Russia has radically increased its crackdown in occupied Crimea. Human rights defenders condemn the detention of Crimean lawyers
Human rights activists called on the international community to protest against the detentions of lawyers in occupied Crimea and put pressure on the aggressor state to prevent its new atrocities, as stated in a statement released by the ZMINA Human Rights Cenеtre. The statement was also signed by the KrymSOS NGO, the Crimean Human Rights Group, and the Center for Civil Liberties.
“The unauthorized detentions of lawyers indicate that the Russian Federation has moved on to a new round of repression in the occupied Crimea. From now on, the occupiers are persecuting not only for the expression of views, peaceful meetings, religious activities, social activism, journalistic activities, anti-war rhetoric, or any slightest disagreement with the actions of the Russian Federation in Crimea but also for lawyers who provide professional assistance to victims of political repression,” the document says.
While the main focus of the international community is on large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian military in the war zone in Ukraine, gross human rights violations in occupied Crimea remain virtually unnoticed.
On May 26-27, 2022, Russian security forces detained four lawyers who have been helping victims of human rights abuses in Crimea since the first days of Russian occupation: Edem Semedliayev, Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Ayder Azamatov, and Emine Avamileva.
On May 26, 2022, Konstantin Urazov and Ruslan Shambazov, officers of the Center for Combating Extremism (Center E) in occupied Crimea, detained Edem Semedliayev. The reason was that an unknown person tagged Semedliayev on a Facebook publication condemning the Russian army’s atrocities in Ukraine. Semedliayev was charged under an article on defamation of the Russian army (Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses), which was adopted after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and began to be used in the occupied Crimea in violation of international humanitarian law. Later, ‘judge’ Viktor Krapko found Edem Semedliayev guilty and fined him 75,000 rubles. Remarkably, Semedliayev was previously detained in the fall of 2021 on politically motivated charges of administrative offenses and stayed under administrative arrest for 12 days. The same Ruslan Shambazov took part in his prosecution.
Immediately after the court hearing, Center E officers detained Nazim Sheikhmambetov, who defends Edem Semedliayev’s interests. Sheikhmbametov was charged with allegedly organizing a mass simultaneous stay of citizens in a public place, which led to a violation of public order (Article 20.2.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation). The events of which Sheikhmambetov is accused took place in October 2021, when about 20 people gathered near the occupation police station to support the arbitrarily detained persons. The ‘court’ sentenced Sheikhmambetov to 8 days of administrative arrest.
On May 27, 2022, occupation police detained lawyers Ayder Azamatov and Emine Avamileva, who defended Nazim Sheikhmambetov. They were charged with the same administrative offense as Sheikhmambetov. They could face up to 15 days in jail on these charges.
Arbitrary detentions of lawyers indicate that Russia has moved to a new round of reprisals in occupied Crimea. From now on, the occupiers persecute not only for expression, peaceful assemblies, religious activities, civic activism, journalism, anti-war rhetoric, or any disagreement with Russia’s actions in Crimea, but they also persecute lawyers who provide professional assistance to victims of political repression.
Intimidation, pressure, and harassment of lawyers for their professional activities are unacceptable. This practice runs counter to international standards and national legislation providing guarantees for legal professionals. Arbitrary detention of lawyers grossly violates the Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers, adopted by the VIII UN Congress on the Prevention of Crime (1990), which guarantee the defenders the unhindered exercise of their powers (without intimidation, inappropriate interference, and punishment for professional activities).