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Human Rights Violations in Crimea and Universal Monitoring Mechanisms

Crimia monument

Attempted annexation of the Crimea by Russian Federation since 2014 has been condemned in a series of international acts, including UN GA resolutions 68/262, 75/192, 75/29 and others, resolutions of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. Human rights violations in the Crimea, relevant racial and other discrimination now are the subject to consideration in international courts, including the International Court of Justice (case 166) and the European Court of Human Rights (case 20958/14 and others).

Those acts paid special attention to the brutal violation by Russia of the fundamental civil, political, economic, social cultural, ecologic human rights, also as the collective rights of indigenous peoples and other ethnic, linguistic and religious groups in Crimea. Those issues are the permanent subject of consideration by the UN Monitoring Mission and OSCE Monitoring Mission in Ukraine. But now a lot of specialised UN agencies and structures function in the human rights area, whose specialised interests interfere with the situation in Crimea. It is worth mentioning the role of the UN special rapporteurs that act under aegis of the UN Human Rights Council and provide annual and specialised reports and research to this council and the UN General Assembly.

The Association of Reintegration of Crimea, as a registered international non-governmental organisation with offices in Paris and Kyiv, pays a great deal of attention to the issue of cooperation with such rapporteurs. In 2021, our Association communicated with such rapporteurs and provided them specialised analytic related to different human rights issues, connected with Crimea, with relevant feedback.

In our communication to the UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, Dr. Tomoya Obokata [1], Association described the nexus between forced displacement and contemporary forms of slavery, for the Rapporteur’s forthcoming report to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council.

We pointed out that the policy of Russian de-facto authorities in Crimea includes the discrimination of citizens of Ukraine in the Crimea who refused or could not get the so- called “Russian citizenship” after 2014, when RF declared the Crimean peninsula as allegedly its “own territory.” Such Ukrainian citizens resided in the Crimea before the attempted annexation or resettled to the peninsula later due to Russian aggression in the East of Ukraine and ongoing armed conflict there. Such Ukrainian citizens in the Crimea are determined by the Russian de-facto authorities as “foreigners,” who have to get “residence permits” and “special allowance” to work. But, in reality, thousands of such persons cannot have “residence” and “special allowance” in the Crimea, due to the system of total corruption, bureaucracy and political position of the Russian de-facto authorities in this region.

As Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) pointed out in its 31st report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, based on the work of the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (p. 104), in 2020, “courts” in Crimea issued deportation and forcible transfer orders against at least 178 individuals considered “foreigners” under RF immigration law, including 105 Ukrainian citizens (93 men and 12 women). Those Ukrainian citizens who were ordered to leave Crimea either did not possess RF passports, had registration or “propyska” in mainland Ukraine, or failed to apply for or to obtain Russian “residence permits.” and were thus considered as “not having residency rights in Crimea” [2].

During 2019, more that 360 person were deported from Crimea, first of all from the Simferopol, Sevastopol and Southern Coast of Crimea as the part of the purposeful policy of the RF de-facto authorities to “squeeze out” the population, undesirable for them. For those purposes, so-called “courts” in the Crimea used usually article 18.8 of the Administrative Offences Code of RF (“Violation by the foreigner the regime of residing in RF”). But sometimes the so=called “courts” used article 18.10 of this Code (“Illegal labour activities of the foreigner in RF”) for such deportation.

Some such cases were used by Russian state propaganda, for its hate speech activities against Ukraine, Ukrainians and citizens of Ukraine. For example, in February 2018, Russia’s official edition “Rossiyskaya Gazeta,” published by the Government of Russia, published the article “23 Ukrainian Gastarbeiters Were Deported from Crimea” devoted to the punishment by the above-mentioned articles 18.8 and 18.10, the group of workers, used in the kindergarten’s reconstruction in the Novoozernoye settlement (Western Crimea) [3]. Even the term “gastarbeiters,” used before exclusively by the Nazi regime in Germany, shows by itself the real relation of Russian de-facto authorities to the Ukrainian citizens’ labour rights. So, all such Ukrainian citizens in the Crimea are vulnerable for possible deportation and their work is used as “illegal” without any guarantees and with minimal possible payments. So, such work of Ukrainians in own State’s territory, illegally occupied by Russia, is de-facto a specific contemporary form of slavery.

