Crimea: In the International Blind Spot

Russian safety forces try to dam the way in which of Crimean Tatars crossing a checkpoint in May 2014. REUTERS/STRINGER

By Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik

Amnesty International just lately launched a public statement elevating the worsening human rights scenario in Crimea marking three years below Russian rule because the Peninsula’s illegal annexation in March 2014.

Despite Amnesty’s name for human rights in final yr’s briefing ‘Crimea in the dark: the silencing of dissent’, Russian and Crimean de facto authorities proceed to accentuate their persecution of political activists, dissenting voices, and ethnic Crimean Tatars.

Russian authorities have banned the Crimean Tatar Mejilis as an “extremist” group in April 2016, and have used this ploy to additional harass and persecute the human rights of this group. Members of the Mejilis are pressed with ungrounded administrative fines for personal conferences, as per Russian regulation, as within the case of Crimean Tatar activist Ilmi Umerov who’s at the moment going through prices which will lead as much as 2 years of imprisonment for allegedly making “public calls against the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation.”

A key barrier to bettering or just monitoring the human rights scenario in Crimea is entry to the Peninsula, since its annexation, de facto authorities have refused entry to worldwide and regional human rights mechanisms, amongst them, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities and the UN Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues. The scenario is additional difficult by the established border with Ukraine, limiting entry to the peninsula, as “access to Crimea via Russia now constitutes a Criminal offence under Ukrainian law.”

In the released statement, Amnesty International calls for for unconditional and speedy entry to Crimea for human rights monitoring mechanisms, to “be able to report on their findings from the ground, without any obstruction or interference by any party.”

Akhtem Chiygoz, deputy chief of the Crimean Tatar Mejilis, and prisioner of conscience, is going through outright illegal prices, restricted rights to prosecution, and should resist 15 years in jail. He is “accused of having ‘organized mass disturbances’ in Crimea on February 26, 2014,” and to this date faces brutally partial prosecution.

He is denied bodily entry to his trial and is pressured to participate by way of Skype, thus stopping interplay along with his lawyer in non-public, and permitting for interruptions to the court docket listening to and his receiving audio high quality as a consequence of a poor web connection.

These distant measures are in place as Chiygoz’s bodily presence within the courtroom would ostensibly pose “danger,” regardless of his detention lower than a block away from the courthouse.

Akhtem Chiygoz
QHA ‘Crimean News Agency’

Following his arrest on January 29, 2015, Russian safety companies arrested 5 different Crimean Tatars, as a part of the identical prison investigation, and accused them of collaborating in the identical ‘mass disturbances’, three of which had been launched on bail, with Ali Asanov and Mustafa Dehermenzhy remaining in detention.

The prosecution is predicated on a complete of seven secret witnesses of which solely three have been testified, Amnesty International was not capable of attend court docket periods, nonetheless as per journalist stories, the witnesses “contradicted themselves in their testimonies, were inconsistent, and changed their statements repeatedly when they contradicted the prosecutions assertions.”

Mustafa Dehermendzhy appeared in court docket as a witness within the case in opposition to Akhtem Chiygoz and testified that he was approached by authorities and the Federal Security Service (FSB) with an “offer” to testify in opposition to Chiygoz in alternate for freedom, following this look his trial continues.

Russian lawyer Nikolay Polozov a part of the protection staff of Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz is confronted with growing strain from Russian authorities, together with threats of prison prosecution for defending purchasers in Crimea. Polozov was forcefully extracted from his resort in Simferopol and brought to the FSB Crimea headquarters on January 25, 2017 to be questioned by the FSB investigator in Umerov’s case.

On January 26, 2017, lawyer Emil Kurbedinov was arrested and sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention for spreading “extremist” info.

Emil Kurbedinov talking on the Supreme Court of Russia.
2017 Anton Naumlyik (RFE/RL)

Extremism is one other tactic Russian authorities use to prosecute Crimean Tatars and political activists, as allegations of connections are made with the Islamist group “Hizb ut-Tahrir” (which is acknowledged as a terrorist group in Russia).

On February 11, 2016, human rights defender Emir-Usein Kuku and Vadim Siruk had been arrested and prosecuted for allegedly being concerned within the Islamist group, as per Russian regulation “membership of a terrorist organization carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison.”

Amnesty International requires growing consciousness of the deteriorating human rights scenario in Crimea, intergovernmental efforts to permit entry to the peninsula for human rights efforts, the necessity of honest trial, rights to ample authorized illustration for prosecution, and the necessity for de facto and Russian authorities to respect important human rights, the rights to freedom of expression, peaceable meeting and affiliation.

A full listing of suggestions is offered within the Crimea in the Dark: The Silencing of Dissent briefing.

Viachaslau “Slava” Bortnik is a Chair of the Eurasia Coordination Group at Amnesty International USA.

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