Ukrainian Citizens Living in Crimea Advised to Apply to Prosecution on the Russian Violation of Land Rights
At a joint briefing on 6 May, the Crimean Prosecutor’s Office, Office of the President’s Representative on Crimea and human rights groups spoke of methods to protect Ukrainians from losing their land following the illegal decree issued by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 20 March 2020.
The decree makes amendments to a list of “coastal territories” which “foreign nationals, stateless persons and foreign legal entities” cannot have land rights to. The list includes most parts of occupied Crimea, except for three regions without access to the Black Sea. Since Russia, as invader and occupying state, is treating Ukrainians as ‘foreign nationals’, the decree effectively strips Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians who have not taken Russian citizenship of their land rights.
10 Thousand May Suffer from Implementation of the Decree
According to Vitaly Sekretar, Deputy Crimean Prosecutor, as many as 10 thousand Ukrainians could suffer as a consequence of this decree and its implementation.
Anton Korynevych, President Volodymyr Zelensky’s Representative on Crimea, immediately condemned the move. Ukraine has clearly stated that it does not recognize this ‘decree’ and that the latter therefore carries no legal consequences. The International Criminal Court’s Prosecutor has recognized Russia’s ongoing occupation of Crimea as an international armed conflict.
What Steps Should Citizens Follow?
“People are advised to first exhaust all (supposed) legal remedies in first-level; appeal and cassation ‘courts’ in occupied Crimea. While the outcome can be predicted in advance, this is required in order to then lodge individual applications against Russia with the European Court of Human Rights. Such applications should not be made in private. It is important that people collect all documentation confirming their ownership rights and that they inform the Ukrainian enforcement bodies of the situation. Cooperation is also valuable with the Crimean Prosecutor who will be sending all information about such evident violations to the International Criminal Court at the Hague,” said Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
No One is Protected Unless Russian Occupation Ends
Russia has made it virtually impossible to live in occupied Crimea without Russian citizenship, however those who have refused to take such citizenship now risk losing their property. The decree will also negatively affect the large number of Ukrainians who were forced from their homes and who now live outside Crimea. Nor are those who were forced to take on Russian citizenship necessarily protected. There have been a number of cases where Russia’s migration service have illegally invalidated such citizenship. The prospect of being able to illegally purchase choice pieces of land could lead to such illegal practices becoming more widespread.