posted on Wed 18 Mar 2015 6:48 PM
Arria-Formula Meeting on Crimea and Eastern Ukraine

Tomorrow (19 March) Security Council members will convene for an Arria-formula meeting chaired by Lithuania on the human rights situation, media freedom and situation of the national minorities in Crimea and in eastern Ukraine. The meeting will be open to the wider UN membership. Council members will hear from a leader of the Crimean Tatar National Movement and member of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Mustafa Dzhemilev and a representative of the Crimean Field Mission on Human Rights, a joint initiative of Ukraine, Russia and other CIS countries’ civil society organisations that monitors the human rights situation in Crimea, Andrey Zubarev. Lithuania has also suggested that the Arria-formula meeting would be a good opportunity to discuss the role the international community can play in addressing the situation. A similar Arria-formula meeting was held on 28 March 2014, shortly after Russia’s annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. (Arria-formula meetings are an informal format that enables Council members to interact with civil society, relevant international organisations or member states to exchange views on matters within the competence of the Security Council.)

Council members are likely to be interested in getting from Dzhemilev – who briefed at the last year’s Arria meeting – his analysis of developments and of the situation of the Crimean Tatars in the past twelve months.. (As a leader of the Crimean Tatar community, following the annexation of Crimea, Dzhemilev has been barred from entering Crimea.) In addition, some Council members will be interested in hearing about the human rights situation on the ground from Zubarev, whose organisation focuses in particular on vulnerable groups such as journalists, human rights activists, lawyers, and ethnic minorities.

Some Council members might also use this opportunity to discuss the wider context of human rights and the situation of national minorities in eastern Ukraine. Since the beginning of the hostilities, more than 6000 people have been killed, over a million people remain internally displaced and the population at large remains under threat of violence from the armed groups.

The majority of Council members appear supportive of holding the meeting and are likely to participate. However, Russia has indicated that it will not attend the meeting because it views Crimea as one of the regions of Russia and does not believe that issues such as the human rights situation, media freedom and the situation of national minorities in Crimea should be discussed by the Council.

The two speakers are expected to expand on some of the points brought up by Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Šimonović when he briefed the Council together with Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman and Director of the Coordination and Response Division in the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs John Ging, on 6 March (S/PV.7400). Šimonović presented the findings of the ninth human rights report of the United Nations Human Rights Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU). In relation to Crimea, the HRMMU report noted continued intimidation against the residents of Crimea, in particular Crimean Tatars, and residents that opposed the 16 March 2014 referendum and annexation by Russia. Also, the report notes that the Crimean authorities have started legal proceedings against all Crimean residents who opposed the referendum through peaceful assembly. Both HRMMU and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-have highlighted the deterioration in media freedom in Crimea with Ukrainian media outlets being shut down, journalists threatened and Crimean Tatar media extensively censored by the authorities. During the 6 March meeting some Council members, including France, Lithuania, Spain, the UK and the US, expressed their concern about the worsening human rights situation in Crimea. These members are likely to want to follow up on these concerns during tomorrow’s meeting.