Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 20.12.2017
Russia is invading Ukraine and the situation of human rights in Crimea is dire. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (the UNHCHR) issued a report and found that the treatment the Russian occupiers dish out to Ukrainian citizens in temporarily occupied Crimea is much worse than at any time since Putin invaded on 20 February 2014. The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly (the Social, Humanitarian and Cultural Affairs Committee) issued a draft resolution based on the UNHCHR report and European Union reports about what is going on behind Putin’s invasion of Europe battlefront that stretches across Ukraine.
United Nations reports reveal a significant deterioration of the human rights situation in Crimea under Russian occupation. Russia’s violation of human rights disproportionately affects the Crimean Tatars, the autochthonous people of Ukraine’s southern peninsula. Residents of Crimea are Ukrainian citizens, and their rights as Ukrainian citizens must be protected by the world community against the assault on them by Russia.
On December 19, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the draft resolution of the Third Committee called “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine.” The resolution uses the strongest language the UN has used to date to condemn the human rights abuses of Russia in Crimea.
The UN General Assembly resolution explicitly condemns “the ongoing temporary occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine” and reaffirms that the UN does not recognize the annexation of Crimea.
Russia is grossly abusing human rights in Crimea and that has to stop. Russia is illegally occupying Crimea and that has to end.
On 27 March 2014, the UN General Assembly supported Ukrainian sovereignty and called upon states not to recognize a change in status of Crimea. Three and three-quarter years later, the UN General Assembly has adopted tougher, stronger language, and now backs it up with extensive evidence of Russia’s war crimes and grave violations of international human rights. Ukraine has friends where it counts: 34 UN members – all the leading Western democracies – sponsored the resolution. Russia has gained no new friends in its war against the West: 26 UN members voted against the resolution, and not one of them can be considered to be an abiding or useful ally to Russia.
Russia suffered a diplomatic defeat. The world community has said that the occupation of Crimea by Russia is temporary and the annexation of Crimea by Russia isn’t real. But the defeat of Russia at the UN will only mean something if the human rights of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea are upheld against the Russian occupiers. It will only mean something if Crimea is liberated from the Russian invaders. Crimea is Ukraine.