Our TrialWatch initiative has been monitoring Russia’s crackdown on dissent in Crimea, where Russia has systematically silenced Crimean Tatar human rights activists since its occupation of the peninsula in 2014. Dozens of Crimean Tatars are currently serving lengthy prison sentences on “terrorism charges” for alleged involvement with Hizb ut-Tahrir. We have challenged the use of secret witnesses to convict Crimean Tatar advocate Server Mustafayev before the UN (obtaining a decision ordering his release) and have been monitoring the case of Crimean leader Nariman Dzhelyal, who was recently given a severe 17-year sentence.
In September, a Russian court in Crimea convicted Nariman Dzhelyal, one of the few remaining Crimean Tatar leader and someone who had advocated for a peaceful solution to Crimea’s occupation, to 17 years in prison. There are deep concerns about the reliability of the evidence used against him. Dzhelyal was arrested shortly after he took part in a summit convened by Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy calling for an end to the occupation of Crimea and was charged with orchestrating an explosion at a gas pipeline. Our TrialWatch initiative monitored Dzhelyal’s trial, warning that the prosecution relied on statements allegedly obtained under torture as well as on the testimonies of secret witnesses whose identities were never disclosed to the defence.
Seven Crimean human rights defenders were tried and convicted of terrorism offenses after being arrested in Crimea and taken over the border into Russia and given severe sentences. The charges were based on their alleged links to a group legal in Ukraine, but banned in Russia, and their conviction was based on the vague accounts of three witnesses, two of whom testified anonymously without justification or adequate procedural safeguards, and all of whose testimony was rife with discrepancies. After CFJ and Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP brought the case of one of the men, Server Mustafayev, to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, the group found Russia is arbitrarily detaining a him and ordered Russia to release and compensate Mr. Mustafayev, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence in a maximum-security facility following his conviction in 2020.
All eight of the defendants are Crimean Tatars, practicing Muslims, and human rights activists. The prosecution charged each man “preparation for a forcible seizure of power or forcible retention of power” and “organising” or “participating” in the activities of a terrorist organization.See the Fairness Report