Crimean Tatar Resource Center

Legal Qualification of the Deportation of the Crimean Tatar People as an International Crime Against an Indigenous People

The legal qualification of the forced deportation of an ethnic group from the location where it traditionally resides became quite a relevant issue given the horrific acts of individual States during the course of the 20th Century. In particular, this was the policy of the USSR and of the contemporary Russian Federation as a new reincarnation of Russian imperialism with regards to the Crimean Tatar People.

Deportation of ethnic groups by the Soviets was recognized as a crime in legislation of the USSR during the last years of its existence; the illegal deportation of ethnic groups by the Soviet authorities has repeatedly been the subject of regulatory activity in Ukraine since 1992. Later, deportation of the Crimean Tatar People was recognized as genocide by a parliamentary resolution of the Ukrainian Parliament on November 12, 2015 (No. 792-VIII).

After the Soviet Union disintegrated, individual interstate agreements on the post-Soviet territory also returned to the issue of qualifying the deportation as a crime. These include the agreement on issues related to the restoration of the rights of deported persons, national minorities and peoples, dated October 9, 1992, and the agreement between the governments of Ukraine and Uzbekistan on cooperation with regards to the voluntary organized return of national minorities and peoples to Ukraine, dated February 20, 1993. This agreement continues to be in effect.

Without a doubt, the forced deportation of the civilian population is considered an international crime of international humanity law. As far back as 1863, Article 23 of the Lieber Code contained a prohibition against the forced expulsion of the civilian population to “remote regions”. Forced resettlement or deportation as a war crime was mentioned in the London (St. James) Declaration of 1942, drafted by the anti-Hitler Coalition, and in Article 6c of the Charter of the International Military Tribunal of 1945. The Judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal refers to the deportation of the population of the occupied territories that were annexed to the German authority of that State as an international crime.

There is an issue of the scope of the forced deportations, as discussed in Article 2 of the 1948 Convention on the prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide. It does not directly provide for consideration of the deportation as a form of genocide. In order to qualify a deportation as a genocide, one must prove, at a minimum, that the intent of the organizers of such a deportation was the full or partial destruction of the relevant ethnic group as a result of the deportation and the processes directly linked to it. The thesis regarding the necessity of proving the intent of the organizers of the deportation in particular was contained in paragraph 214 of the preliminary report titled, “The Human rights dimension of population transfer, including the implantation of settlers”, drafted by the Sub-commission on prevention of discrimination and protection of minorities of the UN Human Rights Commission, dated July 6, 1993, E/CN.4/sub.2/1993/17, and paragraph 23 of the UN preliminary report of the same name, dated June 30, 1994, Document Reference E/CN.4/sub.2/1994/18.

The authors of the above-mentioned 1993 UN report noted that the general consequences of population transfers coincide with the consequences of an ethnocide, which are characterized by the implication of the government in destroying vitally important elements or resources for any individual population, nation or people by usurping control over these elements, and going as far as achieving their complete destruction (paragraph 100 of the report). The authors also mentioned that the “cumulative effects of population transfer may fall under one or more of the definitions of genocide” (paragraph 101 of the report). In paragraph 215 of the 1993 report, it was pointed out that the understanding of the government of the destructive impact of displacement for the relevant group and, at the same time, the continued participation in the implementation of such practices or the failure to take measures to prevent it makes baseless any argument regarding the absence of intent that may be presented by such government.

Characteristically, by stating in paragraph 211 that certain populations transfer cases in the 20th Century fall under the definition of a genocide, the authors of this 1993 UN report referred specifically to the examples of the forced transfers of the population by the Soviet Government in 1941-1952.

The Sub-commission resolution 1997/29, dated August 28, 1997, and titled, “The freedom of movement and population transfer”, was adopted as a result of the cited reports of 1993. The resolution stated that the practice of forced expulsions, resettlements and deportations, forcible population exchange, unlawful evacuation, “ethnic cleansings”, etc., are forms of forcible transfers that may happen between States as well as on the internal level of the country; not only do they strip this population of its right of freedom of movement, but they also threaten the peace and security of these States.

These processes of the UN system influenced the codification of international criminal law, as embodied in Articles 7 and 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court of 1998. Therefore, the deportation of populations, depending on the circumstances of its implementation, is regarded by contemporary international law as a crime against humanity or a war crime, which is different from a genocide. As regards the deportation by the Soviet Government, it can generally be described as a crime against humanity, different from a genocide. For example, it is difficult to imagine that the USSR, having deported ethnic Armenians from Crimea, had as their aim the destruction of this ethnic group (since the USSR implemented no particular restrictions to the rights of Armenians either in 1944 or afterwards).

