The „people‟s militia‟ of Crimea, or as it is often referred to „the Crimean self-defense‟, is one of the main systemic violations of human rights in Crimea. By the end of 2014 the attempts to legitimize this paramilitary formation can be clearly seen.
It should be reminded that the so-called „Crimean self-defense‟ has emerged as an illegal armed group on February 20, 2014 and has been extensively involved in the storming of the Ukrainian military units, the squad of assemblies in support of the „Maidan‟ and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the capture of administrative buildings. The „self-defense‟ includes former personnel of the special force „Bercut‟ of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine, the representatives of sports clubs and associations, as well as criminal organizations, including Russian citizens and local residents. In March there were numerous contacts of the „Crimean self-defense‟ with the Russian servicemen in joint actions.
There is evidence of the involvement of representatives of the „Crimean self-defense‟ in the most serious violations of human rights, namely, the abduction and murder of Reshat Ametov (the body was found on March 15); the abduction and torture of more than 20 Ukrainian activists (among them Andrey Schekun, Anatoliy Kovalskiy and others).
After March 18, the „Crimean self-defense‟ was not disbanded, vice versa – the process of its establishment as a force structure to support the Crimean government (especially of S.Aksenov) and suppress any attempts to oppose the new government commenced.
The first attempt of the Crimean authorities aimed to legitimize the „Crimean self-defense‟ was taken on June 11 – the Crimean authorities adopted a Law On the People‟s Militia – the people‟s guard of the Republic of Crimea. This Law has put the „Crimean self-defense‟ under the control of the Head of Crimea S. Aksenov and of the Council of Ministers of Crimea, and assigned to the paramilitary formation the status of people‟s guards.
The „people‟s militia – people‟s guard‟ was directly established by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea. The chief of staff was appointed by the Head of the Republic of Crimea. Despite the attempts of the Crimean authorities to call it a voluntary community group, the provisions of the law envisaged that this structure is subject to the leadership of Crimea and, in fact, becomes a part of the security unit.
The Law stipulates the establishment of the „Crimean Republican Headquarters of the People‟s Militia – People‟s Guard of the Republic of Crimea‟ by the Council of Ministers. The headquarters was assigned a form of a state public institution and the status of a legal entity in order to receive budget financing.
However, such a direct dependence of the people‟s militia, which in accordance with the same Law was supposed to be a voluntary community groups, on the Crimean authorities (S.Aksenov and the Council of Ministers) was contrary to the laws of the Russian Federation. Thus, the management of the people‟s militia by the Council of Ministers was contrary to the Federal Law of May 19, 1995 #82-FZ On Public Associations and the Federal Law of April 2, 2014 #44-FZ On the participation of citizens in the protection of public order. For this reason, on November 26, the Crimean authorities amended the Law On People‟s Militia – People‟s Guard of the Republic of Crimea, according to which the management of the militia shall no longer be carried out by the Council of Ministers, but the commanders elected by members of people‟s guards. However, these commanders shall be agreed with the Council of Ministers of Crimea and the territorial bodies of the federal executive authority of internal affairs. The structure of the people‟s militia shall be determined not by the Council of Ministers, but the statute of the people‟s militia. However, in practice, the „Crimean self-defense‟, in the form of the „people‟s militia‟, continues to be subordinate to Aksenov. Members of the people‟s militia, in personal communication, are constantly stating that they fulfill the orders of the Head of Crimea.
These changes have assigned to a formally people‟s militia the status of the public association, however, the information department of the people‟s militia declared that they retain the status of a public institution. The retaining of status of the state public institution by the „Crimean Republican Headquarters of the People‟s Militia of the People‟s Guard of the Republic of Crimea‟ was confirmed by the Resolution of the Head of Administration of Simferopol G.S. Bakharev of December 15, 2014. According to the Resolution, the state public institution the „Crimean Republican Headquarters of the People‟s Militia of the People‟s Guard of the Republic of Crimea‟ represented by Turchanenko S.A. shall be involved in the organization of the pedestrian zone in Simferopol.
The danger associated with the „Crimean self-defense‟ is not only in the fact that it is constantly involved in the military actions (including, causing the unavoidable in such situations violations of human rights), but also in the fact that the Crimean authorities have created all conditions for this: impunity, encouraging of their activity, creation of a positive image, their funding (both formal and shadow).
