In Crimea, Russia, Nov 16, 2016

A meeting of the United Nations Third Committee (UN photo)

A meeting of the United Nations Third Committee (UN photo)

A Ukraine-sponsored resolution blaming Russia for multiple human rights abuses in Crimea, which was approved by a UN General Assembly committee on Wednesday, has been blasted by Russia as biased and not reflecting the real situation in the region.

The draft was approved by the third committee of the United Nations, which is responsible for social, humanitarian and cultural issues. A total of 73 members of the committee, including the U.S., UK, Canada and EU members have voted for the resolution while 23 member countries voted against. Among those opposed are Russia, China, India, Serbia, Syria, and Iran. A total of 76 nations abstained from voting.

The document, which refers to the Russian region of Crimea and the federal city of Sevastopol as temporarily-occupied parts of the territory of Ukraine, calls on UN General Assembly members to condemn “reported serious violations and abuses committed against residents of Crimea” and alleged violations of “fundamental freedoms, including the freedoms of expression, religion or belief and association and the right to peaceful assembly.”

The resolution entitled “Situation of Human Rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol” also urges Russia’s Supreme Court to revoke its decision to outlaw the Mejlis, the unofficial legislative body of the Crimean Tatars.[1] In September, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the decision by the Supreme Court of the Crimean Republic to ban the organization as an extremist group, based on its ties to terrorist entities such as the Turkish Grey Wolves (Bozkurt).

The adoption of the resolution was hailed by Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko as the “true victory of justice,” and he expressed gratitude to all supporters of the draft on his official Facebook page.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Pavlo Klimkin also commended the document labeling the proposed human rights monitoring in Crimea as “the first step towards de-occupation of the peninsula.”
‘Human rights turning into political tool’

Meanwhile, Russian officials have decried the resolution, saying it gives a distorted image of the real situation in Crimea. Anatoly Viktorov, head of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Department for Humanitarian Cooperation and Human Rights (DHCHR), who represented Russia at the committee’s meeting, said it “has nothing to do with the real situation in Crimea, neither with opinion and interests of the residents of this peninsula,” as cited by TASS.

He argued that while the Ukrainian government blames Russia for human rights violations in Crimea, it at the same time repeatedly aimed to disrupt the people’s life there by cutting the peninsula from essential supplies attempting to organize water, energy and food “blockades.”

“We are convinced that many Ukrainians would prefer to live like the residents of Crimea live now, that is, under conditions of peace, stable economic development and social security,” Viktorov argued, calling the adoption of the document “yet another example of how human rights are turned into a tool of a political game.”

The diplomat said that in Ukraine human rights abuses, including “gross violations of the rights of national minorities,” were on the rise, accompanied by what he called growing neo-Nazi sentiments, on which the Ukraine government turns a blind eye.

The draft was proposed by “the state where blatant human rights violations have become a routine practice,” he concluded.

The resolution is expected to be reviewed and most likely adopted by the General Assembly in December.

Note by New Cold
[1] The Crimean Tatar Mejlis is not “an unofficial legislative body of the Crimean Tatar people”. The Mejlis was an institution established during the 1990s to advocate on behalf of the Crimean Tatars, whose national and cultural rights were not officially recognized by Ukraine. Over time, the leaders of the Mejlis became entrenched in the governing institutions of Ukraine. Other, more representative political and social institutions of the Crimean Tatar people have arisen since the 1990s.

Leaders of the rump Mejlis supported the illegal coup in Kyiv in February 2014. They went on to oppose the March 2014 referendum of the Crimean people to secede from Ukraine and rejoin the Russian Federation. According to several unofficial polls, a minority of Tatars voted in favour of secession and a minority opposed it. Half of the population did not participate in the vote. Polls since the March 2014 vote show very high levels of satisfaction with the decision, including among Tatars.

One of the first acts of the new Crimean and Russian authorities following the secession vote was to accord official recognition to the Tatar language. And in April 2014, the Russian government adopted a law officially absolving the Tatar people of collective responsibility for collaboration with German Nazi occupiers during World War Two. A similar law had been approved in the later years of the Soviet Union, though many issues related to repatriation were not resolved and the terms of repatriation remains an ongoing political issue today in Crimea.

Related readings:
*   UN Third Committee approves five draft resolutions on situations in Syria, Iran and Crimea; introduces five others concerning self-determination, enhanced cooperation, lengthy report published on the website of the Third Committee of the United Nations, Nov 16, 2016

In Recorded Vote, Delegates Reject Motion to Suspend Debate on Country-specific Texts Criticized as Flawed ‘Instruments of Coercion’

The Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) approved five draft resolutions today, four of which pertained to human rights situations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Syria, Iran and Crimea, while one focused on crime prevention…

  Russia withdraws from the International Criminal Court following UN Third Committee deliberations on Nov 15 , news compilation by New Cold, Nov 16, 2016

*   See the extensive dossier of news and analysis of Crimea contained in the ‘Crimea’ page New Cold website.


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