Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 27.04.2018
Torture, abuse, extrajudicial killings, persecution, harassment, abductions – crimes against humanity by the Putin regime are multiplying on Ukrainian territories temporarily under the effective control of the Russian authorities.
At least four people, including two Crimean Tatars, died unnaturally in a prison of the Russian occupation regime in Simferopol, Crimea, Ukraine. These deaths occurred in the first half of April. The invader-occupiers from Russia claimed that Server Bilialov, Oleg Goncharov, and Dmitriy Shypovnik hanged themselves; they claim that Islam Iskerov cut his own throat. These claims of suicide defy credulity. The Crimean Human Rights Group reports that Server Bilialov was expecting a shortened sentence and early release; Dmitriy Shypovnik was in a ‘punishment’ cell where prisoners are searched carefully beforehand and closely supervised; Islam Iskerov was charged with a minor offence for which there would not have been extended incarceration upon conviction.
Western democracies are defined by their adherence to the rule of law. Countries which have Magnitsky laws to sanction human rights abusers should apply these laws to figures in the Russian occupation regime in Ukrainian Crimea who are responsible for the unnatural deaths of civilians under their control. The United States, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Canada, Lithuania, and Latvia, should sanction the corrupt foreign officials who are committing grave abuses of human rights in Crimea and Donbas. In the case of the unnatural deaths at Simferopol Detention Centre No. 1 administered by the Russian Federation occupation authorities, the Crimean Human Rights Group has identified the following individuals deserving of Magnitsky sanctions: Sergey Vladimirovich Berezhnoy (Russian police Colonel and warden of Simferopol Detention Centre No. 1) and Vadim Viktorovich Bulgakov (Russian police Major-General and head of the so-called Federal Penitentiary Service Department for Crimea). These individuals failed in their obligation under international human rights law to protect the lives of civilians under their control. The authorities responsible for the remand prison in Simferopol are violating Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
To its shame, Ukraine does not yet have a Magnitsky law. If it did, it would be better able to to protect Ukrainian citizens subject to the abuses of the Russian occupying power in Crimea and Donbas.
Volodymyr Balukh has been on a hunger strike since March 19. He is a captive of the Russian occupation regime under a ‘conviction’ for a fictitious crime, but actually is being punished for flying a Ukrainian flag over his home. Independent doctors are not allowed to see him. As of April 27, Volodymy Balukh is in the 39th day of his hunger strike against the illegal actions of the Russian invader-occupiers against him and his homeland, and the condition of his health is believed to be deteriorating.
Early on April 26, Russian invader-occupiers of Ukraine’s Crimea launched large-scale raids on the homes of Crimean Tatars. Masked marauders broke into the homes of activists and patrons of the Crimean Tatar movement, and also all the branches of the Crimean food distribution company CrimeaOpt. These raids have increased in frequency and severity. Their purpose is both to terrorize the civilian population and to plant false evidence – such as firearms or explosives – for a subsequent criminal ‘trial’ on terrorism charges. This is what the Putin regime of state terror did to Volodymyr Balukh.
Spokesperson for the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine, Mariana Betsa, wrote on Twitter: “We strongly condemn new unlawful raids in occupied Crimea. Discrimination of Crimean Tatars. Evidence of the crimes will be submitted to the international courts.”
The Putin regime is committing crimes against humanity in Ukraine’s Crimea on a scale not seen since the Stalin regime’s Deportation of the Crimean Tatars in 1944. Western democracies are not doing anything effective to stop Putin or to help Europeans who are being persecuted viciously in Crimea (and in Donbas). Despite violating the European Convention on Human Rights, Russia has not been kicked out of the Council of Europe. Despite violating the Helsinki Final Act, Russia has not been kicked out of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Despite violating the UN Charter, Russia has not been kicked out of the United Nations.
Ukraine can’t do it alone, but it is being left on its own to defend Western civilization from Russian aggression. Because other Western democracies are not effectively helping Ukraine, Putin is not being stopped. On the territory of Ukraine that has been invaded and occupied by Russia (Crimea and part of Donbas) we are witness to crimes against humanity. A foreign occupying power – Russia – is grossly violating the human rights of Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in their homeland. In that, we see the precursors to genocide. It has been 86 years since the Holodomor Terror-Famine by the Russian occupation regime and 74 years since the Deportation of the Crimean Tatars by the Russian occupation regime. Today, in Crimea and also in Donbas, the Russian occupation regime is multiplying its crimes against the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian people. It is a familiar pattern, and if it is not stopped it will lead to genocide.