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Opening Remarks by Ambassador Ihor Prokopchuk at the Informal Briefing "Stop Impunity for Human Rights Violations in Crimea"
08 April 2016 13:16

Event took place on 7 April and was organized by a number of the OSCE delegation with the participation of representatives of civil society from Ukraine and Turkey, Freedom House, UN, OSCE/ODIHR and OSCE/HCNM 

Excellencies, Ambassadors,

Distinguished participants,

Dear colleagues,

Let me start by thanking all of you for attending this informal briefing and for your constant attention and concern for the human rights situation in a part of Ukraine – the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, which have been illegally occupied by the Russian Federation since February 2014.

This briefing is a joint event. I wish to express appreciation to the co-organisers – the delegations to the OSCE of Canada, Denmark, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Poland, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, the United Kingdom and the United States. I express gratitude to our expert presenters from non-governmental organizations and civil society, the OSCE Institutions and the United Nations.

Last month marked two years since Russia launch an armed aggression against Ukraine resulting in illegal occupation and annexation of Crimea. It also marked two years since the adoption by the UN General Assembly, on 27 March 2014, of its resolution 68/262 “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, reaffirming Ukraine's sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders. This important document, which now forms part of international law, registered, in particular, the invalidity of the unconstitutional pseudo- referendum in the Crimea organized hastily under the barrel of the Russian guns, and called upon all States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any changes in the status of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as an integral part of Ukraine, as well as to refrain from any actions that might be so interpreted.

The position of the international community, rooted in the norms and principles of international law, including the UN Charter and the Helsinki Final Act, has been utterly ignored by Russia.

Moreover, the two years of illegal occupation have been marked by blatant violations of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Crimean population.

These violations can be placed under one common title – impunity for the offenders. As documented by international organizations and human rights defenders, most of the attacks targeted Crimean Tatar and Ukrainian communities, leaving some activists killed and disappeared. Many others have faced intimidation, raids and searches, attacks on property and arrests under fabricated charges. Unlawful and politically motivated arrests of Crimean Tatar leaders and pro-Ukrainian activists persist, including the cases of Ahtem Ciygoz and Oleksandr Kostenko. The leader of Crimea Tartars Mustafa Dzhemilev was banned from entering Crimea, his son was charged and imprisoned in Russia. An example of Kostenko’s family of four - Oleksandr was last year thrown into jail for nearly four years, his father disappeared last March with no trace since then, his younger brother is now facing criminal proceedings for so called “undermining the court authority” and as a result his mother barely survived two strokes. There are many other examples to continue.

After two years of repression against Crimean Tartar people and their identity, currently the Russian occupying authorities take steps to ban the Mejlis – a representative body of the Crimean Tatar people. The occupying authorities also seek to eradicate all manifestations of the Ukrainian identity, education and culture on the peninsula.

Dear participants,

Protection of human dignity, of human rights and fundamental freedoms are at the core of the OSCE concept of comprehensive security. Among many challenges that exist, the most glaring violations of human rights now take place in the situation of occupation of Crimea – an area where the international organizations are not allowed to enter and establish a permanent monitoring, where independent media has been suppressed. As the occupying power Russia bears full responsibility for these human rights violations and the failure to stop them.

It must remain at the top of our agenda to press Russia, by all available OSCE instruments, on allowing permanent monitoring and presence in the Crimea of the OSCE and other international organizations as well as on implementing recommendations contained in the 2015 HRAM’s Report. Before that happens, it is important to continue distance monitoring and use possibilities of the events and briefings, like today, to stay abreast of the situation.

We see the imperative of continuous active engagement of the OSCE Chairmanship, the OSCE Institutions, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and the participating States to seek observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the illegally occupied Crimean peninsula.

I will conclude by thanking again to all participants of this event which I am certain will be informative and very useful for continuing our efforts at upholding the human rights in the occupied Crimea. 

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