17 марта, 2015

Several NGOs presented their report on violations committed by the Russian Federation on the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea

A row of Ukrainian human rights NGOs submitted Communication within ICCPR on violations committed by the Russian Federation on the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea. 

A row of Ukrainian human rights NGOs submitted Communication within ICCPR on violations committed by the Russian Federation on the territory of Autonomous Republic of Crimea. 

This report is devoted to the activity of Crimean Self-Defense; Freedom of speech and expression of opinions; Violation of freedom of religion and faith; Prohibition of peaceful assembly and public associations; Discrimination and persecution of minorities and indigenous peoples; Freedom of movement; Issues associated with citizenship; Equitable justice.

In the text is presented several violations during last year after annexation of the peninsula. At the end the recommendations for the Russian Federation are given.

Full text of the report

Prohibition of peaceful assembly and public associations

(Articles 21, 22 of the ICCPR)

(1) Groundless restrictions and limitations in holding peaceful assemblies. Article 21 ICCPR stipulates the right to peaceful assembly, the use of which is not subject to restrictions for reasons other than those envisaged. However, local authorities in the person of bodies created in violation of international law and the national legislation of Ukraine, put forward a number of groundless restrictions on peaceful assembly.

On 16 May, the self-proclaimed head of the Crimea Sergey Aksenov issued a decree that forbade the holding of peaceful assemblies in the Crimea until 6 June. That prohibition extended over the mourning events on 18 May to mark the 70th anniversary of the Crimean Tatars deportation that the Crimean Tatars previously held every year, which deprived them of the possibility to hold a peaceful assembly within the sight and audibility zone of the target audience.

On 17 June, the Simferopol City Council refused to allow the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People to hold a downtown cultural event, dedicated to the Day of the Crimean Tatar flag, on June 26. The refusal was explained by asserting that "gathering of a large number of people in a limited area, not intended for congregation of the additional number of participants, can create conditions for violation of public order, and the rights and legitimate interests of other citizens". That explanation does not meet the criteria for restrictions on freedom of assembly in a democratic society.

In August, the Crimean authorities prohibited the "Kardashlyk" Crimean Tatar organization to hold a memorial rally in honor of the European Day of Remembrance for Victims of Stalinism and Nazism on 23 August on grounds of "extremely hot weather".

On 25 August, a police officer in Sevastopol prohibited the "Defend Sevastopol” public organization to hold an anti-corruption rally in Nakhimov Square asserting that it interfered with holding of a car show. In September, the authorities prohibited the Simferopol Russian "Sobol" community to hold rallies in Lenin Square against seizure of assets of the "Krymavtotrans" enterprise. On 17 January, during the II All-Crimean Conference of the Committee for the Protection of Human Rights of the Crimean Tatar People, over 40 crimina-looking individuals burst into the conference hall, started provoking a fights and disrupt the conference and block the adoption of an appeal to the UN Secretary General, President of Turkey, President of Ukraine and the resolution f the conference.

On 2 December, the Simferopol authorities refused to allow the Central Election Commission of the Crimean Tatar Kurultai to hold a rally dedicated to the International Human Rights Day. On 5 December, the Committee on the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People submitted an application for holding a rally against the ban. On 7 December, the Crimean Prosecutor's Office issued a warning to the Mejlis Deputy Chairperson Ahtem Chiygoz about inadmissibility of unauthorized rallies. On 9 December, the Simferopol administration refused to allow the Committee on the Rights of the Crimean Tatar People to hold an event on 10 December in Lenin Square. The reasons for the refusal cited were the New Year and Christmas celebrations.

(2) Politically-grounded persecution of organizers and participants of peaceful assemblies.

On 3 May, in the Crimea (city of Armyansk), a peaceful gathering of Crimean Tatars was held in support of the leader of the Crimean Tatar people, People's Deputy of Ukraine Mustafa Dzhemilev, who was not allowed to Crimea by the Russian border guards. The meeting was attended by several thousand Crimean Tatars, after which the Prosecutor of the Crimea Natalia Poklonskaya sent a resolution to the RF Investigation Committee and the FSB requesting "organization of criminal proceedings against those liable under Articles 212, 318 and 322 of the RF Criminal Code"- riots, acts of violence against representatives of authority and illegal crossing of the state border. The peaceful assembly participants did not resort to violence. A week later, the rally participants began to receive subpoenas and, following that, about 200 people were fined in the amount of 10 to 40 thousand rubles under Articles on administrative liability for "unauthorized rally" (20.2 of the RF Administrative Offences Code) and defiance police to the police (19.3 of the RF Administrative Offences Code). That was followed by a wave of raids in the homes of the ‘May 3’ peaceful assembly participants. In October, detentions of the May 3 peaceful assembly participants began; 4 people were detained: On October 16, Musa Apkerimov was arrested, on 17 October — Rustam Abdurakhmanov, on 22 October — Tahir Smedlyaev, on 25 November — Edem Ebulisov. Later, all four were released and on bail.

