Indigenous and Ethnic Minorities

Indigenous and ethnic minority leaders and activists can find themselves targeted through the courts for defending their land and their culture.

Crimean Tatar Leader on Trial

Nariman Dzhelyal in court

Crimean Tatar leader, Nariman Dzhelyal, a prominent advocate for a peaceful resolution to Crimea’s occupation, has been imprisoned by Russian authorities for nearly one year and faces up to 20 years behind bars. The Clooney Foundation for Justice’s TrialWatch initiative announced today that it is monitoring Mr. Dzhelyal’s trial as part of its focus on Russia’s crackdown on dissent in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine.

A verdict in Dzhelyal’s trial, which began in February this year, is scheduled for September 21 and a TrialWatch Fairness Report on the trial will be released soon after its conclusion. Among other things, CFJ is reviewing audio recordings of previous hearings and key case documents.

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Under Siege in the Mexican Criminal Justice System

The Mexican authorities violated indigenous activist Kenia Hernandez’s rights to a fair trial, to freedom from discrimination, and to freedom from arbitrary detention. A TrialWatch Report gave her aggravated robbery trial a grade of D. Following this trial – which the authorities prevented her from even attending – Ms. Hernandez was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison. This is just one of ten cases opened against her in the past two years, all of which seem designed to silence her work as a human rights defender.

The appeals court should overturn Ms. Hernandez’s conviction, which was infected with bias and flouted fair trial guarantees. In the short-term, the prison where she is being held must allow Ms. Hernandez to communicate regularly and privately with her lawyer and to see her children.

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Crimean Tatar Convicted of ‘Membership in a Terrorist Organization’

“Mr. Mustafayev’s trial was marred by egregious violations of due process that deprived him of any semblance of a fair trial as required under international law.”

Marryum Kahloon, Associate at Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP

Server Mustafayev, who previously served as the coordinator of Crimean Solidarity, a civil society initiative established following the 2014 Russian occupation of Crimea, was arrested in Crimea, taken over the border into Russia, and convicted of alleged involvement with an Islamic organization that is legal in Ukraine but banned in Russia.  Following a trial where anonymous witnesses gave testimony “rife with discrepancies,” he was convicted and given a severe fourteen-year prison sentence.  CFJ and Gibson Dunn have since taken his case to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.

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Indigenous Land Activist Spends Two Years in Pre-Trial Detention in Guatemala

“It appears that Mr. Chub’s prosecution was based on improper motives; specifically, the goal of obstructing Mr. Chub’s advocacy regarding land rights.”

TrialWatch Report

Abelino Chub, an indigenous land rights advocate, was charged with burning down trees and fields on a plantation operated by a banana and palm company—a partner company of which joined the proceedings against Mr. Chub as a private complaint.  Although Mr. Chub was acquitted, he spent two years in arbitrary pre-trial detention.

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Indigenous Activist Charged with Criminal Defamation in Thailand

In Thailand, Wut Boonlert, an indigenous activist, and Samak Donnapee, a retired national park officer, were charged with criminal defamation for social media posts that, according to the prosecution, suggested a government official who had a long, antagonistic history with indigenous groups was misusing national forest land for private gain.

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