Ukraine: Human rights monitors urgently needed as journalists and activists face wave of attacks in Crimea

With journalists, activists and peaceful protestors facing increasing harassment and intimidation in Crimea, there is an urgent need for a strong international monitoring mission in Ukraine, said Amnesty International.

It is calling for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to urgently establish a strong international monitoring mission in the country.

“Attempting to monitor the human rights situation in Crimea has become a near impossible task. Self-styled Crimean self-defence groups are harassing pro-Ukrainian protesters, journalists and human rights monitors with complete impunity,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Yesterday, two representatives of the OSCE were forced to cut their visit to Crimea short due to security concerns. In a separate event, members of the organization were prevented from even entering the peninsula by unidentified military personnel.

On 5 March, the UN Special Envoy to Crimea was also forced to cut his visit short. Only a few hours after arriving in Crimea, he was threatened by an aggressive crowd chanting pro-Russian slogans and forced by armed men to get back in his vehicle and return to the airport.

“The OSCE must quickly establish a strong monitoring mission and enjoy unimpeded access to all parts of Ukraine – including Crimea, which remains on a knife edge and where tensions are still high. Russia should welcome, not block this initiative,” said John Dalhuisen.

Peaceful protesters who attempt to express their support for the unity of Ukraine and opposition to Russian military presence in the Crimean peninsula face intimidation from pro-Russian activists.

Police are often absent, present in small numbers, or fail to intervene when journalists and protestors are attacked.

Also on 5 March, 100 aggressive men who identified themselves as the Crimean Self-Defence League forced some 40 women to end their peaceful protest in front of the Ukrainian Naval headquarters in Crimea’s capital, Simferopol. The women were holding placards calling for peace and denouncing Russia’s military intervention in Crimea.

The men also attacked a journalist from “News of the Week – Crimea” as he tried to film the event. They pushed him into the road and threatened to beat him.

Crimean police officers who were standing about 30 metres away did not react to the incident.

In a separate event on 6 March, a journalist from was threatened by men wearing Russian Cossack uniforms and men from the Crimean Self-Defence League when she and a colleague visited the border ferry crossing which they heard had been occupied by Russian forces. The men told her: “Switch off your camera or we will kill you.”

Amnesty International is calling on the de facto Crimean authorities, Russian forces and the new Ukrainian authorities to ensure that everyone with a stake in the future of Ukraine and its regions is able to express their views peacefully.