: :inin Kyiv (EET)

Chronicles of occupation: New round of repression in Crimea

On the eve of the tragic date – the anniversary of the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people – the occupation authorities in Crimea have been tightening the screws ever more thoroughly.
After the so-called ban was imposed against the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people by the ”supreme court” of Crimea, which is in fact the Kremlin`s puppet, the flywheel of repression against pro-Ukrainian citizens on the peninsula has got into a full spin. And ”special attention” is paid to the Crimean Tatars. The de-facto authorities resort to groundless persecution, searches and arrests of the representatives of Crimea`s indigenous people in their homes and mosques on trumped up charges of ”terrorism” and ”extremism.”
For example, as reported by a Crimean Tatar lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, May 6, 30 to 50 armed men on May 6 raided the mosque in Simferopol district detaining over 100 Muslims and taking them in an unknown direction. The next day, according to a journalist Osman Pashayev, the police controlled by the de-facto occupation authorities, detained another 25 Crimean Tatars. ”Everyone was taken for questioning to the city police station, got fingerprinted. People were taken from a central market and near the restaurant Vostochka. All detainees are Crimean Tatars,” he wrote on Facebook.
The invaders claimed there was an ongoing operation to capture the criminals who committed murder in Russia`s Krasnodar region.
”The detainees were told there is an operation underway. Answering the question whether the suspects could be Russians one of the officers replied that they could. To the question ”why were all of the 20 detainees Crimean Tatars?” the answer was ”we are small people, there was an order from above,” wrote Pashayev.
According to the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov, 18 Crimean Tatars remain in custody in the Russian-annexed Crimea
The law enforcers continued executing the ”order from above” on May 14. According to the Crimean Tatar  Kurultay official Zair Smedlyaev, on May 13, a search was conducted in the mosque of the village of Vishennoe of Belogorsk district, and on May 14, the searches continued in the homes of the Crimean Tatars in the village of Pionerskoe.
Unfortunately, the persecution is not always limited to searches. According to the head of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people Refat Chubarov, 18 Crimean Tatars remain in custody in the Russian-annexed Crimea. 14 are suspected of setting up terrorist attacks. ”18 Crimean Tatars remain behind bars today… According to our information, this list will be expanded,” Chubarov said.
According to him, the Russian government is trying to present the Crimean Tatars as ”Islamic extremists” in Crimea.
Conscious ethnocide
Kyiv could not but respond to the repression against citizens of Ukraine in the annexed territory. On May 11, the Verkhovna Rada called on the international community to condemn the violation by the Russian Federation of the rights and freedoms of the Crimean Tatar people. As Russia has actually organized repressions against the Ukrainian citizens in Crimea on ethnic grounds, ethnically and politically motivated prosecution of the Crimean Tatars and their representative bodies, the Ukrainian parliament branded it ”a deliberate policy of ethnocide of the Crimean Tatar people.”
In addition, MPs called on the international community to recognize the deportation of Crimean Tatars from Crimea in 1944 as genocide of the Crimean Tatar people.
The next day, May 12, the European Parliament adopted a resolution calling for more extensive European sanctions against those who banned the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, and for an international investigation into violations of human rights by the occupation authorities. ”The MEPs strongly condemn the decision of the so-called Supreme Court of Crimea on April 26 2016 to ban the Mejlis, the legitimate and recognized representative body of ethnic Crimean Tatars,” the document says.
In this regard, it noted that MEPs demand immediate reversal of this decision, which they say constitutes ”systemic and targeted persecution of the Crimean Tatars” and ”is an attempt to expel them from Crimea, which is their historical motherland.”
MEPs strongly condemn the decision of the so-called Supreme Court of Crimea on April 26 2016 to ban the Mejlis
They urge the Russian Federation, which under international humanitarian law bears ultimate responsibility as the occupying state in Crimea, to uphold the legal order in Crimea, protect citizens from arbitrary judicial or administrative measures, and conduct independent international investigations of any violations of international law or human rights of people committed by the occupying forces and the  so-called local authorities.
The resolution also reiterates the European Parliament`s severe condemnation of ”the illegal annexation of the Crimean peninsula by the Russian Federation” on February 20 2014, which it says is a ”breach of international law.” The resolution expresses ”full commitment to the sovereignty, political independence, unity and territorial integrity of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders.”
Policy of concerns
According to a political scientist, Director of the Institute of Global Strategies, Vadym Karasyov, the human rights in Crimea will continue to deteriorate, despite the reaction of the international community. The West has no choice but to continue its ”policy of concerns.” ”Of course, this can attract more attention to the problems of the Crimean Tatar people, and probably there will be more contact between the European institutions and the Majlis of the Crimean Tatar people. The Crimean issue won`t be archived from the agenda; it won`t slide to the background and will remain relevant in European politics. But it is unlikely it  will have an actual impact on the human rights in the near future,” he said.
The political scientist reminded that some members of the French National Assembly and the Italian Parliament have already visited the occupied Crimea, although such visits are officially prohibited. And in this situation, when some Europeans demonstrate such opportunism in relation to Crimea, it is clear that the European Parliament needs to come up with a different kind of initiative. ”If the national parliaments or the leadership of some European states fail to respond to this [the visits of deputies to the annexed Crimea], the European Parliament should respond, as its assessment of the situation in Crimea is more or less in line with the general European policy on the situation in Donbas and Crimea. But I wouldn`t expect any radical steps,” he said.
Crimean issue won`t be archived; it will not slide to the background and will remain relevant in European politics
