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The UN General Assembly: Russia is an occupying power 1



On 19 December, the UN General Assembly adopted (70 in favour, 26 against, 77 abstain) a resolution dedicated to the human rights situation in occupied Crimea. This is the first UN document to recognize Russia as an occupying power, and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol – as occupied territory.  The resolution also calls on Russia to end all abuses against people living in Crimea, including arbitrary detentions, torture, and other “cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment, recognizes Crimea as “temporarily occupied” by Russia and condemns the “abuses” and “discrimination” against Crimean Tatars”.

On 15 November, this resolution was adopted by the UN’s human rights committee. 41 states including Georgia joined the list of co-sponsors.

The resolution is called “Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine)”. It provides a clear definition on the status of Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as part of the territory of Ukraine, condemns the temporary occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation and does not recognize its attempted annexation by the occupying State. In addition, the resolution confirmed the territorial integrity of Ukraine and denounced an attempt to annex the Ukrainian peninsula.

The resolution condemns:

  • repressions and abuses against the inhabitants of the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea, particularly Crimean Tatars, and demands releasing illegally imprisoned Ukrainian citizens;
  • the ban on the Crimean Tatar Mejlis;
  • violations of the prohibition under the Geneva Convention of 1949 of forcing the occupied population to serve in the army of the occupying state;
  • the establishment of Russia’s justice system on the peninsula, which negatively impacts the human rights situation.

It demands Russia upholds its obligations of an occupying power under international law – to ensure that human rights are not violated. The document also urges the Russian Federation to grant international human rights mechanisms, in particular the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, unimpeded access to Crimea in order to monitor the human rights situation and asks the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare a separate thematic report on the situation in the peninsula.

Ukrainian officials have welcomed the resolution as an important diplomatic, political and legal mechanism by which Ukraine protects the rights of citizens of Ukraine on the territory of temporarily occupied Crimea.

Near to 70 countries supported the document, 26 were against it: Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Russian Federation, Uzbekistan, China, India, Iran, Serbia, Angola,  Bolivia, Burundi, Cambodia, Comoros, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Nicaragua, Philippines,  South Africa, South Sudan, Sudan, Syria, Uganda, Venezuela, Zimbabwe. Delegation of Azerbaijan was absent during the vote process.  

Info: in February 2014, Russia illegally annexed the Crimean peninsula with the help of unmarked soldiers. An unlawful “referendum” to secede from Ukraine was held on 16 March 2014. Its results are unrecognized by most of the world’s countries.

Disappearances, extrajudicial killings, torture and ill-treatment have all been documented in Crimea since the annexation. The NGO “Crimea SOS” keeps a running count of human rights abuses which it depicts on a map of Crimea. A total of 230 have been recorded as of November 2016. Following the annexation Russia began issuing its own passports in the region.

In February 2016 the de facto Crimean Prosecutor N.Poklonskaya began moves to shut down the Mejlis completely. The main Crimean Tatar media outlet, ATR, has already been permanently closed in the peninsula, resuming activities on “mainland” Ukraine. Blanket application of Russia’s new law against “extremism” has been used to close down many NGOs and media outlets during enforced “re-registration” of organizations as Russian. The use of the Russian law against “separatism” criminalises any groups or individuals campaigning to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

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