The deportation of residents of Ukraine from the occupied territory of Ukraine is a violation of the norms of international humanitarian law; this is another war crime of the RF de-facto authorities, committed in the Crimea. Separation of Ukrainian citizens from their families in the Crimea violates the right to respect for private and family life. The persecution of Crimean residents in the occupied territory for the absence of Russian “documents” violates a number of the international norms. The absence of such documents, in fact, has become a sign, by which Ukrainian citizens are regularly discriminated in the Crimea, including their labour rights and freedom of movement.

And in our communication with the UN Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights Dr. Marcos A. Orellana [4], we touched on the issue of the human right to science in the context of examining the dynamics of the interface between scientific progress, availability of scientific information, science-policy interface in regards to the risks associated with the life cycle of hazardous substances and wastes, including the risks to the right to enjoy the benefits of progress. Our relevant submission was devoted to the situation with toxic pollution in the Northern Crimea exactly by the chemistry plant “Crimean TITAN” (“TITAN”) that is the largest manufacturer of titanium dioxide pigment in Eastern Europe, located in Armyansk, Crimea.

We pointed to the Rapporteur that after the attempted annexation of the Crimea by Russia in 2014, private limited company “Titanium Investments” was registered in Moscow  whilst the name of the plant itself was changed to “Ukrainian Chemical Products,” with the location of the registration of the company changed from Armyansk to Kyiv; and with the Moscow-based company leasing the “Ukrainian Chemical Products” plant, as well as supplying and exporting products. The pollution of the soil, atmosphere, underground waters and waters of Sivash Bay and Black Sea’s Karkinit Bay has increased since 2014.

Places close to the plant “TITAN,” namely the Kalanchak and Chaplynka districts of Kherson Region, Ukraine, also as Armyansk and Krasnoperekopsk towns in Northern Crimea, were (first reportedly) on 23 August 2018 hit by a noxious sulphur dioxide gas allegedly coming from the water reservoir of the plant. More than 4,000 children were evacuated by Russian de-facto authorities from Armyansk, and Ukrainian authorities claimed that by September 2018 dozens of people had sought medical assistance in mainland Ukraine [5]. But the plant was not stopped, and it pollutes the environment without reaction from the Russian de-facto authorities in the Crimea.

hIn our report to the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression Ms. Irene Khan [6] Association concentrated ion issues of the disinformation. We pointed out that hate speech against Ukraine, Ukrainians, and the indigenous Crimean Tatar people, just as against representatives of all other ethnic groups except Russians, became a usual feature of the Crimean informational landscape. The disinformation is spread on historical events, and current political, social, economic and environmental questions. At that, no alternative opinions are tolerated, and those who express them are subjected to harassment and persecution. An alarming trend in 2020-2021 is intentional distribution of fake information about the epidemic situation in the light of the COVID-19 emergency.

Apart from control of the media, the Russian de-facto authorities of Crimea use the services of the so-called “independent bloggers” and influencers in social networks and messengers (like Telegram) to promote disinformation messages generated by the special services of the Russian Federation. At that, bloggers who express alternative opinions are silenced by all means, including by deportation from Crimea, as evidenced by example of Mr. Evgen Gayvoronsky [7], who has been forced to leave the peninsula.

Association also communicated with UN Independent Expert on protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity Victor Madrigal-Borloz [8]. We informed the Expert that, in 2013, Russia adopted Federal Law 135-ФЗ that amended the Code on Administrative Offences by article 6.21 “Propaganda the Non-Traditional Sexual Relations for Underage” with imposing fines for such “offence” to 100,000 rubles for physic persons and to 1 million rubles for legal persons, with possible “administrative expulsion from the RF” for the foreigners who committed such an offence [9].

