How the occupation of Sloviansk affected the number of slaves in Ukraine
Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives
In 2018, Ukraine was on place 49 in the world ranking of the countries with the most slaves: 286.000 people in Ukraine live the lives of modern-day slaves, as an investigation by Australian organization Walk Free Foundation estimates.
For comparison, in 2013 Ukraine was on place 86, with an estimated number of between 110.000 and 120.000 modern slaves. That was nearly half as many as four years later. One of the decisive factors for this hike is the armed conflict in the country’s east. In many cases armed militias forced their prisoners and the local population to do unpaid work for them.
In a modern world, the definition of “slavery” includes a wide range of forms of forcing people to work. It is the forced subjection of one person to another making the subjected person fully dependent. Even if there are no obvious signs of physical or economical dependency, a person may still be forced to work through the threat of punishment.
The city of Sloviansk in Donetsk oblast was among the first to be occupied during the war. The rampant lawlessness led to the tragic rise in slavery statistics. The militias of the so called DNR controlled the city between April 12 and July 4, 2014. The militiamen illegally arrested civilians as well as soldiers off the street and forced them to work under the threat of torture or execution. People were forced to work in the local police headquarters and the building of the SBU, Ukraine’s secret service. These two buildings had been occupied by militias and were used as illegal prisons.
Investigations by the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” documented a number of cases of forced labor. For instance an inhabitant of Kostyantinivka, who was arrested for no obvious reason in April 2014 and then held first in Sloviansk’s SBU building and later in the local police headquarters, testified to cases of torture, inhumane conditions of detention and also to cases of forced labor. During the final days of his detention, his captures started to take him out and forced him to dig trenches, sometimes while they were under artillery attack.
They said they would shoot us if we don’t dig the trenches until the evening. But we didn’t finish digging those trenches, neither one nor the other. Nobody shot us, but we were very frightened. […] we couldn’t find shelter anywhere. There wasn’t even a sand bag bunker or anything. We just lay down at the fundament of this house and that was it.
There were about 15 other detainees digging trenches with him. There were also guards supervising the work and making sure no one would escape. Their function also was to humiliate the prisoners. One detainee, who was also held in the Sloviansk police headquarter, was forced to dig trenches in the village of Semenivka, where fierce artillery battles were raging.
As in many other places all over Donbas, the illegal prisons in Sloviansk were a source of free labor force for the militias. Prisoners were also used to sweep the streets and for house cleaning. A former inmate of the Sloviansk SBU building, who was detained under inhumane conditions and without access to fresh air, said this about his experience of forced labor:
They forced us to clean up the site. This was forced labor on the one hand. They told us where we should pick up the trash and where we should carry it. On the other hand, I understood that this was good for me. It gave me the chance to go outside and breathe fresh air.
The practice of relying on forced labor served to use prisoners for the kinds of work that militiamen were not willing to do themselves. Another goal of forced labor was to break the prisoner’s moral. Unfortunately the city of Sloviansk was but one among many occupied cities in Eastern Ukraine, the occupation of which resulted in Ukraine’s steep growth of modern slavery.
On Monday, June 3rd, Eastern Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives with its partner organizations from the Coalition “Justice for P...
A chance to explore 13 rifts of war: the exhibition “On the Rift” is now open in Kyiv
On Monday, June 3rd, Eastern Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives with its partner organizations from the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” presented the touring exhibition on human rights violations in eastern Ukraine “Na Zlami / On the Rift” at “Zoloti Vorota” museum. The exhibition shows 13 changes in life of civilians since 2014 as a result of the war in Donbas.
Presentation and creation of the exhibition “Na Zlami / On the rift” are the results of the project “Empowering civil society for a transformation of commemorative culture”, implemented by KURVE Wustrow in collaboration with Eastern Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives and its partner organizations from the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas”.
Former victims of human rights violations during the war in the Donbas were the guests of the event as well as representatives of international and Ukrainian NGOs. Artists and journalists were also present during the presentation.
The visitor can see 13 conventional rifts that demonstrate demographic and social changes in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, the destruction of family relations, and the marginalization of the local population along with the personal drama of civilians, trying to survive in new harsh conditions.
The exhibition is a collaborative project of the partner organizations of the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas”: Vostok SOS, Moloda Prosvita Prykarpattia, Human Rights Civil Research Centre, Committee for the Protection of the Constitutional Rights and Freedoms of Citizens, Crisis Media Centre “Siverskyi Donets”, and Eastern Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives.
«We have fifth year of war with Russia in our country. However, a part of Ukrainians neither want to hear about it nor see it. We want to show those, who have not experienced horrors of war, that the pain and suffering of our citizens is real. That is the primary reason why we have created “Na Zlami” and want to present it all over Ukraine», - mentioned Volodymyr Shcherbachenko, head of Eastern Ukrainian Centre for Civic Initiatives.
Former witnesses and victims, who had become protagonists of the exhibition, spoke about the dramatic experience of change after the start of war. Many of them experienced uncertainty, the loss of social ties, and the disruption of daily life. Many of them had to survive.
«I always had the feeling like I was on the edge. When I had left my city, I did not have any money. During the first six months after departure, I had a strong feeling of hunger because I could not find a job. I did not have social connections; I did not know where to find a job. I had to work as a loader or a miller. It was a hard time», - said Evhen Shliakhtin, one of the protagonists of the exhibition, former detainee of illegal prison in Luhansk.
