On April 26-27 the State Language Protection Commissioner of Ukraine Taras Kremin took part in the OSCE ODIHR Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting on Democratic Law-Making in an online format which took place for the 2nd time this year. The event was attended by around 200 representatives of the OSCE participating States who focused on the issues of ensuring the authorities’ and civil society’s participation in the processes of democratic law-making.
In particular, the meeting participants were addressed by Mr. Peter Lord Bowness, President of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly; Ms. Simona Granata-Menghini, Director/Secretary of the Venice Commission; Ms. Annika Ben David, Ambassador-at-large for Human Rights, Democracy and the Rule of Law, Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden, Swedish OSCE Chairpersonship 2021; Mr. Matteo Mecacci, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR). The meeting was also attended by Mr. Andrii Vitrenko, Representative of the State Language Protection Commissioner of Ukraine.
As the State Language Protection Commissioner of Ukraine mentioned in his speech, special place in the law-making system belongs to the issues related to the guaranty of protection and realization of human rights and freedoms. Their enforcement is one of the most important functions of the state. In this context he emphasized the concrete steps taken by our state to ensure, in particular, the rights of Ukrainian citizens to receive information about goods and services in the state language as well as to remove obstacles and restrictions on the use of the state language. More precisely, on April 25, 2019 the Ukrainian Parliament adopted the Law of Ukraine “On Ensuring the Functioning of Ukrainian as the State Language” which is aimed to protect the Ukrainian language as the state language without discrimination of any languages of other national minorities and foreign languages on the territory of Ukraine. It guarantees the human rights protection for every Ukrainian citizen regardless of his ethnic origin.
Taras Kremin informed the meeting participants that since its creation in August 2020 the Secretariat of the State Language Protection Commissioner has been monitoring the implementation of the language legislation on the territory of Ukraine and at the same time analyzing the implementation of the Law on Language in the temporarily occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, as well as certain areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Thus, on February 19, 2021, the Review on the Restrictions of the Functioning of the Ukrainian Language in the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine was presented. The Review was prepared with the participation of the Representation of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, human rights and public organizations monitoring the respect for citizens’ rights in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. The Review aimed to summarize and provide available information to the wide audience about the facts and processes proving that Russia is carrying out in the occupied territories of Ukraine the policy of eradication of Ukrainian as the state language in all spheres of public life, of actual deprivation of citizens of their language, of discrimination and repression against persons showing their Ukrainian national identity in public, in particular by communicating in the Ukrainian language.
This Review has become one of the first fundamental attempts to give a clear and vivid description of how the rights of Ukrainian citizens in the occupied territories are violated in terms of prohibiting and persecuting because of the Ukrainian language.
The Commissioner mentioned that although the Ukrainian language has the status of one of the state languages in the temporarily occupied territory of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea, it is purely declarative as the occupation administration does not use it in its activities and does not take any measures to support the Ukrainian language. The occupation authorities are taking measures to level down the legal status of the Ukrainian language and assimilate the population where education is one of the main tools. The liquidation of secondary schools with Ukrainian as the language of instruction has got a systemic character both in the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimean peninsula and in the temporarily occupied territories in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Pupils living in the temporarily occupied territories are deprived of the opportunity to learn the Ukrainian language that, in its turn, prevents them from receiving education in Ukrainian higher education institutions. Children intending to obtain a higher education in the territories controlled by the Ukrainian authorities are forced to learn Ukrainian secretly in order to pass exams and gain the right to education. The same tragic situation is observed with the Crimean Tatar language on the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea.
The language legislation was repealed in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine, so the Ukrainian language was deprived of the status of the state language. This is not just a primitive imitation of procedures of the so-called law-making of the occupation regime. This is the violation of human rights. “Linguocide” in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine is one of the biggest risks in the humanitarian sphere associated with Russia’s aggression which has been going on for 7 years already.
The State Language Protection Commissioner underlined that, as the issue of language is one of the key factors of Ukraine’s national security, the occupying state’s actions to level down the status of the Ukrainian language require not only the effective counteraction of the Ukrainian state but also special attention of the international community. So, the proper appeals to international partners including the OSCE to give an appropriate assessment of the actions of Russian authorities as to violations of human rights, in particular in the issue of eradication of the Ukrainian state language in the temporarily occupied territories of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the certain areas in Donetsk and Luhansk regions have been prepared.
Summarizing his report, Taras Kremin made recommendations on the importance of organizing and holding special hearings or a separate meeting at the OSCE/ODIHR platform in the short term on the situation regarding the restrictions of the functioning of the Ukrainian language in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
At the end of the event Taras Kremin thanked the meeting participants from the United States, Great Britain, Canada and other countries for their support of Ukraine during an attempt of the deputy of the so called Bakhchisarai local district council to deliver a speech on behalf of the occupation authorities of Crimea. The participants’ unanimity in this issue has become convincing as Crimea is Ukraine.