GENEVA (AA) - A spokesman for the UN high commissioner for human rights has called on Russia to respect the rights of Crimean Tatars and not subject them to discrimination or harassment.
In remarks made at a press conference in Geneva to mark the anniversary of the 1944 deportation of some 200,000 Tatars from Crimea during World War II, Rupert Colville said: "Over the past two years, we have documented increasing persecution of Crimean Tatars.
"Members of the Mejlis, the representative body of the Crimean Tatar minority community, and their supporters have been intimidated, harassed and jailed, often on dubious charges."
Reminding that Russia exercises de facto control over the territory of Crimea, Colville said Russia "has a duty to ensure that the rights of minorities and indigenous peoples are respected, and that they are not subjected to discrimination and harassment."
He also urged Russia to immediately lift the ban on the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatars and to ensure that the freedoms of expression, information, peaceful assembly, religion or belief for all the people of Crimea were upheld.
"We are deeply concerned by the ban imposed on the Mejlis by the so-called ‘supreme court’ of Crimea on April 26. We fear that the designation of the Mejlis as an extremist organization by the ‘court’ will leave Crimean Tatars even more exposed to human rights violations and collective punishment," he said.
Noting that Crimean Tatars had been subjected to arbitrary searches, seizure of books and arrests, Colville said the allegations of ill-treatment largely go unaddressed.