Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 11.12.2017
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948, 69 years ago. Human Rights Day, the 10th of December, is an opportunity to reflect on the condition of human rights in the world. The gravest violations and abuses of human rights today are being committed by the Russian Federation. These outrages are most egregious where Russia is invading Europe, which right now is in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine. Putin’s War and illegal occupation of Crimea and parts of Donbas have led to almost every Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights being violated by Russia.
Article 1 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says that human beings should act toward one another in a spirit of brotherhood. The hate propaganda coming from the “Great Russians” in Moscow against the “Little Russians” – the Ukrainians – is overwhelming and relentless. The language and the practice of violent domination of Russians over Ukrainians means that for generations – perhaps forever – the old Russian imperialist/Soviet notion of “brother Slavs” is destroyed.
Article 2 says that everyone is entitled to the rights and freedoms of the Declaration without distinction of “language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin.” Ukrainian and Tatar speakers are persecuted in occupied Crimea for speaking their language; Ukrainian speakers dare not talk in their mother tongue in occupied Donbas. All churches except the Russian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate are violently suppressed. Activists who do something as benign as agreeing with United Nations resolutions that say “Crimea is Ukraine” are imprisoned, tortured, harassed, and held captive by Russia. “Being Ukrainian” or “being Tatar” is being a member of a captive population in Putin’s prison-state.
Article 3 says everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person. Russia has killed over 10,000 civilians in its invasion of Europe in Ukraine. Russia has killed over 2,333 Ukrainian soldiers who were defending their homeland and European ideals. Russia holds hostage dozens of political prisoners, and many more who are effectively prisoners of war from the fighting that rages in Donbas.
Article 4 prohibits slavery, but a Polish parliamentary inquiry carefully documented that Russia is using prisoners in Donbas as slave labour. On 22 April 2016 the report “Russian War Crimes in Eastern Ukraine” was conveyed to the International Criminal Court in the Hague. It was initiated by a Polish member of parliament, Malgorzata Gosiewska, and presented the results of 60 interviews with former detainees of the Russians in Donbas. They reported horrible abuses.
Article 5 prohibits torture, but the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights carefully documented many cases of torture and cruel treatment, especially of Crimean Tatars. “UN report details grave human rights violations in Russian-occupied Crimea” was the headline on 25 September 2017.
Article 6 says everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. Russia stripped away Ukrainian citizenship from Ukrainians in Crimea, forcing upon them the foreign laws of the Russian Federation. Russia-occupied Donbas is a lawless place, given over to criminal-terrorist gangs calling themselves “LPR” and “DPR.” There are no persons-before-the-law under the Russian occupation regime.
Article 9 says that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Russia has been universally condemned for violating Article 9 in many, many cases. One prominent example is Oleg Sentsov, who was arrested because he did not support Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, has been detained for years on bogus charges, and who is now in exile in northern Russia.
Article 11 says that people cannot be guilty of a crime if an action was not criminal at the time it was committed. Putin hates any Ukrainian who supported the Revolution of Dignity, and he convicts them of “offences” from times before Russia invaded (such as the cases of Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz) or he kidnaps them outright (the cases of Pavel Hryb and Stanislav Klykh). With Russian invaders, arrest and torture of Ukrainians and Tatars comes first … the invention of the “crime” comes later.
Article 13 is is the freedom of movement provision. Russia allows a limited number of crossings between occupied Ukraine and free Ukraine, and has a policy of dividing Ukrainians from each other in their own country. An iron curtain has descended again across Europe, and it cuts across the largest country that is wholly within Europe.
Article 15 says that no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his nationality. This is precisely the crime that Russia has committed in Crimea and in part of Donbas: stealing Ukrainian citizenship.
Article 17 says no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property. Russia has stolen all the factories out of Donbas, and continually steals coal. Russian invader-occupiers steal residences from Ukrainians who were forced to flee their homes from Putin’s advancing armies.
Article 19 includes the right to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. Russia wages massive information warfare as part of its invasion of Europe in Ukraine. For the captive population of Crimea and Donbas there is no freedom of the press or of the Internet.
Article 21 is the provision about democratic participation. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2014 was intended by Putin to prevent as many Ukrainians as possible from voting in presidential and parliamentary elections that were held in that year. Putin succeeded in stopping Ukrainians in Crimea and the most populous parts of Donetsk and Luhansk regions from exercising their democratic rights.
Article 25 is the provision for a basic standard of living. Russian invasion and occupation has devastated the economy in Crimea and in Donbas, impoverishing the people there and depriving them of the necessities of life. It is so bad that over one and a half million were forced to become refugees in their own country to try to make ends meet.
Article 26 is the right to an education, and the right of parents to choose the kind of education that will be given to their children. Russia has all but destroyed Ukrainian language and Tatar language education in Crimea, and introduced a perverted, militarized “Putin-Jugend” type of schooling in Donbas.
Almost every Article of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is violated by Russia. The conditions in Russia-invaded and occupied Crimea and Donbas are appalling. If the Universal Declaration of Human Rights means anything, then violations of human rights must be punished. Every violation and abuse of human rights by Russia must be met by more and stronger sanctions against the individuals and entities responsible. Ultimately, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights will only live again in Crimea and Donbas when those territories are liberated from the Russian invaders. In the meantime, the severest of penalties must be applied.