UN resolution on Crimea: condemnation of Russia does not mean protecting Crimean citizens

Author : Florian Irminger Tetiana Pechonchyk

Source : 112 Ukraine

UN General Assembly to vote on a resolution that admits human rights crisis in occupied Crimea, but the document does not resolve main issues
15:42, 16 December 2016

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Global diplomacy again will return to the issue of Crimea. On the initiative of Ukraine, UN General Assembly to vote on a resolution that admits human rights crisis in occupied Crimea.

Advance voting in the Third Committee of the UN resolution, which was held in November, was presented as a victory of Ukrainian diplomacy. In fact, the reality is somewhat different.

Due to politicized character of the resolutions and its perception as "biased," certain countries that usually supported Ukraine (such as Botswana, Chile, Nigeria, Senegal or South Korea) disengaged from support. This is not surprising, because the essence of the resolution is not aimed at protecting the victims of human rights violations in Crimea, but rather it is designed to strike a powerful blow to Russia.

Related: US concerned about worsening of human rights situation in Crimea

The first General Assembly resolution on Crimea voted more than two years ago. Yes, March 27, 2014 the UN reaffirmed the territorial integrity of Ukraine, stressing that the so-called referendum held on 16 March 2014 and led to the annexation of the peninsula, "has no legal force." The resolution also urged "all parties to proceed immediately to a peaceful resolution of the situation." Since the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague declared the situation in Crimea international armed conflict and the ongoing occupation. After that, the Russian Federation withdrew his signature from the founding document of the ICC, the Rome Statute, which is, incidentally, already not going to ratify.

Related: Belarus tried to block UN’s consideration of human rights violations in Crimea

The countries that supported the resolution in 2014, today do no call into question its content. Thus, no one doubts the legitimacy and legality statements regarding Ukraine's territorial integrity - except those who believe in the Russian propaganda. There is no doubt that after the annexation of Crimea, the human rights situation deteriorated there.

Russia imposed on the occupied territory of its own laws, set up subordinate courts and authorities carrying out serious and systematic attack on civil society and on those authorities perceived as political opponents.

Related: Britain supports UN resolution on human rights violations in Crimea

Much of human rights violations in the Crimea that appear in the reports of the UN, based on data of human rights activists and lawyers who continue to work on the peninsula and whose names we will not name for their safety. We firmly believe that the international community is high time to pay attention to ruin the human rights system in the Crimea, which is a consequence of the policy of Russia and the de facto authorities in Crimea. A coalition of civil society organizations that we represent, have repeatedly called for this, especially in March 2016 during a meeting of the UN Security Council in New York.

So what is wrong with the document, which official Kyiv lobbied?

November 15, 2016 Committee of the UN, which deals with human rights issues, approved the draft resolution "Situation of human rights in the Crimea and Sevastopol (Ukraine)", proposed by Ukraine 73 states voted for, 23 - against and 76 abstentions - not as successful as it was in March 2014, when 100 states supported the Ukrainian document, 11 - against and 48 abstentions.  But this vote is not final. The resolution has yet to be considered by the General Assembly.

Related: Gerashchenko: Ukrainian Diaspora should condemn human rights violations in Crimea

Something else may change, but do not expect a sharp change in attitudes and votes. According to UN rules, the current distribution of votes the resolution will also be adopted - in the vote in the GA of those who abstained, has no legal value. The main thing is preference votes "for" over votes "against". But of course we would like, so that Ukraine managed to convince more states to vote for the resolution. For example, countries such as Argentina, Armenia, Botswana, Brazil, Chile, Ivory Coast, Gabon, Ghana, Mexico, Nigeria, South Korea, Rwanda, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, South Africa, Tunisia, and Uruguay.

Related: Russia is not re-elected to UN Human Rights Council

Crimea is not only Ukrainian issue, but and Western Europe, and a challenge for the world. And that is why the United Nations human rights violations in the Crimea should be presented and perceived as an international problem, not only Ukrainian. This is a mistake Ukrainian diplomacy - to believe that their own efforts or even joint powers with the European partners would be enough to bring to justice perpetrators of human rights violations in the Crimea.

Another problem of the resolution is liability. The text refers to the sole responsibility of the Russian Federation as a country-occupier that is called to "comply with its obligations under international law." We believe that the UN resolution should also mention the responsibility of those who keep the commandments of the system, agents de facto authorities in Crimea. They should not only be mentioned but also condemned in the text of the resolution.

Related: Human rights advocates report twofold increase of political prisoners in Russia

These people should receive a clear signal that the international community is watching them, aware of their crimes and that sooner or later they will have to answer for everything.

But the resolution contains a space in this issue by focusing only on a broad picture of the political responsibility of Russia. Indeed, Russia should be the focus, but no mention of the responsibility of other participants of violations increases credibility resolutions.

Finally, the fact that the most painful for Ukrainian diplomacy admit Ukraine also responsible for human rights violations in Crimea. The objective resolution should condemn the blockade of Crimea and any future attempts of such shares. Also, the document would be referred to the responsibility on Ukraine concerning impeded access to foreign journalists, human rights activists, lawyers to Crimea.

Related: 80 human rights organizations urge not to allow Russia to UN Human Rights Council

The resolution does not mention systemic discrimination against residents of Crimea in Ukrainian banks and attitude to them as "non-residents." It is another missed opportunity for the international community to influence the situation with the rights of the Crimean people.

The resolution does not mention a government ban on the export of Crimea personal items that are not included in the list approved by the Cabinet of Ministers (Resolution №1035). This leads to situations where migrants from the Crimea, victims of repression and persecution, while moving to mainland Ukraine can not take with them their property - because of restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian government.

In summary, we note: there is reason to hope for better results of voting.

Among these reasons is the fact that Ukraine has recently shown its willingness to cooperate with the international community to address human rights.

Related: Deeper, longer, hopeless: Lavrov leads OSCE from crisis to collapse

But it is important that the above problems are not ignored by the UN and countries - friends of Ukraine did not hesitate to demand from Kyiv to do everything possible to respect the rights of both those Crimean people who were forced to leave the occupied peninsula and those who still live in Crimea, to document human rights violations, then bring the de facto authorities and those who support it, to justice.

We believe that this resolution, like any other international instrument relating to Ukraine - it is also an opportunity to urge the country to fulfill its own obligations to their citizens, as well as its authentic, genuine desire to respond to human rights violations and the effects of the occupation of the Crimea.

Related: Russia blocked declaration on crisis in Ukraine at OSCE Ministerial Council, - MFA

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