Usually in our materials we analyze specific problems related to the temporary occupation of the Ukrainian Crimea. Basically, we are talking about the violation of human rights, aggressor’s military or economic crimes or the corruption and negligence of its occupying “administration”.

In this material, we would like to draw attention to deeper issues, in particular, to the process of de-occupation and reintegration of the Crimea.

On the one hand, these are issues of strategy and planning, and on the other hand, this is an inevitable process for which the Ukrainian state must be ready. And, above all, we are talking about a clear vision of the concept of the de-occupation of the Crimea, which is the key to the effectiveness of the process of returning the peninsula under the full control of Ukraine.

Today, Ukraine already has a Strategy for the De-occupation and Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol, approved by decree of the President of Ukraine in 2021. At the same time, the full realization of the Ukrainian People’s inalienable right to self-defense against the ongoing Russia’s large-scale aggression obviously covers the issues of de-occupation and reintegration of Crimea.

The correlation of these processes with the directions and principles of the model of transitional justice was studied by the experts of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea.

The aforementioned Strategy, approved before the large-scale aggression of Russia, quite clearly outlines the existing problems that determine the de-occupation mechanism, in particular: the militarization of Crimea, systemic violations of human rights, the destruction of ecosystems, and so on.
The document also quite comprehensively characterizes the expected results, among which it is worth noting the full reintegration of the occupied territories, the development of peace and security, and the introduction of transitional justice mechanisms. They cover compensation for harm, punishment of the perpetrators, creation of conditions for preventing future conflict, guaranteeing the right to the truth.
According to the state, the achievement of such results is impossible without the development of cooperation with civil society institutions. It should be noted that the norms of the Strategy quite clearly trace the process of further development of democracy in Ukraine, connected with the de-occupation of the Crimea. This indicates an understanding that the effectiveness of the reintegration of the de-occupied peninsula directly depends on the level of reforming the government and the economy of Ukraine itself.

In other words, the Crimean residents must realize the process of their reintegration into a democratic state oriented towards European values. In fact, such a position of Ukraine testifies to the awareness of the role of de-occupation as a prerequisite for reintegration for the sake of common prosperity and the European future.

It should be noted that the procedural norms of the Strategy concerning the de-occupation mechanism are today mainly directed to work within the framework of temporary occupation. In other words, the document details individual procedures that the authorities can realistically provide without having access to the occupied Crimea itself.

So, at present there is an urgent need to systematize those steps that the Ukrainian authorities will practically implement, having gained access to these territories. This is the basis for the reintegration of Crimea and the establishment of historical justice.

The model of transitional justice is a weighty international legal instrument that makes it possible to fulfill these tasks. The challenges faced by modern Ukraine after 2014 and especially in 2022 necessitated the application of a transitional justice model that will allow us to overcome the post-conflict period for reintegration and enter the stage of sustainable development.

Note that the mechanism of transitional justice should aim, in particular, to restore justice and reveal the truth.

That is, it is important not only to restore full control over the territory of the Crimea, but also to provide the Crimean residents with historical justice, to refute all the myths that the Kremlin has criminally spread over the past eight years.

This applies to illegal fabrications about the alleged “illegality” of the transition of Crimea to Ukraine, about the phantom of the so-called “Tauride province”, and about all other nonsense that Russian propagandists criminally put into people’s heads.

Separately, mention should be made of the criminal slogans of the occupiers regarding the alleged “oblivion” of the population of the peninsula by Ukraine, as well as the hate speech of the aggressor regarding the prospects for European integration.

In the case of the occupied Crimea, the application of the transitional justice model will have certain unique features, but taking into account international legal traditions.

First, the experience of Crimea combined the post-authoritarian and post-conflict periods, in which the model of transitional justice is applied. After the “Revolution of Dignity”, the problem arose of developing a new political course, lustration and a radical renewal of the public administration system.
Against the backdrop of these events, Russia launches external military aggression, occupies the peninsula and attempts to annex it. It must be assumed that such an attempt occurred because the Kremlin is afraid of losing the ability to physically control the peninsula.

Secondly, from the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea, the directions and principles of transitional justice began to be implemented without visualizing the most holistic model of transitional justice.

A comprehensive understanding of the need to apply the model of transitional justice came in the seventh year of the conflict, however, its separate directions and legal forms began to be used from the beginning of Russian aggression.

Thirdly, the peculiarity of transitional justice in the occupied Crimea is that military aggression and subsequent occupation was committed by a state that, according to international legal documents, was determined to be the guarantor of the security and territorial integrity of Ukraine. This is clearly stated in the Memorandum on Security Assurances in connection with Ukraine’s accession to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

But most importantly, the large-scale aggression against Ukraine, which began on February 24, 2022, has the direct goal of consolidating and strengthening Russia’s de facto control over Crimea, its economy and population, which the aggressor does not even hide.

Analyzing the potential context of transitional justice that may arise after the de-occupation of the peninsula, we propose to note the following problems that the Ukrainian authorities may face.
This is the aggressor’s ideological influence on part of the population of the peninsula, in particular, in relation to the policy of European integration, individual reforms in Ukraine. Obviously, this should be taken into account in the process of decentralization and the formation of local authorities on the peninsula, which will be integrated into the all-Ukrainian policy.

