Apr 21, 2017

Crimean Tatars: UN Court Reiterates Condemnation of Illegal Occupation of Crimean Peninsula



The UN International Court of Justice calls on Russia to put an end to discrimination against Crimean Tatars in Russia-occupied Crimea, referring in its final statement to the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. According to the supranational judicial body, the Crimean Tatars are entitled to representative institutions. The case also shows the courts’ “constructive approach”, according to the words of Olena Zerkal, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine. While, on the one hand, the court’s statement displays its cautious attitude regarding the Ukrainian case, on the other side, it recognizes the discrimination inflicted on Crimean Tatars.



Below is an article by EUROMAIDAN PRESS:

In line with our readers’ predictions, the UN International Court of Justice has recognized its prima facie jurisdiction in the case of Ukraine against Russia, despite Moscow’s attempts to convince the court that it does not have the authority to consider Kyiv’s requirements (full text of decision). The judges, in particular, examined whether Kyiv fulfilled all procedural requirements and conventions noted that all of Ukraine’s attempts to resolve disputes through negotiations have failed.

The court had rejected Ukraine’s first request – to introduce provisional measures to make Russia implement the demands of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorism Financing Convention). Ronny Abraham, the President of the Court had announced this decision in The Hague on 19 April [2017]. According to the judges, Ukraine had not provided sufficient proof that the Russian side had the goal of killing civilians in Donbas or knew about the corresponding intentions of the Russian-backed militants, which was predicted.

The provisional measures Ukraine requested were to compel the Russian Federation to stop the supply of weapons and arms to groups carrying out terrorist attacks and influence them to prevent the carrying out of such attacks. However, Mr. Abraham stressed that the Court’s refusal to grant these measures doesn’t stop Ukraine in its further actions in this accusation, and that the consideration of the case will continue, as this stage doesn’t concern the non-judicature of the UN Court, but only whether Ukraine had fulfilled the requirement of providing necessary evidence for imposing provisional measures. Ukraine will continue filing new evidence in support of Russia’s guilt.

However, in line with expert predictions, the Court granted Ukraine’s request to make Russia comply with the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. The Court ordered to take urgent measures to ensure that the Crimean Tatars have their own representative institutions, including the Mejlis, Russia’s ban on which in occupied Crimea the Court found to be a violation of the Convention. Moreover, Russia should provide Ukrainians in Crimea the right to study in the Ukrainian language.

In making this decision, the judges of the Court took into account a UN 2016 report on human rights in Ukraine, which noted that the Russian “authorities” in Crimea exerted pressure on students and teachers of Ukrainian schools to stop teaching in the Ukrainian language.

Additionally, the International Court of Justice obliged Ukraine and Russia to fulfill the Minsk agreements, despite Russia’s claims that the court proceedings are incompatible with the ongoing Minsk process.

The Court will continue hearings in the case in May [2017], and the sides will continue to supply evidence.

The decision of the Court was hailed as a victory in the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry. According to the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine Olena Zerkal writing for Yevropeiska Pravda, the Court took a constructive approach in the case “Ukraine vs. Russia,” despite the fact that it refused to approve provisional measures relating to Donbas, and especially since this is the first decision that the Court has made related to this Convention.

Zerkal noted that the Court supported Ukraine’s notion that the events in Donbas which Ukraine presented are subject to the Convention and that it formally recognized the prima facie (preliminary) jurisdiction over this Convention.

She also said that the decision taken by the Court is “very positive” for Ukraine, and stated that Ukraine “weak spots” were also revealed, and where Ukraine should work more to gather evidence and prove Russia’s intentions within the framework of the Convention on the Financing of Terrorism.

Ukraine has filed a lawsuit against Russia due to violations of the international law by Russia’s actions in Ukraine, specifically – of breaching the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (Terrorism Financing Convention) by funding and supporting militants in the Donbas, and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

Russia had claimed that the court has no jurisdiction over the case and that it has not violated the abovementioned conventions.

According to Ukraine’s Agent Olena Zerkal, Ukraine’s strategy was to prove that Russia violates numerous UN conventions and show that ICJ has the necessary jurisdiction to rule on the subject. Russia, it its turn, tried to outline the case as the armed conflict, so that it would be regulated by international humanitarian law—the ICJ has only limited jurisdiction in this sphere.

Although the ICJ has no means to enforce its decisions, its recognition of prima facie jurisdiction in the case means that the international community has additional leverage in demanding Russia to stand down.

Hearings in the case could take several years, which is why Ukraine had requested to apply provisional measures to Russia immediately.

The calendar of next hearings in the case will be outlined in May 2017.