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Crimea beyond rules. Issue №5. Occupied Justice. Part 1

Crimea beyond rules. Issue №5. Occupied Justice. Part 1

This issue of the thematic review “Crimea Beyond Rules” was prepared by the joint efforts of a number of organizations and independent experts and is dedicated to the judiciary in the occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol.

The international community recognized the Russian Federation as the Occupying Power, which exercises actual control over Crimea without consent of the Ukrainian government and in the absence of a legally recognized transfer of sovereignty over the part of its territory to the Russian Federation. Since February 2014, the territory of the Crimean peninsula has been occupied, thus the “law of armed conflict” applies to this situation.

In the process of the occupation in February-March 2014, the Russian Federation established full control over the operation of the Crimean courts, declared the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol as its own territory, and extended Russian legislation to it2, obliging the courts to apply it not only to legal relations which occurred after the illegal accession of the occupied territory to territory of the Russian Federation, but also to legal relations that arose before the occupation.

According to Article 43 of the Regulation Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land (The Hague Convention of 1907), with the actual transfer to the occupant of the legitimate authority powers, it should take all measures possible to restore and ensure, if possible, public order and security, adhering to the laws in force in the State, unless it is absolutely impossible3 . This provision is an international custom.

Thus, the extension of the Russian legislation to the territory of occupied Crimea contradicts the basic principles and norms of international law.

During the process of the studyand the preparation of this thematic review, all the judges were identified, including those who held their positions before the beginning of the occupation, those who refused to cooperate with the occupying authorities and were forced to leave the occupied peninsula; those who chose to join the service of the Occupying Power and retained the status of a judge; those who were dismissed by the Occupying Power (or voluntarily resigned from the position of a judge a while after the occupation), as well as the judges, newly appointed to the courts of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, established by the Russian Federation.

The thematic review also provides comparative analysis of the judicial system which existed in Crimea before the occupation and the one that was created by the Occupying Power, as well as assesses the the consequences of the forcible imposition of Russian citizenship on Crimean population (including judges) and extention of its own legislation to the occupied territory from the perspective of ensuring the right to a fair and proper trial.

The data of the studyconducted by the Ngo RCHR indicate that, as of November 2019, 20% of judges administering justice in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol are citizens of the Russian Federation. Thus today in the sovereign territory of Ukraine, in violation of international law at least 104 foreign citizens administer justice without consent of Ukraine. The remaining 80% of judges, although they are citizens of Ukraine, however exercise the functions of a judge in violation of Ukrainian law.

The results of the studyclearly confirm the fact that the Russian Federation, as an Occupying Power, fails to fulfill its obligations in the field of justice under IHL and pursues a policy aimed at replacing former Ukrainian judges with its own citizens from various constituent entities of the Russian Federation, restricting civil rights and freedoms in Crimea, and the persecution of civilians for political and religious reasons.

As before, we are convinced that the need for such reviews is temporary. Looking hopefully into the future, we believe that the main task of these materials should be the comprehension of what has happened and consolidation of experience in order to avoid new human rights violations in Crimea or in other regions of the world.

Read the full version of thematic review “Crimea beyond rules. Occupied Justice”.

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