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Crimea: Arrests Aimed at Silencing and Marginalizing Crimean Tatars Should Be Investigated
Following the detention of dozens of Crimean Tatar civic activists in Crimea on March 27, 2019, Freedom House and Civil Rights Defenders released the following statement:
“Today’s house searches, harassment, and arrests of civic activists from the Crimean Tatar community are yet another serious abuse of power by the de facto authorities, transparently aimed at striking fear into a community that has suffered severely during Russia’s occupation of Crimea,” said Marc Behrendt, director for Europe & Eurasia at Freedom House. “We urge the EU, US, and international bodies to insist on fair and thorough investigations of harassment and arrest of Crimean Tatar activists and others who suffer repression because of their ethnic identity, religious belief, or political and civic activity. The targeted searches and detentions of individuals in compact communities strikes a chilling resemblance to tactics used by Russian forces in their campaigns in Chechnya.”
“The persecution of the Crimean Tatar community in Crimea, especially those who choose to publicly express their opinion, practice their faith, or maintain cultural traditions, is an ongoing reminder of how respect for human rights and democracy has precipitously declined in Crimea,” said Ana Furtuna, Programme Director for Eurasia at Civil Rights Defenders.
According to media reports, at least 20 civic activists associated with the Crimean Solidarity movement have been detained following searches of dozens of homes in several villages of Crimea. The detained are accused of affiliating with the non-violent international Islamist movement Hizb ut-Tahrir, considered extremist and banned in Russia but not in Ukraine. Following the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, allegations of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir have become a common pretext for criminal prosecutions there, and is one of many abuses of anti-extremism legislation against civic activists and others.
Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.