A year ago today, on the 75th anniversary of the Soviet invasion of Poland during World War II, I shared reflections on the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Those interested in the human rights impact of the occupation and annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in early 2014 will welcome a report that was released today by OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities (HCNM). The report demonstrates that, following the Russian annexation, the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms has deteriorated radically for a large number of residents and displaced persons in Crimea – particularly for pro-Ukrainian activists, journalists and the Crimean Tatar community.
The 100-page Report of the Human Rights Assessment Mission on Crimea lists examples of discrimination and legal irregularities, and provides a comprehensive examination of the current human rights situation in Crimea, in light of developments since the release of a previous joint report by ODIHR and the HCNM, issued in May 2014.
“Fundamental freedoms of assembly, association, expression and movement have all been restricted by the de facto authorities in Crimea,” said Michael Georg Link, Director of ODIHR. “This has occurred through the application of restrictive Russian Federation laws and through the sporadic targeting of individuals, media or communities seeking to peacefully present opposing views.”
Based on interviews with more than 100 civil society actors, representatives of the Ukrainian authorities, Crimean residents and displaced persons, and people travelling between Crimea and mainland Ukraine, the ODIHR/HCNM report presents numerous credible, consistent and compelling accounts of serious human rights violations and legal irregularities in Crimea.
“We found in Crimea that those Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars who openly supported the territorial integrity of Ukraine, refused Russian citizenship or did not support the de facto authorities were in a particularly vulnerable position,” said Astrid Thors, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities. “Since the annexation of Crimea, the Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities have been subjected to increasing pressure on and control of the peaceful expression of both their culture and their political views.”
The allegations documented and trends established by the report demand urgently to be addressed by de facto authorities in Crimea, and underscore the need for systematic independent monitoring of the human rights situation in Crimea and access to the peninsula by impartial international bodies, ODIHR and HCNM say in the report.
In the meanwhile, 56-year-old Rafis Kashapov, the Head of the Tatar Public Center, was reportedly sentenced this week by a Russian court to three years imprisonment over social network posts criticizing Russia’s annexation of Crimea and aggression in eastern Ukraine.