Russia Warns of ‘Pandora’s Box’ in Crimea Atrocities Court Clash

European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in ‎Strasbourg, France.

Russia warned Europe’s human rights tribunal it risks opening a “Pandora’s Box” of politically motivated cases if it accepts Ukraine’s claims that Moscow-led forces committed atrocities in the Crimea. The legal gambit by Russia’s Deputy Justice Minister Mikhail Galperin came as both sides faced off at the first public hearing at the European Court of Human Rights in the bitter dispute triggered by Russia’s take over of the Black Sea peninsula. Galperin’s move was quickly dismissed by the Ukrainian side, which pointed to independent evidence from the United Nations to corroborate its allegations. Galperin then told the judges that if they accept the Ukraine case, a subsequent flood of other politically motivated cases “would obstruct the proper role of the court.” Ukraine, which has brought four other applications against Russia before the court, also claims Russian militia harassed and intimidated priests and journalists, which Russia also denies.

Ben Emmerson, counsel for Ukraine, said the reason there are not more witnesses and witness testimony is that Russia had deliberately blocked access to investigators in Crimea. Nevertheless, he said independently corroborated reporting by the United Nations Officer of the High Commissioner for Human Rights shows human rights violations, including torture of Ukrainian officers using electricity and knives. “The UN assesses there has been a dramatic worsening of human rights violations since Russia’s occupation of Crimea,” he said. “This is serious and credible evidence that requires serious investigation and more than meet the admissibility threshold.” “Putin is trying to create an impression that ‘we’re changing and being cooperative’ so Russia will engage with the hearings but it doesn’t mean they will comply with the decision,” said Orysia Lutsevych, a research fellow at Chatham House in charge of its Ukraine program. “Russia will engage but any resolution coming out of it they will ignore.”
Russia wants to belong to European/global organizations, but refuses to abide by their court rulings. The United Nations’ International Court of Justice ruled in 2017 that Russia was supplying weapons to separatists in Ukraine and repressing the rights of the people in Crimea. Moscow ignored this finding. Then in May 2019, Russia refused to participate in proceedings at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, which ruled 19-1 to order Russia to hand over three Ukrainian ships and two dozen sailors seized in the Kerch Strait, separating Crimea from mainland Russia. Since 2018 Russia's state-owned Gazprom energy company has ignored a ruling by the International Court of Arbitration that it maust reimburse Ukraine's Naftogaz company $3.8 billion for gas price gouging.

The ECHR case above is another nightmare for the Kremlin and will expose Moscow's persecution of Crimean citizens that oppose Russia's illegal annexation of Crimea. Evidences were collected by the UN, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the Helsinki Group. In the first court session above, Russia is threatening the ECHR with chaos if the ruling goes against its interests.