Disputed Entities in Eastern Europe: Human Rights Sacrificed

Paris, 9 October 2014 - The status of disputed entities in Eastern Europe is the source of serious human rights violations, and the victims have no access to justice, denounces FIDH in a report published today. There are five such territories, since the illegal annexation of Crimea by Russia. In order to remedy the legal vacuum, and in view of the danger of the situation spreading, FIDH calls on the international community to settle these conflicts without delay, taking the protection of human rights as the basis for such settlements.

It is intolerable that 3.3 million people who live in disputed entities in Eastern Europe should find themselves without access to justice for the numerous human rights violations they are subjected to, declared Karim Lahidji, FIDH President. The de facto authorities, the States supporting them, but also the de jure authorities and the international community must take action to protect them, he added.

Crimea has joined Transnistria, South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh on the list of disputed entities in Eastern Europe. Crimea was illegally annexed by Russia, but the other four are self-proclaimed republics that are not recognised by the international community.

With its partners in the region, FIDH has looked into these situations, and denounces in its report the serious human rights violations the inhabitants are subjected to, and which spring directly from their disputed status. FIDH lists the multiple violations, perpetrated under the control of the entities, of the right to freedom of movement, the right of citizenship, the right to an adequate standard of living, the right to property, and the right to health and education. There are also restrictions on the freedom of expression and association. The report also mentions numerous cases of arbitrary detention and acts of torture and ill-treatment by the police, and draws attention to the deplorable conditions in the places of detention.

Furthermore, FIDH stigmatises the fact that the victims have no recourse against such violations. The judicial system in the entities concerned is deficient, dependant or corrupt, and the international human rights mechanisms are unavailable. As the entities are not recognised by the whole of the international community, they cannot ratify the international human rights conventions.

International organisations such as the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Council of Europe and the European Union have turned away from these situations, considering that as the conflicts and their settlement processes were “frozen”, there was no urgency. In so doing they have relaxed their pressure in favour of human rights in such territories, and open the way for other territorial disputes.

If the international community fails to take action on these situations, human rights violations will continue, conflicts can break out and there is a real risk of other territorial disputes like Crimea or South Ossetia erupting in Eastern Europe, but also in Central Asia, declared Tolekan Ismailova, FIDH Vice President.

The international organisations must contribute actively to the conflict settlement process, starting with the protection of human rights and support to civil society and human rights defenders, through suitable political action, in collaboration with the de jure and de facto authorities. By putting the emphasis on the protection of human rights as the cornerstone of the settlement of conflicts, the international community can defuse the time bombs that these disputed entities are.

Read the report "Assessing human rights protection in Eastern European disputed and conflict entities"

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