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Russia uses new wave of repressions in the occupied Crimea as a political tool – human rights defenders

Kyiv, October 13, 2017.

Human rights violations in the Russia-annexed Crimea are being systematically documented by international organizations since the start of the occupation. This autumn,  human rights defenders have been recording an intensification of repressions in the occupied Crimea. They also explain the possible reasons behind these developments as well as suggest the measures Ukrainian authorities and civil society ought to take.

On October 12, the court in the Russia-annexed Crimea ruled to arrest six activists of the Crimean Tatar movement detained in Bakhchysarai the day before. Emil Kurbedinov, a lawyer and human rights defender, reported this at a press-briefing at Ukraine Crisis Media Center. According to Kurbedinov, all the arrested are members of the “Crimean Solidarity” (Krymska solidarnist) organization. They were supporting political prisoners and their families, holding rallies in support of them and spreading the information. According to the version of the de-facto authorities of Crimea, the arrested are suspected of being members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization considered terrorist in the Russian Federation.

Systematically and deliberately: international organizations on the situation in Crimea

The above case is just one in the series of systematic human rights violations in the peninsula. Ukrainian and international human rights defenders point out that these abuses are often of deliberate nature and are used as an instrument of pressure. Thus, the latest report by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) covering the entire period of the occupation notes that the human rights situation in Crimea “has significantly deteriorated since the beginning of its occupation by the Russian Federation”. “Grave human rights violations, such as arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, ill-treatment and torture, and at least one extra-judicial execution were documented”.

Blatant human rights violations were consolidated in a report by the Ukrainian non-governmental organization “Crimea SOS”. The report “Kidnappings in Crimea during annexation by the Russian Federation in 2014-2016” released in spring 2017, presents the data on 43 cases of forced abductions. According to the activists, Russian law enforcement or armed groups under their control, like “Crimean self-defense” (Krymska samooborona) were involved in these incidents. Out of the 43 missing persons 17 were liberated after suffering captivity and often torture, six were found dead, two persons were convicted by the Russian courts and are serving their terms in prison, 18 went missing.

New wave of repressions

Ukrainian human rights defenders note that repressions against the Crimean Tatars in the Russia-occupied Crimea have intensified starting August 2017. Thus, strict sentences have been issued in the annexed peninsula to Akhtem Chyigoz, Mykola Semena, and Ilmi Umerov, whose cases were long-lasting and whom Ukraine considers to be political prisoners. In September, the house of Crimean Tatar Renat Paralamov was ransacked, Paralamov himself was then taken to an unidentified place, after a day of beating and torture he was left at a bus station in Simferopol.

According to Emil Kurbedinov, a new wave of repressions comes as a reaction of the Russian Federation to the resolution of the European Parliament and to the UN resolution. “Russian authorities are trying to find Crimean Tatars whom they will force to sign the papers in which they recognize themselves guilty. So that they can then show these papers to the international community as a proof that they are fighting not against Crimean Tatar or Ukrainian activists but against those who plead guilty of being extremists,” the human rights defender explained.

Measures the state has to take

Human rights defender Enver Kadyrov called on Ukrainian authorities to officially grant a respective status to the political prisoners and their families as well as voice Ukraine’s position regarding the organizations listed by the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation as “terrorist”. Emil Kurbedinov also called to establish a platform where to hold negotiations as to the repressions in Crimea. “Human rights defenders who work in mainland Ukraine and in Crimea are speaking about what is going on, but there is no unified platform (…). These platform needs to appear so that people who can make an impact and be decision-makers can become part of it,” he said.

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