At the same time, it is specifically the deportation of the Crimean Tatar People that should be qualified as a genocide in the face of evidence of the intent to carry out complete or partial destruction of the ethnic group as Indigenous People, by stripping them of their ancestral homeland and by destroying their national elite beforehand during the lengthy repressions of the 1920s and 1930s.

The 1968 Convention on the non-applicability of statutory limitations to war crimes or crimes against humanity, among others, was ratified by the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on March 25, 1969. Article 1 provides for the non-applicability of statutory limitations to the serious violations of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and to war crimes and crimes against humanity, as provided for in the Charter of the International Military Tribunal of Nuremberg, as well as to the facts of “exile as a result of armed attack or occupation” and, separately, to the facts of the genocide. In accordance with the requirements of the 1968 Convention and section 5, article 49, of the Criminal Code of Ukraine, the possibility of criminal proceedings on the facts of any deportations on ethnic grounds is not dependent on the length of time that has passed since the period of the relevant events.

In addition, the crime of deportation as a form of forced displacement cannot be considered complete when the actual forced relocation is complete. When the deported population finds itself in areas where they have been forcibly relocated, without the ability to return at their will to the territory of the previous, traditional residence, this logically amounts to the continuation of forced displacement, with an associated single intent and purpose.

A portion of the Crimean Tatar People and other deported ethnic groups still live in areas of Central Asia; opposition to their return to their historical homeland was consistently implemented by the Soviet authorities in various forms from 1944 until 1988. Beginning in March 2014, the opposition has been carried out by the authorities of the Russian Federation in the occupied territories of Ukraine. Many incidents of de facto deportation of Crimean Tatars occurred in 2014-2016, when Russian authorities forbid their entry to Crimea, or when they fabricated criminal cases under the rubric of “counter-extremism” and “counter-terrorism”, which created circumstances requiring them to depart the peninsula to save their own life and liberty.

So, the deportation of the Crimean Tatar People as an Indigenous People from their historical homeland in Crimea has not yet been completed (and is ongoing) as an international crime with no statute of limitations. Ukraine has adequate material and procedural jurisdiction for their investigation and final qualification; legal recognition that deportation constitutes genocide becomes final after the entry into effect of the decision by a competent court. In the face of ongoing occupation of Crimea by Russia, appropriate criminal investigation of the Ukrainian authorities should be advanced by the international community, UN agencies and entities, the International Criminal Court, human rights structures, historical institutions of representative and public structures of the Crimean Tatar People and other Indigenous Peoples of the world.

Boris Babin, expert of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, professor, babinb@ukr.net

Statement by the CTRC in connection with the arrest of lawyer Edem Semedliaiev

On November 11, 2021, the so-called Central District Court of Simferopol found lawyer Edem Semedliaiev guilty of an offense under Article 19.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation (Disobedience to a lawful order of a police officer).

12 November 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over October 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea for October 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, there were 3 searches, 73 detentions, 16 arrests, 73 cases of interrogations, interviews and conversations, 1 transferring and 40 cases of imposition of fines. 47 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial were recorded. There are 4 known cases of violation of the right to a healthcare access. More details can be found in our report.

11 November 2021

Statement by the CTRC in connection with the verdict of the defendants in the so-called third Bakhchysarai Hizb ut-Tahrir case

On October 29, 2021, the Southern District Military Court of Rostov-on-Don sentenced four persons involved in the so-called third Bakhchysarai Hizb ut-Tahrir case, who were detained by Russian security forces on March 11, 2020.

2 November 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over 9 months of 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over 9 months of 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, Russian security forces carried out 46 searches, 238 arrests / detentions and 238 interrogations, interviews and conversations. The total number of arrests for 9 months of this year is 147: 25 - new arrests, 18 - administrative arrests, 83 - prolongation of detention, 22 - sentences. There were 292 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial, 122 - to the healthcare access. Also, 38 cases of transportation of political prisoners of Crimea were recorded. Fines were imposed 55 times.

22 October 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over September 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea for September 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, 7 searches, 67 detentions, 13 arrests, 67 cases of interrogations, interviews and conversations, 2 transferrings and 25 cases of fines were recorded. 4 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial were recorded. There were 27 known cases of violation of the right to the healthcare access. More details can be found in our report.

