Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 18.09.2018
Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine. When Russia invaded and occupied Crimea in 2014, it not only stole the territory of Ukraine. Russia stole the human rights of Ukrainian citizens.
On September 17, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) issued a report on the situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine. The report was made by the UNHCR under the authority of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 72/190, and it covers the period 13 September 2017 to 30 June 2018. It was the second report made by the UNHCHR. The UN agency found that the human rights situation in Crimea is as bad as it was the first time they looked.
“OHCHR findings confirm the continuing failure of the Russian Federation authorities, as the occupying power, to adequately guarantee and protect a wide range of human rights in Crimea,” is what the executive summary said.
Russia applies its laws in Ukraine, which is contrary to the international humanitarian law obligation to respect the laws of the occupied territory. Russia conducted an illegal election for Russian Federation president on the territory of Ukraine on 18 March 2018. Russia persecutes the Crimean Tatars particularly. Russia has illegally conscripted into the Russian Federation army 12,000 Ukrainian citizens who are residents of Crimea – a violation of international humanitarian law.
Due process and fair trial rights of were violated by state agents of the Russian Federation in Crimea. “Several convictions sanctioned political dissent and appeared to be designed to serve as warnings to others,” read the report.
The UNHCHR heard witness testimony about prohibited practices by Putin’s agents, notably torture by electrocution and sexual violence. The UNHCHR heard that “victims were ill-treated and sometimes tortured as punishment or to extort ‘confessions’.”
Fundamental freedoms are violently suppressed in Russian-invaded and occupied Ukrainian Crimea. The lack of freedoms of peaceful assembly, expression, association, religion and movement make the quality of life for captive Ukrainians in Crimea degrading and inhumane.
The foreign invaders from Muscovy have crushed education in the Ukrainian language in Crimea. Illegitimate imposition of Russian laws and the requirement of ‘registration’ of all organizations under them has been a cover for more violations by the occupation regime of international human rights law. In violation of a ruling of the International Court of Justice, the Russians have not reinstated the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People – instead, they still have it banned.
“The right to property continued to be violated through arbitrary court-ordered confiscations,” was another of the litany of abuses catalogued by the UNHCHR.
Out of anti-Ukrainian hatred and hysteria, the Muscovite invader-occupiers persecute Ukrainian citizens for what they did before Putin’s army came to Crimea. Several Crimean Tatars have been charged with ‘participating in a mass disturbance’ on 26 February 2014 – well before the 18 March 2014 date which marks the de facto (and illegal) imposition of Russian Federation laws on Crimea, Ukraine.
Although the UN agency did not mention him by name, the UNHCHR talked about the case of Volodymyr Balukh. Here’s how the UHHCHR assessed Russia’s abuses in the administration of justice and fair trial rights in Balukh’s case: “Arrests and convictions sometimes appeared to pursue the objectives of penalizing political dissent and seemed designed to serve as warnings to others. On 14 March 2018, a Crimean farmer with pro-Ukrainian views was fined and sentenced to three years and five months in prison for unlawful possession of firearms and explosives. They were reportedly found in his home as it was searched shortly after the accused displayed a Ukrainian flag and a sign in his yard paying tribute to victims of the 2014 Maidan protests in Kyiv.”
Russia under Putin is a state sponsor of terrorism. It will ignore the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights’s report on the situation of human rights in temporarily occupied Crimea. In its conclusion, the UNHCHR report calls on the international community to “urge the Russian Federation to comply with its obligations as an occupying power under international human rights and humanitarian law.” But that’s not good enough. The international community must help Ukraine defeat the invasion of its territory by the Russian Federation, win the war that Putin started, and liberate Crimea and Donbas. The only way that international human rights law can be restored is if Russia gets out of Ukraine.