Crimea: human rights monitors urgently needed as harassment and threats increase

‘The OSCE must quickly establish a strong monitoring mission and enjoy unimpeded access to all parts of Ukraine’ - John Dalhuisen

With journalists, activists and peaceful protesters facing increasing harassment and intimidation in Crimea, there is an urgent need for a strong international monitoring mission in Ukraine, said Amnesty International this afternoon.

Amnesty is calling for the inter-governmental body the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to urgently establish an international monitoring mission in the country, and Amnesty is calling on the de facto Crimean authorities, Russian forces and the new Ukrainian authorities to ensure that everyone with a stake in the future of Ukraine and its regions is able to express their views peacefully.

Amnesty International Europe and Central Asia Director John Dalhuisen said:

“Attempting to monitor the human rights situation in Crimea has become a near impossible task. Self-styled Crimean self-defence groups are harassing pro-Ukrainian protesters, journalists and human rights monitors with complete impunity. 

“The OSCE must quickly establish a strong monitoring mission and enjoy unimpeded access to all parts of Ukraine - including Crimea, which remains on a knife-edge and where tensions are still high. Russia should welcome, not block this initiative.”

Peaceful protesters who have attempted to express their support for the unity of Ukraine and opposition to the Russian military presence in Crimea have been facing serious and growing intimidation from pro-Russian activists. The police have often been absent, present in small numbers, or have failed to intervene when journalists and protesters have been attacked. 

Yesterday, two OSCE representatives were forced to cut short their visit to Crimea due to security concerns. In a separate event, OSCE members were prevented from even entering the peninsula by unidentified military personnel. Meanwhile, in another disturbing incident, a journalist from Kerch.fm was threatened by men wearing Russian Cossack uniforms and others from the Crimean Self-Defence League when she and a colleague visited the border ferry crossing which had reportedly been occupied by Russian forces. The men told her: “Switch off your camera or we will kill you.” 

Meanwhile, on 5 March some 100 men who also identified themselves as the Crimean Self-Defence League forced around 40 women to end their peaceful protest in front of the Ukrainian Naval headquarters in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol. The women were holding placards calling for peace and denouncing Russia’s military intervention in Crimea. The men also attacked a journalist from “News of the Week - Crimea” as he tried to film the event; they pushed him into the road and threatened to beat him. Crimean police officers who were standing about 25 yards away did not react to the incident. 

Meanwhile, also on 5 March, the UN Special Envoy to Crimea was forced to cut short his visit to the region, only a few hours after arriving in Crimea. He was threatened by an aggressive crowd chanting pro-Russian slogans and forced by armed men to get back in his vehicle and return to the airport.

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