Crimea: Arria-formula Meeting
Tomorrow morning (6 March), there will be an open Arria-formula meeting on Crimea, hosted by Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, the UK, and the US in partnership with Ukraine. The focus of the meeting, which will take place at the Trusteeship Council, will be on the human rights situation in Crimea and the city of Sevastopol. Estonian Deputy Foreign Minister Paul Teesalu is expected to deliver opening remarks. Panel presentations are then anticipated from Ilze Brands Kehris, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the OHCHR in New York; Anton Korynevych, Permanent Representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea; Refat Çubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People; and Olga Skrypnyk, head of the Crimean Human Rights Group. Closing remarks are anticipated from Ambassador Christoph Heusgen (Germany) and Anne Gueguen, Deputy Permanent Representative of France.
According to the concept note prepared by the organisers, one of the main objectives of the meeting is to hear the “first-hand accounts and expert assessments on the human rights situation in Crimea”. The organizers also believe that the meeting will provide a forum for discussing different ideas on how the international community can assist in addressing the human rights situation in Crimea and in seeking a political solution for the broader conflict in Ukraine.
Some of the questions that participants are encouraged to explore include:
• How to ensure accountability for human rights violations in Crimea and support victims of human rights violations
• How to achieve independent and international human rights monitoring in Crimea
• How to support freedom of expression in Crimea
A practice of holding an Arria-formula meeting on the situation in Crimea started in March 2014, at the outset of the crisis in Ukraine. Since then, a meeting has been held each year in March on the anniversary of the annexation of Crimea by Russia. Most Council members have been generally supportive of holding such meetings.
The annexation of Crimea in 2014 remains contentious for some Council members. Among permanent members, the P3 (France, the UK, and the US) have condemned the Russian annexation of Crimea and consider it a violation of international law. The EU members of the Council also share this view. On the other hand, Russia has defended the legality of the 2014 referendum on Crimean independence and its subsequent accession to the Russian Federation. Russia has generally objected to any Council discussions specifically on the situation in Crimea, which it now considers part of its own territory. Russia has also opposed any Council outcome that would question the legal status of Crimea.
In the early stages of the conflict in Ukraine, the Council had been more active in attempts to address the situation in the country. Over the years, however, the Council has become less engaged on this issue and has deferred to diplomatic efforts taking place outside the Council. The discussion on Ukraine and the situation in Crimea have been more prominent in the context of the General Assembly. Since 2014, the General Assembly has consistently adopted resolutions upholding the territorial integrity of Ukraine, including Crimea and Sevastopol, and calling on the withdrawal of Russian forces from Crimea.