Statement by Liudmyla Korotkykh, manager of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center, expert of the Center of Political Analysis and Forecasting “Crimea” at the OSCE Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on the topic: “Freedom of expression and its relation to other fundamental freedoms”.
Freedom of expression is the basis for the realization of fundamental human rights and freedoms. This can clearly be seen in the example of the temporarily occupied Crimea, which for more than 6 years has been a peninsula of fear and lack of freedom.
The most common form of exercising the right to freedom of expression is peaceful assembly. After the occupation of Crimea, the de facto authorities regularly violated the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.
Since Russia, in violation of humanitarian law, applies its own legislation on the territory of the occupied Crimea, its inhabitants are forced to obey the norms of Russian legislation.
Freedom of assembly in Russia is guaranteed by the Constitution, but from year to year the number of actual prohibitions on holding peaceful assemblies and unjustified interferences in their organization and course is growing. The situation with ensuring the right to freedom of assembly deteriorated sharply with the adoption of Federal Law No. 65-FZ in June 2012, which amended the Federal Law “On Meetings, Rallies, Demonstrations, Processions and Pickets” and the Code of Administrative Offenses, which significantly expanded the powers of subjects of the Russian Federation in this area.
The adoption of Federal Law No. 258-ФЗ in July 2014 introduced criminal liability for repeated violations of the rules for organizing public events. The occupation authorities also enjoyed laws that created additional obstacles to the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly.
At the moment, in Crimea, there is actually a harmonious procedure for organizing public events, that is, there is a need to obtain permission to hold an event. According to Ukrainian law, a notification procedure is in force in Ukraine.
Requests for holding peaceful meetings in Crimea are often rejected on formal grounds. In some cases, refusals to hold public events were issued on the basis of unverified allegations that “extremist” or “separatist” ideas would be disseminated at these events.
Thus, in Crimea, the opportunity to gather peacefully in public rallies and freely express opinions is significantly limited. The daily practice included: refusals to the organizers to coordinate peaceful assemblies, in fact their ban; threats against organizers and participants; holding organizers and participants in meetings criminally or administratively liable. An exhaustive list of places where Crimeans supposedly can hold peaceful meetings has been introduced. In practice, all attempts to protest are thwarted by the occupation authorities.
Officials of the occupation administration of Crimea have repeatedly made statements that “all actions aimed at not recognizing the entry of Crimea into the Russian Federation will be prosecuted.” As a result, any meeting requiring the return of Crimea to Ukraine or expressing disagreement with Russian policy is de facto outlawed.
We urge the international community to investigate all cases of human rights violations in Crimea, continue monitoring the situation and immediately respond to violations.
We demand from the Russian Federation to stop persecuting Ukrainians and Crimean Tatars in Crimea for their views, release all political prisoners and fulfill their international obligations.