Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Aid at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (13 September) on the sentencing of Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis, the executive representative body of the Crimean Tartar people.
I am outraged by the so-called “Supreme Court” of annexed Crimea’s sentencing of Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, to several years of imprisonment. This conviction constitutes a further curtailment of the rights of the Crimean Tatars on the peninsula following its annexation by Russia.
Akhtem Chiygoz was a strong proponent of the territorial integrity of Ukraine. It is unacceptable for people to be locked up and convicted for expressing their political opinions. This violates all rule-of-law principles, in particular the provisions of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – which Russia, too, has ratified.
The rights of the Tatars in Crimea must be restored without delay and international human rights standards respected in full. The International Court of Justice has expressly called on Russia to do so.
Since the Russian Federation’s illegal annexation of Crimea, anyone on the peninsula who opposes the annexation has been subjected to systematic harassment. The Crimean Tatars have been prime targets. Persecution has focused above all on the Mejlis, the executive representative body of the Crimean Tatars. On 26 April 2016, in response to an application filed by the “Prosecutor-General of Crimea”, the “Supreme Court of Crimea” classified the Mejlis an extremist organisation and outlawed its activities.
Akhtem Chiygoz is Deputy Chairman of the Mejlis. He was arrested in January 2015 for participating in a rally in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine in front of the Supreme Council building of Crimea on 26 February 2014. Since his arrest, he has been in pretrial detention in Simferopol, Crimea. He was accused of organising mass riots and inciting unrest. He was not present in person at his trial proceedings, but participated only via a video teleconference link. On 11 September 2017, the “Supreme Court of Crimea” sentenced him to eight years in prison.