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OSCE says Kiev significantly restricts movement of civilians in eastern Ukraine

May 13, 2015, 21:00 UTC+3 VIENNA
The OSCE monitoring mission often observed "long waiting times to submit applications at checkpoints in unsecured areas," the report says
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OSCE observers in east Ukraine

OSCE observers in east Ukraine


VIENNA, May 13. /TASS/. European security watchdog OSCE said that the rights of the civilian population in eastern Ukraine had been "severely limited" after the Kiev authorities introduced strict controls over movement into and out of conflict areas.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said on Wednesday its observers in east Ukraine's Donbas region regularly monitored the implementation and the impact of January’s Temporary Order requiring that all individuals, vehicles and cargo travelling into and out the conflict area within the region must hold a special permit.

"Monitoring activities have… established that the permit system has severely limited the capacity of individuals to leave conflict-affected areas or to access safe areas and life-saving assistance, including humanitarian aid," the Vienna-based OSCE said in a report, noting "complicated and cumbersome application requirements" and "difficulties in obtaining necessary documentation in conflict areas".

The OSCE monitoring mission often observed "long waiting times to submit applications at checkpoints in unsecured areas", the report said. "Problems with the permit system leave civilians who wish to rapidly vacate conflict-affected areas with no other alternative than to embark on long detours that further expose them to increased safety risks in an unstable environment."

"These restrictions of movement have hampered the ability of aid providers and civil society volunteer organisations to carry out evacuations of civilians from non-government controlled areas," the OSCE added. "As a result, the safety and security of the civilian population, including the elderly and persons with disabilities, have been severely impacted."

The legal framework of the Temporary Order, which came into effect on January 21, also raised a number of questions by OSCE monitors.

"According to customary international law all sides to a conflict are requested to take steps to ensure the safety and the protection of civilians in the areas of hostilities," the OSCE said. "This includes the possibility for civilians to voluntarily and rapidly leave areas affected by violence in order to protect their lives as well as to access basic humanitarian assistance."

Besides, "the Constitution of Ukraine establishes that restrictions on freedom of movement may only be established by law," it said, noting that "the Temporary Order has not been registered with the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine and the exact status and nature of the order remains unclear".

The OSCE also stressed that "no concrete administrative or legal procedure has been established affording a reasonable opportunity to appeal against the refusal to issue a permit".

"While the Temporary Order allows for permits to be issued for personal reasons, such as a death of a relative, it does not include an option for leaving due to security reasons," it said. "Permits may be denied when a person is found to represent a threat to national security. However, there are no established criteria in the Temporary Order to assess such threats."

Monitoring activities conducted by the OSCE mission found that the Temporary Order, and the permit system established through this order, "have been inconsistently implemented", the report said.

The mission "has observed that local authorities implementing the permit system might grant passage whether or not a permit is provided or, in alternative, block passage even if the person bears a permit," the report said.

The permit application process "remains extremely problematic," the OSCE said, adding that "civilians who wish to leave conflict-affected areas may wait up to 45-50 days before being able to obtain a permit."

OSCE monitors, talking to civilians in Donbass who were unable or faced difficulties to obtain a permit, said they had received "frequent allegations of bribes at checkpoints to allow access without the permit" and "allegations of sales of permits".

The OSCE monitoring mission to Ukraine was first deployed a year ago following a request from Ukraine. It delivers public reports on fighting between forces loyal to Kiev and people’s militias as well as on movements on border crossings between Russia and Ukraine.

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