The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council is an inter-governmental body within the UN system made up of 47 States responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe. The Council was created by the UN General Assembly on 15 March 2006 with the main purpose of addressing situations of human rights violations and make recommendations on them.
One year after holding its first meeting, on 18 June 2007, the Council adopted its “Institution-building package” providing elements to guide it in its future work. Among the elements is the new Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism which will assess the human rights situations in all UN Member States. UPR is a cooperative mechanism, based on objective and reliable information, and equal treatment of all States.
UPR offers an opportunity to address in the UN’s principal interstate human rights body country situations that never were the subject of action by the former Commission on Human Rights.
Other features include a new Advisory Committee which serves as the Council’s “think tank” providing it with expertise and advice on thematic human rights issues and the revised Complaints Procedure mechanism which allows individuals and organizations to bring complaints about human rights violations to the attention of the Council. The Human Rights Council also continues to work closely with the UN Special Procedures (mechanisms to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world) established by the former Commission on Human Rights and assumed by the Council. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights provides these mechanisms with personnel, logistical and research assistance to support them in the discharge of their mandates.
Ukraine attaches a primary importance to cooperation with the Human Rights Council in the promotion and protection of human rights. This activity is considered by Ukraine as an important contribution to strengthening of the international stability and security, and to spreading of the democratic standards worldwide.
Ukraine's participation in the work of the Council and, in particular, its membership (Ukraine seeks renewal of the HRC membership for the term 2018-2020), seen as an important instrument of foreign policy of Ukraine, proof of its devotion to the founding principles embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of willingness to play an active role on the international stage. Cooperation within the HRC framework provides additional opportunities for clarification of the position of our country on key issues of human rights and fostering effective international cooperation in this sphere, aimed inter alia at adapting the human rights norms and standards existent in Europe in light of Ukraine's course for European integration.
Voluntary commitments and pledges on human rights in accordance with resolution 60/251
As a founding Member of the United Nations and responsible partner of international cooperation, Ukraine is strongly committed to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter and Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and strictly adheres to its international commitments under these and other international instruments in the field of human rights.
Ukraine considers the Human Rights Council as the main organ of the UN system in the sphere of protection of human rights, and supports efforts aimed at its further strengthening.
Being elected to the Council since its establishment in 2006, Ukraine served two consecutive membership terms and upon their completion in 2011 has been actively advocating for human rights as an observer to the Human Rights Council.
Since 2010, Ukraine has been consistently and regularly promoting in the Council initiative on the role of prevention of human rights violations, with the dedicated support of the core group of States. Relevant HRC resolutions “The role of prevention in the promotion and protection of human rights” (14/5 of 17 June 2010, 18/13 of 29 September 2011, 24/16 of 27 September 2013 and 33/6 of 22 September 2016) were adopted by consensus.
Ukraine is working closely with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and his Office, including with the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) deployed at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine in mid-March 2014. Its documents constitute a basis of the OHCHR reports on the human rights situation in Ukraine, first of all – in the temporary occupied the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and in the certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Cooperation with Human Rights Council and its monitoring mechanisms
Ukraine has fulfilled all of its previously undertaken voluntary pledges and commitments, particularly, in the context of its standing open invitation to all special procedures of the Human Rights Council. Since June 2008 Ukraine has been visited by:
Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment Mr N.Melzer will visit Ukraine in December 2017.
The Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances and Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights, Mr Juan Bohoslavsky will visit Ukraine with their monitoring missions in 2018.
Actively cooperating with the HRC Universal Periodic Review mechanism (UPR), Ukraine undergone two successful UPR cycles in 2008 and 2012. The 3rd UPR cycle of Ukraine is scheduled to take place on November 15, 2017.
Implementation of international human rights instruments
Ukraine has acceded to and ratified vast majority of international treaties and agreements in the field of human rights. Following its pledges and commitments of June 2008, Ukraine has ratified Convention on Promoting the Rights and Dignity of Persons with Disabilities and its Optional Protocol; International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; as well as Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure.
In fulfilment of its previous pledges and commitments, Ukraine presented to the appropriate UN bodies seven national reports on implementation of the following international instruments:
The United Nations Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment undertook two official visits to Ukraine (May 16-25, 2011, May 19-25, 2016 and September 5-9, 2016).
National human rights policy
Given the necessity to improve state activities on observance and enforcement of human rights and freedoms, establishing an efficient mechanism of protecting human rights and freedoms in Ukraine and settling systemic issues in this realm, the President of Ukraine approved the National Strategy of Human Rights (NSHR) for the period of 2015-2020. It addresses systemic problems in the area of human rights and freedoms in Ukrainian society, as well as new challenges posed by the illegal occupation of Crimea and Russian military aggression against Ukraine in Donbas.
With the view to implement the NSHR, the Government approved an Action Plan, which determines measures and certain indicators aimed at achieving the expected outcomes defined in the Strategy. Equality rights and opportunities and non-discrimination are among the key ones in this comprehensive document. Non-discrimination and respect for diversity must be observed and implemented and all measures should be taken to overcome social stereotypes leading to discrimination.
The Strategy and relevant Action Plan are aimed at improving the legal and institutional framework for national human rights policy in line with the international standards in close cooperation with the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights, civil society and international organizations, including the United Nations, Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
The problem of protecting human rights and freedoms is aggravated by the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol and the military aggression of the Russian Federation in certain areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Along the top-priority objectives related to strengthening national security, overcoming economic crisis, reforming public administration, etc., observing human rights remains the main commitment of the Government.
The primary focus of Ukraine’s human rights is observing the human rights situation in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. It has been Ukraine’s firm standpoint expressed in the provisions of the General Assembly resolution 71/205 that safe and unfettered access to Crimea must be provided by the occupying power for established regional and international human rights monitoring mechanisms to enable them to carry out their mandate. Such an access is extremely important to report on the situation on the ground and prevent further deterioration of the situation.
National human rights institutions
On April 14, 1998, the Parliament of Ukraine elected the first Commissioner for Human Rights. The powers and activities of the Ombudsman of Ukraine are fully in line with the Paris Principles on the Status of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights, approved by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 48/134. First of all, it is about independence, transparency and impartiality in its activity.
Therefore, on March 2009, according to the decision of the UN Bureau of the International Coordinating Committee for National Human Rights Institutions, the Ombudsman of Ukraine was granted the highest accreditation status "A", which entitles, in particular, to attend meetings of the UN Human Rights Council and to participate in discussion.
According to the Article 17 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment an effective National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) was established in 2012 using the model “Ombudsman-Plus”. Respectively, the Office of the Ombudsman provides technical and organizational support to the independent monitors, proposed and trained by the National Expert Council.