Statement of the Head of the EU Delegation, Ambassador Jan Tombinski, on the Human Rights situation in Crimea (19/03/2014)

The Head of the EU Delegation, Ambassador Jan Tombinski, made the following comments on the Human Rights situation in Crimea:

Since a group of armed persons seized the Verkhovna Rada and Government of Autonomous Republic of Crimea buildings in Simferopol on 27 February, a growing number of Ukrainian citizens have fallen victim to serious Human Rights abuses. Reported violations include enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, violent attacks against journalists, restrictions to freedom of the media, freedom of movement and freedom of peaceful assembly.

Our thoughts and prayers are now with the families and relatives of those who were killed in past days. Today Ukraine mourns the loss of a Ukrainian army serviceman, S. Kakurin, who was killed yesterday during an attack on a Ukrainian military facility in Simferopol. Several others were gravely wounded. I firmly condemn this and other acts of violence. On Monday we learned that the body of R. Ametov, a member of the Crimean Tatar community, was found dead with signs of torture. An effective and impartial police investigation must start immediately and those responsible for this shameful crime must be brought to justice.

Persons who have been kidnapped must be immediately and unconditionally released. These include Andriy Shchekun and Anatoliy Koval'skiy, his son Sergiy Koval'skiy, Mikhail Vdovchenko, Stanislav Polishchuk, Oleksiy Grytsenko, Natalya Lukyanchenko and Sergiy Suprun, Yaroslav Pilunski, Sergei Hruzinov, as well as several servicemen from the Ukrainian military who, according to reports, were abducted in the last few hours. I firmly condemn these cases of enforced disappearances, which put Crimea under self-proclaimed authorities at the level of some of the world's most dangerous regions.

The situation of freedom of expression and freedom of the media in Crimea is deeply worrisome. A number of Ukrainian national TV channels have been cut off the air, and journalists have been subject to a systematic campaign of violent attacks. Over 75 violations of freedom of the media have been reported by independent watchdogs.

Freedom of peaceful assembly has dramatically deteriorated. In past days persons, who peacefully demonstrated for the unity of Ukraine, were forcefully dispersed by violent groups.

Full respect of the rights of ethnic groups in Crimea, including the Crimean Tatar community, for whom Crimea is homeland for centuries, is of outmost importance.
International human rights observers, including from the Council of Europe, the OSCE and the UN, should immediately be allowed unrestricted access to Crimea.