By Vladimir Isachenkov
Jan. 14, 2021
The Washington Post
MOSCOW — Europe’s top human rights court agreed Thursday to look into Ukraine’s complaint against alleged human rights violations in the Russia-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
The Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, or ECHR, concluded that Ukraine’s case against Russia is backed by sufficient evidence and admissible for consideration. It wasn’t clear when the court would deliver a verdict.
Ukraine has argued in its complaint that Russia was responsible for a variety of human rights violations in the Black Sea peninsula. Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea hasn’t been recognized by a vast majority of nations and drew U.S. and EU sanctions against Moscow.
International human rights groups long have pointed at numerous rights abuses in Crimea, including restrictions of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and harassment of pro-Ukraine activists and members of the Crimean Tatar community.
Moscow has charged that it rightfully took over Crimea after an overwhelming majority of local residents voted to secede from Ukraine and join Russia in a referendum. It has continuously rejected accusations of human rights violations in the region.
The ECHR ruled, after examining Ukraine’s complaint, that it provided sufficient evidence of human rights violations in Crimea for the court to consider the case.
The court noted, however, that some of the Ukrainian allegations, including its claim that Russia was responsible for killings and shootings in the region, weren’t properly backed by evidence. “As to the allegations of an administrative practice of killing and shooting, the Court found that the incidents referred to had not amounted to a pattern of violations,” it said.
Russia’s Justice Ministry quickly issued a statement pointing out that pronouncement by the court. Russian authorities have fulfilled the court’s past decisions, but they have become increasingly irritated with its rulings.
Last year’s constitutional vote approved an amendment that emphasized the priority of Russian law over international norms, a provision that could lead to Moscow’s refusal to accept some of the future rulings by the ECHR and other international bodies.
Russian propaganda outlets have tried to downplay the impact of the court decision or even describe it as a success for Russia, citing that the court declared Ukraine’s appeal only “partly admissible.” In fact, the court declared admissible 14 out of 17 violations of human rights in Crimea presented by Ukraine. Among them are:
- enforced disappearances and the lack of an effective investigation into such a practice;
- ill-treatment and unlawful detention;
- extending the application of Russian law to Crimea with the result that as of 27 February 2014 the courts in Crimea could not be considered to have been “established by law”;
- automatic imposition of Russian citizenship and raids of private dwellings;
- harassment and intimidation of religious leaders not conforming to the Russian Orthodox faith, arbitrary raids of places of worship, and confiscation of religious property;
- suppression of non-Russian media;
- prohibiting public gatherings and manifestations of support, as well as intimidation and arbitrary detention of organizers of demonstrations;
- expropriation without compensation of property from civilians and private enterprises;
- suppression of the Ukrainian language in schools and harassment of Ukrainian-speaking children at school.
This is more than enough, to call the current decision a success.