Czech diplomats report human rights violations in annexed Crimea

Photo: CТК

A report prepared for the Czech foreign ministry by embassy staff in Kiev details widespread alleged human rights violations occurring in Crimea. According to Czech diplomats, the repression unleashed since Russia’s takeover of the peninsula is leading to growing cases of torture, beatings, detentions and even disappearances.

Photo: CТК
The routine internal report was issued last summer by the Czech foreign ministry, but was only seen by Czech Radio this week. It paints a dire picture with regards to human rights in Crimea. The peninsula was annexed by Russia from Ukraine a year ago, following a disputed referendum. The move led to widespread condemnation by Western countries, and led to the imposition of sanctions against the regime of Vladimir Putin.

According to sources familiar with the report, both activists and regular citizens face persecution, including false imprisonment, in newly Russian Crimea. It also says that the indigenous Tartar population – who now comprise only 10 percent of the population – faces the greatest persecution. It notes that following the Russian annexation, a wave of repression was unleashed against those failing to fall in line. According to Czech Radio sources, since last summer’s report, evidence of human rights violations continues to mount, and the situation there is worsening.

Lubomír Zaorálek,  photo: Filip Jandourek
Such sentiments were echoed by Mustafa Dzhemilev, a senior Crimean Tartar leader, former prisoner of the Soviet Union, now denied entry into his homeland by the new regime. Urging Western nations to provide arms to Ukraine during a recent visit to Brussels, Dzhemilev claims that today, citizens of the peninsula can simply disappear without trace, something which was rare even under Stalinist Russia.

The Czech report calls for Russian authorities to be held responsible for what they deem to be crimes committed on this occupied territory. In an interview with Czech Radio, Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek was asked whether he agreed that abuses were being committed in Crimea:

“Yes, based on the information I have. The European Union has imposed sanctions in response to Crimea and these remain in effect. If the situation there does not change there will be additional sanctions, including on individuals, businesses and other entities profiting from the current situation.”

He was also asked whether he agreed with a recent description by US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland about a “reign of terror” being unleashed by Russia in Crimea.

“We agree that in Crimea, human rights are being violated. Not only of Crimean Tartars. And we agree with the critique to a large degree. I am not sure I would use this phrase exactly, but it is clear that conditions there – across many areas – are not conducive to the regular, democratic running of a country.”

Photo: CTK
The sentiments mirror a report issued by Amnesty International on Wednesday which stated that: “Since Russia annexed Crimea, the de facto authorities are using a vast array of bully-boy tactics to crack down on dissent.” The report also noted that since the takeover, the right for citizens to protest, or Crimean Tartars to celebrate their culture, has been effectively outlawed. The Putin-led authorities in Russia argue that the takeover of Crimea was undertaken to protect the ethnic Russian majority living on the peninsula.