Our Association presented the responses to the questionnaire of the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Mr. Ahmed Shaheed, for his forthcoming report to the 76th session of the UN General Assembly. Our submission was devoted to the situation with freedom of belief in the Crimea. We pointed to the Rapporteur that in the framework of scope of freedom of thought the important issue is the oppressions of the freedom of thought as a part of racial discrimination. As the International Court of Justice’s case 166 “Ukraine v. Russia” covers the issues of discrimination of the ethnic Ukrainians and indigenous Crimean Tatars on their linguistic, educational and cultural rights so the links between such human rights’ violations and the religious rights of ethnic Crimean Tatars and Ukrainians in the Crimea became the extremely important issue.

ARC stressed to the Rapporteur that Russian “authorities” in the Crimea illegally use the Russia’s legislation banning the “extremism”, ban some religious groups like “Jehovah’s Witnesses” and discriminate others like Orthodox Church of Ukraine. So they violate as mental privacy of Crimea’s residents so penalize the persons thoughts reflected as in preaching so in the private communication and in the social networks. We reminded that Crimea’s residents are not free in their thoughts on religious issues from coercive or other illegal interference of Russia’s punitive structures in the Crimea.

Association pointed in the submission that Russian “authorities” in the Crimea in their illegal policy of “fighting with the extremism” destroy the framework of realization of freedom of conscience, and freedom of religion or belief, freedom of association, of media, of meetings on the grounds of establishment the authoritarian militarized regime in the peninsula. Such “authorities” punish, discriminate and persecute Muslims, Christians and the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as for their thought and position so for their belief and opinion, also as for the self-expressions and manifestations of their religion or belief.

We reminded to the Rapporteur that Russia established in the Ukraine’s Crimea illegally, violating the IV Geneva Convention, the Russia’s legislation on issues of the registration the religious structures, on the “fight with extremism” on the order or peaceful assemblies and media, including the preachment issues. And more, as Russia established in the Ukraine’s Crimea atmosphere of total control, intimidation and banned all independent media, punished the journalists and bloggers, the possibility of full and transparent gathering information on violation of freedom of thought is too limited in the peninsula. Victims of repressions are afraid to point on their issues as they may be after named not “extremists” but even “terrorists” by the Russia’s punitive bodies.

ARC stressed in the submission that Russia’s propaganda in the Crimea uses the hate speech and disinformation against the Muslims (including indigenous Crimean Tatars), Christians (including ethnic Ukrainians) and the “Jehovah’s Witnesses” as allegedly “extremists” and “terrorists” that makes the strong negative influence on freedom of thought. Association noted that the ways of influence on behavior of the Russia-controlled “authorities” and punitive structures in the Crimea may have forms of decision of international courts and organizations, of sanction policy and on collective interstate negotiation the situation with human rights in the Crimea.   

We pointed to the Rapporteur that Ukraine’s civil society and national human rights institutions gather information on the violation the freedom of thought in the Crimea, on the relevant negative practices or policies of the Russia-controlled “authorities” and punitive structures. Also UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine and OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine have in their mandate the research on the situation with the freedom of thought in the Crimea but they do not pay the adequate attention on those issues in their reports. The Association invited the UN Special Rapporteur to Ukraine, including Crimea, that would contribute to collection of information, and enable the Rapporteur to make a first-hand impression of the situation with situation with the freedom of thought in the region.