Legal Case of the Week: Crimean Tatar Mejlis contests designation as 'extremist' organization

posted 4 Apr 2017, 02:33 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 4 Apr 2017, 02:35 ]
On 30 March 2017, the banned Crimean Tatar Mejlis, a representative body of Crimean Tatars, submitted an application to the European Court of Human Rights, the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre reports, contesting its designation as an ‘extremist’ organisation.The Mejlis and its leaders are represented before the European Court by the European Human Rights Advocacy Centre (EHRAC, London), the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (Kyiv) and Memorial Human Rights Centre (Moscow). As EHRAC notes: "In April 2016, the Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea declared the Mejlis an ‘extremist’ organisation and the Crimean Prosecutor suspended the Mejlis’ activities." On 29 September 2016 Human Rights Watch reported that the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation that day confirmed the lower court's ruling declaring the Mejlis to be an extremist organization and banned its activities in Russia and Russian-occupied Crimea. Human Rights Watch called the decision of the Supreme Court "outrageous but not surprising." Human Rights Watch noted that it had documented "a steady curtailing of basic freedoms in Crimea since Russian forces began occupying the peninsula in February 2014."

Human Rights Watch also noted that since the Mejlis had been first banned, several Mejlis members have been threatened, harassed or are facing prosecution by the Russian authorities. EHRAC points out that to date ten members have been charged with administrative or criminal offenses for ‘illegal’ gatherings, and one is in prison. Moreover, "Mustafa Dzhemilev, former Chair of the Mejlis and a leading defender of Crimean Tatar rights, and Refat Chubarov, the current Head of the Mejlis, are forbidden from entering the peninsula, and several Crimean Tatar media outlets have either been banned or persecuted. Many Crimean Tatars have been forced to leave for mainland Ukraine or Russia." 

EHRAC in its press release states: "The Mejlis argues before the European Court that its designation as an extremist organisation and the suspension of its activities is a violation of the right to freedom of association, under Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR); and that it has been banned – and its members persecuted – to punish them for their political position (in violation of Article 18). They also complain that the Russian Courts disregarded their status as a representative body of the indigenous people of Crimea, violating the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). They further allege that they did not have access to a fair trial (Article 6 ECHR), and they could not have anticipated that their activities would be in violation of anti-extremist legislation (Article 7 ECHR). Approximately 3,000 individual cases related to the events in Crimea or the hostilities in Eastern Ukraine are currently pending before the Court."

Photo: The Mejlis building in Simferopol, confiscated by the Russian authorities [Wikipedia]

'Banned Crimean Tatar Mejlis takes case to Strasbourg Court,' EHRAC, 30 March 2017
Tanya Cooper, 'Crimean Tatar Elected Body Banned in Russia. Shutdown of Mejlis Part of Repressive Measures Against Crimean Tatars,' Human Rights Watch, 29 September 2016
'Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People,' Wikipedia