18 October 2021

Representative of Mejlis met with the Chairman of the SEFC

On Friday, September 10, the Head of the Department of Legal Affairs and Foreign Affairs of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, the Head of the Board of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center Eskender Bariiev held a working meeting with the Head of the State Service of Ukraine for Ethnopolitics and Freedom of Conscience Olena Bohdan and the department's lawyers.

7 October 2021

CTRC handed over to the US Embassy a package of documents for recognition the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people as an act of genocide

On Friday, October 1, representatives of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center met with US staff in Ukraine Patrick Knapp and Tetiana Stechak. The diplomats were told about human rights violations in the occupied Crimea and about the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people in 1944, which continues to this day.

7 October 2021

The world must recognize the so-called elections to the State Duma illegitimate

Statement of the International Movement for the De-occupation of Crimea and Solidarity with the Crimean Tatar People #LIBERATECRIMEA

7 October 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over August 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over August 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, 15 detentions, 29 arrests, 5 searches, 15 cases of interrogations, interviews and conversations were recorded. 30 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial were recorded. There are 10 known cases of violation of the right to the healthcare access.

10 September 2021

Crimean Platform: a step forward

On Monday, August 23, the inagural summit of the Crimean Platform was held in Kyiv. The event was attended by 46 delegations from around the world and representatives of international organizations.

2 September 2021

Statement by the Crimean Tatar Resource Center in connection with the mass searches and arrests of Crimean Tatar activists on August 17, 2021 in the occupied Crimea

On Tuesday, August 17, Russian security officials conducted searches in five houses of the Crimean Tatars in the Bakhchysarai, Simferopol, and Sevastopol districts of Crimea.

24 August 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea for the first half of 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presented an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea for the first half of 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, the Russian security forces conducted 32 searches, 156 arrests / detentions and 41 interrogations, interviews and conversations. The total number of arrests in the first six months of this year is 96: 14 - new arrests, 55 - prolongations of detention, sentences - 27. There were 205 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial, 90 - to the healthcare access. Also, 36 cases of transferring of political prisoners of Crimea were recorded. Fines were imposed 28 times. Most of the violations by the occupants are attributed to the representatives of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people. This practice has become systemic on the peninsula.

21 July 2021

Crimea: from dehydration to floods

Svitlana Boichenko, Doctor of Geographical Sciences, Associate Professor Yevhen Khlobystov, Doctor of Economics, Professor

17 July 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over June 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea in June 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, 2 arrests, 2 cases of interrogations, interviews and conversations were recorded. The total number of arrests in June is 24. 28 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial were recorded. There are 7 known cases of violation of the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.

10 July 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over May 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over May 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, 4 searches, 2 arrests, 6 cases of interrogations, interviews and conversations were recorded. The total number of arrests in April is 3. There were 29 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial. There are 7 known cases of violation of the right to the healthcare access.

10 June 2021

Situation analysis in the occupied Crimea as of 2020

The publication presents the results of the analysis of information obtained from open sources during the interviews of activists, lawyers, victims of repressions and their relatives, monitoring of the Committee for the Protection of Rights of the Crimean Tatar People and the Crimean Tatar Resource Center

31 May 2021

There is a decrease in the area of the water surface for all large reservoirs of the Crimean peninsula - CTRC

On Thursday, May 20 at 16:00, experts of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center in an online format presented the results of monitoring of the water resources of Crimea based on satellite imagery for the period from November 2020 to April 2021. According to the organization, there is a reduction in the water surface of almost all water bodies in on average of 33%.

21 May 2021

A brief overview of the process of atmospheric pollution in Crimea

The air of Crimea is one of the main elements of the natural resources of the peninsula. At the same time, it has always been subjected to anthropogenic impact from the point of view of pollution by various pollutants, including those hazardous to human health. Taking into account the temporary occupation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea by the Russian Federation, it is interesting to understand the state of the pollution process over the next five years after the forceful seizure of the peninsula.

20 May 2021

Analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea over April 2021 (presentation)

The Crimean Tatar Resource Center presents an analysis of human rights violations in the occupied Crimea for April 2021. According to the organization, during the reporting period, 7 searches, 6 arrests, 11 cases of interrogations, interviews and conversations were recorded. The total number of arrests in April is 24, 16 - against representatives of the indigenous Crimean Tatar people. 35 cases of violation of the right to a fair trial were recorded. There are 25 known cases of violation of the right to the healtcare access.

12 May 2021