Ukraine has seen the most rapid deterioration of human rights globally in 2014 according to a new report released by a global risk organisation.
Continuing conflict, internal displacement, and worsening economic conditions in the country mean it has dropped 19 places in the past year – and is now 44th most “at risk” in the world according to the Maplecroft Human Rights Risk Atlas 2015, released on Wednesday.
In Crimea, harassment and 'disappearances' of the indigenous Crimean minority have become routine, while the rebel authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk have engaged in routine kidnappings, torture and summary executions.
Ukraine, along with Thailand and Turkey, has deteriorated more than anywhere else since mass protests in Kiev ultimately lead to the toppling of former President Viktor Yanukovich in February.
The decline was part of an ongoing trend in Ukraine, which has had deteriorating human rights since 2011, but the conflict in the country’s east and the civil unrest that came before it, accelerated the situation, Maplecroft analysts told Al Jazeera.
The report highlighted the risks faced by the approximately 430,000 people now internally displaced because of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
“The displaced people living in camps are very open to labour abuse and human trafficking,” senior analyst Marilu Gresens said.
“They are targeted by people who might make fraudulent offers of work, or say that they can get the IDPs refugee status in another country, and then they find themselves in a trafficking situation.
“There are also some indications that the pro-Russian rebels are using forced labour in some areas, and displaced people are very vulnerable to this.”
The report also looks at “divergent regional approaches towards human rights”, in particular the differences between the situations in Kiev and Crimea, the region annexed by Russia in March.
“While the new Kiev government of President Petro Poroshenko has generally shown an improved performance on human rights observance during its short time in office, the occupation authorities in Crimea and the ‘People’s Republics’ of Donetsk and Luhansk have been notable for their brutality,” the report said.
“In Crimea, harassment and ‘disappearances’ of the indigenous Crimean minority have become routine, while the rebel authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk have engaged in routine kidnappings, torture and summary executions. Combined with the large number of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, due to the ongoing conflict, these factors have resulted in a continued deterioration in Ukraine’s overall rank.”
Maplecroft’s senior analyst for Europe and Central Asia, Daragh McDowell, told Al Jazeera some of the differences between the areas had been true even before the civil unrest that started in Kiev in late 2013.
“With a city like Kiev there is a great deal of civil society mobility,” he said.
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“The mentality there is if they don’t like something, they stand up against it, as we saw with the protest that lead to Yanukovich being toppled.
“In the eastern regions, including Crimea which we still class as part of Ukraine for the purposes of this analysis, there is far less civil society mobility and people are far more likely to accept what is happening to them.”
The majority of the differences, however, come as a direct result of the ongoing conflict between government forces and the pro-Russian separatists in the Donbass region.
“In Crimea, harassment and ‘disappearances’ of the indigenous Crimean minority have become routine, while the rebel authorities in Donetsk and Luhansk have engaged in routine kidnappings, torture and summary executions. Combined with the large number of internally displaced persons, or IDPs, due to the ongoing conflict, these factors have resulted in a continued deterioration in Ukraine’s overall rank,” the report said.
‘Surge’ in abuses
Other rights watch organisations have also criticised the declining situation in Crimea.
“As the world’s attention has been on the hostilities in eastern Ukraine, rights abuses in Crimea have surged,” said Yulia Gorbunova, Europe and Central Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Under various pretexts, such as combating extremism, the authorities have been persecuting people who dared to openly voice criticism of Russia’s actions on the peninsula.”
Crimean residents who wish to remain Ukrainian citizens are now treated as foreigners in their own home territory, Human Rights Watch said in a report released in November.
As Ukrainian nationals they will be barred from holding government and municipal jobs and treated as foreign migrants.
“Russia is not really offering people a choice of citizenship but forcing civilians under its control to choose between taking Russian citizenship or facing discrimination and worse,” Gorbunova said.
“This is a serious violation of international law and is in reality no choice at all.”