This was declared during a press conference in Kyiv by representatives of the Crimean Human Rights Group and the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Human rights activists, together with the prosecutor’s office, collected evidence of such actions and in September submitted a new communication to the International Criminal Court on Russia’s ongoing war crime in the occupied Crimea.
As stated by the communication authors, the Russian Federation has been committing a number of war crimes in the occupied Crimea for six years already. The civil society of Ukraine and the Prosecutor’s Office of the ARC have been systematically documenting such crimes. This time the communication to the ICC contains an evidence of coercing Crimean residents to serve in the armed forces of the occupying power through a wide scale firehosing.
One of the elements of the crime mentioned in this communication is the criminal persecution of Crimeans for evading the service in the RF army. Our organization has documented 135 criminal cases for evading the service in the RF Armed Forces under the RF Criminal Code Article 328 of the Criminal Code “Evasion from service in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation”, with the highest number of judgements in such cases made by “Leninsky District Court of the City of Sevastopol” – 40. We have been also collecting information about those involved in the war crimes. Thus, judge ‘Anatoliy Vasylenko, a Ukrainian national who sided with Russia, issued the highest number of judgements – 16 rulings,” Ms. Olha Skrypnyk, head of the CHRG explained.
The human rights activist added that this has been the second communication to the ICC, when the Crimean Human Rights Group had collected evidence of illegal conscription of Crimeans into the RF army. The first communication was sent to the ICC in 2018. As the CHRG head pointed out, it was important that this had become the result of joint work of human rights activists and the ARC Prosecutor’s Office, since very few countries that had experienced an armed conflict had got experience of cooperation of the civil society and law enforcement agencies in investigating war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Another important component of this crime is the propaganda of the service in the RF army among the occupied Crimea residents, the authors of the communication emphasize.
“In this communication, we have collected the evidence of such systematic propaganda among children. We regard such actions as an element of coercing the children to serve in the armed forces. Because in fact children under 15 still lack a well-developed critical thinking, and the aggressive military propaganda focused on such children is unacceptable. We consider its conducting to be a war crime. These actions are ambitious, and millions of budget funds are spent on them. Not only the Russian military, but also the so-called “ministries” of education, sports and culture of the occupying power in Crimea take part in this activity. Over RUR86mln have been assigned for educating the Crimean children as Russian nationals – patriots of Crimea since 2017 in budgets, with almost 50% of them for 2019’, Ms.Iryna Siedova, the CHRG researcher said.
Mr Bohdan Mel’nykovych, a lawyer and an IHL expert of the Crimean Human Rights Group, added that through this Communication the International Criminal Court had been informed about educational establishments for the children where the elementary military training is delivered, as well as organizations involved into the military propaganda in Crimea.
‘When studying in such establishments (or on special courses in the comprehensive secondary schools) in addition to instructing how to use the arms and training in the military basics, the Russian civil identity, the occupying power favorable view on the history of Russia, its military achievements, is being molded in the children, and a child inclines to see service in the RF Armed Forces as way in life. Such actions of the RF officials and governmental bodes on the temporarily occupied territory of the AR Crimea and Sevastopol City is an element of coercing to serve in the RF Armed Forces that constitutes a war crime as determined by the ICC Rome Statute, Article 8.a)v)’, Mr.Melnykovych said.
In turn, Mr.Ihor Ponochovny, Head of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, said: “Under national law, we classify this crime under Article 438 as a violation of laws and customs of war, namely the violation of Article 51 of the Geneva Convention or the Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons that explicitly forbids the occupying power to call up citizens to join its armed forces or to exert pressure or other propaganda on joining the armed forces, ” Mr.Ponochovny said.
The head of the Prosecutor’s Office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol also said that within the pre-trial investigation framework of the criminal proceedings, about 45 citizens had been interrogated, who had confirmed an illegal conscription to the RF Armed Forces in Crimea or the propaganda of such call-up: ‘The persons present verifying documents as draft notices, relevant court judgements used by the occupying authorities to coerce them to serve, intimidating them with a criminal prosecution if they do not want to serve voluntarily’.
The Crimean Human Rights Group would like to thank the International Renaissance Foundation for its support and the Global Rights Compliance international organization for its expertise assistance in preparing the communication.
The publication has been prepared with the support of the International Renaissance Foundation under the project: Children in Armed Conflict and Russian Militarization Context’. The publication presents the authors’ opinions that do not necessarily reflect the view of the International Renaissance Foundation