ADC “Memorial” informed the UN about violations of the rights of ethnic minorities in the ex-USSR countries

Submissions from civil society will be used for preparing the report of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights “Effective promotion of the implementation of the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities”. The report will be presented at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly.

In its submission, ADC Memorial provided an overview of the situation of some ethnic minorities in the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia: the Crimean Tatar people in the annexed Crimea; the Roma population of Russia; the indigenous peoples of Russia; the Mugat (a Roma-like group living in Central Asia); ethnic minorities of Tajikistan (Pamiri peoples, Yaghnobi minority); the Dungan minority in Kazakhstan; the Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan.

In all the situations considered, violations of the rights of ethnic minorities occur due to the state’s “national policy”, contrary to the guarantees and agreements listed in the Declaration on the Rights of Minorities, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and other respective international documents. These violations are systemic in nature, so the UN Human Rights bodies should call on the authorities of these countries to respect the rights of ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities. Special attention should be paid to the rights of indigenous peoples and those minorities who do not have statehood / autonomy and are therefore not sufficiently recognized by the authorities of the countries where they live.

The report pays special attention to the situation of Dungans living compactly in the south-east of Kazakhstan. In the absence of a proper integration policy, linguistic, cultural, religious and other differences between the local Kazakhs and Dungans became factors of alienation of these two ethnic groups that turned into an open conflict. A year ago, on the night of February 7 to 8, 2020, there was an armed pogrom against several Dungan villages; as a result 10 Dungans and 1 Kazakh were killed, hundreds of people were injured, and huge damage was caused to the property of Dungans. This conflict has not been recognized by the Kazakhstan authorities as having ethnic grounds, and the Dungans have not yet been recognized as victims of it. Despite some positive efforts of the authorities in 2020-2021 (reconstruction of roads, gasification of villages, restoration of a number of houses and buildings destroyed during the pogroms), the social climate in the area leaves much to be desired. Many Dungans are afraid of possible obstacles to their traditional agricultural work (refusal to rent land and water supply, which creates risks for investment in this business).

These days, the trial on the persons involved into the pogrom is coming to an end, including 14 Dungans, who were forced to protect their families and property from the rioters. At the trial, the defendants claimed that they were severely tortured during the investigation, there were evidences of various procedural violations (illegal searches and detentions at night, many hours of interrogations without advocates). The process itself was very poor covered in the media and official sources. According to representatives of the Dungan community, they are outraged by the terms of punishment requested by the State prosecutor for the Dungans (5-18 years), while the prosecutor requested suspended sentences for the rioters. Nevertheless, the Dungan public hopes for a fair verdict of the court.