Estonian Minister of Foreign Affairs Eva-Maria Liimets during the Arria-formula meeting "Crimea: 7 years of violations of Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity, held on 12 March 2021. Photo: screengrab from the video broadcast of the meeting
A United Nations Security Council high-level Arria-formula virtual meeting on Crimea: 7 years of violations of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity was held on 12 March 2021. It was organized by UN Security Council members Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the USA, together with additional co-sponsors Australia, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Honduras, Lithuania, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Turkey, and Ukraine.
One of the invited speakers was Maria Tomak, Coordinator of the Ukrainian NGO Media Initiative for Human Rights. Ms. Tomak gave a comprehensive overview of the dismal human rights situation in temporarily occupied Crimea. We publish it below.
Dear Ladies and Gentleman,
First of all, allow me to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Estonia for initiating this event, as well as other UN Member States for co-sponsoring it.
Seven years ago, on these days, when the Russian Federation invaded Crimea, I went to the peninsula jointly with my fellow activists to eyewitness what was going on there and to document human rights violations.
Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine has never faced massive abductions and torturing, massive disappearances of people. But since 2014 we do, it started in Crimea and continued in Donbas.
I would like to stress this date – 27 February 2014. That is the moment when Russia started to exercise its effective control over Crimea, not after the so-called referendum on March 16. And this was recently recognized also as a legal fact – by the European Court of Human Rights.
Since 2014, the human rights situation in Crimea has been deteriorating. It is reflected in the data provided by the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, as well as in the UNGA resolutions adopted annually since 2016.
Unfortunately, none of the recommendations and demands listed in those five resolutions has been followed by the Russian Federation.
Today in my statement I would like to highlight emblematic stories that reflect human rights trends in occupied Crimea.
Reshat Ametov, a Crimean Tatar activist who was explicitly protesting against the occupation on March 3rd, 2014, was kidnapped and killed. Awful traces of tortures have been found on his body. Non-investigation of his murder by the occupying authorities is absolutely deliberate, as they are the ones responsible for this crime.
Human rights activists, prisoners of conscience Emir-Usein Kuku and Server Mustafayev whose names were pointed out by the UNGA remain imprisoned.
Currently, at least 108 Ukrainian citizens are held in Crimea and in Russia behind the bars within the politically motivated cases. Most of them are Crimean Tatars. 50 of them are activists of the Crimean Solidarity, the group of courageous people that document human rights violations in Crimea and provide humanitarian assistance to the families of political prisoners.
Any attempts of those subjected to tortures within these 7 years to complain about it, did not result in justice.
In the meantime, the COVID-19 pandemic was used to cut off the access to the courtroom for the public and to prevent political prisoners from seeing their families.
The representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, Medzhlis, is banned and criminalized in spite of the International Court of Justice order. Antiextremism and antiterrorism legislation of the occupying state is misused and directed first of all against the indigenous population of Crimea – Crimean Tatars.
The Orthodox Church of Ukraine has been targeted since the beginning of the occupation. As a result of various means of pressure, including physical violence as well as instrumentalization of the occupying courts, out of 49 religious communities of the Orthodox church of Ukraine operating in Crimea as of 2014, only 7 remained as of 2020. Out of 23 priests, only four keep on serving in the peninsula.
Jehovah’s Witnesses became a target in recent years as well, at least 6 of them are currently kept behind the bars.
Civilians are forced to leave Crimea for mainland Ukraine to protect themselves and their families from large-scale and systematic human rights abuse. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of people are arriving in Crimea from the Russian Federation within the policy of direct and indirect relocation.
While the world tries to get rid of the consequences of the colonization practices of previous centuries, Russia does just the opposite – colonizes parts of Ukrainian territory by changing the demographic composition of Crimea.
Victims of the attempted annexation of Crimea are mostly men. However, women and children are heavily affected either. As of now, 191 children have been left without their fathers as a result of politically motivated persecutions.
Nevertheless, I would like to specifically emphasize the role of brave women, human rights activists Mumine Saliyeva, Lutfie Zudiyeva, Lilia Hemedzhy. They continue to act despite the fact they themselves being persecuted.
That is why the Crimean Platform, an international initiative proposed by Ukraine, is of huge importance. We believe it will create preconditions for the de-occupation of Crimea, which will happen sooner or later.
We appreciate the support provided by the UN Member States to the territorial integrity of Ukraine as well as to human rights in the temporarily occupied territories – both Crimea and Donbas. We appreciate it even more given the great human rights challenges that the world is facing currently with events taking place in Myanmar, Ethiopia, Hong Kong, Belarus.
22 states co-sponsored this event, and that indeed shows the global dimension of the problem of occupied Crimea and Russian aggression.
The attempted annexation of Crimea is an emblematic case, in which the resilience of the international community and its commitment to the UN principles and values are being tested. And we have no choice other than to pass this test.
Therefore, we encourage all of the UN Members States to join the Crimean Platform and to support its operation at all levels.
We also call on the international community to impose personal sanctions against those involved in grave human rights violations in Crimea. In particular, against those persecuting prisoners of conscience Emir-Usein Kuku and Server Mustafayev.
I thank you.
Watch the entire meeting here
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- We must protect Crimea’s human rights defenders
- New UNGA resolution: Crimea temporarily occupied by Russia, Russia must release political prisoners & stop repressions(2018)
- Why Ukraine’s new UN General Assembly resolution is important for returning Crimea and political prisoners (2018)
- “They can destroy buildings, but not the spirit,” – Crimean Archbishop on Russia’s religious persecution
- Russian authorities stage largest ever one-day raid against Jehovah’s witnesses
- Russia’s replacement of population in occupied Crimea violates Geneva Convention – UN report (2019)
- Due to political repression, nearly hundred Crimean kids grow up without fathers (2017)