Russia serves ultimatums to Crimean Tatars

Multiple confrontations are impending between Russian authorities and the Tatar minority in annexed Crimea. Akhtem Chyyhoz, deputy head of the Majlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people, stated this week that the Majlis will not comply with Moscow's demand that the assembly register within the framework of Russia's legislation on civic organizations and associations. "The point is that they are suggesting that we register at the level of a civic organization which is unacceptable since the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is an elected representative body," he said. "It is impossible to put it in the same category as civic organizations." The current head of the Majlis, Refat Chubarov, and former Majlis leader and Ukrainian MP Mustafa Dzhemiliev have both been banned from their homeland for five years by order of Russian authorities. The bans came after the Tatar leaders called for a boycott of the March referendum on Crimean secession from Ukraine, and then of the September Crimean elections. On Sept. 17, three days after the elections, FSB troops  carried out a 12-hour-search of the Majlis premises in Simferopol. The following day, the Majlis was evicted from the building. (Human Rights in Ukraine, Oct. 22)

Local authorities of Crimea have also given the region's Tatars and other Muslims three months to voluntarily surrender Islamic literature that was permitted under Ukrainian law but banned in the Russian Federation. "We call on Muslims in possession of this material to deliver it to the religious authorities over the next three months," said the president of Crimea, Sergei Aksenov, as reported by Interfax. If it is not surrendered by January, police will be ordered to confiscate the "forbidden literature," he said.

This Muslim community, representing 12% of the Crimean population, has been coming under growing pressure since the Russian annexation. On Oct. 1, a 25-year-old Tatar who had disappeared under mysterious circumstances two days earlier was found dead in an abandoned sanatorium in Evpatoria. Former Majlis head Mustafa Zhemilev testified before the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg this week that 18 Tatars have "disappeared" since annexation. (UNPO, Oct. 21)

  1. Russia urged to investigate deaths of Crimea activists

    The Council of Europe said Oct. 27 that Russia must investigate the deaths and abductions of activists in Crimea and ensure that the rights of minorities and media are respected. A 16-page report (PDF) by Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks documented cases of three missing civil society activists and the deaths of local residents since Russia took over Crimea. The report highlighted serious human rights violations that have occurred in Crimea since February and called on Russia to investigate and hold accountable those responsible. The report voiced concern over the treatment of Ukrainians and Crimea's Tatars, a Muslim ethnic minority. It also noted that freedom of speech has been undermined in Crimea in recent months.

    From Jurist, Oct. 27. Used with permission.