Statement by Eskender Bariiev on the occasion of the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples

August 9, 2020

Dear brothers and sisters – representatives of indigenous peoples!

The International Day of the World's Indigenous People is celebrated annually on August 9. It was approved by a resolution of the UN General Assembly in 1994.

This year the International Day of the World's Indigenous People is dedicated to the topic: COVID-19 and indigenous peoples’ resilience.

“While the exact origins of COVID-19 have not yet been confirmed, the link between environmental damage and pandemics is well known to leading research organizations. But there is yet another group of experts, who have been worrying about the threat of a pandemic even before COVID-19: indigenous peoples. Thanks to their traditional knowledge and their relationship with the natural world, they have long known that the degradation of the environment has the potential to unleash disease”, says an official release from the United Nations.

The UN stresses that during the pandemic, it is more important than ever to safeguard indigenous peoples and their knowledge.
They can teach us much about how to rebalance our relationship with nature and reduce the risk of future pandemics. However, these people already face a host of challenges, and the unfortunate present reality is that the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are worsening these challenges further still.

“In order to raise awareness of the needs of indigenous peoples, every 9 August commemorates the International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples. Especially now, they need us.
Especially now, we need the traditional knowledge, voices and wisdom of indigenous peoples”, -the UN stressed.

Unfortunately, the last six years that have passed under the conditions of Russian occupation have become very dangerous for the Crimean Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks – the indigenous peoples of Crimea – in terms of compliance with the principles enshrined in the UN Charter, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. A number of individual human rights and collective rights of indigenous peoples to live in freedom, peace and security as separate peoples have become the target of encroachments from the Russian Federation, which occupied Crimea.

As a result of systemic repressions, pressure and aggressive policy of the Russian Federation, the Crimean Tatar people are being ousted from their historical homeland. In addition, Russia is pursuing a policy of substitution of the population in Crimea, violating Article 8 of the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Under the conditions of the temporary occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, the indigenous peoples of the peninsula – Crimean Tatars, Karaites and Krymchaks – are completely deprived of the opportunity to freely carry out their activities aimed at preserving their own culture, protecting their lands, and preventing discrimination in other spheres of life.

In 2016, the Supreme Court of Russia banned the Mejlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatars, on charges of extremism, thereby violating the collective right of indigenous peoples to govern their representative institutions, articles 5, 18 and 19 of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

Until now, Russia has not complied with the Interim Decision of the International Court of Justice of April 19, 2017 on the lifting of the ban on the activities of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people.

In 2014, Ukraine joined the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In March 2014, by the decision of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine officially recognized the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people and its representative bodies, the Kurultai and Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people. In July 2018, Victoria Tauli-Corpus, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was officially invited to visit Ukraine. We hope that the new United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Francisco Cali Tsai will undertake a country visit to Ukraine in the coming years.

As part of its mandate, the Expert Mechanism was also invited to assist in conducting expert consultations on the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the national legislation of Ukraine. The visit of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Expert Mechanism to Ukraine will send a message of gratitude to the entire Ukrainian people from among the indigenous peoples, will contribute to a deeper understanding of the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and by Ukrainian politicians, experts and society, will allow more effective implementation of the Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples into the national legislation of Ukraine.

Chairman of the Board of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center ,
Member of Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people

Eskender Bariiev