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Wednesday 27 April 2016

Persecution of Crimean Tatars needs sanctions response

Hoardings on the border. Left: On your way to Crimean Tatar Autonomy. Right: On your way from Crimea to Free Ukraine. Via Olga Klymenko

It is way past time for action by the West against the persecutors of the Crimean Tartar people. As human rights activist Halya Cornash puts it:
Two years after invading and annexing Ukrainian territory, Russia has effectively declared war against the Crimean Tatar people.  More words of concern, without real punitive sanctions, would be frighteningly inadequate.
Russia has demonstrated time and again that it does respond to strength, it ignores weakness, it will butt against the limits of any Western 'tolerance' of its actions.

Its latest action, in banning the Tatars' Parliament, demonstrate just how outrageously they will behave.

The Executive Board of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, in a recent declaration, called for:
1) That the European Union, the European Parliament and all national parliaments of the world respecting human rights, freedoms, peace and democracy recognize that the Crimean Tatars are the indigenous people of the Crimea and the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People is the self-governing body of the Crimean Tatar People, and develop cooperation mechanisms with the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People,

2) That, to convict the crimes committed against the Crimean Tatar People in the conscience of humanity and history, the big deportation of the Crimean Tatar People on 18 May 1944 be recognized as a genocide by the European Parliament, all national parliaments and institutions,
This is the least that must happen. What is most likely to make Russia think twice in its actions is targeted sanctions that make clear to Russia that they must stop the repression of Crimea's indigenous people.

Reblogged with permission.


By Halya Cornash

A Crimean court has formally completed its criminalization of the Mejlis, or self-governing body of the Crimean Tatar people. There have been no serious threats of sanctions or other measures from European structures and western countries although this is a direct attack on the main indigenous people of Crimea carried out by a country which breached international law through its annexation of Ukrainian Crimea.

The banning of the Mejlis as ‘extremist’ has come in stages, with feelers doubtless out to see how the West responded. Beyond statements of ‘concern’ or condemnation, it did not. Russia therefore moved from vague threats to specific action, with the ‘court application’ first lodged in February. The ban was then made a fait accompli on April 13 when the de facto prosecutor Natalya Poklonskaya announced that she was ‘suspending’ the Mejlis without a court ruling. Russia’s justice ministry then also saw no need to await a court ruling and on April 18 added the Crimean Tatar Mejlis to its list of “civic or religious organizations whose activities have been suspended due to their extremist activities.”

The Council of Europe’s disturbingly weak report on a fact-finding visit to Russian-occupied Crimea did acknowledge that a court ban on the Mejlis “would indicate a new level of repression targeting the Crimean Tatar community as a whole”.

There can be no understating how serious this move is. Oliver Loode, a member of the UN Forum on Indigenous Issues, has stressed that “if a representative body is banned, this is not just a hostile act towards a particular organization, in this case the Mejlis. It’s really an attack against the people, in this case Crimean Tatars.” A recent resolution from the European Parliament recognized the Crimean Tatars as an indigenous people of Crimea whose right to self-government is protected under the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the Mejlis as “the legitimate representation of the Crimean Tatar community”.

Russia through its puppet prosecutor and court called the Mejlis a ‘civic organization’ and has now banned it, claiming it to be ‘extremist’.

Nobody is in any doubt of the real reasons for this move, namely the implacable opposition of the Mejlis to Russian occupation. Should any further confirmation be required, this was effectively provided by a chilling suggestion just made by Alexander Bastrykin, the head of Russia’s Investigative Committee. He proposes that the provisions outlawing what the current regime deems ‘extremism’ should be supplemented with provisions criminalizing ‘denial’ of, for example, the pseudo-referendum which Russia used in an attempt to give legitimacy of its annexation of Crimea. The Mejlis had called on Crimean Tatars and all other Ukrainians to boycott this event.

On Monday the ‘proof’ presented to the court of the Mejlis’ ‘extremism’ was crowned by a document published back in Soviet times (1988) by veteran Crimean Tatar leader and former Soviet political prisoner Mustafa Dzhemiliev. Other material includes an extremely questionable ‘warning’ from Poklonskaya to Refat Chubarov, Head of the Mejlis against supposed ‘extremist activities”; the notification of criminal proceedings lodged against Mustafa Dzhemiliev for having tried to enter his homeland; and against Refat Chubarov, for “encroaching upon Russia’s territory”, that is, opposing Russia’s occupation of his native Crimea; the documents about the legally nihilistic charges against the Deputy Head of the Mejlis, Akhtem Chiygoz regarding a demonstration over which Russia has no jurisdiction; the Mejlis’ founding documents which also far pre-date annexation and whose ‘extremism’ is deemed to lied in their stated aim, namely the reinstatement of the Crimean Tatar people’s national and political rights as part of Ukraine.

