bills, Currently, the projects are awaiting for consideration by the Parliament.
8. To introduce a mechanism for paying pensions to residents of the temporarily occupied territories.
Despite the fact that the state did not take measures to introduce a mechanism for paying pensions to residents of the occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions without the need to obtain a certificate of registration of an internally displaced person, the situation in 2020-2021 was positively affected by quarantine restrictions imposed to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Thereby, due to a set of changes provided by the legislation of Ukraine, residents of the occupied territories who have a certificate of IDPs and receive a pension in the territories controlled by the Government of Ukraine, continue to receive it throughout the quarantine period without the need for periodic verification. According to the Government's decision, quarantine in Ukraine has been extended until June 30, 2021 and is likely to continue, which is a temporary solution to the issue of paying pensions to residents of the occupied territories, especially in the context of the actual cessation of work of the entry-exit checkpoints on the demarcation line.
9. To create a state system for documenting human rights violations that occurred during and as a result of armed conflict and occupation.
The idea of creating a state system for monitoring and documenting violations of human rights, international humanitarian law and other violations committed during the armed aggression of the Russian Federation was supported by the Ministry of Reintegration.
At the same time, the position of the Ministry mostly corresponds to the position of human rights organizations. Currently, in parallel with the establishment of the state institution "Ukrainian National Center for Peacebuilding", the Expert council of documenters from representatives of public human rights organizations has begun to develop a package of draft regulations projects and technical documents for the state system of monitoring and documentation of violations. In addition, on June 2, the President of Ukraine adopted the Decree, according to which the Government is instructed to take measures to establish and ensure adequate funding of the Center for documenting human rights violations and damage caused by the armed aggression of the Russian Federation.
10. To introduce an administrative procedure to establish the facts of birth and death that occurred in the temporarily occupied territories.
The administrative procedure was not introduced. In 2020-2021, the situation was significantly complicated by the quarantine restrictions and the closure of the entry-exit checkpoints, which led to a significant reduction in the number of births and deaths registered in the territory controlled by the Government of Ukraine. Thus, during 2019, 11,359 cases of births of children were registered on the temporarily occupied territories, while in 2020 - only 5,391.
11. To develop strategic decisions that will minimize the future negative effects of restrictions associated with COVID-19.
In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has become a new challenge for the Ukrainian authorities. The quarantine restrictions, which were introduced in March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, provided for the actual closure of the entry-exit checkpoints on the occupied territories. This has led to the separation of families, restrictions on access to health care, medication etc. Therefore, the changes made to the procedures for crossing the entry-exit checkpoints on the line of demarcation and the procedure for crossing the administrative border with Crimea, which established a list of humanitarian grounds for crossing the entry-exit checkpoints in case of their closure were important.
A positive step for the state was also the introduction of rapid testing for COVID-19 at the entry-exit checkpoints, although it operated with some restrictions. From June 2021, a registration for vaccination against COVID-19 became available for Ukrainian citizens living on the temporarily occupied territories (primarily elderly people aged 65 and older).
Monitoring of the implementation of recommendations provided by public human rights organizations shows that most of the recommendations (8) are in the process of implementation, and the necessary actions are being taken to implement them. One recommendation was fully implemented, three were not implemented.
Section 2. Current major challenges in implementation of the reforms
Risk of severing ties with residents of the temporarily occupied territories due to restrictions on freedom of movement. To ensure the reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories, it is critical to have and maintain ties with the inhabitants of the occupied territories. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the introduction of quarantine restrictions, the number of crossings between the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as the administrative border with the Crimean temporarily occupied territory, has significantly decreased. Since March 2020, the entry-exit checkpoints periodically have not operated at all or has operated in a limited mode. This situation, which started in March 2020, was significantly complicated in 2021 due to the actions of the occupation authorities to close or limit the functioning of the entry-exit checkpoints (for example, the occupation authorities systematically blocked the opening of new entry-exit checkpoints "Shchastya" and "Zolote" in Lugansk region). Thus, the risk of severing the ties with Ukrainian citizens on the temporarily occupied territories is high due to the actions of the occupation forces and their clear position aimed at isolating Ukrainian citizens and encapsulating them in the temporarily occupied territories, as well as aligning them with the Russian Federation.
