The Turkish ambassador to the U.N. office in Geneva, Naci Karu, said Turkey continues backing Crimean Tatars' peaceful efforts to reclaim their rights and called for an end to the human rights violations of Crimean Tatars.
Speaking at the 37th session of the U.N.'s Human Rights Council, Koru said the country closely follows the developments in the Crimea with "a particular emphasis on the security and well-being of Crimean Tatars."
"We stand by the Crimean Tatars in their peaceful struggle for safety and freedom of expression in their ancestral homeland. Unfortunately, serious human rights violations have been reported since its annexation. This needs to be urgently addressed," he said.
Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine after an independence referendum in 2014, following the ouster of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych as a result of the pro-EU Euromaidan protests. The U.N. General Assembly later voted to proclaim the Russian action illegal, and along with an overwhelming majority of U.N. member states, Turkey does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory. Since the annexation, Crimean Tatars have cited unjustified detentions and human right abuses.
Koru called the release of Crimean Tatar leaders Akhtem Chiygoz and Ulmi Umerov as "a positive step in the right direction."
Chiygoz and Umerov are members of the Mejlis of the Crimean Tatar People, the highest executive-representative body for Crimean Tatars, which was banned by Crimea's Russian authorities, claiming in April 2016 that it is an extremist organization.
Chiygoz, who is a deputy chairman of the Mejlis, was sentenced to eight years in prison by the de facto Russian authorities in Crimea for his participation in a demonstration on Feb. 26, 2015, in support of Ukraine's territorial integrity. Chiygoz was tried and sentenced for alleged crimes he committed before Crimea was formally incorporated into Russia. Umerov, another deputy chairman of the Mejlis, was sentenced to two years for allegedly inciting violence and mass riots.
Both leaders were freed last October and have flown to Turkey.
"We will continue to be in close solidarity with Crimean Tatars, supporting their peaceful efforts to claim their rights. We want to ensure the protection of the rights and interests of all vulnerable groups in Crimea," Koru said.
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