Kyiv, February 29, 2016. “Unfortunately Ukraine as a state alone cannot protect the rights of its citizens in the occupied Crimea. However it often puts the obstacles that are next to impossible to overcome for those who are ready to do it, for example human rights activists and lawyers,” said Tetiana Pechonchyk, Head of the Human Rights Information Center at a press briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. De-facto only Russian lawyers can protect the rights of Ukrainian citizens on the territory of the peninsula, she reminded. “They are not in the list of citizens whom Ukraine can grant special permission for entry to Crimea. That’s why all visits of Russian lawyers to Crimea are illegal and are beyond the Ukrainian legislation,” explained Pechonchyk. On September 16, 2015 the Cabinet of Ministers approved a new provision that introduced amendments to the entry procedure to Crimea for foreign nationals. According to the experts some categories including journalists and independent international human rights missions were included to the new procedure. However the innovation did not make a significant impact on chances of foreign nationals to visit Crimea. In a similar way entry problems for Ukraine citizens remained. In general the procedure itself takes long, it is over-bureaucratized and hampers independent human rights activists, legal and journalistic work in Crimea, emphasized the Head of the Human Rights Information Center.
In order to enter Crimea in accordance with Ukrainian legislation lawyers and representatives of international organizations need to get a request from Ukraine’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs to the State Migration Service (SMS), reminded Oleksandra Romantsova, project coordinator at the Center for Civil Liberties. “From our experience first request of such type to it took Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry over one month to process it,” she noted. When they obtained the permission and turned to the SMS other appeared problems – minor ones but complicated for foreign nationals. “When a person is already in possession of the permission from Ukraine’s Foreign Affairs Ministry in order to lodge the documents to the SMS the person in question has to come and do it personally. Distant submission or use of other language is not possible, all the forms are exclusively in Ukrainian,” the expert emphasized. Another problem that she named is issuing of permits for the term of 90 days only with those 90 days being counted from the most recent entry stamp to the territory of Crimea. Next permission is to be obtained based on a new letter from Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry. It means there are obstacles in getting to Crimea for those who can actually take care of protecting the rights and freedoms of Ukrainian citizens in Crimea, states the coordinator at the Center for Civil Liberties. “On the one hand there are people who respect our legislation and we are impeding them while those who do not care at all are just using the Moscow – Simferopol plane,” said Romantsova.
Dmitriy Makarov, human rights activist from the Russian Federation, who has been part of the Crimean human rights field mission since March 2014 and later joined the Field center for human rights protection, said that one of the center’s requests is to have the number of international monitors increased. However he said that he applied to the State Migration Service for another special permission to enter Crimea this February and was denied permission because he did not have a new letter from the Foreign Affairs Ministry. “We get a paradoxical situation – those human rights activists, journalists and lawyers who are trying to honestly comply with the Ukrainian legislation are facing various bureaucratic obstacles,” said the acivist. In cases of emergency requests from Crimea those people will more likely fly via Russia than undergo this long and costly procedure, says Makarov, that’s why the procedure needs to be changed. “Moreover one simple paragraph needs to be added to the legislation on protection of human rights and freedoms on the temporary occupied territories stipulating that in emergency and special cases upon approval from the Foreign Affairs Ministry exceptions are possible. Entry should be made possible from the territory of Russia as well, we see it already from the cases of diplomatic visits and of regular visits of Russian lawyers,” noted Makarov.
Roman Martynovskyi, lawyer and expert at the Regional Center for Human Rights, said that experts are struggling to have the governmental provision on the entry procedure to the territory of Crimea cancelled. It will also apply to Ukraine citizens. He said that according to the so-called law on occupied territories Ukraine citizens have the right to freely and unimpededly enter and exit from the temporary occupied territories upon presenting the ID. Martynovsky said that in case a negative result is obtained in Ukrainian courts he shall appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. “The courts actually keep acting in the individually-managed manner at least as to the appeals that concern Crimea. Unfortunately when decisions are made including the ones made by courts politics remains the dominant motive in justifying legal compliance of such decisions,” said Martynovsky.
Tetyana Pechonchyk said that speakers call to exclude from the procedure requirements pertinent to Ukraine citizens as well as simplify the procedure for foreign nationals. In particular she suggested changing it from permission- to notification-based without long processing of documents; allowing foreign nationals to submit the documents not only in Ukrainian but in English as well; allowing them to submit them not only by physically coming to Ukraine and spending their money and time but also through Ukraine’s consulates abroad and widening the list of foreign nationals to whom such permission can be issued.