We must bring what is happening in Belarus to the world’s attention and hear from those on the ground. Briefers on #BYHumanRights: UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus, Anaïs Marin; Belarusian opposition presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; Vice-Chairman of the Viasna Human Rights Center, Valiantsin Stefanovic; Legal Expert for the Belarusian Association of Journalists, Volha Siakhovich. The meeting is chaired by Urmas Reinsalu, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia. The meeting was initiated by Estonia and co-sponsored by UN Security Council members the United States and United Kingdom, as well as Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, and Ukraine.

Statement at the UN Security Council Arria-Formula meeting on the Human Rights Situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine

Statement by Paul Teesalu, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia
UN Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine
New York, 6 March 2020

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Welcome, and thank you all for coming to the Security Council Arria-Formula Meeting on the Human Rights Situation in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine.

I am honored to be joined by our panellists today:

Assistant Secretary-General Ms. Ilze Brandis Kehris Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea Mr. Anton Korynevych, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People Mr. Refat Çubarov and Head of the Crimean Human Rights Group Ms. Olga Skrypnyk. I would like to thank you all for taking the time to brief us.

I would also like to thank the co-organizers for this event: Belgium, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, the United States and Ukraine.

I will now make some remarks in my national capacity.

The 16th of March will mark 6 years since the staged sham referendum in Crimea, followed by the illegal annexation of the peninsula only two days later. These acts remain a direct challenge to international security, with grave implications for the international order that protects the territorial integrity, unity and sovereignty of all States.

Statement by Paul Teesalu, Under-Secretary for Political Affairs of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Estonia

– especially on those, who refuse to recognize the occupation and seek to preserve their native language, religious and cultural identity.

Since the outset of its occupation of the peninsula, Russia has drastically curtailed the freedoms of assembly, expression, association, access to information, and religion.

The Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people of the peninsula. They have actively rejected the occupation rule. Due to their overt pro-Ukrainian position, they have been regularly subjected to reprisals by the occupying authorities and paramilitary groups controlled by Russia.

We deplore that in 2016, the so-called Supreme Court of Crimea declared Mejlis, the historic self-governing body of the Crimean Tatars an extremist organisation and banned it.

To this day, the rights of Mejlis have not been reinstated and the Russian Federation continues to plainly ignore the order of the International Court of Justice of 2017 requesting the restoration of the Mejlis.

The members of religious communities, in particular Crimean Tatar Muslims, have become targets for illegal persecution, illegal searches, interrogations, detention and forced disappearances as part of a campaign of intimidation and persecution.

The non-governmental organizations that independently monitor the situation confirm that the Russian Federation continues to create artificial barriers on the peninsula against the activities of any religious community different from those belonging to the recognised mainstream.

The so-called “non-traditional” religious minorities continue to be targeted with fines, detentions and criminal charges under the pretext of combating extremism. The findings of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights attest to this.

We call upon Russia to reverse these acts and to end the oppression of the Crimean Tatar community.

We are disturbed by the data presented in the Secretary-General’s report, showing that the Russian Federation has settled 140,000 Russian citizens to the territory of occupied Crimea. The actual number can be even higher, since the data is deduced from Russian statistics alone.

About 50 000 Crimean Tatars have fled the peninsula over the period of the Russian occupation. Also here, the real figure can be even twice higher. Furthermore, the Russian Federation continues to impose its ‘citizenship’ on Crimeans, creating such conditions that it is very difficult to live in Crimea without it.

Consequently, Russia is changing the demographic composition of the occupied Crimea, violating international law, which does not permit the occupying state to purposefully alter the ethnic composition in the affected territories.

Since its occupation of the peninsula, Russia has extended its military presence there on a massive scale. Russian authorities are conscripting young men in occupied Crimea to serve in the Russian armed forces. According to estimates more than 18,000 men have been conscripted since the beginning of the occupation of the peninsula. According to Human Rights Watch, about 85 percent of the men conscripted from Crimea last spring, were sent to serve in the Russian Federation.

Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which Russia is a party, an occupying power may not compel residents of the occupied territory to serve in its armed or auxiliary forces. Therefore, Russia must stop conscripting people in Crimea and fully abide by its obligations under the Geneva Conventions.

We, the international community must bear witness to Russia’s human rights violations in occupied Crimea. We call on Russian authorities to grant immediate and unimpeded access to the peninsula to independent international organisations and mechanisms that seek to monitor the human rights situation on the ground there.

We recall our unwavering support to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and independence of Ukraine within its internationally recognized borders and call on Russia to act likewise.


The Arria-Formula meeting was organized by the Permanent Missions of Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and the United States to the UN in partnership with the Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the UN.