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Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian Federation)

Submitted by on 05/02/2017 – 4:28 pmNo Comment

* This post is based mainly on ICJ Press Releases No. 2017/2 (17 January 2017) and No. 2017/4 (1 February 2017).

In the late afternoon of 16 January 2017, Ukraine instituted proceedings against the Russian Federation with regard to alleged violations of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism of 9 December 1999 and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination of 21 December 1965. Both States are parties to these two instruments. The Court will hold public hearings from Monday 6 to Thursday 9 March 2017.

The application of Ukraine and its request for provisional measures outline respectively the factual and legal grounds of the dispute and the urgent need for indicating provisional measures of protection.

In particular, Ukraine contends that, following the Orange Revolution of 2004, it has been subjected to increasing degrees of Russian pressure and intimidation. According to Ukraine, since 2014 the Russian Federation has escalated its interference in Ukrainian affairs to dangerous new levels, “intervening militarily in Ukraine, financing acts of terrorism, and violating the human rights of millions of Ukraine’s citizens, including, for all too many, their right to life”. It states that in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Federation has instigated and sustained an armed insurrection against the authority of the Ukrainian State. Ukraine considers that, by its actions, the Russian Federation is in violation of fundamental principles of international law, including those enshrined in the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (“Terrorism Financing Convention”).

Furthermore, in its Application, Ukraine contends that, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and City of Sevastopol, the Russian Federation has “brazenly defied the U.N. Charter, seizing a part of Ukraine’s sovereign territory by military force”. Ukraine states that, “in an attempt to legitimize its act of aggression, the Russian Federation engineered an illegal ‘referendum’ which it rushed to implement amid a climate of violence and intimidation against non-Russian ethnic groups”. According to Ukraine, this “deliberate campaign of cultural erasure, beginning with the invasion and referendum and continuing to this day”, violates the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (“CERD”).

Ukraine argues that provisional measures are necessary because the fundamental rights of civilians in Ukraine remain under constant threat. The Russian Federation’s arms transfers and other support for illegal armed groups that have carried out terrorist attacks are ongoing; the Russian Federation’s campaign of cultural erasure in Crimea continues unabated. Vulnerable civilians, in an unstable environment susceptible to rapid deterioration, are at risk of suffering from the Russian Federation’s continuing violations of international law. This is precisely the type of situation in which this Court has said provisional measures should be indicated to preserve the respective rights of the parties to a dispute.

The application of Ukraine makes several specific requests to the Court concerning finding of responsibility on the part of Russian Federation for violations of the Terrorism Financing Convention and CERD.

With specific regard to CERD, in paragraphs 137 to 138 of its Application,

“[137.] Ukraine respectfully requests the Court to adjudge and declare that the Russian Federation, through its State organs, State agents, and other persons and entities exercising governmental authority, including the de facto authorities administering the illegal Russian occupation of Crimea, and through other agents acting on its instructions or under its direction and control, has violated its obligations under the CERD by:

(a) Systematically discriminating against and mistreating the Crimean Tatar and ethnic Ukrainian communities in Crimea, in furtherance of a state policy of cultural erasure of disfavored groups perceived to be opponents of the occupation regime;

(b) Holding an illegal referendum in an atmosphere of violence and intimidation against non-Russian ethnic groups, without any effort to seek a consensual and inclusive solution protecting those groups, and as an initial step toward depriving these communities of the protection of Ukrainian law and subjecting them to a regime of Russian dominance;

(c) Suppressing the political and cultural expression of Crimean Tatar identity, including through the persecution of Crimean Tatar leaders and the ban on the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People;

(d) Preventing Crimean Tatars from gathering to celebrate and commemorate important cultural events;

(e) Perpetrating and tolerating a campaign of disappearances and murders of Crimean Tatars;

(f) Harassing the Crimean Tatar community with an arbitrary regime of searches and detention;

(g) Silencing Crimean Tatar media;

(h) Suppressing Crimean Tatar language education and the community’s educational institutions;

(i) Suppressing Ukrainian language education relied on by ethnic Ukrainians;

(j) Preventing ethnic Ukrainians from gathering to celebrate and commemorate important cultural events; and

(k) Silencing ethnic Ukrainian media.

For a full overview of the claims of Ukraine, see the full text of its Application and the Request for Provisional Measures.

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