8th Anniversary of the occupation of Crimea by Russia

This month, February 2022, marks the 8th anniversary since Russian forces seized government buildings in Crimea and consequently occupied the Crimean peninsula. In the ensuing 8 years, Russian authorities have committed numerous human rights violations against human rights defenders, including journalists, and the broader population on the peninsula. On this 8th anniversary, the undersigned members of the network of Human Rights Houses call on the international community and Ukrainian authorities to address these violations and hold those responsible to account.

In her latest report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights pointed to severe attacks on freedom of expression, assembly, and association by Russian authorities in occupied Crimea as well as on-going persecution of human rights defenders, including journalists, and the political opposition. In particular, the High Commissioner reported the use of Russian anti-extremist laws to target those exercising their freedom of expression. Her report also highlighted efforts by the Russian authorities to prevent the exercising of freedom of assembly through the use of pre-authorisation requirements and the prosecution of participants in peaceful assemblies. In addition, the High Commissioner raised the issue of human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, and political opposition targeted by Russian authorities due to their opposition to the occupation of Crimea.

At present, the Russian authorities exercising effective control over Crimea have waged an on-going campaign against human rights defenders, including journalists since the occupation began. The OHCHR report that human rights defenders operate in a “highly constrained environment running the risk of prosecution and other retaliation from Russian occupation authorities”. Human rights defenders and opposition political figures have been deprived of their liberty, denied access to independent legal support and free and fair trials. These include Emir-Husein Kuku, Server Mustafayev, Nariman Dzhelial, and Vladyslav Yesypenko. Human rights organisations have consistently pointed to evidence of torture and degrading treatments of those in detention.

The UN General Assembly’s latest resolution related to the occupation of Crimea by Russian authorities lays out in stark relief the situation for those living in Crimea. It points to mass forcible transfers to Russian territory, efforts to change the demographic structure in Crimea, the militarization and assimilation of young people in Crimea, destruction of cultural and natural heritage, inadequate detention conditions, use of involuntary placement in psychiatric institutions against political opponents and activists and targeting of Crimea Tatars in searches and raids of private homes. The UN General Assembly specifically pointed to serious violations and abuses against Crimean residents by the Russian authorities including extrajudicial killings, abductions, enforced disappearances, politically motivated prosecutions, discrimination, harassment, intimidation, violence, including sexual violence, arbitrary detentions and arrests, torture and ill-treatment, in particular to extract confessions, and abuse of other fundamental freedoms, including freedoms of expression, religion or belief, and association, and the right to peaceful assembly.

These serious violations and abuses require immediate and on-going attention from the international community. Thus, we call on the international community to:

  • Use all bilateral and multilateral opportunities to demand of the Russian authorities the following immediate steps:
    • Release Nariman Dzhelial, Vladyslav Yesipenko, Server Mustafayev, Emir-Usein Kuku and all other prisoners of the Kremlin held for political reasons in Russia or temporarily occupied by the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.
    • Discontinue the practice of using fabricated charges relating to anti-terrorism and anti-extremism legislation against human rights defenders, lawyers, activists and journalists.
    • Allow access for international monitoring missions to the Crimean Peninsula.
    • End the policy of militarization of education on the territory of Crimea.
  • Support and express public solidarity for human rights defenders, including trial observation in Crimea and Russia
  • Provide financial, diplomatic, and expert support to the Crimea Platform
  • Strengthen existing and/or introduce new sanctions for those responsible for gross human rights abuses.

In addition, we call on the Ukrainian authorities to:

  • Ratify of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
  • Provide protection and social support to persons deprived of their personal liberty as a result of the Russian occupation of Crimea, as well as to members of their families.
  • Introduce mechanisms to integration children and youth from occupied Crimea; including obtaining official personal documents, such as passports, IDs, and birth and death certificates
  • Strengthen existing and/or introduce new sanctions for those responsible for gross human rights abuses.
  • Create conditions to increase the number of students from occupied Crimea in universities in Ukrainian government-controlled territories; including the creation and maintenance of a single information platform (web portal) for enrolment, educational services, available training or courses, etc.

Signed:

  • Human Rights House Yerevan, including
    • PEN International Armenian Centre
    • Pink
    • Real World, Real People
    • Socioscope NGO
    • Women’s Resource Center
  • Human Rights House Azerbaijan, including
    • Election Monitoring & Democracy Studies Center
  • Barys Zvozskau Belarusian Human Rights House
  • Human Rights House Zagreb
  • Human Rights House Tbilisi, including
    • Rights Georgia
    • Georgian Centre for Psychosocial & Medical Rehabilitation of Torture Victims (GCRT)
  • Educational Human Rights House Chernihiv, including
    • NGO Mart
    • Association UMDPL
    • No Borders Project
    • Chernihiv Public Committee of Human Rights Protection
    • ZMINA
  • Human Rights House Crimea, including
    • Almenda Center of Civic Education
    • Crimean Human Rights Group
    • Regional Center for Human Rights
  • Human Rights House Foundation
  • Legal Initiative
  • PEN Belarus
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