Europe’s top human rights court has agreed to examine allegations by Kyiv that Russia committed human rights violations in Crimea, the Ukrainian peninsula it annexed in 2014. It will give its judgment at a later date.
In its ruling on Thursday, the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights said: “the facts complained of by the Ukrainian government did fall within the ‘jurisdiction’ of Russia on the basis of effective control that it exercised over Crimea.”
Ukraine welcomed the ruling, which marks its first big victory at the ECHR. “VICTORY!!!! . . . the first intermediate victory in a series of cases of Ukraine against Russia in the European Court of Human Rights !!!!!, Ukraine’s justice minister Denis Malyuska said in a Facebook post.
“Today, the European Court of Human Rights announced a decision declaring Ukraine v Russia (concerning Crimea) admissible and proceeding to the merits of the case,” he added.
Ukraine’s foreign minister Dmytro Kuleba said it was “an important step towards bringing Russia to legal responsibility for aggression.”
Kyiv has in past years also lodged a flurry of claims in international courts seeking to uphold its rights in international law to both Crimea and its eastern territories occupied by Russia and to obtain compensation for damages including multibillion-dollars’ worth of seized assets.
The court will not rule specifically on the legality of Moscow’s land grab, but it will hear Ukraine’s claims of illegal extension of Russian law on the peninsula.
Ukraine claims that Russia prohibited public gatherings, carried out unlawful detentions and persecution of pro-Ukrainian residents including members of the Crimean Tatar ethnic minority and that it forced Russian citizenship upon Crimeans.
Other allegations include the suppression of the media, harassment and intimidation of religious leaders for not conforming to the Russian Orthodox faith, arbitrary raids on places of worship and confiscation of religious property. Kyiv also claims Russia expropriated property without compensation and suppressed the Ukrainian language.
In a statement on Thursday Russia's ministry of justice said the ECHR had concluded “that a number of accusations brought by the Ukrainian authorities against the Russian Federation were not proven”.
These included “the alleged cases of murder of civilians, groundless detention and intimidation of foreign journalists, illegal seizure of property of Ukrainian military personnel, discrimination against ethnic Ukrainians, politically motivated criminal prosecution of pro-Ukrainian-minded persons, refusals to register religious and other organisations”.
It is not clear whether Russia will acknowledge the court’s final ruling. Under the terms of amendments made to the country’s constitution last year by President Vladimir Putin, Moscow has said it will ignore the rulings of international legal tribunals where the verdict is viewed as contradicting Russian law.