EHRAC formally started litigating in partnership in Ukraine in 2014, in response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ensuing conflict in the Donbas region. We had previously litigated a series of cases concerning the independence of the judiciary, which have led to ongoing constitutional and legislative reform. We are now taking cases concerning the conflict in eastern Ukraine itself, as well as discrimination against the Crimean Tatar population, and Ukrainian citizens being detained in Russia.
EHRAC and UHHRU are litigating the first group of cases due to be decided by the European Court stemming from the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which will set the precedent for how it examines thousands more. In one case, a volunteer combatant sent by the Ukrainian authorities to fight ‘separatists’ in Donetsk was killed as his battalion came under heavy fire, allegedly while passing through a ‘humanitarian corridor’. EHRAC’s cutting-edge litigation on this conflict will not only establish the extent of Russian responsibility in this ongoing conflict, but will also strengthen the case law on the interplay between international humanitarian law (i.e. the law of armed conflict and war) and human rights law.
The Crimean Tatar Mejlis
EHRAC, UHHRU and Memorial HRC represent the Mejlis (representative body for Crimean Tatars) before the European Court in a case concerning its designation as an ‘extremist’ organisation and subsequent banning by the Russian authorities. We argue its designation as an extremist organisation and the suspension of its activities is a violation of the right to freedom of association and that it has been banned – and its members persecuted – to punish them for their political position. They also complain that the Russian Courts disregarded their status as a representative body of the indigenous people of Crimea, violating the prohibition of discrimination.
Ukrainians held in Russia
Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk are both Ukrainian citizens who have been detained in Russia since 2014. On 19 May 2016, they were both convicted by the Supreme Court of the Chechen Republic of pre-meditated murder and attempted pre-meditated murder of members of the Russian armed forces during the first Chechen war between 1994 and 1995. They both deny the charges against them. EHRAC and UHHRU represent Mr Klikh and Mr Karpiuk in their cases before the European Court of Human Rights, where they argue they have been subjected to torture. The two men are still in prison, and there are concerns about their deteriorating physical and psychological health.
UHHRU is the largest association of human rights organisations in Ukraine. The Union brings together 29 non-government human rights organisations. The goal of UHHRU is to protect human rights. UHHRU considers itself as part of the Helsinki movement and continues to promote the traditions and activities of the Ukrainian Public Group to Promote the Implementation of the Helsinki Accords on Human Rights – the UHG.
Founded in July 2013, RCHR is focused on human rights protection on both the international and domestic levels. Based in Sevastopol until 2014, members of the organisation were forced to leave the territory of Crimea after the annexation of Crimea by Russia. In July 2014, RCHR re-registered in Kyiv. RCHR is a member of “The Initiative Group on Human Rights in Crimea”, which consists of more than 30 human rights organisations in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia, Germany, as well as other international organisations. RCHR is also a member of the “Coalition for the International Criminal Court” which includes about 2,500 NGOs from more than 150 countries.