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Banning of Mejlis' activity could lead to criminalization of ethnic identity in Crimea

This statement was originally published on freedomhouse.org on 27 April 2016.

In response to the ban on the Mejlis issued by the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea on April 26, 2016, Freedom House issued the following statement:

"Freedom House unequivocally condemns the occupation authorities' decision to ban the Mejlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar people," said Mark. P Lagon, President of Freedom House. "This step, taken under the guise of preventing extremism by an occupying power, could foster pernicious and widespread human rights violations along with the criminalization of an ethnic identity and all of its manifestations."

Background:

Natalia Poklonskaya, a prosecutor from Crimea's de facto occupation authorities, accused the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People of being an extremist organization on February 15, 2016, and asked the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea, under the control of the de facto authorities, to prohibit the Mejlis' activity under Russia's draconian and arbitrary anti-extremism statutes which are being enforced in Crimea. After Poklonskaya ordered to suspend the Mejlis earlier this month, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea ruled to ban the Mejlis from the peninsula on April 26, 2016.

Since its occupation of Crimea began in February 2014, Russia and occupation authorities under its control have relentlessly harassed and persecuted anyone who voices opposition to or is perceived as an opponent of the occupation, in particular Crimea's large Crimean Tatar minority population. As part of this campaign of repression, the occupation authorities have closed Crimean Tatar media; jailed, detained, and forcibly disappeared Crimean Tatar and other activists; and sought to create alternative pro-Russian Crimean Tatar institutions to replace authentic leaders and groups.

Crimea is rated Not Free in Freedom in the World 2016 and Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2016.

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