On 20 January 2015, Edem Omanov was arrested on charges associated with “3 of May Case”. He is the son of Mustafa Osmanov a Crimean activist who came to Kyiv during the Euromaidn events and cooked rice for the protesters. His house was searched on 6 December 2014.

On 24 August, the traffic police arrested the organizer of a pro-Ukrainian rally in Sevastopol Viktor Neganov. The real reason for the stopping of his vehicle and the report on an administrative offense was the fact that on the Day of Independence of Ukraine he laid flowers at the pedestal where the monument to Hetman Sagaidachny stood earlier. Viktor Neganov was subjected to an illegitimate search, his personal belongings were seized, and his car was searched in his absence. No reports were made. Earlier, the Crimean authorities stated that within the transitional period (until 1 January 2015), they did not intend to draw up reports and to bring to justice those responsible for violation of vehicle window tinting rules. However, Viktor Neganov is the only person in the Crimea who was brought to justice for that kind of violation. Under threats of criminal prosecution, V. Neganov was forced to leave the Crimea.

Of a particular concern is the persecution of members of peaceful assembly that took place on 26 February, 2014, in Simferopol. In January 2015, the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation instituted criminal proceedings for organization of, and participation in riots. On 29 January, 2015, in the framework of this case, the Mejlis Deputy Chairperson Ahtem Chiygoz was detained and placed in custody. On 7 February 2015, a participant in the rally Eskender Kantemirov was detained. The detainees are citizens of Ukraine, the peaceful assembly took place on the territory of Ukraine, the participants of the peaceful assembly did not violate any requirements of the Ukrainian legislation. Russia has no grounds to apply the Russian jurisdiction to the events of 26 February 2014, and it is only Ukraine that may consider those actions from the point of view of any offenses.

In Crimea, participants in the Maidan protests that took place in February 2014 in Kyiv, are persecuted. On 5 February 2015, Oleksandr Kostenko was arrested in Simferopol. The Prosecutor's Office of the Crimea suspects him of assaulting a Berkut police officer during the Maidan protests in February 2014. A Simferopol court ruled to arrest Kostenko for two months. Kostenko is accused of a crime under paragraph "b", part 2, Article 115 of the RF Criminal Code (intentional infliction of bodily harm on grounds of political, ideological, racial, ethnic or religious hatred, or enmity or hatred towards a particular social group). The Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation has no legal grounds for such action, since those events took place on the territory of Kyiv (Ukraine), Kostenko is a citizen of Ukraine, and the Berkut officer, who is regarded as the victim, at the time was a citizen of Ukraine. The abusive nature of an action and liability for it are defined by the law that was effective at the time of commission of that specific action. In this case, the Criminal Law of Ukraine must be applicable. П. 3 ст. Paragraph 3 of Article 12 of the RF Criminal Code envisages criminal prosecution only if the foreign citizens and stateless persons who do not reside permanently in the Russian Federation committed a crime outside the Russian Federation in cases where the offense is against the interests of the Russian Federation or a citizen of the Russian Federation, or a stateless persons permanently residing in the Russian Federation, and also in cases stipulated by international treaties of the Russian Federation, if the foreign citizens and stateless persons who do not permanently reside in the Russian Federation, were not convicted in a foreign country and subject to criminal prosecution on the territory of the Russian Federation. Therefore, actions that are considered by the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation in Crimea in respect of Kostenko do not even fall under the RF Criminal Code.

(3) Prevention of peaceful assemblies with the use of security forces and the "Crimean Self-Defense" paramilitary groups. In Crimea, numerous facts of use of security forces and "Crimean Self-Defense" paramilitary groups to disperse peaceful gatherings or obstruction in their holding have been registered.

On 18 May, in order to restrict a peaceful assembly — a mourning ceremony on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Crimean Tatars deportation — the central streets in Simferopol were blocked by the Russian military and personnel of the security forces with the use of military machinery. On 24 August (Ukraine's Independence Day) the monument to the Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko in Simferopol was cordoned off by the law enforcement officers and the "Crimean Self-Defense". On 10 December, the International Human Rights Day, the central streets in Simferopol were surrounded by the security forces and the "Crimean Self-Defense". Journalists were prohibited to take photos and videos.

(4) Application of Russian and local laws to restrict freedom of assembly.