During the ‘court debate’ on Tuesday, Nariman Dzhelyal, First Deputy Head of the Mejlis demonstrated that the Mejlis is not a civic organization, but a representative assembly and also an international structure with representatives in many other countries. The Mejlis takes part in OSCE and UN activities and is planning to open official representative offices in Brussels and Washington.

Poklonskaya demanded that the Mejlis be banned claiming, for example, that the call from one Turkish organization for the Mejlis to not be outlawed was proof that the Mejlis was an extremist organization. Zair Smedlyaev, Qurultay [Crimean Tatar National Congress] official points out that by the same ‘logic’, the UN, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, European Parliament and a whole range of other international bodies should be considered ‘extremist’.

As reported, it was quite unclear throughout the so-called court proceedings what exactly the prosecutor was trying to ban since there are a large number of regional mejlis which act as autonomous bodies. While the level of knowledge of the de facto prosecutor is certainly pitiful, it is likely that the lack of clarity is quite deliberate. Why explain who is at risk of arrest if you can leave that unknown and therefore particularly frightening? Mustafa Dzhemiliev recently suggested that around 2, 300 people involved in all structures of Crimean Tatar self-government could be immediately at risk.

This court hearing was a farce with the outcome known from the beginning. The only chance of averting the criminalization of a body representing the Crimean Tatar people was a real threat of punitive measures. Aider Mudzhabayev wrote recently that statements in defence of Crimeans facing persecution, in condemnation of repression, are undoubtedly needed, but are still useless – like trying to cure cancer with words.

Cancer spreads.  How far is Russia to be allowed to go?

Refat Chubarov
Edited to add: Today Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar people, ordered that the Mejlis is to perform its activities in an emergency modus operandi for the duration of Russian occupation of Crimea.

Oliver Loode, a member of the Minority Rights Group and the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, described the Mejlis' banning as "a new low in Russia’s treatment of indigenous peoples worldwide, and merits the strongest condemnation from the international community, including the UN system, states and indigenous peoples’ organizations."

He said:
The key to understanding the severity of the situation is the fact that the Crimean Tatar Mejlis is not just another NGO, but a representative institution of Crimean Tatar people who self-identify as indigenous people of Crimea, and who have been acknowledged as such by their home country Ukraine and a growing number of states and institutions around the world, including the European Parliament. As such, the decision to ban the Mejlis directly violates Article 5 of the UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP).

See also


Saturday 23 April 2016

Boris' 'Kenyan ancestry' slur has UK roots

When Boris Johnston's Sun column appeared earlier today attacking President Obama and a storm blew up I assumed one thing - he'd got the idea from the American kook-o-sphere.

After all, there were plenty of snake oil salesmen making money off the US right from the exact same, well, racist premise.

I was wrong. Steve M, who blogs at No More Mister (and is IMO the best blogger on the US Presidential race) found otherwise. Reblogged with permission.


The Tory mayor of London, Boris Johnson, has dredged up a couple of old slurs against President Obama in an opinion piece calling for a British exit from the European Union:

Boris Johnson has criticised the US president Barack Obama and suggested his attitude to Britain might be based on his “part-Kenyan” heritage and “ancestral dislike of the British empire”.

Writing a column for The Sun newspaper the outgoing Mayor of London recounted a story about a bust of Winston Churchill purportedly being removed from White House.

“Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire -- of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender,” he wrote.
In fact, the Churchill story is Johnson's lede:
Something mysterious happened when Barack Obama entered the Oval Office in 2009.

Something vanished from that room, and no one could quite explain why.

It was a bust of Winston Churchill -- the great British war time leader. It was a fine goggle-eyed object, done by the brilliant sculptor Jacob Epstein, and it had sat there for almost ten years.

But on day one of the Obama administration it was returned, without ceremony, to the British embassy in Washington.

No one was sure whether the President had himself been involved in the decision.

