European Court Completes First Hearing on Human Rights Violations in Crimea
The dispute centers on Moscow’s violations of European conventions in occupied Crimea since late February 2014
The European Court of Human Rights has completed a preliminary hearing on the case “Ukraine vs Russia” regarding human rights violations by the Russian occupation regime in Crimea.
The dispute centers on Moscow’s violations of European conventions in occupied Crimea since late February 2014. Inhuman treatment and torture, and limitations put on freedom of religion and the right to education – among other infringements – are the topics of the case. Kyiv also accuses Russia of being responsible for the deaths of Ukrainian military servicemen, law-enforcement officers, and civilians.
To discuss this, we invited to our studio Taras Tsymbrivskyi, Head of USAID ‘Human Rights in Action’ program.
Now, we’re talking about the European Court of Human Rights, Nether Ukraine nor Russia belongs to the EU. And the question is, really, of jurisdiction. Explain to our viewer how this works.
European Court of Human Rights is a bit different body, which is not affiliated to the European Union because it was installed under the auspices of the Council of Europe in order to monitor the European Convention on Human Rights, parties and signatories to which were both Ukraine and the Russian Federation. So this gives a preliminary basis for the possible jurisdiction of the court to view this case on possible human rights violations on the territory of occupied Crimea.
So far the court should assess its jurisdiction to this case, that’s why this is a preliminary hearing, and afterward it might look into the merits of the case, that’s why it is a very important stage of the litigation, which is ongoing in the European Court of Human Rights, one of many, actually, litigations in the legal domain in order to enhance Russia’s accountability for human right violations in Eastern Ukraine and in Crimea, and I feel quite optimistic about future developments in the preliminary hearing.
Actually, in half a year or a year, we will get the decision of the court on whether it should look into the subject matter of this case or not. I feel quite optimistic that the decision would be to the side of Ukraine, and afterward, it will deal with these more specific issues, which are related to human right abuses.
Moreover, these are large-scale human right abuses, which took place starting from the 27th of February at least, as Ukraine is ascertaining the responsibility of the Russian Federation in the case. The Russian Federation is neglecting this approach, of course, because it is stressing that it is responsible for the human rights situation in Crimea starting from 18th of March 2014. And this is quite ridiculous because before, the Russian Federation emphasized that it is responsible for the human rights situation in Crimea starting from 21th of March 2014. So, that these the two days, which are connected with the signature (signing) of the Treaty of Union [sic] between the so-called Republic of Crimea and the Russian Federation, and the latter is referring to taking in force of the treaty (coming into force). So that’s why the representative of Ukraine was very masterful in trolling the counterpart of the Russian Federation.
Now, would that be Ben Emmerson yesterday?
Yes, pressing him to choose which specific day Russian Federation meant. So, Russian Federation is very loosely playing with the dates, which are very crucial for the litigation, and this is, of course, definitely a very weak point, which should be leveraged by Ukraine, and it was very successful in this respect, and we’ll see what will happen further on, of course.
Now as you mentioned preliminary what the jurisdiction was established. Will it matter how can the court make Russia comply with what it decides?
The next stage will deal with the merits of the case named the large-scale human rights violations which occurred on the territory of the occupied Crimea and fall under the scope of the European Convention of human rights. This is the prohibition of torture, right to life, right to liberty and some other instances of human rights abuses which would be evaluated by the court in times of provided evidence by both parties. And this is quite crucial and, of course, here I do not feel a very optimistic and positive sense. The key issue at hand is how courts will satisfy all of the claims which were suggested by Ukraine before the court.
But still I guess that the majority of them would be quite successful because the data Ukraine has at its disposal and also the assessment which has been done so far by the international institutions is very extensive one to look at and also many of the things coincide with each other. So they are quite credible. Unlike the Russian F was trying to undermine the authority of international institutions yesterday including some of the NGOs, namely NGO which I’m representing right now “The Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union”. It was mentioned during the litigation.
So my response to that this is the best reward we could ever get for our involvement in the issues of human rights abuses. But if answering more seriously, so it could be assessed with other findings in order to avert any suspicion of the bias nature of our findings. That’s what the Russian Federation was trying to do depicting Ukraine in its so-called allies, West and the US as into the one basket, naming them that they are very interested to surprise the Russian Federation.
But this is not the first instance of such behavior from the Russian Federation. Of course, the position is not flawless one from the part of Ukraine. There are many things which could be really put into doubt. For example, some of the statements that were voiced yesterday, of course, more relating to the political sphere, but very sensitive, at least it is unconstitutional Ukrainian government, which to power back in 2014, when Ukrainian President has stepped down not in accordance and not in line with the provisions of the Constitution. That means that the only legal way to push down Yanukovych at that time should be impeachment. So, this is only one of the instances which could be involved in this matter.
But generally, this is quite obvious that the Russian Federation was trying to label this case as the purely political one, which has nothing to do with human rights. But of course, I am more than sure, that it will not be taken into account by European Code of Human Rights. Since it has a very general practice in this regard, especially with regard to the situations, which relate and amount to the occupation. And this is the case to deal with here. The main battle is about the date of the occupation. Ukraine is pressing the date 27th of February, Russian Federation – 18th of March. Now I guess that this is the last date to be involved. So, we will see which date will be looked by the court, taking into account all of the circumstances.
It is a very complicated case and we should aware of this fact. And that means that some years will take to deal with the merits of the case. We could recall the other jurisprudence of the European Code of Human Rights and related cases. For example, in Transnistria’s case, the case related to Georgia or Turkey and Cyprus. In terms of the situation of not in Cyprus, the latter it took around forty years in order to produce the judgment and also to seek compensation as such. So, we should be quite patient. You know, it may sound very irritating, but this is a proper way to deal with this issue in terms of the legal domain. And I am more than sure that this is one what should be done, although I have a lot of resolutions about the meddling of political sphere into the legal domain.
And one of the brightest examples is the situation with the release of the Ukrainian sailors, who should have been released unconditionally, but nevertheless it was not the case if they were part of the political bargain and deal. And yesterday’s hearings are also indicating about this approach which might have been taken by new Ukrainian administration, which is not that harsh into the approach of the Russian Federation. As parties stated in their answers before the court. They said and mentioned about the so-called normalization between two states and specifically mentioning the political prisoners’ and other detainees’ swap which occurred days ago. So, I am afraid that the political intrusion moves faster than the legal domain.