Crimea: UN Report highlights ongoing rights violations in Crimea

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recently issued a report on the human rights situation in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The report covers the human rights developments in the region from 22 February 2014 to 12 September 2017. As well as various other issues, the report includes rights violations in relation to ongoing military conscription by the Russian armed forces in the region.

Residents of Crimea have been subjected to conscription in the Russian armed forces since its occupation by the Russian Federation in early 2014. According to the OHCHR report, there are now several Crimean Tatars who left the peninsula to avoid serving in the Russian Federation army and they could not return to Crimea as they would be prosecuted for avoiding the draft. The report also mentions a criminal case from April this year against a resident of Crimea who refused to serve in the Russian Federation army.

As the report states, according to the international humanitarian law “an occupying power is prohibited from compelling protected persons to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces or to exercise pressure or propaganda which aims at securing voluntary enlistment.” It means that the current mandatory call-ups by the Russian state in Crimea are a violation of international humanitarian law.

The report also mentions the case of a Jehovah's Witness, who on 9 June this year, was told at a military conscription centre in Crimea that he could not invoke his right to an alternative civilian service under Russian Federation legislation unless he renounced his faith and changed his religion. This relates to a larger problem about the status of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia, about which you can find more information here.

In addition to these cases, the report also mentions the case of the Crimean conscripts in the Russian army who were sent to serve outside the territory of the Crimean peninsula. According to the report, although until 31 December 2016 military service could only take place on the territory of the Crimean peninsula, there are now cases where conscripts have been sent to serve on the territory of the Russian Federation. In May 2017, as the report states, “30 conscripts from Sevastopol were sent to the Russian Federation after reportedly expressing the will to serve there.”

You can read the full report here

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