In January 2021, the decision of the European Court of Human Rights on the case “Ukraine v. Russia (concerning Crimea)” for № 20958/14 became known. This international judicial body, whose jurisdiction extends to all member states of the Council of Europe that have ratified the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, has found grounds for considering our case on the merits. However, only partially.
The relevant decision in the case of Ukraine v. Russia (concerning Crimea) was published on the website of the European Court of Human Rights. The document states that the court took into account “the power of growing Russia’s presence in Crimea from February to March 2014 without the consent of the Ukrainian authorities or any evidence of a threat to Russian troops stationed [on the peninsula] under then-bilateral agreements.” It is also acknowledged that “Russian troops were not passive observers, but took an active part in those events.”
The court has so far agreed with Kyiv’s statement that the peninsula came under de facto control of Russia on February 27, 2014 – almost a month before the attempt to formally legitimize this fact in the form of a referendum held on March 16, 2014. The ECHR agreed with Ukraine’s statement that the change of local government in Crimea took place in conjunction with the storming of the Crimean parliament building and the Crimean Council of Ministers on 27 February, almost simultaneously with the Russian army’s control over entry and exit points in Crimea by land, sea and air.
The European Court also found admissible the complaints of Ukraine concerning: the alleged existence of an administrative practice of enforced disappearances and the lack of an effective investigation in that regard (Article 2); the alleged existence of administrative practices of ill-treatment (Article 3); the alleged existence of administrative practices of illegal detention (Article 5); the alleged existence of administrative practice of extending the legislation of the Russian Federation to the territory of Crimea and established that from February 27, 2014 the courts operating in the territory of Crimea cannot be considered as established by law (Article 6); the alleged existence of an administrative practice of forcible Russian citizenship (Article 8); the alleged existence of administrative practices regarding illegal searches of private property (Article 8); the alleged existence of administrative practices of harassment, persecution and confiscation of property of religious organizations not belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church (Article 9); the alleged existence of an administrative practice of terminating the activities of the Ukrainian media (Article 10); the alleged existence of an administrative practice of banning public gatherings, as well as intimidating and illegally detaining organizers of demonstrations (Article 11); the alleged existence of administrative practices regarding the expropriation of property of civilians and private enterprises without compensation (Article 1 of the First Protocol); the alleged existence of administrative practices regarding the prohibition of the Ukrainian language in schools and the persecution of Ukrainian-speaking children at school (Article 2 of the First Protocol); the alleged existence of an administrative practice of restricting freedom of movement between Crimea and mainland Ukraine as a result of the de facto transformation of the Russian Federation of administrative delimitation into a border (between Russia and Ukraine) (Article 2 of Protocol No. 4); the alleged existence of an administrative practice of persecuting Crimean Tatars under Article 14 in conjunction with Articles 8, 9, 10 and 11 of the Convention and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the Convention.
The European Court of Justice has also decided to join the Ukraine v. Russia intergovernmental case against № 20958/14, Ukraine v. Russia interstate case 38334/18 concerning political prisoners.
The ECHR is beginning to consider these allegations on the merits, which may last for years.
Explanation of the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine
“In support of Ukraine’s position, a significant amount of information was provided on the developments in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea during February-March 2014, the introduction of units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation on the peninsula and the seizure of military and civilian facilities, and the testimony of 50 witnesses and human rights violations during this period (including those who were held captive by the so-called “Crimean self-defense” and the Russian military)”, – the Minister of Justice of Ukraine commented.
“This case has several important aspects. The first is legal. Step by step we prove by court the facts of aggression and criminal behavior of the Russian Federation on the territory of our state. Court decisions are not political statements. Sooner or later, such decisions will have legal consequences for top officials of the aggressor country. The second is communication. Both we and the Council of Europe give a strong message, Crimea remains our priority, we remember everything and will catch up with everyone involved. The final one is countering hybrid warfare. Russia supports the myth of “peaceful” and “legitimate” “accession” of Crimea. The myth, of course, is primarily for their internal use. But they are also trying to promote it on the international arena, ”explained the Minister of Justice of Ukraine Denys Malyuska.
Moscow considers Kyiv’s accusations unfounded. According to Maluska, Russia claims that the case “Ukraine v. Russia (concerning Crimea)” is political and does not involve human rights violations. The Russian delegation argued that the definition of “effective control” over the precedent of the case of Ilashka and Others v. Moldova and Russia (№ 48787/99 of 8 July 2004) was inadmissible. Moscow continues to insist that its troops have been on the territory of Ukraine lawfully, in accordance with bilateral agreements on the status and conditions of stay of the Black Sea Fleet of the Russian Federation on the territory of Ukraine.
Russia notes that its jurisdiction over the Crimean peninsula was established after March 18, 2014 as a result of “legal accession” to it as a result of the so-called “referendum”, to which Russia allegedly had nothing to do.
Regarding human rights violations, Russian officials claimed that Ukraine had not provided any reliable evidence of numerous human rights violations in Crimea since that date. At the same time, the Russian delegation questioned the reports of international organizations and monitoring missions provided to Ukraine, including the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and testimonies provided by injured Ukrainian citizens, which she considered unreliable.
Russia has argued that Ukraine has also failed to prove the existence of “administrative practice” of human rights violations in Crimea by Russia, which is necessary to make the case admissible, and Ukraine’s evidence has not shown any connection between the violations, but only focused on isolated cases. Moscow also claimed that the organizations cited by Ukraine were unreliable and biased because they were funded by Western countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom.
At the same time, the court rejected Ukraine’s accusations of “administrative practice of murder” in Crimea.
The judges also decided not to consider allegations of “short-term detention” of foreign journalists and “nationalization of property of” Ukrainian soldiers on the peninsula. ”
In their opinion, Ukraine provided little evidence that would indicate the “administrative practice” of such actions.
Translated by Yevheniia Ivanova