Ukraine: UN committee ‘gravely concerned’ over treatment of people with disabilities

9 September 2022Human Rights

People with disabilities trapped in the Russian control zones in Ukraine are reportedly being used as “human shields” by the Russian Federation armed forces, the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) warned on Friday.

In a special report on the situation of people with disabilities in Ukraine, Jonas Ruskus, Vice-Chair of the committee said he was “gravely concerned” about the situation of people with disabilities in the country, since its invasion on 24 February.

Mr. Ruskus told a news conference in Geneva that they are being kept in “inhuman conditions” and their evacuation from residential institutions in conflict areas is not being prioritized.

Citing information from several disability organizations in the country, the CRPD Vice Chair revealed that the committee had learned that at least 12 people with disabilities had died in a residential institution in Russian-controlled territory.

‘Life-threatening situations

He urged both Ukraine and Russia to evacuate them immediately and to ensure that the evacuation process is monitored by independent parties.

“Some people with disabilities in Ukraine remain trapped in life-threatening situations and must be evacuated to ensure they can access basic needs like food and heating as winter approaches,” Mr. Ruskus told the journalists.

Ukrainian children with disabilities feel the strain far from home.
UNICEFUkrainian children with disabilities feel the strain far from home.

Community-based services

He reminded all concerned parties of their obligation to ensure that people with disabilities, including in the current situation in Ukraine, have access to services and relief in communities on an equal basis with others.

Mr. Ruskus also urged for rapid de-institutionalization and investment in community services and called for the inclusion of disabled people in decision-making processes whenever international cooperation funds are used.

Raising the alarm

Before the conflict started, around 2.7 million people in Ukraine lived with a disability.

In August, four UN-appointed independent human rights experts warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is having “a disproportionate impact” on persons with disabilities, especially children in institutions there.

The UN experts expressed hope that investments will be made to build community support that will enable children with disabilities to flourish with their families and in family-like situations as opposed to institutions.

“It is our earnest hope that Ukraine will commit itself to a better future for persons with disabilities, especially children,” the experts said.

The CRPD findings were issued on Friday alongside other country reviews.

The report contains the Committee's main concerns and recommendations on implementing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

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