These norms are executed by RF in Crimea with a direct violation of demands of the IV Geneva Convention that bans to the occupiers’ State to execute its own punitive legislation for the residents of the occupied territory. As Ukraine does not have any relevant norm in its own legislation and does not provide the oppression on the freedom of sexual orientation and gender identity on its own controlled territory. We pointed out to the Expert that Russian de-facto authorities did not adopt any policies, programs and/or practices in the Crimea to diverse sexual orientations and gender identities and/or aiming to address violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Those problems are banned for public discussion in the Crimea.

Association also submitted the responses to the questionnaire of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Mr. Francisco Cali Tzay [10], for his forthcoming report to the Situation of Indigenous Peoples living in Urban Areas, to be presented at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Our submission was devoted to the situation of indigenous peoples, including Crimean Tatars, Crimean Karaites and Krymchaks in the Crimea. We informed the Rapporteur that after returning in 1990s, the majority of the Crimean Tatar land lots were concentrated in the rural areas of Central Crimea, resulting in establishment of satellite Crimean Tatar settlements near Simferopol and other cities. However, now the economic crisis in the seized Crimea forces Crimean Tatars to resettle to Simferopol. Importantly, it is exactly Simferopol, which became a destination for most Russian citizens illegally resettled by the de facto Russian authorities to Crimea, including military officers, officials, servicemen, and their families. The quantity of the city’s population increased from 300,000 in 2014 to 500,000 in 2020 and it continues to grow.

Yet, the infrastructure of Simferopol, including its water and sanitation systems, road network, schools, kindergartens, hospitals etc. does not satisfy the needs of its half-million residents. In 2020-2021, the deficiencies in the city and regional management of the Russian de facto authorities caused the systematic water crisis in Simferopol and other localities of Crimean Tatars’ urbanised settlements. Furthermore, chaotic construction of residential and non-residential buildings by the Russian commercial structures associated with the de facto authorities, accompanied by failure to comply with any imaginable architectural and safety standards, ruins the unique landscapes and creates risks for the residents of Crimean cities.

So, we believe that ongoing activities of the UN special rapporteurs, such as their visit to Ukraine, including Crimea, would contribute to collection of information, and would enable the UN bodies to make a first-hand impression of the situation with human rights in the region.

At the same time, we understand that Russia holds ongoing activities in UN structures for providing its own “Crimean agenda,” which is directly against the international law’s demands so against the real facts connected with human rights’ violations in the Crimea. Special rapporteurs’ institutions also may be used by Russia for broadcasting the disinformation on the events in the Crimea. We may give the example of the preparation of the report “Too Dirty, Too Little, Too Much: The Global Water Crisis and Human Rights” by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment Mr. David R. Boyd, where Russia submitted the absurdum and fake communication [11] but the submission of our Association was not reflected by the Rapporteur among other published NGO reports [12].

Also, there is a risk that the activities of the UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights, which prepares now a report on the unilateral sanction policy [13], may be used by Russia for own fake narrative dissemination and attempts to weaken the civilised nations’ sanction policy related with issue of the Crimea.

  1. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Slavery/SRSlavery/Pages/OverviewMandate.aspx
  2. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/UA/31stReportUkraine-en.pdf
  3. https://rg.ru/2018/02/13/reg-ufo/iz-kryma-deportirovali-23-ukrainskih-gastarbajtera.html
  4. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SRToxicsandhumanrights/Pages/Index.aspx
  5. https://www.stopfake.org/en/accident-at-the-crimean-titan-chemical-plant-fifty-shades-of-official-russian-lies/
  6. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
  7. https://telekritika.ua/bloger-evgenij-gajvoronskij-obzhaloval-reshenie-rossijskogo-suda-o-ego-deportaczii/
  8. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SexualOrientationGender/Pages/GenderTheory.aspx
  9. https://rg.ru/2013/06/30/deti-site-dok.html
  10. https://www.ohchr.org/en/issues/ipeoples/srindigenouspeoples/pages/sripeoplesindex.aspx
  11. https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Environment/EnvironmentWater/States/Russia.pdf
  12. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Environment/SREnvironment/Pages/EnvironmentWater.aspx
  13. https://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/UCM/Pages/Call-for-submissions-UCM-Study.aspx

Dr. Borys Babin, expert of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea

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