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Hypocrisy and Distortions: Rights of Crimean Tatars

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August 26th, 2015

By: Anatoly Salutskaya for An-Crimea.Ru – 

translated by J. Arnoldski for Fort Russ

“How Kiev violated the rights of Crimean Tatars”

After the reunification of Crimea with Russia, the global media
upon command (as they have been ordered to from the start!)  began to write about the fact that the
situation of the Crimean Tatars has worsened under Russian control. But is that
what really happened? Why have all authoritative international human rights
mechanisms sounded the alarm only in the past year?  Now we hear of unresolved land, property, and
other problems of the Crimean Tatars, their relations with authorities in
general, and  their exclusion from the
political process. Why?  Not once
did international organizations pay attention, with any genuine concern, to the
overall atmosphere of intolerance of the Ukrainian authorities with regard to
demands of the Crimean Tatars. In fact, all that has been said is that there is
a constant increase in problems.

Genuine global concern over the deteriorating situations of the
Crimean Tatars in Ukraine did not remain abstract or, so to say, verbal in
character. Rather, it actually found expression in many concrete resolutions
adopted by highly influential international organizations which busy themselves
primarily with human rights concerns. Also, it is interesting to reference
well-known international resolutions in recent years involving the situation of
the Crimean Tatars, when they were legally part of Ukraine.

In particular, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination (CERD) has repeatedly pointed to the absence of legislation in
Ukraine on measures prohibiting discrimination based on race or national
origin. Back in 1998, the concluding observations of the 13th and 14th reports
of Ukraine on the implementation of the international Convention of CERD, noted
this about Crimean Tatars: upon returning to Ukraine, they face difficulties acquiring
citizenship and have no effective means to protect their rights.

On this note, it is important to recall the so-called periodic
reviews in the United Nations Human Rights Council. These procedures are
regularly held for every single member country of the United Nations (in order
of priority), and provide a deep analysis of the situation of human rights in a
given country, using many criteria. Periodic reviews are carried out in Geneva,
where the UN Council on Human Rights is based, with a clear pattern: first, the
representative of the given country (usually the head of the Foreign Ministry)
gives a report on the human rights situation – of course, 95% of the findings
are positive, and self-criticism “for decency” is reserved for the remaining
5%. Next, the representatives of all 57 member states of the United Nations
Human Rights Council speak.

In these speeches, there is a lot of criticism. But especially
active are the representatives of the nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s)
accredited by the UN. Oh, how they do not spare the paint in presenting to the
international community the true human rights situation in the country which is
under the review process. It should also be noted that the representatives of
these non-governmental organizations are speaking in the same big hall where
diplomats sit, because their opinion is widely known.

All the criticism is summed up, and after about two or three
weeks a second meeting is scheduled where the country is able to raise
objections to the comments made in the address and explain how it intends to
respond to the undeniable criticism.

The result of these discussions – in two steps! – is a
resolution of the UN Human Rights Council, along with relevant reports from
various international organizations. From this rather detailed description, it
is clear that the Geneva resolutions and reports, arising from periodic reviews,
are serious documents reflecting the position of the international community.

Regarding the situation of the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine, the
world community sounded the alarm in 1998. Alas, to no avail: in 2001, when
considering the reports of Ukraine, the Committee for the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination again pointed to the existence of large problems among this
strata of the population. Moreover, at this time, the inadmissibility of
provoking ethnic conflict between Crimean Tatars and other minorities was
especially underlined, namely such conflicts which accompany the process of
resettling Crimean Tatars to their historical homeland.

The situation was even more aggravated in 2006.

At this time, in the final report to CERD, the bad living conditions
of the Crimean Tatars, which adversely affects the health of the national group
as a whole, were revealed, and special emphasis was also put on the
difficulties of their socio-economic integration into Ukrainian society. As it
turned out, they were not only deprived of access to legal security of tenure,
but were also deprived of physical access to infrastructure, including water,
sewage, electricity, gas, and heating. This, it is worth repeating, was the
conclusion of the International Committee on the Elimination of Racial
Discrimination. And that was in 2006.

Plus, the CERD recorded acts of vandalism against the religious
sites of minorities, including Crimean Tatars. And one of the major
recommendations was the need to mention the issue of textbooks for
schoolchildren in minority languages, especially in Crimean Tatar. Such
textbooks in Ukraine simply did not exist.

That’s not all. In 2011, in its concluding comments on the
reports of the three reports by Ukraine, the CERD again drew attention to the
difficulties faced by returning Crimean Tatars in obtaining Ukrainian
citizenship, as well as their lack of access to land and the practical
impossibility of employment. In addition, insufficient opportunities for
studying the native language of Crimean Tatars and acts of abuse against them
were spoken of in the concluding observations of the authoritative
international organizations.