In the media, as well as in the complaints and reports of the residents of Crimea, the „Crimean self-defense‟, and later the „people‟s militia‟ is always referred to as participants of abductions and harassment of the Crimean Tatars and the pro-Ukrainian activists; obstruction of journalistic activities and harassment of individual journalists; obstruction of peaceful assembly; attacks on churches of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Kiev Patriarchate, searches of mosques, madrassas, homes of leaders of Crimean Tatars; capture of the privately and collectively owned commercial buildings.
Despite the numerous reports of crimes committed by the „Crimean self-defense‟, its members have not been brought to justice. In addition, the Crimean authorities made an attempt to grant amnesty to members of the „Crimean self-defense‟.
Thus, on October 2, in the State Duma of the Russian Federation a draft law #613379-6 On Amendments to the Federal Constitutional Law of March 21, 2014 #6-FKZ On admission into the Russian Federation of the Republic of Crimea and formation of a new subject of the Russian Federation – the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol (on the regulations governing public authorities of the Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol) was registered, which was submitted on the initiative of S. Aksenov. The draft law envisages that the actions of members of people‟s militia, people‟s guard and other persons, that have been agreed with the leadership of Crimea, which caused harm or damage, undertaken for the purpose of protecting the public order and the interests of the Republic of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol during the period from February 27, 2014 until 1 January 2015, except for the actions undertaken by the said persons with the purpose of enrichment and based on other mercenary motives, shall be considered the actions committed in a state of emergency. Thus, an intention to exempt the members of the „Crimean self-defense‟ from criminal liability for crimes that not only have been already committed, but even for those that can be committed by January 1, 2015 was demonstrated. This draft law has not been adopted by the State Duma of the Russian Federation; however, it demonstrates the broad support of unlawful actions of the „Crimean self-defense‟ by the Crimean authorities.
The approval of the actions of the „Crimean self-defense‟, which became the public institution the „Crimean Republican Headquarters of the People‟s Militia – People‟s Guard of the Republic of Crimea‟ was also confirmed by the regular acknowledgements to the „fighters‟ of this institution granted by the Head of Crimea S. Aksenov.
Thus, on October 3, Aksenov announced acknowledgements “for the faithful performance of duty on the protection of the public order and ensuring public security in the territory of the Republic of Crimea” to 27 „fighters‟ of the people‟s militia; on October 8, the same acknowledgements were declared to 37 „fighters‟ – members of people‟s militia. Among them there is Vladislav Maguylo, who calls himself the chief of staff of the „people‟s militia‟ on educational work.
On October 1, the certificates of appreciation of the Council of Ministers of Crimea were given to Khokhlov V.V., the commander of the 9th company of the „Crimean Republican Headquarters of the People‟s Militia – People‟s Guard of the Republic of Crimea‟, Shigalev N.V., the commander of the 12th company, Tsymbal I.V., the soldier of the people‟s militia.
The impunity of the „people‟s militia‟ is also amplified by the general militarization of the Crimean society.
Thus, within a month in Crimea at least three documents were adopted aimed at the organization of life of the Crimean society in war.
In particular, on November 17, a Decree of S. Aksenov On the establishment of the evacuation commission of the Republic of Crimea was adopted for planning the activities in preparation for the evacuation of the population, material and cultural assets to the safe areas, their placement, the deployment of medical and other institutions needed to ensure the priority support of the affected population in the course of danger arising from the military action or as a result of such action, as well as in emergency situations.
On November 21, a Decree12 of S. Aksenov On the organization of training of the citizens of the Republic of Crimea in the field of defense and in the basics of military service in 2015 was adopted.
On December 2, a Decree13 of S. Aksenov On maintaining the sustainable functioning of organizations of the Republic of Crimea in wartime and in case of emergencies was adopted.
In addition, on December 19, an updated version14 of the Military Doctrine of the Russian Federation was adopted.
In the context of militarization of the public conscience, the credibility and impunity of the „Crimean self- defense‟ is increasing, and the level of critical attitude towards it from the local population declines.
The formal, financial, informational, material and technical support by the Crimean authorities of the paramilitary forces „people‟s militia – people‟s guard‟ (the so-called „Crimean self-defense‟) and the actual amnesty of its members for crimes, led to the systemic violations of human rights in Crimea, in respect of which there is a lack of effective remedies.
Olga Skrypnyk, Head of the Crimean Human Rights Group