ECHR finds Russia liable for multiple human rights violations in Crimea since 2014 News
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ECHR finds Russia liable for multiple human rights violations in Crimea since 2014

The European Court of Human Rights unanimously found Tuesday that Russia was guilty of a pattern of human rights violations since 2014 in Crimea under the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention) and international humanitarian law, in its ruling on the case Ukraine v. Russia (re Crimea). These violations included ill-treatment, intimidation, disappearances, forced Russian citizenship, and suppression of Ukrainian media and press.

The Ukrainian government in its application raised concerns about the administrative practices of Russia since February 27, 2014, the date that court found Russia exercised extraterritorial jurisdiction over Crimea. Ukraine alleged these administrative practices were part of a “large interconnected campaign of political repression aimed at stifling any political opposition and entailed systematic violations of civil rights and freedoms.” For actions to be considered an administrative practice under the Convention, two elements must be demonstrated: the alleged violations must be repeated and officially tolerated.

Russia responded to the various allegations either with no evidence or information (despite request), or by saying that the allegations were vague and did not establish a pattern. Concerning the judicial system, Russia argued that Crimea had been admitted, as a constituent entity, into the Russian Federation and therefore was an integral part of Russia’s legal system. This, however, was found by the court not to have been established by law.

The ECHR relied in particular on the evidence of third-party IGOs and NGOs, such as the 2017 Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the temporarily occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol (Ukraine), as corroborated by witnesses and other evidence. In considering the evidence, the court found beyond reasonable doubt numerous and interconnected incidents showing practices officially tolerated by the Russian authorities to establish an administrative practice of violations of the Convention. The specific practices included violations of Article 2 the right to life, Article 3 the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and Article 5 the right to liberty and security through disappearances and abductions. Violations were also found of Article 8 through raids of private dwellings, Article 10 in the suppression of non-Russian media, and Article 11 through prohibition on Ukrainian gatherings and arbitrary detention of organisers of demonstrations. Further violations were found with particular focus on the treatment of Ukrainian political prisoners and the deprivation of their liberty, political and civil rights and treatment.

Under Article 46 and in light of the court’s findings, the judgment held that “Russia had to take measures to ensure, as soon as possible, the safe return of the relevant prisoners transferred from Crimea to penal facilities located on the territory of the Russian Federation.” However, the question of just satisfaction for reparations was reserved and open to the parties to submit on, or to reach an agreement.

The treatment of Ukrainians and Crimean Tartars in Crimea since the 2014 annexation has been an ongoing concern for human rights advocates. The annexation has been declared by the UN and EU as illegitimate and the international community has urged a focus on human rights in conferences related to Ukraine. In addition to the human rights violations related Ukraine Crimea, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has also raised a number of human rights concerns. The Ukrainian government is currently in process of investigating 120,000 potential Russian war crimes and currently has four inter-state cases pending against Russia before the ECHR.