Statement Protesting the Politically Motivated Conviction of Akhtem Chiyhoz

Civil Rights Defenders condemns the conviction by a court in Russia-controlled Crimea of Akhtem Chiyhoz, the deputy leader of the Crimean Tatar Mejlis assembly, and calls upon the government of the Russian Federation and the de facto local authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea to release Chiyhoz, vacate his conviction, and cease the harassment of Crimean Tatar activists.

Chiyhoz was found guilty of organising and illegal demonstration and causing “mass disorder” at a pro-Ukrainian rally outside Crimean parliament in Simferopol on 26 February 2014. Although there were isolated fights between participants and a competing pro-Russian rally, nothing approaching “mass disorder” occurred, both rallies were legally sanctioned, and at no time during Chiyhoz’s nearly two-year trial did the prosecution produce evidence or witnesses to the contrary.

The events in question took place before the Russian occupation began, and at a time when even the Russian Federation regarded Crimea as a part of Ukraine, and the court never established on what grounds Russian law applied. Furthermore, the dearth of evidence has led Civil Rights Defenders observers have concluded that the charges are politically motivated and punishment against Chiyhoz for opposing Russia’s annexation of the peninsula. Russia’s Memorial Human Rights Group considers Chiyhoz and others arrested as part of the “February 26 case” to be political prisoners.

Legal analysts at the Crimean Human Rights Group noted the decision violated multiple articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, as well as Article 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention by attempting to apply domestic law over an occupied territory.

“The conviction of Akhtem Chiyhoz is a sad day for the rule of law in Russia, for Crimea, and for the friends and family of Akhtem Chiyhoz. His case is a consequence of the lack of due process or rule of law on the peninsula, and it is more important than ever that the international community take steps to hold Russia to account for its actions in Crimea,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia at Civil Rights Defenders.

“The decision of the occupying court was politically motived, criminal, and based on false evidence … the Crimean Tatar Resource Center demands the verdict be overturned and the immediate release of Akhtem Chiyhoz and other political prisoners,” said Eskender Bariev, a member of the Mejlis and chairperson of the Crimean Tatar Resource Center.

Civil Rights Defenders condemns the politically motivated conviction of Akhtem Chiyhoz and the widespread repression of the Crimean Tatar community. We join with all other domestic and international organisations calling for the release of Chiyhoz and other Crimean Tatar political prisoners, including Ali Asanov and Mustafa Degermendzhy, involved with the case.