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 Russia breeds fear and repression in Crimea. International partners should sustain constant pressure on Kremlin, - Human Rights Watch

Russian authorities have created a pervasive climate of fear and repression in Crimea in the two years since it has occupied the peninsula, Human Rights Watch said today. It is crucial for key international actors to keep Crimea’s drastically deteriorating human rights situation high on their agendas.

This was announced by the Human Rights Watch organization it its report published on March 18, Censor.NET informs citing Ukrainska Pravda.

"Crimea's isolation has made it very difficult to conduct comprehensive human rights monitoring there," said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "But serious human rights abuses in Crimea should not slip to the bottom of the international agenda."

Read more: European Parliament to examine repressions against Tatars in occupied Crimea, - Schultz

"Since Russian forces began occupying Crimea in early 2014, the space for free speech, freedom of association, and media in Crimea has shrunk dramatically. In two years, authorities have failed to conduct meaningful investigations into actions of armed paramilitary groups, implicated in torture, extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, attacks and beatings of Crimean Tatar and pro-Ukraine activists and journalists," the report reads.

Authorities have required Crimean residents either to become Russian citizens or, if they refuse, to be deemed foreigners in Crimea. Two years on, it is evident that residents who chose not to accept Russian citizenship face discrimination in getting jobs and social services.

Under the pretext of combating extremism or terrorism, the authorities have harassed, intimidated, and taken arbitrary legal action against Crimean Tatars, an ethnic minority who openly opposed Russia's occupation.

"For the last two years, many Crimean Tatars have consistently, openly, and peacefully opposed Russian actions in Crimea," Williamson said. "Russia has been making Crimean Tatars pay a high price for nothing more than their principled stance."

Local authorities declared two Crimean Tatar leaders personae non gratae and prohibited them from entering Crimea; searched, threatened, or shut down Crimean Tatar media outlets and banned peaceful gatherings to commemorate historic events, such as the anniversary of the deportation of Crimean Tatars.

Read more: Crimea engulfed in mass arrests and repression. Occupants' behavior smacks of Stalin era, - Poroshenko

The report also mentions Crimea's prosecutor Poklonskaya who petitioned a court to recognize the actions of Mejlis, the Crimean Tatars' elected representative body, as extremist. In February 2016, court proceedings began to determine whether to shut it down.

"Under international law, the Russian Federation is an occupying power in Crimea as it exercises effective control in Crimea without the consent of the government of Ukraine, and there has been no legally recognized transfer of sovereignty to Russia. The referendum, held without the authorization of the Ukrainian government or any broad-based endorsement by the international community, and Russia's unilateral actions afterward cannot be considered to meet the criteria under international law for a transfer of sovereignty that would end the state of belligerent occupation," the report reads.

"Russia bears direct responsibility for the surge in rights abuses in Crimea," Williamson said. "Russia's international partners should sustain constant pressure on Russia to stop human rights abuses on the peninsula."

 
 
 
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