ADC “Memorial” demands respect for rights of ethnic minorities and foreign nationals

ADC “Memorial” expresses its profound indignation and is worried by the reports of persecution of ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples in Russia and territories now under the Russian rule, the attempts to restrict rights of foreign nationals, persons with dual citizenship (Russian and foreign) and persons without citizenship.

In the second half of September 2014 a series of gross violations of the rights of ethnic minorities and indigenous peoples were registered in Russia and Crimea. On September 16, Russian police forces surrounded the premises of Medzhlis, the council of representatives of Crimean Tatars, in Simferopol, many of the members of Medzhlis were detained, searched and otherwise repressed, while over the week that followed the premises of Crimean Tatars’ organization were taken away from activists, staff of this organization were forced to quit their jobs, the property and bank accounts of Crimean Tatar organizations were blocked by the Russian authorities. These repressions have a distinct political nature, since last spring activists of Crimean Tatar organizations were constantly harassed for their refusal to take Russian citizenship and agree that Crimea is part of the Russian Federation.

Most prominent and esteemed members of the parliament of Crimean Tatars, who took most consistent and uncompromised position regarding the political rights of Crimean Tatars – Mustafa Dzhemilev and Refat Chubarov – were de facto deported from Crimea, deprived of the possibility to return to their native land, to join their families, same as their relatives had been deprived of this right several generations ago, during repressions against Crimean Tatars in the Soviet years. Moreover, not only Mustafa Dzhemilev himself is declared guilty of attempts to return to his native land (for which he struggled throughout his whole life), but also people who are believed to be supporting him are charged with being his accomplices. It was the suspicions regarding attempts to help Dzhemilev return to Crimea that were the reason for some of the September attacks against Crimean Tatars. According to Mustafa Dzhemilev, activists of Crimean Tatar movement were threatened with physical violence by the new Crimean authorities and the so called “self-defense units”, which are composed of pro-Russian militants in Crimea, whose support was crucial for the takeover of Crimea by Russia last spring.

Attempts to prevent participation of the Russian delegates to the UN’s first World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, who tried to travel to the conference from Crimea and Russia, are also alarming. For example, on September 18, 2014 unknown persons attacked director of International foundation for studies and assistance to indigenous peoples of Crimea Nadir Bekir on the road between Dzhankoy and Simferopol in Crimea (he was travelling to Kiev in order to further fly to the conference). The attackers deprived him of his passport and disappeared. Bekir is known for his readiness to cooperate with the Russian authorities, thus it is clear that the problems he encountered were due not to his political position, but the very fact that he is a representative of Crimean Tatar community.

Another attempt to prevent participation of the delegates to the World Conference on Indigenous Peoples was the refusal to fly to New York of the representatives of indigenous and small-numbered peoples of the Russian Far North. Rodion Sulyandziga, director of the Center for assistance to indigenous small-numbered peoples of Siberia, Far North and Far East, faced spoiling of his passport and refusal to leave Russia on these grounds on September 18, 2014. His documents were spoiled by the border guards, but he himself was charged with this offense and subjected to administrative punishment.

The risks for the rights and interests of foreign nationals, including Russians who have dual citizenship with some foreign country, have also increased recently. All people, who hold a second citizenship besides Russian, were obliged to notify the authorities and get registered with the Federal Migration Service (FMS). It is obvious that such an obligation is discriminatory in its own right – no obligatory registration of any particular group of people, be it people belonging to some ethnic or religious groups or any other people, happens without some form of further discrimination to follow. Most alarming in this respect is that this registration of people with dual citizenship also applies to small children, whose only “fault” is that their parents belong to different states and thus these children have the right for dual citizenship since their birth. Refusal or failure to register dual citizenship after October 4, 2014 supposes harsh forms of punishment – up to 4 years in prison.

Moreover, the process of introducing restrictions for people with dual citizenship or people without citizenship is under way – they are prohibited to be heads of NGOs, establish mass media and own more than 20% of shares in media companies. Unfortunately, it is already obvious that the range of these restrictions will grow and will interfere with the legal rights and interests of people with dual citizenship or people without citizenship. There is no doubt that this practice will be widely used for prosecution of people living in Crimea, who refuse to abandon their Ukrainian citizenship. But many more people will also face arbitrary restrictions of their rights based on citizenship since many people from of Tadzhikistan, Kirgizstan and other countries received Russian citizenship without abandoning their original citizenship of these countries.

Russian Constitution declares the principle of respect for the rights of foreign nationals in the Russian Federation, while the recently adopted laws and regulations restrict these rights and are in obvious contradiction with the Constitution. Facts of discrimination and persecution of ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples and foreign nationals constitute gross violations of some international regulations, which were earlier ratified by the Russian Federation, including on Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities of the Council of Europe, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, European Convention on Human Rights and some other.

ADC “Memorial” insists that Russia should observe both national and international guarantees of the rights of minorities. We call for reconsideration of discriminatory laws and drafts of laws, refusal of the practice of persecution and restriction of rights of peoples of Russia and Crimea.

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