Persecution of Crimean Tatars Must Stop: Dunja Mijatović

Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: Council of Europe
Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights. Photo: Council of Europe

Many of those detained or imprisoned on the basis of abusive counterterrorism or extremism charges continue to be held in maximum security prisons or distant penal colonies, often located outside Crimea. 

Dunja Mijatović, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, has called for the rights of Crimean Tatars to be respected. In a statement issued on November 25, Ms Mijatović says that the arrest and detention of a large group of Crimean Tatars is the latest link in a chain of reprisals and harassment directed at members of this community.

The arrested persons, including several journalists, had assembled peacefully in Simferopol to witness the release from detention of human rights lawyer Edem Semedlyaev. It reinforces the pattern of persecution targeting Crimean Tatar human rights defenders, activists, leaders, and journalists, as well as many ordinary members of this group.

According to the statement, in addition to arbitrary arrests and detentions, this clearly discernible pattern is exemplified by abusive raids on their homes and mosques; criminal proceedings devoid of fair trial guarantees; and extremely severe sentences, including long prison terms, imposed in recent years on Crimean Tatar activists.

They include Osman Arifmetetov, Edem Bekirov, Aider Dzhapparov, Timur Ibragimov, Rustem Ismailov, Suleyman Kadyrov, Emir-Usein Kuku, Server Mustafaev, Enver Omerov, Riza Omerov, Erfan Osmanov, Seyran Saliev, Ruslan Suleymanov, and dozens of others. 

Many of those detained or imprisoned on the basis of abusive counterterrorism or extremism charges continue to be held in maximum security prisons or distant penal colonies, often located outside Crimea. Many are reportedly subjected to ill-treatment and deprived of adequate access to their families and defence counsels. Some of them, like Servet Gaziev, Gafar Dzhemilev or Murat Zekharia, suffered particular hardship resulting from inadequate access to proper healthcare despite their advanced age or poor health.

“As I persevere in my efforts to obtain access to Crimea to carry out independent and impartial monitoring as required by my mandate, I call for the rights of Crimean Tatars to be respected. The persecution of Crimean Tatars must stop,” said Ms Mijatović in her statement.

The statement added: Those in charge of law and order should respect and protect every Crimean Tatar’s rights and freedoms under the European Convention on Human Rights, including freedom from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment; the right to liberty and security; the right to a fair trial; freedom of thought, conscience, and religion; and freedoms of expression, assembly, and association.

In particular, according to the statement, an immediate end must be put to arbitrary arrests, searches, detention and criminal prosecutions based on the misuse of counterterrorism, extremism or other spurious charges. 

“All those who have been convicted or detained on the basis of such abusive legal proceedings should be exonerated and released immediately. Legal counsels defending Crimean Tatars must be allowed to work free from intimidation or hindrance, and Crimean Tatar media outlets, journalists, activists, and bloggers should be allowed to carry out their activities without restrictions or harassment,” Ms Mijatović said.

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