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  • Writer's pictureGlobal Human Rights Taskforce

Exposing the Continuing Human Rights Violations in Crimea

By: Globa Human Rights Taskforce President & Special Rapporteur Joseph Bonner

September 12, 2023 Since the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014, the region has witnessed a distressing humanitarian crisis. Human rights violations in Crimea have become rampant, impacting various aspects of the population's daily lives. This article aims to shed light on these violations, exposing the dire situation and calling for international attention and action. 1. Silencing Dissent: The systematic suppression of freedom of expression and assembly in Crimea is a grave human rights violation that has had lasting impacts on the people of the region. The authorities in Crimea have implemented a series of measures aimed at curbing dissent and silencing any form of political opposition. One major aspects of this human rights violation is the crackdown on political opposition. Opposition parties and activists are subjected to intense pressure, intimidation, and persecution. They often face trumped-up charges or are labeled as extremists, ultimately leading to their imprisonment or forced exile. Independent media outlets have also been heavily targeted in Crimea. Strict regulations and censorship have been imposed on the press, effectively limiting their ability to report objectively and critically on the actions of the authorities. This censorship has created an environment of fear and self-censorship, as journalists are constantly under the watchful eye of the authorities. Journalists who dare to question the status quo or report on sensitive issues face harassment, arbitrary arrests, and even imprisonment. Civil society organizations, which play a major role in promoting human rights, have also been subjected to oppressive measures. The authorities utilize restrictive laws and regulations to target these organizations, effectively crippling their ability to operate freely and effectively. Many NGOs have been labeled as "foreign agents" and face undue scrutiny and harassment, hindering their ability to carry out their work in defense of human rights. In addition to cracking down on political opposition, independent media, and civil society organizations, the authorities in Crimea also engage in systematic harassment, arbitrary arrests, and imprisonment of individuals exercising their right to express their opinions freely. Journalists, bloggers, and activists who speak out on sensitive issues or criticize the authorities are routinely targeted and subjected to intimidation tactics. These individuals often find themselves facing baseless charges or being labeled as threats to national security.

By systematically suppressing freedom of expression and assembly, the authorities in Crimea violate not only basic human rights. The restrictions on independent media, and civil society organizations have far-reaching implications for the people of Crimea, ultimately limiting their ability to access information. It is crucial for the international community to condemn these violations and advocate for the rights and freedom of the people of Crimea.

2. Targeting Ethnic and Religious Minorities:

Mosques have been forcibly closed or taken over by Russian authorities, leaving Crimean Tatars with limited options for practicing their religion. Imams have been subjected to intimidation, interrogations, and even arrests on false charges. The targeting of religious institutions and leaders is a clear violation of freedom of religion and indicates a systematic effort to suppress religious diversity in Crimea. This targeting seems to be driven by the desire to impose a dominant religious and cultural identity on the region, undermining the rights and identities of minority groups. In addition to the closure of mosques, the occupying forces have also imposed stringent restrictions on the activities of religious organizations. They require permits for gatherings, impose strict regulations on religious literature, and monitor religious activities closely. These restrictions not only limit the freedom of religious expression but also create an atmosphere of fear and surveillance within Crimea's Muslim community. The impact of these actions has been significant for the Crimean Tatars. Many have been driven to leave Crimea, seeking refuge in other parts of Ukraine or abroad, in order to preserve their religious and cultural identity. Those who remain face constant pressure and discrimination, living under constant surveillance and the threat of further restrictions. The systematic closure of mosques and harassment of imams in Crimea is not only a violation of fundamental human rights but also a threat to religious pluralism and diversity. It is essential for the international community to recognize and condemn these actions, and to support efforts to protect the rights and freedoms of all religious communities in Crimea.mosques have been forcibly closed, preventing the Tatars from practicing their religion freely. Additionally, imams are often subjected to harassment and intimidation by the occupying authorities. They face pressure to follow strict regulations imposed by the occupying forces, limiting their ability to lead their communities and carry out religious activities. This targeting not only suppresses the religious rights of the Crimean Tatars but also undermines their cultural identity and heritage. Moreover, ethnic targeting in Crimea extends beyond the Crimean Tatar population. Ukrainians, who make up a significant portion of the population, have also faced persecution. Discrimination against Ukrainians includes restrictions on their language, education, and cultural practices. This ethnic targeting seeks to marginalize and erase the Ukrainian presence in Crimea.

The imprisonment of 12 Jehovah's Witnesses in Crimea not only represents a distressing human rights violation in itself but also highlights a broader issue of freedom of religion and belief being disregarded. These principles are essential in any democratic society as they protect individuals' rights to practice their religion peacefully, without the fear of persecution or imprisonment. It is important to recognize that freedom of religion and belief should be a universal right, applicable to every individual regardless of their faith or belief system. By imprisoning these Jehovah's Witnesses solely for their religious activity, the authorities in Crimea are not only infringing upon their individual rights but also undermining the principles of tolerance and diversity that are crucial for a harmonious society. A society that values freedom of religion and belief recognizes that diversity in religious practices and beliefs adds richness to the fabric of the community. It fosters an environment where individuals are free to express their spiritual beliefs and engage in religious activities without facing unjust consequences. By targeting and imprisoning individuals for their religious activities, authorities create an atmosphere of fear and intolerance, which is detrimental to social cohesion. In order to combat such violations, it is crucial for international human rights organizations, governments, and individuals to take a stand against these actions. Human rights organizations should use their influence and platforms to raise awareness about these violations and put pressure on the authorities to release those imprisoned for their religious beliefs. Governments should strongly condemn these actions and use diplomatic channels to advocate for the release of the Jehovah's Witnesses. Furthermore, members of the LGBTQ+ community also experience increasing discrimination, harassment, and violence based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

