On Feb. 23 2021 the General Assembly plenary will overview the situation in the East of Europe, the current situation of human and civil rights of Crimea peninsula residents, in particular. The forthcoming plenary will observe the recent harsh and mass arrests of Crimean Tatars as there are many evidences of intentional and pre-planned repressions against Muslim Crimea Tatars, committed by law enforcement agencies of the Russian Federation.
It is matter of the United Nations to observe such cases because it has never recognized Russian authority over Crimea and the Resolution A/RES/75/192 of December 28, 2020 stated “the law enforcement system of the Russian Federation conducts searches and raids of private homes, businesses and meeting places in Crimea, which disproportionally affect Crimean Tatars, and recalling that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights prohibits arbitrary or unlawful interference with a person’s privacy, family, home or correspondence”.
Likewise, the General Assembly has already directly mentioned the confirmed facts of “baseless prosecution of dozens of peaceful Muslims for allegedly belonging to Islamic organizations”. The recent events in Crimea have clearly shown that nothing has changed since the mentioned Resolution was adopted and Russia continues acting in the way which was condemned by the international community.
Russia’s FSB have arrested 5 Muslims of Crimea Tatar origin (Lenur Seidametov, Timur Yalkabov, Azamat Eyupov, Yashar Shikhametov, Ernest Ibrahimov) after armed searches of their houses in the early morning of 17 February 2021. The FSB and armed Rosgvardia officers were clearly interested only in books, and in at least one case, claimed to find the so-called ‘extremist literature’ allegedly pulled from the bag.
Still law enforcement officers and investigators failed to present it and to prove this evidence was collected in a legal way. There is no indication that undertaken searches and investigative actions committed by the Russian authorities are related to the prevention of terrorist threats, it is a clear oppression of people based on their ethnic and religious identity. Russia has targeted civic activists, some of whom have already faced administrative prosecution for peaceful pickets in solidarity with Russia’s ever-mounting number of Crimean Tatar political prisoners. The growing illegal pressure of security agencies they face is an intention of the Russian government to eliminate any opposition in Crimea as the residents of the peninsula show increasing disappointment with Russian administration, which is not recognized by the world community.
On Wednesday morning, the FSB came for those courageous men, with their children traumatized by seeing masked officers with machine guns forcing their fathers to the ground and then taking them handcuffed to jail.
There was an especially cynical slant to the events on 17 February. The FSB has presumably understood that terrorizing small children and imposing 15–20-year sentences against their fathers or grandfathers for civic activism and kitchen conversations are not what most people view as ‘fighting terrorism’. This time, they first circulated, via state-controlled media, false information about the supposed arrests in Crimea and in Russia of Islamic radicals from an organization called Takfir wal-Hijra as well as Hizb ut-Tahrir, who were claimed to be “planning terrorist attacks in the North Caucuses”. Once again, no evidence of participation of arrested Crimean Tatars in any radical or terrorist organization were presented.
It is worth mentioning that modern Russia faces high level of terror attacks, there is a large number of Muslim extremist groups in North Caucasian Federal District of the Russian Federation. Nevertheless, the FSB and other security and law enforcement bodies would rather oppress unarmed and peaceful Muslims in Crimea than make significant efforts to eliminate real terrorists, which have strong ties with local governments of North Caucasian Federal District.