Some said it was a snub to Britain. Some said it was a symbol of the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire -- of which Churchill had been such a fervent defender.
Actually, plenty of people could "explain why" the bust "vanished from that room." Here's a fact check Glenn Kessler wrote for The Washington Post early last year, when Ted Cruz brought up the subject:
The Winston Churchill bust in question was originally provided in July 2001 by then Prime Minister Tony Blair as a loan to President George W. Bush. The bust, now almost 70 years old, was made by English sculptor Sir Jacob Epstein, and Bush said he would keep it in the Oval Office. Various news reports at the time said the bust will be returned once Bush left office.

The White House residence, meanwhile, has another bust of Churchill, also sculpted by Epstein, which was given to President Lyndon B. Johnson on Oct. 6, 1965, (Here’s Lady Bird Johnson’s diary entry about the gift, which was facilitated by Churchill’s wartime friends, including Averell Harriman.)
Following along so far? There were two Churchill busts. One was always scheduled to be returned at the end of George W. Bush's term.

It's not completely clear why it was given to Bush in the first place:
In 2012, the Obama White House said the gift in 2001 occurred when the residence bust “was being worked on at the time” but The Fact Checker did not find a reference to that in news reports. Still, at the news conference accepting the gift, Bush told reporters it came about because he lamented to the British ambassador that “that there was not a proper bust of Winston Churchill for me to put in the Oval Office.” So one could wonder why the president would say that when he already had virtually the same bust sitting in the residence.
In any case, the bust given to President Johnson remains in the White House. Here's a photo of President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron -- Johnson's fellow Tory and political frenemy -- examining the bust in July 2010:

But what's up with that bit in Johnson's op-ed about "the part-Kenyan President’s ancestral dislike of the British empire"? Is Johnson channeling Newt Gingrich and Dinesh D'Souza?

Probably not. In fact, it's likely that this idea originated with the British. Here's a Telegraph story about the return of the Bush-Blair Churchill bust, written when Obama had been in office less than a month:
Churchill has less happy connotations for Mr Obama than those American politicians who celebrate his wartime leadership. It was during Churchill's second premiership that Britain suppressed Kenya's Mau Mau rebellion. Among Kenyans allegedly tortured by the colonial regime included one Hussein Onyango Obama, the President's grandfather.
In a 2010 New Republic article, James Mann stated flatly that this was a British idea:
... the idea started with the British, those former colonialists, who have repeatedly invoked Kenya to explain every perceived slight from the Obama administration.

... I first ran across the Kenya paranoia a few weeks after Obama was sworn in. Gordon Brown, then the British prime minister, was coming to Washington, and a British television reporter asked to interview me about Obama’s views of the world. “He has different roots than all other presidents,” the reporter said. “He doesn’t have ties to Europe.”

... “Revealed: Why Obama Loathes the British” screamed one article in the Daily Mail a few months ago. The article rehashed the history of British colonials and the Mau Mau rebellion.

... You can’t get more exalted than Sir David Manning, who was Britain’s ambassador to Washington from 2003 to 2007. Yet earlier this year, in testimony to a House of Commons foreign affairs committee, he reached low by warning that Obama “comes with a very different perspective” from other presidents.

“He is an American who grew up in Hawaii, whose foreign experience was of Indonesia, and who had a Kenyan father,” Manning said. “We now have a Democrat who is not familiar with us.”
The reference to the Mau Mau is particularly absurd, according to David Anderson, an Oxford professor and author of Histories of the Hanged: Britain’s Dirty War in Kenya and the End of Empire.
To portray the Obama family as being part of Mau Mau is stir-fry crazy. Let me explain why: The Obama family come from western Kenya, which is about as different from Nairobi and the Kikuyu area as Utah is from New York City. And it’s almost as far way. They come from an area where there was no rebellion, there was no Mau Mau. So while his father and his grandmother may well have been nationalists -- I’m sure they were -- they weren’t directly involved in the Mau Mau rebellion.

The other thing is, if you’ve read anything about Churchill, you’d know that, although he was the head of the government at the time of the Mau Mau rebellion, he was trying as best he could to get the British in Kenya to negotiate and to end the fighting. Churchill was not supporting or condoning the violence. He is actually one of the few British politicians who comes out of this smelling of roses.
James Mann notes that the Daily Mail story (“Revealed: Why Obama Loathes the British”) actually raised the question of whether Obama's anger at the BP oil spill was the result of familial contempt for the British -- as if a massive oil spill isn't reason enough for anger. A Kenyan relative of the president was actually asked about this. She assured the Mail interviewer that Anglophobia wasn't the source of Obama's anger. The quote was buried near the end of the story.

So, no, Johnson is unlikely to be echoing American bigots. He's far more likely to be echoing British bigots.