The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is one of the two main statutory bodies of the Council of Europe (CE), consisting of representatives of the parliaments of all member states. PACE is the oldest inter-parliamentary cooperation body in Europe and the world’s largest permanent international forum. Ukraine became a member of the Council of Europe on November 9, 1995. At PACE, our State is represented by the Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine.
For the first time in the history of PACE, it is experiencing an early termination of the powers of its President, who visited Bashar al-Assad in Syria together with the delegation of the Russian State Duma. The Ukrainian delegation to PACE itself initiated and actively participated in the condemnation of Pedro Agramunt and other participants in the shameful visit. During the spring session, PACE’s Bureau expressed the distrust to the President and banned him from acting on behalf of the organization. It is the neglect of the inviolable values of the respected organization that led to the resignation of Mr. Agramunt. The summer session was decisive. The questions were finally answered: “Where are we going?” and “What are our values?”. The Crimean issues and the Russian-Ukrainian conflict have played a key role in choosing the political direction of PACE, as Mr. Agramont himself stated in his letter.
But for us, the most important is not the political component, but human rights. In the situation prevailing in occupied Crimea – the military crimes of the Russian Federation, political persecution, brutal human rights violations – the main factor in deterring repression is the constant support of the Crimean issue on the agenda of international relations. The reaction of European politicians, the strengthening of sanctions against the Russian Federation, strategically contributes to the protection of human rights and the de-occupation of the peninsula. That is why the mechanisms of folk and cultural diplomacy are extremely important. PACE Vice President Heorhii Lohvinskyi, Permanent Delegation of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to PACE, the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, Humanitarian Studio “Khvylya”, the International Renaissance Foundation, the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and In-Art Publishing House held events “Crimea Days in PACE” between June 28-29. Human rights defenders -participants and event organizers- share their impressions:
Oleksandra Delmenchuk, UHHRU International Advocacy Coordinator
The PACE summer session, during which steps were taken before the final resignation of President Agramut from his office, was extremely important, and even can be said, crucial for Ukraine. An unprecedented number of signatures for his resignation was gathered – 158. That is why it was so important that now, in PACE during side-events, personal meetings with deputies, representatives of the Office of the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights and other bodies of the Council of Europe, the questions of Ukrainian civil society about human rights were voiced.
These issues include, first of all, the urgent release of all political prisoners, the separation of political and humanitarian formats for negotiations regarding the occupied territories and the ending of the illegal prosecution of Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainian citizens in the occupied territories. Human rights issues were voiced by UHHRU and its partners during “Crimean Days in PACE” – a series of events that included roundtables, advocacy meetings and cultural and artistic evening. Various events were attended by more than 500 people. This was one of the largest events in PACE, in which I participated.
Maksym Petrov, UHHRU International Advocacy Coordinator
“Crimea Days in PACE” is a very important event. First, it is important to our fellow citizens, the Crimean Tatars. After all, in the conditions of the occupation of Crimea, when human rights are constantly violated, the local population systematically suffers from oppression by the occupation authorities. The purposeful work on leveling the cultural, artistic, social and political influence of the Crimean Tatar people is being conducted. It is important for Crimean Tatars to realize that the international community knows about them, their history, culture, and customs, and therefore they are reluctant to return home.
Secondly, in a situation where the number of local and interstate conflicts is growing that cause significant human losses, destruction of infrastructure, deterioration of the humanitarian situation, the growth of migration flows, etc., there is an urgent need to constantly update the problem of occupation of Crimea and discrimination of the Crimean Tatars.
This time there was a lot of people on the Crimean evening. In my opinion, and this was not the first time I visit such an event, they all wanted not only to participate in the protocol but were interested in the Crimean Tatar culture, traditions and everyday life. It was evident that they are not indifferent to the fate of Crimeans.
Roman Martynovskyi, Chairman of the Board of the Ukrainian Legal Aid Foundation, UHHRU expert
It seems that “Crimean Days in PACE” are a good tradition and are gaining more and more response from our European colleagues. It’s nice to see the open faces of people, hear the words of support from their mouths. Crimea is not only our pain, but more and more people in the West are also penetrating their fate. And this is the great merit of such an intimate combination of official and informal events that we were able to observe at this PACE session. And not only to observe but also take an active part in it.
The openness of Crimeans – people of different nationalities – makes a response to be open, frank, and we have a small, wonderful opportunity to make it sure once again. Thank you to all: organizers, participants, guests, thanks to which this event took place in such a bright, I would say, even a fantastic form.
Borys Zakharov, Director of the UHHRU Advocacy Center
“Crimean Days in PACE” is an act of folk and cultural diplomacy. In the conditions of a hybrid war, when the Putin regime tries to create a parallel distorted reality through total propaganda and lies, it is very important to speak the truth, to name things with their names, to promote simple and inviolable values, to display true art. And it was not “the voice of the protesters in the desert.” Our events were attended by more than 400 guests: the deputies and the leadership of PACE, heads and members of permanent missions to the Council of Europe, judges of the European Court of Human Rights, leaders and staff of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, ambassadors and other high-level diplomats, people’s deputies of Ukraine, leaders of international and Ukrainian non-governmental organizations, lawyers, representatives of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, representatives of the world and Ukrainian mass media. It was nice to see at the evening also one of the leaders of the opposition in the Russian Federation, Garry Kasparov. “Crimean Days in PACE” is an outstanding event that has an impact on human rights and the defense of democratic values on the continent, and, ultimately, on the political development of Europe.
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