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UN Says Russia Committing 'Grave Human Rights Violations' In Occupied Crimea

Russian riot police in occupied Crimea arrest a Crimean Tatar in Simferopol ahead of a rally to mark the enforced Soviet deportation of the Tatars from the Ukrainian peninsula in the 1940s. (file photo)
Russian riot police in occupied Crimea arrest a Crimean Tatar in Simferopol ahead of a rally to mark the enforced Soviet deportation of the Tatars from the Ukrainian peninsula in the 1940s. (file photo)

Agents of the Russian state have committed serious human rights abuses, including torture, since Russia occupied and seized control of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula, a UN human rights report says.

The rights situation in Crimea "has significantly deteriorated under Russian occupation," the UN Human Rights Office says in the September 25 report, also citing disappearances, infringements of the Geneva Conventions, and violations of international law.

It says that "grave human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, and at least one extra-judicial execution were documented."

"There is an urgent need for accountability for human rights violations and abuses and for providing the victims with redress," UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

Russia seized Crimea in March 2014, sending in troops and staging a referendum denounced as illegal by dozens of countries, after Moscow-friendly Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was ousted by mass protests in Kyiv.

Many Western countries have imposed sanctions on Russia in response to the takeover of the Black Sea peninsula.

The UN report says the Geneva Conventions and other international humanitarian and human rights laws were violated when Moscow replaced Ukrainian laws with Russian laws in Crimea and imposed Russian citizenship on tens of thousands of residents.

The imposition of Russian citizenship had “a particularly harsh impact” on residents "who formally rejected citizenship; civil servants who had to renounced their Ukrainian citizenship or lose their jobs, and Crimean residents who did not meet the legal criteria" for Russian citizenship and "became foreigners," the UN report says.

People without Russian citizenship who hold a residency permit in Crimea are now "deprived of important rights" and "do not enjoy equality before the law," it says. It said they "cannot own agricultural land, vote and be elected, register a religious community, apply to hold a public meeting, hold positions in the public administration, and reregister their private vehicle on the peninsula."

"Education in the Ukrainian language has almost disappeared from Crimea," the report says.

The report says hundreds of prisoners and pretrial detainees have been transferred to Russia, a practice it says is "strictly prohibited by international humanitarian law."

The report also says at least three detainees died after not receiving adequate medical care in custody.

In addition to seizing Crimea, Russia fomented separatism across much of Ukraine after Yanukovych's ouster and has supported separatists fighting against Kyiv's forces in a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people in eastern Ukraine since April 2014.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP
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