Russia Bans Mejlis of Crimean Tatars

Pierre Europe, Human Rights 0 Comments

Russia’s Supreme Court recently upheld a lower court ruling declaring the Mejlis,a Crimean Tatar elected representative body, an extremist organization and banned its activities in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea.

The United States does not recognize the legitimacy of the Russian Supreme Court’s ruling to uphold the ban of the Mejlis. Deputy State Department Spokesperson Mark Toner said, “We reject the characterization of the Mejlis as an ‘extremist’ organization and condemn the suspension of this democratic institution. This decision,” he said, “is particularly troubling given Russia’s systemic and unjust mistreatment of Crimean Tatars.”

Russia continues to subject Crimean Tatars to arbitrary arrests, abductions, politically motivated prosecution, restrictions on freedom of movement, and police raids on their homes and mosques. Cases of particular concern include former Mejlis chairman, Mustafa Jemilev, who is now in exile in Kiev after Russian authorities in Crimea declared him persona non grata, along with another renowned Crimean Tatar leader, Refat Chubarov. Aktem Chiygoz, a deputy chairman of Mejlis, was detained in January 2015 and accused of organizing so-called mass disturbances. He has been in pretrial detention since then, and his politically-motivated trial is ongoing.

Another Mejlis deputy chairman, Ilmi Umerov, was arrested in May and is facing “separatism” charges for an interview in which he said that Crimea should be returned to Ukraine. He was forced to undergo a prolonged psychiatric evaluation, during which his health deteriorated significantly. Russia further compounded this outrage by initiating legal proceedings against six Mejlis members who visited Umerov during house arrest for “an unsanctioned meeting.” The United States calls on Russia to cease these repressive practices immediately.

Freedom House condemned the Russian Supreme Court’s decision against the Mejlis. “Russian authorities,” said acting President Daniel Calingaert, “can now prosecute virtually all Crimean Tatar people inside the peninsula for their cultural, social, and political activities — a travesty of justice that is the latest human rights abuse in Crimea.”

The United States does not recognize Russia’s attempted annexation of Crimea and demands that Russia return control of the peninsula to Ukraine. Until then, sanctions related to Crimea will remain in place.

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