No less significant was what was shown in the reports of the
Committee on Human Rights. Also in 2006, upon the consideration of the sixth
periodic report of Ukraine, the Committee pointed to manifestations of hatred
against the Crimean Tatars and even acts of vandalism. And in 2013, it was
emphasized that the majority of these crimes are committed against the Crimean
Tatars by radical Ukrainian nationalists and racists. At the same time,
according to the report of the Committee of Human Rights, law enforcement
agencies only categorized these crimes as hooliganism. Documented facts of this
kind could be multiplied and multiplied. For example, on August 16, 2013, the
OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, Tors, pointed to the absence of
a law in Ukraine on the restoration of rights to formerly deported people
returning to their historic homeland. In her opinion, there was no legal
framework for repatriation in Ukraine. This led to Majlis squatting on land and
accordingly stimulated inter-ethnic conflicts.

And the Commissioner of the European Council for Human rights,
Hammenberg, with whom I had many occasions to converse, pointed out in a letter
on his visit to Ukraine in November 2011 the importance of full integration of
the Crimean Tatars, including employment, housing and social protection.

Finally, and perhaps the most important. As a result of the
three cycles of reports monitoring the implementation of the Framework
Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, the Council adopted a
number of resolutions – from February 5, 2003, from March 30, 2011 and from
December 18, 2013, which consistently demanded that the Ukrainian authorities
solve problems relating to the participation of Crimean Tatars in economic,
social, cultural and social spheres. At the same time, concern was expressed
about the rise of racism and intolerance.

The list of international documents that recorded the depressing
situation in Ukraine with each passing year can be continued. Stringent
resolutions were adopted by the European Commission against Racism and
Intolerance, the Committee of Experts of the European Charter of regional and
minority languages, as well as other organizations. All these documents were
based on direct studies of specific situations in the Crimea, and not on
messages from social media.Taken together, they suggest that the situation of
the Crimean Tatars in Ukraine worsened every year and was nearing catastrophe.

It is astounding how casually the tone of Western media
diametrically changed after the return of Crimea to Russia. It turns out that
in Ukraine, the Crimean Tatars almost prospered and no problems with the
authorities of the peninsula and Kiev had ever been encountered. In the West,
nobody now remembers how Crimean Tatars were forced to squat on land or how the
Crimean Tatar language was repressed. The general tone of politicians and the
media is reduced to a primitive propaganda note: Crimean Tatars lived
wonderfully in Ukraine, but in Russia things can’t get any worse.

This is yet another example which demonstrates the elasticity
and bias of the vaunted Western public opinion, which is kneaded by political
allegiances and is sometimes directed by “regional committees.”

In fact, it was precisely after the transition of the Crimean
Tatar community of Crimea into the legal framework of Russia that two
fundamental problems of the long-suffering people were solved. And despite
pressure from international human rights organizations, Kiev did not even want
to consider these problems. Firstly, the Crimean Tatar language was recognized
as a state language on the territory of Crimea, and secondly, the land rights
of Crimean Tatars were regulated by legislation. Not to mention the wide
participation of representatives of this people in government. It is no
coincidence that 95% of Crimean Tatars have adopted Russian citizenship.

Of course, it would be premature to say that all the problems of
this people in Crimea which have accumulated have been resolved. But, the
process is undoubtedly developing in a positive direction, particularly
regarding such important matters as language and education. To verify this,
it’s insufficient to “sit” on social networks catching negative
message thrown around by supporters of the Majlis, who have lost credibility
and whose head sits in the Kiev Rada.

By the way, in Strasbourg, I had to observed firsthand how the
deputies of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, with some kind
of disdain and disregard, gave on the sidelines a little pat on the shoulder to
Dzhemilev, who too clearly looks like some kind of junior partner among them.

One should come directly to Crimea, as the French parliament
did, and on-site be assured how much improvement there is in the situation of
the Crimean Tatars – this in comparison with the previous situation in Ukraine,
where international human rights mechanisms, with sad consistency, recorded an
increase in the violations of the rights of the Crimean Tatars in the period of
the peninsula’s “independence.” Seeing what’s happening today, one can
understand why the Congress of the Crimean Tatars, held on the peninsula, has
expressed distrust in the Turkish gathering under the leadership of Dzhemilev.

Fortunately, the previous resolutions of international
organizations designed to monitor compliance with human rights haven’t been
burned. And a review of them looks very topical. They recorded objective
reality. Only on this basis can the situation developing in Russian Crimea be
appreciated, where the Crimean Tatar people have gained a state language and
have felt themselves to be equals among the other people’s inhabiting the
peninsula and the whole of Russia.

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