Experts: Law enshrining status of Crimean Tatars as indigenous people next to the change in status of Crimea will return the peninsula


Civil activists along with central authorities sat down to discuss strategies of returning Crimea to Ukraine along with ensuring survival of indigenous peoples of the peninsula.

Kyiv, April 28, 2016. Adoption of the law on the status of the Crimean Tatar people as an indigenous people and change in the status of Crimea will de facto return Crimea to Ukraine. This opinion was expressed by experts during the discussion at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to Emine Dzheppar, First Deputy Minister of Information Policy of Ukraine, this status will help determine the fate of Crimea. “The only nation that can determine the political fate of the territory is it indigenous people,” noted Emine Dzheppar. Natalia Belitser, an expert at the Pylyp Orlyk Institute for Democracy, emphasized that in addition to lobbying for adoption of the above law at the national level, it is important to ratify Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization, which as a legally binding document provides for a completely different level of respect for the rights of indigenous peoples.

According to Yulia Tyshchenko, an expert at the Ukrainian Independent Center for Political Research, it is just the change in the status of autonomy that is an integral part of de-occupation of Crimea. “This is the national Crimean Tatar autonomy within Ukraine,” stressed Yulia Tyshchenko. Tamila Tasheva, co-founder of the civic initiative “KrymSOS,” proposes the status of national and territorial autonomy within Ukraine.

According to Oleksiy Starodubov, founder of the NGO “Crimean Expert Center,” the strategy for the return of Crimea should consist of several stages. First of all, certain economic and legal measures should be taken that will prevent the territory from being developed according to the state aggressor’s scenario. “We should block everything that is declared by the Russian Federation as to developing the areas of Crimea,” noted the expert. The second stage, according to him, should include a direct return of the peninsula to Ukraine. The very strategy should consist of civil, constitutional and international blocks, explained Oleksiy Starodubov. In particular, the last two blocks should envisage amendments to the Constitution and a claim to the UNO International Court of Justice regarding the integrity of Ukraine and against the unlawful annexation.

Eskender Bariyev, representative of Mejlis, considers that Ukraine should put pressure on the aggressor and protect the rights of Crimean Tatars. “If we look from the international law perspective, it is just Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people that has more right to ban activities of the occupation authorities in Crimea or activities of the occupation court that has made this decision [prohibition of Mejlis – ed. UCMC] than the occupation authorities to the Mejlis,” Eskender Bariyev is convinced. According to him, the central executive body should  form a strategy to return Crimea. For this purpose some departments should be established: for working with the occupied territories and internally displaced persons and for ensuring social and legal rights of deported citizens, noted the representative of the Mejlis.

Maksym Mayorov, representative of the Ukrainian Institute of National Memory, believes that if the Crimean Tatars have no national self-determination and self-realization, they will just disappear as a cultural community. “The presence of the representative bodies is a guarantee, mechanism of preventing Crimean Tatars from disappearing as a nation,” believes Maksym Mayorov. Andriy Didenko, coordinator of the Kharkiv Human Rights Group, emphasized the “brutal violations of human rights in Crimea, which include compulsory citizenship, extrajudicial executions, tortures, and persecution of activists and journalists who express their stance,” says the human rights activist.

Assistant to the Minister of temporarily occupied territories and IDPs Ukraine Tatiana Kovalyova informed that a concept to restore peace in the eastern regions have already been worked out. They are also developing strategies to return Crimea. “The status of a ministry will help quickly solve bureaucratic issues,” she noted. Besides, Tatiana Kovalyova added that there are information gaps regarding Crimea to be filled.

During the discussion,  the film «Indigenous peoples» was shown. It emphasizes an understanding of the concept of “indigenous people” and includes comments of the Mejlis and experts on the strategy of the return of Crimea. Veldar Shukurdzhiyev, social activist and initiator of the film, suggested that “service hubs” should be arranged directly on the checkpoints to Crimea. There also should be higher educational establishments just in those areas and not in other regions of Ukraine – to facilitate logistics. Besides, Veldar Shukurdzhiyev proposes to abandon the concept of “non-resident” in relation to Crimeans.