3. Violation of Freedom of Movement and Citizenship: As a result of Crimea's annexation by Russia in 2014, residents in the region have encountered numerous obstacles in accessing education, healthcare, and employment opportunities outside the region. One of the major challenges faced by the residents is the requirement to adopt Russian citizenship. This effectively strips them of their Ukrainian identity and leaves them vulnerable to discrimination and prejudice. By being forced to adopt Russian citizenship, residents are compelled to abandon their Ukrainian nationality and the cultural and historical ties associated with it. This not only erodes their sense of identity but also exposes them to potential discrimination based on their new Russian nationality. They may encounter difficulties in finding employment or accessing various services due to their Ukrainian heritage being viewed unfavorably. Furthermore, the restrictions imposed on the freedom of movement create a sense of isolation for the residents of Crimea. The annexation has resulted in severed important social, familial, and economic connections between Crimea and mainland Ukraine. Families and friends who were separated by the annexation struggle to maintain their relationships due to limited opportunities for travel and communication. The isolation caused by restricted movement also has significant economic implications. Many residents used to rely on job opportunities and economic connections in mainland Ukraine. However, these connections have been disrupted, leading to limited employment prospects and diminished economic opportunities. The lack of access to educational and professional opportunities outside the region further exacerbates this issue, limiting the growth and development of the individuals and the region as a whole. Moreover, the obstacles faced by residents of Crimea extend to accessing healthcare services. With the annexation, residents have faced challenges in receiving quality healthcare due to limited resources and infrastructure. The healthcare system in Crimea has become more dependent on Russia, creating hurdles for individuals seeking medical treatment outside the region or for medical professionals who wish to gain experience and education in a broader setting.

4. Erosion of Judiciary and Rule of Law: The legal system in Crimea has seen a significant decline in independence and impartiality since the annexation. Russian laws have been forcefully imposed, disregarding Ukraine's legal framework and principles. This has led to serious human rights abuses, including arbitrary detention, torture, and enforced disappearances. The lack of accountability for these crimes only perpetuates a culture of impunity.

List of Internatioanl Human Rights Laws Ukraine is accused of Violating:

Ukraine is a signatory to several international human rights treaties and is therefore obligated to uphold and respect the provisions of these instruments. Here are some key international human rights laws and articles that Ukraine has been accused of violating: 1. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR): - Article 3: Right to life, liberty, and security of person - Article 5: Prohibition of torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment - Article 9: Prohibition of arbitrary arrest, detention, or exile - Article 10: Right to a fair trial 2. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR): - Article 7: Prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment - Article 9: Right to liberty and security of person - Article 14: Right to a fair trial - Article 19: Right to freedom of expression - Article 21: Right to peaceful assembly 3. European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR): - Article 2: Right to life - Article 3: Prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment - Article 5: Right to liberty and security of person - Article 6: Right to a fair trial - Article 10: Right to freedom of expression - Article 11: Right to freedom of assembly and association 4. Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT): - Article 1: Definition of torture and prohibition of torture - Article 4: Obligation to investigate and prosecute acts of torture - Article 12: Right to prompt and impartial examination of complaints 5. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW): - Article 2: Obligation to eliminate discrimination against women - Article 3: Equal rights and responsibilities between men and women - Article 7: Elimination of discrimination in political and public life - Article 16: Equality in marriage and family matters

Legal Recommendations

In order to combat the ongoing human rights violations in Crimea, it is essential to launch a comprehensive legal appeal rooted in international human rights law and frameworks. This appeal should aim to hold the responsible parties accountable for their actions and seek justice for the affected individuals.

One of the fundamental legal principles that can be invoked in this appeal is the principle of human rights. The legal appeal should address the numerous human rights violations that have occurred in Crimea since its annexation. These violations range from restrictions on freedom of speech, expression, and assembly to arbitrary detentions, disappearances, and torture. By documenting and presenting evidence of these violations, the appeal can provide a compelling case for the need for intervention and redress.

The appeal must also incorporate the principles enshrined in international human rights treaties and instruments, such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. These treaties provide a comprehensive framework for the protection and promotion of human rights and can be instrumental in highlighting the violations in Crimea.

Furthermore, the appeal should emphasize the importance of a gender-inclusive approach to human rights in Crimea. Women and other marginalized groups have been disproportionately impacted by the annexation and subsequent violations. Their voices and experiences must be prioritized, and their specific needs must be addressed in any efforts to restore human rights in the region.

Another crucial aspect of the legal appeal should be the involvement of regional and international human rights mechanisms. Bodies such as the United Nations Human Rights Council, the European Court of Human Rights, and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe have the capacity to investigate the situation in Crimea and hold the responsible parties accountable. The legal appeal should call for their active involvement and support in addressing the ongoing violations.

Overall, a comprehensive human rights legal appeal is necessary to address the grave violations occurring in Crimea. By recognizing and prioritizing the voices and needs of those affected, advocating for justice and accountability, and engaging regional and international human rights mechanisms, we can work towards the restoration of human rights and autonomy in Crimea, ultimately bringing relief and justice to its residents.


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