A Moscow-appointed prosecutor has hailed the ban on the 'extremist' Tatar representative body. But human rights groups said criminalizing the Mejlis is just another step aimed at 'snuffing out' dissent in Crimea.
A court in Russia-annexed Crimea on Tuesday upheld Moscow-appointed state prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya's ban on the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, their representative body, reported Russia's state-owned TASS news agency.
"The non-government organization Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people has now been recognized as extremist. That is, its activity is banned in the Russian Federation in general," Poklonskaya said.
She cited unauthorized demonstrations near the Crimean parliament in 2014 as evidence of the Mejlis inciting "discord and enmity in Crimea."
On April 18, Russia's justice ministry banned the organization for pursuing alleged extremist agendas after Poklonskaya issued the ban.
"Any actions will be assessed as illegal. If the Mejlis members or its representatives conduct any activity contrary to the court ruling, they will be brought to responsibility," she added.
The prosecutor filed the lawsuit against the Tatar people's representative body mid-February. However, the ban did not go into effect until earlier this month.
Since Russia's military intervention in the Crimean peninsula and consequent annexation via an internationally-condemned referendum in 2014, human rights groups have accused authorities of targeting the community
In 2014, Refat Chubarov, chairman of the Mejlis of Crimean Tatar people, commemorated the 70th anniversary of the Tatar's deportation under Soviet leader Joseph Stalin's orders
'Repugnant punitive step'
Earlier this month, Denis Krivosheev, Amnesty International's deputy director for Europe and Central Asia, slammed the Russian justice ministry's decision to ban the Mejlis, saying it "aimed at snuffing out the few remaining voices of dissent in Crimea."
"The decision to suspend the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people and ban all its activities under Russia's anti-extremism legislation is a repugnant punitive step denying members of the Crimean Tatar community the right to freedom of association," Krivosheev added.
Since the 1980s, the Tatars have attempted to re-establish their presence in the peninsula after they were deported to remote parts of the former Soviet Union under the orders of the late Joseph Stalin.