[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] warned Monday that Russian occupation in Crimea [JURIST backgrounder] has led to serious human rights violations [press release]. In the 37-page report [text, PDF], titled “Rights in Retreat: Abuses in Crimea,” HRW documented several cases of persecution of groups opposed to Russian occupation, the imposition of Russian citizenship on residents of Crimea, limitations imposed on speech, and failure of authorities to investigate enforced disappearances. In March Russia required all permanent citizens of Crimea to either declare Russian citizenship or declare intent to maintain Ukrainian citizenship by April 18. Since March several paramilitary groups have reportedly engaged in human rights violations, with total impunity, against those opposed to Russian occupation. HRW argues that as parties to the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 and portions of the 1977 Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 [texts], Russia has an obligation as an occupying power to make certain that all persons are “treated humanely and without discrimination on any basis.” The report also discusses the Law on Occupation under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits occupying powers from forcing inhabitants to swear allegiance to the occupying power through duress. However, Russia argues that they are not an occupying power, citing Crimean authorities’ request to be a part of Russia as proof. HRW contends that the local authorities who requested to be a part of Russia had no authority to make that request and that Russia is an occupying power by definition because Russia has exercised control in Crimea without the consent of Ukraine.
Russia’s ongoing conflict [BBC timeline] with Ukraine [JURIST news archive] has reinvigorated fears of Cold War Era politics and increased tensions between Russia and the West. In October a report [text, PDF] by Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks [official profile] documented the cases of three missing civil society activists [JURIST report] and the deaths of local residents since Russia took over Crimea and urged Russia to investigate. In August a Russian discount airline suspended all flights [JURIST report] as a result of tightening EU sanctions against Russia. In July the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] issued a report documenting what it referred to as the “continuing deterioration of the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine and calling for greater care to prevent civilian casualties [JURIST report]. Earlier that month Amnesty International reported mounting evidence of abductions and violence [JURIST report] against activists, protesters and journalists in eastern Ukraine. In June the OHCHR issued a report on Ukraine that cited increasing evidence of abductions [JURIST report], detentions, torture and killings in the two eastern regions of the country where armed forces hold control. In May the Commission issued a report covering the period from April 2 to May 6, which found alarming deterioration of human rights [JURIST report] in the country. In April the International Criminal Court [official website] opened an investigation [JURIST report] into alleged crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes in the Ukraine.