Art. 21 of the ICCPR allows limitations on the right to peaceful assembly if they are imposed in accordance with law and are necessary in a democratic society in the interests of the national security or public safety, public order, protection of health or morals of the population or protection of the rights and freedoms of other persons. However, the Russian and local laws in the Crimea contain a number of significant formal restrictions on freedom of peaceful assembly, which are not appropriate in a democratic society.

On 21 July 2014, the Russian Federation enacted the Law No. 258-FZ "On Amendments to Certain Legislative Acts of the Russian Federation in terms of improving the legislation on public events", which establishes criminal liability for repeated violation of the procedures of organizing or holding mass events.

On 8 August, the State Council of the Republic of Crimea passed the law "On ensuring conditions for implementation of the right of citizens of the Russian Federation to hold meetings, rallies, demonstrations and pickets in the Republic of Crimea", which significantly limits the freedom of peaceful assembly in the Crimea. The law makes it a mandatory requirement to submit a written notice directly to the local authority of the municipality not earlier than 15 and no later than 10 days before the public event. Specially designated areas for peaceful assemblies are introduced, which are defined by the Council of Ministers of the Republic of Crimea with account to the requirements of the Federal Law "On meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets".

In October 2014 amendments were made to Article 9 of the Federal Law "On meetings, rallies, demonstrations, marches and pickets". A public event may not begin earlier than 7:00 and end after 22:00 of the same day at local time, except public events dedicated to memorable dates of Russia and public events of cultural content. Therefore, it effectively secures another limitation of freedom of peaceful assembly, which prohibits peaceful assemblies after 22:00.

On 12 November, the Council of Ministers of Crimea issued a Resolution No. 452 "On approval of the list of venues for public events in the Republic of Crimea", which defines sites for peaceful assemblies. For example, in Simferopol (a city with the population of 400 thousand) it is allowed to hold peaceful assemblies in four places. The Resolution does not state the reasons for the choice of the places; no justification is provided for the prohibition of peaceful assemblies in other areas of the city.

(5) Article 22 of the ICCPR recognizes the right to freedom of association with others, including the right to form trade unions and join those for protection of one's interests. In the Crimea, freedom of association is systematically violated, especially in respect of associations of the Crimean Tatars.

On 16 September, in Simferopol, representatives of the “Crimean Self-Defense" and the police blocked the building that housed the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, on the pretext of carrying out investigative actions. The building is owned by the "Crimea Fund" charitable organization. On 17 September, Director General of the "Crimea Fund" Riza Shevkiev was informed that the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, the "Crimea Fund" charitable organization and the "Avdet" newspaper are to vacate the premises within 24 hours. The Crimean Prosecutor's Office saw a violation of the Russian law in the fact that one of the founders of the organization is M. Dzhemilev, a citizen of Ukraine, against whom a decision was passed about undesirability of his stay in the territory of Russia. On the same day, the Simferopol court passed a judgment banning the "Crimea Fund" charitable organization to use its property in seven locations (including the building that housed the Mejlis), arrested bank accounts and prohibited opening of new accounts. On 18 November, the Simferopol court ruled to impose a fine on the "Crimea Fund" charitable organization in the amount of 4.5 million rubles, and on the Director of the organization Riza Shevkiev — 350 thousand rubles. The grounds for that were the repairs that had been carried out in one of the rooms with the organization committee for the protection of monuments. In late 2014, the Prosecutor's Office of the Crimea prepared and submitted a claim for the withdrawal of assets of the Fund (the building on the Schmidt street) from the Fund's ownership. On December 18, Administration of the Ministry of Justice in the Crimea refused to register the "Crimea Fund" charitable organization as a non-profit organization. The grounds for refusal was use of two designations in different documents: "charitable organization" and "public charitable organization". Another reason for the refusal was absence of indication of the geographical scope of activities of CFCO in its name.

The property of many public associations that previously operated in the territory of Crimea, is transferred for use by other organizations, without their consent. Such examples include the Taras Shevchenko All-Ukrainian "Prosvita" (Enlightenment) society in Sevastopol, the Ukrainian Information and Cultural Centre, the Chekhov “House of Writers" holiday hotel in Yalta, termination of rent of a building in the city of Bakhchisaray by the "Council of Teachers" public organization, which was used as premises of the District Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, termination of the rent of premises of organization "Chatyr-Dag" public organization in Alushta.

Systemic violations of the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of association, harassment of activists, use of paramilitary groups does not only testify to the violation of Articles 21, 22 of the ICCPR, but also to the purposeful activity by the authorities aimed at destruction of civil society in the Crimea.

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