Moreover, in his opinion, even the resolution of the European Parliament calling for the expansion of sanctions against Russia because of the violation of human rights in Crimea is a symbolic, gestural side of international politics. ”In the EU, the issue of sanctions is tense and ambiguous. There was even a statement of the German foreign minister that it will be difficult to adopt a consolidated solution in the discussion on sanctions on the eve of the July EU summit…” said the analyst.
Karasev admits that some tightening of sanctions can actually take place. For example, the expansion of the list of persons to be subject to personal sanctions, travel bans, and freezing of assets. But no serious turns should be expected in the EU`s sanctions policy toward Russia in relation to Crimea.
Hybrid fight against human rights
Political consultant, president of the National Strategies Foundation Taras Berezovets shares this opinion. According to him, the circle of Russia`s friends in Europe is wide enough, and it has enough capacity to block a decision to expand sanctions against Russia for violating human rights in Crimea. ”To take the decision on the introduction of new sanctions is difficult because this decision must be supported by every single EU member state. Given the fact that there are positions of Greece, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and other countries, the decision to impose additional sanctions in relation to Crimea does not seem indisputable,” said Berezovets.
According to him, during the occupation of Crimea, only two international delegations visited the peninsula: in 2015, there was an unofficial delegation of the Turkish Foreign Ministry and in the end of 2015, the occupying authorities agreed to a visit of the mission of the Council of Europe (Russia was really unhappy with the mission`s report). ”The Russians said it was all subjective and untrue. So, obviously, they will let even fewer observers visit Crimea than they did before. And with no admission of international monitoring missions, we have to extract information on violations only from virtual space,” the expert said.
During the occupation of Crimea, only two international delegations visited Crimea: there was an unofficial delegation of the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs in 2015, and the occupying authorities in the end of 2015 agreed to the visit of he mission of the Council of Europe
However, even this method provides for systemic records of human rights violations across Crimea: raids, searches, arrests… Human rights activists who are in contact with the victims, point out that these people can`t even flee the peninsula because the invaders have blocked such possibility. ”The Russians continue their ”hybrid fight”against human rights, which, unfortunately, is effective,” says Berezovets.
”The attack on human rights is already underway on all fronts: both against the Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians. In Crimea, all Ukrainian language classes have been closed. The invaders even violate the rights of children and people with disabilities. In Russia, everything is much tougher, so the forecasts in terms of human rights are purely negative. We can only predict the further deterioration of the situation,” he said.
Moreover, according to the expert, ”Putin is not bothered with international pressure, as he is nod dependent on sanctions.” In this context, to affect him to try to remove him from power, the pressure must be inflicted on his entourage, his oligarchs.
 Russia sees no alternative
Bohdan Yaremenko, a diplomat, former Consul General of Ukraine in Istanbul and Edinburgh, chairman of the board of the Maidan of Foreign Affairs foundation, notes that the decision of the European Parliament on the expansion of sanctions considers personal sanctions against the participants of the so-called ”trial” against the Mejlis. That is, the prosecutors and the judges who participated in this notoriously deceitful process. However, these sanctions will not affect Russia`s interests in general.
In his view, the widespread violation of human rights in Crimea is directly connected with Russia`s attempt to colonize the peninsula. The thing is that most of the population of Crimea is unloyal to Russia and, despite all the propaganda effort, this loyalty does not increase. According to Yaremenko, this is due to the fact that Russia has failed to fulfill its main promise – to significantly improve the socio-economic situation on the peninsula.
Also, the diplomat noted that the more Ukraine enhances its efforts to counter the occupation, the more positive response it causes among the Crimean people who remained loyal to Ukraine.
Considering that Russia is colonizing Crimea through creating in the annexed territory its military base, Moscow has to ”fight” with disloyal population. But this ”fight” leads to the fact that we are now talking not just about the oppression and the violation of human rights, but about the targeted genocide of the Crimean Tatars. Russia has no alternative to this demeanor, and the situation will only be getting worse, the expert said.
Case for the Hague
”Carrying out international human rights investigations in Crimea is absolutely realistic. There is enough evidence gathered en masse by non-government organizations, and this evidence is being studied by foreign governments. Therefore, given the sufficiently persistent work of the Ukrainian government and the public sector, these tasks are absolutely realistic,” said Yaremenko.
The best thing would be to have the International Criminal Court launch a probe into the ethnocide of the Crimean Tatars by the occupying authorities in Crimea
According to the diplomat, the investigation of international organizations won`t stop the repressions on the peninsula. ”However, if we constantly appeal to this topic, forcing Russia to talk about it, the more likely, at some point, Russia will start to treat this seriously and will be forced to engage in dialogue,” the diplomat said.
In turn, political analyst on international affairs Taras Chornovil noted that for an international investigation of human rights violations in Crimea,  a variety of international commissions, including that of the Council of Europe, can be used, but their efficiency will be quite low.
The best thing would be to have the International Criminal Court launch a probe into the ethnocide of the Crimean Tatars by Crimea`s occupying authorities. However, there are a number of problems.
Firstly, in order to initiate the investigation in The Hague, Ukraine should ratify the Rome Statute, and the country may also need to adopt certain amendments to the Constitution.
Secondly, for the probe to be conducted in the International Criminal Court in The Hague, the UN Security Council decision is necessary, where Russia, unfortunately, has a veto right.
Kostyantyn Honcharov


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