Also, this is the socio-cultural stratification of a part of the Crimean inhabitants during the retransmission of pro-Russian narratives by Russian propaganda, which is actively used by the Kremlin and its accomplices. Under such conditions, bringing the historical truth to a certain part of the population will be an important task.

It is also the need for further implementation in Ukraine of the norms of international humanitarian law, in particular, in measuring the determination of the status of victims of the Kremlin’s repressions and war crimes committed during the years of the occupation of the Crimea. In particular, this applies to satisfaction, that is, compensation for moral and property damage, as well as punishment of Crimean collaborators.

The implementation of the principles and directions of transitional justice within the framework of the de-occupation of Crimea is hampered by the challenges caused by Russian aggression, which complicate and slow down this process. These challenges are quite complex in nature, combining internal and external factors.

As you know, transitional justice includes four components – justice, historical truth, reparations and institutional reforms, and the existing challenges simultaneously negatively affect all four components.
Firstly, it is the total control of the temporarily occupied Crimea by the aggressor state. This challenge postpones a full-fledged dialogue between Ukraine and the population of the peninsula until its de-occupation, because Russia is constantly criminally trying to politically and ideologically support hatred and incite enmity against Ukraine.

Secondly, this is the difficulty of documenting human rights violations in the occupied peninsula. This challenge conditionally has several components: the need for additional development of mechanisms for working with victims; the complexity of documenting certain facts, the latency of certain types of crimes committed in Crimea due to the criminal concealment and distortion of information by the aggressor state and the occupying “authority”.

Analyzing these challenges, several remarks should be made. All of them are directly interconnected, which demonstrates the integrity and complexity of the transitional justice model. This means that it will not be possible to implement only certain areas within the framework of the de-occupation of Crimea.

It is necessary to act comprehensively in all areas of public life, because for years the Kremlin has been criminally trying to destroy not only the infrastructure of the peninsula, but also the consciousness of the Crimean residents. The nature of the existing challenges has predominantly organizational and foreign policy features that reflect the specifics of the post-conflict and post-authoritarian period in the development of Crimea.

Let’s move directly to the areas of transitional justice that need to be implemented as part of the de-occupation of Crimea for its reintegration.

Unfortunately, during the years of occupation, the aggressor managed to build on the occupied peninsula a kind of “model” of a totalitarian state in miniature, which, in terms of pressure on the population, militarization, propaganda and repression, exceeds the figures in Russia itself.

To get rid of these “improvements”, it is necessary to completely reorient society towards democratic, European values. In this sense, Ukraine already has experience that will definitely come in handy.
Also, it is necessary to complete the institutional reforms, which have already been partially implemented in Ukraine, with development of a public-private partnership system, the development of a civil society, ensuring freedom of speech, and so on.

An important area of work is the introduction of effective mechanisms for compensation for moral and property damage caused by the aggressor state during the years of occupation.

That is, we are talking about compensation and reparations, that the Russian supreme power, as well as the Russian criminal “business”, occupiers’ “officials” and other Crimean collaborators will pay the Crimean residents for years of bullying and repression.

This is an obligatory component of transitional justice, since Crimean residents have the right to satisfaction. The principal task of this area is to create real conditions for the access of Crimean inhabitants to state-guaranteed legal assistance and support, including in international judicial instances.

An important area of activity at the stage of the de-occupation of the Crimea is to ensure fair and legal criminal prosecution of Crimean collaborators who worked for the aggressor state.

That is, we are talking about ensuring the inevitability of punishment for crimes during the occupation and the latest war crimes. It should be noted that transitional justice teaches to provide even traitors with appropriate criminal procedural guarantees, which are a manifestation of justice.

As a rule, we are talking about the sphere of procedural relations within the framework of the relevant trials, the effectiveness of which directly affects the effectiveness of the entire state policy in the field of the de-occupation of the Crimea.

The key direction of transitional justice at the stage of the de-occupation of the Crimea is the establishment of historical truth. This requires the creation of special commissions to establish the truth, which, in fact, are a form of public dialogue. On their platform, Crimean residents will be able to discuss with the state the fakeness of “triggers” that were criminally formed by the aggressor in order to influence the behavior of the population.

In our case, these “triggers” are completely imposed by the aggressor as a distorted, criminal vision of historical facts. Joint discussion and interpretation of individual facts and events can be the first step for the development of peace and the prevention of conflict in the future.

After all, by occupying the territory of Ukraine, the Kremlin seeks to use certain ideological and historical traps in order to gain supporters among the local population.

The liberation of the occupied Crimea is an important process from a political, ideological and social point of view. Already today, we should think about the reintegration of the temporarily occupied peninsula, in particular, on the use of the model of transitional justice.

The directions and principles of the latter will allow, after the de-occupation, to return Crimea to the constitutional space of Ukraine and restore historical justice.

Crimean collaborators must understand that none of their statements or actions will be left without a proper legal assessment. This will be facilitated by the generalized historical experience embodied in the concept of the transition period. Dozens of countries have already successfully passed this way and achieved sustainable development. Such perspective of development waits Ukraine as a candidate for membership in the European Union.