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16 prison sentences have been passed against Crimean Muslims in 2020, – Olexander Siedov

Olexander Siedov, the Crimean Human Rights Group’ analyst spoke at the Supplementary Human Dimension Meeting Freedom of Religion or Belief on November 5.

Despite repeated statements about the illegality of enforcing the anti-extremist and anti-terrorist RF laws in the occupied territory of Ukraine, the Russian Federation keeps on using these norms to persecute various religious groups and their members in Crimea. Moreover, the repression even intensified over the past year.

Since October 2019, the number of Muslims imprisoned for trumped-up cases has increased by 14 and reached 70. First of all, people who are not indifferent and who are actively opposing such persecution, become persecuted. In addition to depriving of liberty directly, they are subject to punitive psychiatry, being placed forcedly in mental hospitals.

The only charges brought against Muslims by the Russian authorities are conversations on religious topics. Those already deprived of their liberty on such charges are sentenced to up to 19 years in prison. Since October 2019, 16 prison sentences have been passed against Crimean Muslims.

The persecution of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Crimea, who are accused of extremism only because this religious organization is considered extremist in the Russian Federation, has reached a new level. In 2020, 2 sentences were imposed for 6 years in prison. If earlier when criminal cases were initiated against the Jehovah’s Witnesses, they were under recognizance not to leave for the period of the investigation, since 2020 they have been deprived of liberty immediately after being charged. In October, 4 people were placed in the pre-trial detention center in the same way. In total, in Crimea in 2020, 6 Jehovah’s Witnesses have been imprisoned and 2 more are to be sentenced.

The Russian Federation is pursuing an aggressive policy aimed at banning the activities of any religious organization that is not subordinate to the Russian authorities. As an example, a ban for Muslim organizations to hold religious events of Muslim organizations, without the consent of the Spiritual Administration of Muslims of Crimea. The Orthodox Church of Ukraine is being deprived of churches, with registration being denied. The mass media controlled by the Russian authorities call the church “schismatic” and illegitimate, since it does not obey the Russian Orthodox Church.

The extension by Russia of its jurisdiction over Crimea has resulted into persecuting for missionary activities under Art. 5.26 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation. The main reasons for such persecution are lack of a full name on the religious organization plate, preaching outside of religious buildings, etc. The Crimean Human Rights Group recorded 101 decisions under this article in Crimea, with fines imposed amounting to at least RUR1,340,500.

Crimea is the occupied territory of Ukraine, therefore, enforcing the Russian law in Crimea to persecute religious organizations violates not only human rights, but also the international humanitarian law. No reaction of the Russian Federation to repeated statements about the inadmissibility of such violations shows the absolute disregard of its OSCE commitments in the human dimension by the Russian Federation. With this said, in order to protect human rights we are appealing to develop an effective mechanism of pressure on countries that violate consistently their commitments.

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