“Na Zlami / On the Rift” tries to convey a holistic picture of the disruption of the fabric of Ukrainian society during the war in Donbas. The exhibition stands combine excerpts from interviews of former victims or witnesses of human rights violations along with infographics and statistics.
«Na Zlami” is an attempt to lend a voice to people, who have lost their rights, their freedom, their health, their home or a person close to them to the violence in eastern Ukraine. This has led to a multilayered picture that still can only begin to explain why this war broke out and how it could be settled», - mentioned Simon Schlegel, one of the coauthors of the idea of the exhibition.
All those, who were present during a presentation, noted that “On the Rift” focuses the viewer`s attention not only on the problem of the civilian population in the past, but also on their integration into society as well as brings a new perspective on the acceptance of witnesses and victims of war in society.
On the 30th of May female survivors of the armed conflict together with the representatives of component public authorities discusse...
On the way to justice: survivors of the armed conflict shared their experience in Mariupol
On the 30th of May female survivors of the armed conflict together with the representatives of component public authorities discussed how to restore justice in the situations when people were detained, undergone violence or their other rights were violated.
The public discussion “What does “restoration of justice” mean for women and girls affected by the armed conflict” was initiated by an NGO “Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives” with the support of the Special Representative of the Ukrainian government on gender policy Kateryna Levchenko
«There are many specific problems related to women only, but they are not discussed in the society. Today we see here almost all the sides that should be included into the process of justice restoration. How this justice should look like? Should it mean reparations or compensations, just punishment of the perpetrators and the degrees of punishment? That’s why we’ve initiated such event”
He suggested to work in small groups where both the women and the law enforcement officers discussed “what is justice” and “what are the impediments to restore justice”. After these discussions the participants shared their thoughts in order to decide together about the mechanisms of justice restoration.
“Such discussions help us to hear those in need and translate the language of the documents into the language of regulator acts that are very pertinent”,
Kateryna Levchenko commented on the ideas of the participants.
A major part of the event was dedicated to the discussion of gender-based violence. Hanna Yanova, the Center’s researcher, who worked on the report “War without Rules: Gender-Based Violence in the Context of the Armed Conﬂict in Eastern Ukraine”, pointed out:
“The conflict contributed to many various human rights violations. These are shelling, enforced disappearances, murder and torture. There are different responsible persons and the crimes are very specific, but there is one thing that is common—people want to restore justice. They want to achieve compensation of court’s decision, find those guilty, or the body of the disappeared person”.
Kateryna Levchenko said it was important that the representatives of law enforcement agencies and the OSCE observers took place in this discussion. She also said that judges are currently being trained to hear cases related to violence, committed during the armed conflict. She added that they will take into account the issue of social and other kinds of aid.
Among the participants of the event, there were women who survived violence, were held in detention, as well as relatives of the deceased and people who lost their house or it got damaged as a result of shelling. The female participants either live in the government-controlled territory in the east of Ukraine or are IDPs. All of them shared their views on the restoration of justice.
“I wish that none of women survived what I had been through, because for the past several years I’ve been trying to support others, to set an example that it’s important to tell about your problem”
said a former detainee Iryna Dovhan.
“If your relative had been killed and you got money for that, it wouldn’t bring him back. There should be material compensation, but does it restore justice?”
asked one of the survivors.
Each of the small groups worked on the issues of material compensation, social benefit programs, as well as social and medical aid. Kateryna Levchenko received the results of the discussions to pass them on for regulation at the legislative level.
The event was held with the support of Swedish Institute and the Department of State of the USA.
The 39th ECCHRD meeting, hosted by OSCE/ODIHR took place in Warsaw on 17 and 18 May 2018. European Co-ordination Committee on Human ...
Hanna Yanova: "Documentation is not the end, it's only a beginning"
The 39th ECCHRD meeting, hosted by OSCE/ODIHR took place in Warsaw on 17 and 18 May 2018. European Co-ordination Committee on Human Rights Documentation (ECCHRD) is an open network of Europe-based organisations and institutions producing human rights information. More precisely, it is an annual meeting of librarians, documentation and communication workers and similar staff that work with these organisations. Hanna Yanova, researcher at Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives, who represented the Coalition of NGOs “Justice for Peace in Donbas”, participated in the event this year.
‒ Hanna, was there anything that the Coalition “Justice for Peace in Donbas” could learn from the organizations who participated in the event?
–In this regards, the Coalition has excelled also because we not only document information on human rights violations but also use it in different ways. To carry out reports for national and international advocacy, for creative projects such as documentaries and graphic novel. This is a brand new way to present the collected information. As it turns out, we have many ways to deliver information to broad audience compared to others.
– So the Ukrainian organizations are sort of synthesizing the ways to use information on human rights violations?
– Yes. In the Coalition, we collect, process and use information further. It’s a full cycle unlimited by solely the collection of information. And documentation itself is not the end but rather the beginning of the process of litigation submission to international committees. Several organizations do so, they submit information to the UN committees. But as for the participants of the event, they were mainly interested in the creative aspects which the Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives focuses on. It’s a documentary about the transformation of Luhansk regional administration into a place of illegal detention, and a graphic novel “The crossroads: nine stories about war and violence”. Others don’t do such things. I think that such ways only enlarge the circle of people to deliver this information to, and it’s always positive.