Crimea Rights Violators Must Be Punished, Report Says

Human rights violations in Crimea, including attacks on minorities and journalists, must be investigated urgently and those responsible brought to justice, the Council of Europe said.

A “message of zero tolerance” of violence and discrimination must be sent, the Council’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks said in a report published today. It described “abductions” of civil society activists and attacks on Crimean Tatars, ethnic Ukrainians and people who have refused Russian citizenship since Russia annexed Ukraine’s Black Sea peninsula in March.

“Minorities should enjoy secure conditions enabling them to practice their religion in public or private, receive education in their languages and openly manifest their views without fear and intimidation,” Muiznieks wrote in the report. “It’s of paramount importance to refrain from any further measures which may worsen their situation. Failure to do so may lead to new cases of displacement from the region.”

Russia annexed Crimea in March after the ouster of Viktor Yanukovych, Ukraine’s former pro-Moscow president, in a popular uprising. The takeover prompted the U.S. and the European Union to impose sanctions on Russian individuals and companies.

Mixed Population

Crimea’s population consists of 58.8 percent ethnic Russians, 24.2 percent Ukrainians and 12.1 percent Crimean Tatars, as well as smaller ethnic groups, according to a 2001 Ukrainian census.

Muiznieks wrote that he had received reports from international organizations and human rights groups about “cases of deaths and disappearances under suspicious circumstances” in Crimea. He raised five specific cases with local authorities during a visit to the peninsula Sept. 10-11.

They included the death of Reshat Ametov, who was shown on the Crimean Tatar television channel ATR being led away by three men from a protest on the city of Simferopol’s main square in March. Ametov’s body was found weeks later in a village outside Simferopol “reportedly bearing signs of ill-treatment,” Muiznieks wrote.

While local prosecutors told Muiznieks that an investigation was in progress, he called on them to do more to identify and question the three men shown in the video. The commissioner also discussed the disappearance of local civil society activists Leonid Korzh, Timur Shaimardanov, and Seiran Zinedinov in May and was told that investigations have begun.

Resolve Needed

“The commissioner notes that criminal proceedings have been opened in relation to certain of these cases and stresses that more resolve is needed in investigating all cases of serious violations of human rights, in line with the international criteria of independence, thoroughness and transparency,” the report stated.

Muiznieks wrote that he remained concerned about “searches carried out by masked and armed members of security forces in Muslim religious institutions, businesses and private homes belonging to members of the Crimean Tatar community,” as well as “alleged attempts to gain control over churches owned by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church.”

He called for “free and unconditional access of international humanitarian and human rights organizations to Crimea” and “unimpeded international monitoring.”

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