May 13, 2016

Crimean Tatars: EP Resolution Rings the Alarm Bell on Human Rights Abuses in Crimea

On 12 May 2016, the European Parliament passed a resolution on the situation of the Crimean Tatars, condemning the human rights violations that are occurring in the occupied peninsula, which are affecting the local population and in particular the indigenous Tatars. The resolution highlights a few violations that are exemplary of the level of repression that the community has been facing since the illegal annexation of the peninsula by Russia in 2014, including in particular restrictions on the media and the recent closure of the Mejlis, the main political body representing the Tatars’ interests. 


Photo courtesy by The Moscow Times


Over two years have passed since the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation. The situation in the peninsula has been gradually deteriorating, whilst human rights abuses have been significantly increasing. The Tatars, the indigenous population of Crimea, are particularly vulnerable and over the past two years they have seen the occupation authorities clamp on their rights of freedom of expression, assembly and association, as well as being victims of enforced disappearances and bans from re-entering the territory.

This wave of oppression reached its climax when on 26 April 2016 the so-called ‘Crimean Supreme Court’ took the decision to close down the Mejlis representative body, the only entity to represent Crimean Tatar interests. This, together with the ban of the two main leaders of the community, namely: Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov, which took place a few months after the annexation, shows how the occupation authorities are suffocating the community’s rights and identity. The Mejlis has been shut under false accusations of extremism and even terrorism.

On the occasion of its plenary session in Strasbourg on 12 May 2016, the European Parliament once again condemned the human rights abuses that are currently happening in Crimea, with a particular focus on the situation of the Crimean Tatar community.

During the debate, a number of MEPs from different political groups took the floor to highlight the breaches of human rights, democracy and rule of law in Crimea. Among the speakers were MEPs who have been actively supporting UNPO’s advocacy work for the Crimean Tatars and other unrepresented nations and peoples, such as Ilhan Kyuchyuk (ALDE), Richard Howitt (S&D), Ignazio Corrao (EFDD), Mark Demesmaeker (ECR), Urmas Paet (ALDE), Pier Antonio Panzeri (S&D), Marietje Schaake (ALDE), Csaba Sógor (EPP) and Charles Tannock (ECR).The plenary agreed on a quite strong text, whose overall message is a renewal of the strong condemnation of Russia’s actions in the peninsula, which are in violation of international law, as well as the importance not to discontinue the sanctions implemented by the European Union. Many MEPs pointed out the necessity for the Russian authorities to enable experts from international entities, such as the UN and OSCE, to enter Crimea. Moreover, a number of MEPs expressed their discontent concerning the numerous measures that have been established in order to oppress local identities. For example, the occupation authorities conducted a campaign to force the residents of Crimea to take Russian citizenship and hand over their Ukrainian passport, in violation of international humanitarian law. Another worrying measure is the closing of the Crimean Tatar media outlet ATR, key to preserving the Crimean Tatar’s cultural and linguistic heritage.

These are only a few of the worrying initiatives that the Russian occupation authorities have implemented in Crimea in the past two years. Next week, on 18 May, the Crimean Tatar community will commemorate the anniversary of the 1944 deportation of the whole community to Siberia, following an order by Stalin. Since the occupation of the peninsula in 2014, the Tatars have not been allowed to publicly remember this important and tragic moment of their history and it seems like commemorations will not be allowed this year either.

UNPO is glad to see that European Parliament has not forgotten the plight of the Crimean Tatars and will continue to work closely with its member, partners and MEPs to demand human rights protection and democracy in Crimea. 

To watch the video of the plenary debate please click here.