Lack of solutions to practical issues affecting the reintegration process. Among such issues is insurance of the payments of pensions to residents of temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions without the need to obtain a certificate of registration of IDPs. Also the issue of documents issued in the occupied territories is important. It is not only about creating an out-of-court mechanism for issuing Ukrainian birth or death certificates that took place during the occupation, but also about determining procedures for using information from documents issued in the temporarily occupied territories, including educational documents, medical certificates, certificates confirming the duration of work, court and notarial documents, etc. There are also new challenges. Thus, today it is necessary to settle the issue of vaccination of Ukrainian citizens on the temporarily occupied territories with the Russian vaccine "Sputnik V" and, accordingly, to take into account the "vaccination passports" issued on the temporarily occupied territories to prevent, due to non-recognition of documents issued by the occupation authorities, a situation that may force people to be vaccinated twice.
Lack of a holistic state vision of the plan to overcome the negative consequences of the armed conflict. Currently, the authorities take various, sometimes uncoordinated, measures that affect the reintegration process, which makes this policy unsystematic. The lack of a systemic policy does not allow us to assess how effective reintegration measures are or whether they achieve their goals. This makes management decisions in this area situational, chaotic, and unpredictable.
Section 3. Recommendations on reform priorities for 2021-2022 (next annual period, until URC 2022)
For the most part, the recommendations provided in the previous brief remain relevant, but need to be clarified:
- To insist on the introduction of independent inspection and monitoring by international institutions of the human rights situation on the temporarily occupied territories.
- To ensure effective and consistent coordination and communication between the various structures in the Parliament, the Government and the Office of the President of Ukraine in order to ensure the reintegration of the occupied territories.
- To develop and approve the Strategy for reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions and a plan for its implementation.
- To introduce a national model of transitional justice to ensure the transition from armed conflict to peace, taking into account the interests of the victims.
- To develop a governmental system for coordinating reintegration activities on the temporarily occupied territories.
- To strengthen the regional offices of the Ministry of Reintegration in Donetsk, Luhansk and Kherson regions by the end of 2021.
- To repeal the Law of Ukraine "On the creation of a free economic zone "Crimea "and the peculiarities of economic activity in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine."
- To introduce a mechanism for paying pensions to the residents of temporarily occupied territories without the need to obtain a certificate of registration of an internally displaced person.
- To create a state system for documenting human rights violations that occurred during and as a result of armed conflict and occupation.
- To introduce an administrative procedure to establish the facts of birth and death that occurred on the temporarily occupied territories.
The most important priorities for reforms in the upcoming year are the following:
- Maintaining relations with the inhabitants of the occupied territories. In conditions when the occupying authorities restrict the freedom of movement of Ukrainian citizens, the issue of finding new ways to maintain ties with the inhabitants of the occupied territories becomes especially important. At present, the provision and guarantees of the right to education, medical care, social protection, simplified procedures for registration of birth certificates, and passports for Ukrainian citizens living in the temporarily occupied territories should become a priority for the government. At the same time, platforms for communication and dialogue between the people of Ukraine, including the temporarily occupied territories, should be developed to create a common context for seeing the future.
- Formation of a clear coordinated state policy on reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories and developing a common vision on how to overcome the negative consequences of the armed conflict, taking into account the realization and protection of the rights of victims of the armed conflict. The lack of a coordinated clear position on the key steps of the temporarily occupied territories’ deoccupation and reintegration processes deprives this policy of predictability and clarity for Ukrainian citizens.
- Adoption of strategic documents on deoccupation and reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions, as well as in the field of information reintegration of the temporarily occupied territories. Currently, these strategic documents are absent, but their availability will provide a comprehension of the state's vision of the goals and objectives of public policy in these areas. The task of developing new documents in the field of information strategies, which would provide areas for communication with citizens living in the temporarily occupied territories is also relevant.