Territory where the Rule of Gun Works. Monitoring Results of Our Mission to Crimea in March 2014

Apr 2nd, 2014 | By | Category: Crimea, Editor's Choice, Human Rights, In Depth, Monitoring, National Security, Ukraine

The mission of the Maidan Monitoring Information Center has been working in the Crimean Peninsula since March 14 to March 23 evaluating the state of observance of constitutional rights guaranteed by the Constitution of Ukraine.

The mission included 12 monitors. They visited all cities and towns and some villages of Crimea.

A large number of photo, video and audio evidence was collected and has yet to be analysed. The monitoring results were posted in real time to our special twitter account http://twitter.com/sitemaidan_ua (it is still active because the mission continues; as of April 1 2014 it has 760+ tweets)

The preliminary results are as follows.

None of the Ukrainian state institution really worked in Crimea.

There were no signs of activity of any Ukrainian party observed, except a few manifestation of work of the UDAR party.

The only Ukrainian institution that had any impact on proceedings in Crimea was the Ombudsman’s office (official name – Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner on Human Rights.

The Ukrainian law was observed on Crimean peninsula only by conscious Ukrainian citizens.

The role of law enforcement agencies in Crimea was implemented by camouflaged armed men without badges, including local paramilitary squads, paramilitary groups from the Russian Federation (e.g. from Southern regions of it, namely Anapa and Caucasian republics of Russian Federation, mostly from Southern regions of it, and members of the special forces of the RF disguised as civilians.

Armed paramilitaries conducted personal searches,  confiscations of computers, video and photo cameras, and data storage devices without any warrants or explanations, just by open force.

The violations of media freedoms were numerous and very intimidating. Journalists were detained, searched, obstructed from filming, and denied access to polling stations. The journalists are not treated equally. Preference is given to journalists from Russia.

There were teams of journalists from the West who actually work as spies or saboteurs not as reporters. They do not publish their reports anywhere in the media and sometimes do not even work in reality in the media they claim to be associated with. However, they actively provoke locals for candid talks, and incite conflicts within the real journalist community. We compared our notes with real Western journalists with complete CVs and they confirmed out observations. Such groups were spotted in the Eastern Ukraine as well.

Access to Ukrainian TV channels was limited to satellite reception only.

Obstructions to freedom of movement were numerous and arbitrary. Almost every group of people was searched.

Many instances of force being used to make people participate in the March 16 referendum, where armed men were  inside the polling stations, were reported.

The visual turnout to polling stations on March 16 was considerably lower than “official” numbers. Cases of electoral tourism were documented. (Locals herded into buses with coordinators and visiting many polling stations to vote.)

Most  reports from the Crimea March 16 voting, that were broadcast by Russian. Scenes of full polling stations were arranged like theatrical performances.

Many of NGO activists and Euromaidan participants fled from Crimea after threats. We have internally displaced persons from Crimea among our NGO members. The campaign to intimidate the activists started in December 2013.

Cases of brutal violence were documented. The leader of the Ukrainian community of Simferopol Andriy Shchekun was kidnapped and tortured.

Priests were detained and threatened (from practically any denomination with exception of Russian Orthodox Church). Crimean Tatars offered their mosques for sermons by persecuted Ukrainian Orthodox and Catholic priests.

Crimean Tatars are being threatened, in particular there were declarations of officials to take away some of their lands. One Crimean Tatar was brutally killed.

A sharp rise of Anti-Semitism was observed, including swastika graffiti on Synagogues, hate speech in the media and on streets.

Although Russian annexation is openly supported by many people, still large number of people living in Crimea do not support the annexation of peninsula by Russian Federation. However,  they have been intimidated by the militias and are afraid to manifest their objection and see no chance of survival with open resistance. The number of such people cannot be defined scientifically now, since it is clearly impossible to conduct any objective sociological research.

What will happen next?

The legal vacuum due to the lack of governance will be filled with elements of civil conflicts including violent ones with the usage of arms. We predict escalation of ethnic tensions, sharp divide based on social status and wealth, violent disputes on land ownership.

What could be done to help the situation?

  1. To enhance the role of Ombudsman in Crimea, including additional state funding, as this is the only Ukrainian institution having some impact on observance of human rights in Crimea now.
  2. To enhance cooperation with Russian Federation Ombudsman’s office and Russian human rights defenders as a weak but still hopeful measure of influence on the government of the Russian Federation.
  3.  To maintain the human contacts with people in Crimea, networking and monitoring. Human rights can not be protected without without accurate and timely information about violations.. Some abuses cannot be remedied any time soon; however, it could become possible in the future. Documenting the violations is an important necessity and has very high priority, not only when people are kidnapped and tortured or killed, but also any other violation of civil rights.
  4. Only organized groups of people (like Medjlis) can protect their rights in Crimea. There is potential for organizing something like “Union of citizens of Ukraine” that would protect every member. As Russian forces are forced to recognize the position of Medjlis or of Crimean Tatarss, they would be forced to consider the voice of other organized groups.

Maidan Monitoring Information Center continues its mission in Crimea. More reports and analysis to follow.

The constitutional rights  monitored included right to non-discrimination (Art.24), right to life (Art. 27), right to respect the dignity (Art. 28), right to freedom of movement (Art. 33), freedom of speech and information (Art. 34), right to freedom of personal philosophy and religion (Art. 35) and right to peaceful assembly (Art. 39).

The mission was funded by the International Renaissance Foundation and the donations of citizens of Ukraine. We also appreciate great and enthusiastic help of people in Crimea.

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Photo by Alona Balaba

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