Council of Europe raises concerns about situation in Ukraine

There have been "some improvements" in Ukraine in the fight against racism and intolerance, but the situation is still a cause for concern, the Council of Europe's European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has said in a report on Ukraine.

The Council of Europe told Interfax-Ukraine on Tuesday that ECRI's chair ad interim, Fran├žois Sant'Angelo said, while commenting on the document, that "while there have been some improvements, there are still concerns in most areas covered by the commission's mandate."

The press release on the report notes that although the Ukrainian government has drawn up action plans against xenophobia and racial and ethnic discrimination, the disbanding of the State Committee for Nationalities and Religion has "left a vacuum" in this connection.

"The country has no comprehensive anti-discrimination legislation. Moreover, despite the authorities' intention to strengthen the legislation on asylum, the refugee-status determination procedures have been frozen on several occasions," reads the press release.

At the same time, according to the commission, there are less racist attacks, although the problem is far from being resolved.

"Hate speech is often left untackled, although the number of anti-Semitic publications has dropped," reads the statement.

The commission is also paying attention to another problem - the need to deal with neo-Nazi and skinhead football fans.

"Nevertheless, the Interior Ministry has abandoned its efforts to monitor racist incidents and groups systematically. Moreover, the extent of the problem is masked because the perpetrators of hate crime tend to be prosecuted as hooligans," reads the press release.

The statement notes that the situation with Crimean Tartars has not improved.

"Neither has that of the Roma, many of whom lack identity documents, despite some municipalities' efforts to promote their social inclusion. Police misconduct against this and other vulnerable groups, such as migrants and asylum-seekers, is also frequently reported," the commission said.

In its report, the ECRI has made a number of recommendations, among which the following three require priority implementation and will be reviewed in two years' time.

In particular, the commission pointed to the need "to identify a body to coordinate the work on combating racism and racial discrimination, and to ensure that its staff have solid expertise in these fields; guarantee at all times fair and effective refugee-status determination procedures and finally settle the issue of who is responsible for this; and set up an independent body for receiving complaints about racism and racial discrimination by the police."

The ECRI is a human rights body of the Council of Europe, composed of independent experts, which monitors problems of racism, discrimination on grounds of ethnic origin, color, citizenship, religion and language, as well as xenophobia, anti-Semitism and intolerance.

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