UN experts defend Crimean Tatars under Russian occupation

GENEVA (AP) — Experts working with the United Nations on Friday denounced reports of human rights violations including abduction, deportation and enforced disappearances against ethnic minorities in Russian-occupied Crimea, calling on Moscow to do more to protect the rights of Tatars and others there.

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, as part of a regular, rotating review of U.N. member states, took a look at Russia — and areas that it controls — along with five other countries this month. The impact of Moscow’s war in Ukraine on rights and racial hatred drew particular scrutiny.

In its review of Russia, the committee of independent experts focused on just one particular aspect of the war — the impact on racial discrimination — which has seen a litany of other rights abuses and violations, including murder, summary execution, rape, arbitrary detention and much more, according to U.N. and other rights monitors.

The committee cited reports of “destruction of and damage to Crimean Tatar cultural heritage, including tombstones, monuments and shrines,” and cited a lack of information about efforts to protect such sites from vandalism.

It pointed to reports of barriers on the use and study of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar languages, and called for the reinstatement of the Mejlis, a representative body of Crimean Tatars that was disbanded in 2016.

The experts cited the “refusal” of Russian envoys to provide information, and suggested that Crimea, under international law, remains part of Ukraine despite Russia’s annexation of the peninsula in 2014.

The panel cited reports of “numerous and serious human rights violations against members of ethnic minority groups and indigenous peoples in Crimea, in particular abductions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detention, ill-treatment, and the forcible transfer or deportation of inhabitants from these territories to the Russian Federation.”

The committee aims to help countries uphold their commitments under the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which Moscow — then the capital of the Soviet Union — ratified more than five decades ago.

After skipping a U.N.-backed Human Rights Committee review last year, Russia deployed a delegation of nearly 20 people to attend and field questions in the review, a first by Russian envoys to a U.N. rights review in Geneva since Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022.

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