Crimean Tatars: Experts Concerned About Safety Of Minorities In Crimea
The Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) states in a report that it has “deep concerns” about the safety and access to rights of the Tatars living in Crimea. The FCNM calls for international monitoring of the situation in Crimea.
Below is an article published by the Council of Europe
Minority rights experts have expressed their “deep concerns” about the safety of the Tartar community in Crimea. A delegation of the Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM) visited Ukraine last month [21-26 March 2014] but due to safety concerns, decided against traveling to Crimea.
Its report confirms worries about “the safety and access to rights of minority populations in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars and persons belonging to the Ukrainian community.” The FCNM report urges the authorities to ensure that “legislative amendments in Ukraine pertaining to national minorities are not to be introduced hastily and should be adopted following a comprehensive and effective consultation process with representatives of all minorities.”
The relevant paragraphs of the report:
6. There are grave and immediate concerns regarding the safety and access to rights of persons belonging to the Crimean Tatars. The overall security situation in Crimea is reportedly very tense with armed but unidentifiable paramilitary groups manning a variety of check-points, where they stop residents and check their identity and belongings. The Advisory Committee points to civil society reports of kidnappings, intimidation and ill-treatment in connection with these so-called “self-defence groups”, which constitute an immediate obstacle to the freedom of movement of Crimean residents, including persons belonging to national minorities. Given the open resistance to events unfolding in Crimea demonstrated by Crimean Tatar leaders and the fact that most Crimean Tatars boycotted the referendum called for by the local authorities on 16 March , persons belonging to the Crimean Tatars are exposed to particular risk. According to representatives, some 5 000 persons, predominantly Crimean Tatars and mainly women and children, have left the peninsula for mainland Ukraine in recent weeks.
7. In addition, there is great uncertainty and fear among Crimean Tatars regarding their future. Representatives expressed their full commitment to Ukrainian territorial integrity but pointed to the practical necessity for residents of Crimea to co-operate with the local authorities in daily life, particularly when it comes to issues related to property or the performance of public duties by legal professionals. Wide parts of the Crimean Tatar population are afraid that they may be forced to leave the territory – a fear felt all the more intensely as Crimean Tatars have twice suffered from deportations in the past, in 1783 and in 1944. The Advisory Committee is further deeply concerned about the safety and enjoyment of cultural, education and language rights of all national minorities in Crimea, including in particular the numerically smaller ones such as the Karaim and Krimchak as well as persons belonging to the Ukrainian community who are in a minority situation in Crimea.
8. A number of legislative drafts concerning Crimea are under consideration in the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv, including the Law on the Status and Rights of Formerly Deported Persons, a law for the ratification of ILO Convention 169 on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and a Law on Occupied Territories. While welcoming the concern and attention paid to the situation of the Crimean Tatars and the adoption, after many years of discussions, of a declaration on 20 March 2014 to recognise the Crimean Tatars as indigenous people, the Advisory Committee is concerned that the Law on Occupied Territories may severely penalise all those who are forced by circumstances to co-operate with the authorities who are in effective control, including by accepting Russian citizenship to maintain their properties.
20. The Advisory Committee observed no immediate threat to the enjoyment of minority rights in the current situation in mainland Ukraine. It expresses urgent concerns, however, for the safety and access to rights of minority populations in Crimea, in particular the Crimean Tatars, numerically smaller minorities as well as persons belonging to the Ukrainian community, who are in a minority situation in Crimea. There is an urgent need for an international presence to monitor the evolving situation on the ground in Crimea, including as regards ongoing institutional arrangements led by the local authorities, which have a direct impact on the enjoyment of rights of persons belonging to national minorities. In addition, it is vital that any Law on Occupied Territories that is discussed in the Verkhovna Rada in Kyiv fully takes the concerns of Crimean residents into account and does not penalise those who are forced to co-operate with the authorities in effective control.