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National Minority Rights

Russian marines cross a road in the Crimean port of Sevastopol, Sept. 17, 2014.

Individuals from minority groups continue to be denied full human rights.

In countries where the rule of law is weak or absent, respect for the human rights of individuals belonging to minority groups is often lacking. Although participating States of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, have committed to uphold the rule of law, in several of these countries individuals from minority groups continue to be denied full human rights.

National Minority Rights
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J. Brian Atwood, head of the U.S. Delegation to the OSCE’s ongoing Human Dimension Implementation Meeting, or HDIM, in Warsaw, pointed out several examples.

In Georgia, ethnic Georgians in the Russia-occupied regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia continue to be denied property rights and freedom of movement.

Nationalist violence and ethnic cleansing that occurred in the Balkans during the 1990s continues to have a detrimental effect on the region. Some officials continue to deny serious wartime atrocities, including the genocide at Srebrenica in Bosnia. The U.S. urges officials and citizens in Bosnia, as well as the rest of the region, to continue working towards interethnic reconciliation.

In addition, Bosnia needs to implement the European Court of Human Rights decision in the Sejdic-Finci case, to allow all citizens, regardless of ethnicity, to hold office and be represented in all state-level institutions.

At HDIM Atwood also raised Hungary's expansive nationality law, which may create cross-border and inter-ethnic tensions. The U.S. urges Hungary to ensure that its articulation of concerns for Hungarian minorities in countries such as Ukraine is both appropriate and constructive.

Russia’s actions in Ukraine present stark examples of both the denial of minority rights and the misappropriation of minority rights. Russia has violated the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine on the pretext of protecting ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

In Russia-occupied Crimea, the religious, linguistic and cultural rights of persons belonging to the Crimean Tatar community, as well as other religious and ethnic minorities, are under siege. The two most prominent community leaders, Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, are banned from returning to Crimea, their homeland, for five years.

Ethnic minorities throughout the OSCE must be protected and their rights must be respected.