Stop the Harassment of Human Rights Lawyers in Crimea

Civil Rights Defenders is concerned by the recent actions of Russian security services to harass, detain, and charge innocent human rights lawyers in the annexed territory of Crimea. The government of the Russian Federation and the de facto local authorities of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea must stop the persecution of independent human rights lawyers Emil Kurbendinov and Nikolay Polozov, and foreign governments and international actors must hold Russia to account.

On Wednesday, January 26, Russian security services detained Emil Kurbendinov in Bakhchysaray, Crimea, while he and his colleague Edem Semedliav were en route to monitor a search of a Crimean Tatar activist’s apartment. Kurbendinov’s apartment was searched and all his electronic devices seized. He was charged under Article 20.3 of Russia’s administrative code, which prohibits “propaganda or public display of Nazi paraphernalia or symbols” for sharing footage of a demonstration of Hizb ut-Tahrir activists from 2013. Kurbendinov is the lawyer of the Hizb ut-Tahrir activists; the organisation is banned in Russia but not in Ukraine. The local court sentenced him to ten days’ imprisonment.

“Emil Kurbedinov is one of a few independent lawyers in Crimea defending political prisoners, inter alia he is an attorney of Ilmi Umerov, Mykola Semena, several figures of the ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ case, and Redvan Suleimanov, who is accused in the so-called ‘sabotage’ case,” said Tamila Tasheva of the human rights monitoring organization Crimea SOS, “his detention and arrest is first of all connected with his professional and human rights activities.”

In a separate incident, yesterday, the lawyer Nikolai Polozov, who represents the Crimean Tatar activists Ilmi Umerov and Akhtem Chiygoz, was detained on his way to court and questioned for several hours about his work with the two political prisoners. Polozov was released several hours later.

“The harassment of human rights lawyers in Crimea is deeply troubling, and represents a significant escalation in the Russian security services’ persecution of civil society on the peninsula. It is vital that not only Russia cease to interfere in the legal work of human rights lawyers, but also cease the persecution of activists and journalists,” said Joanna Kurosz, Programme Director for Eurasia at Civil Rights Defenders.

Civil Rights Defenders is concerned for the rights and safety of Emil Kurbendinov and Nikolai Polozov, and urges the Russian Federation and de facto local authorities to stop the extra judicial harassment of human rights lawyers in Crimea. It is also vital that foreign governments and international organsations do all in their power to ensure that the Russian Federation does not continue the systematic persecution and harassment of civil society in the annexed Crimean Peninsula.


Categories: News and Statements.
Tags: Crimea, Eurasia, and Ukraine.
Regions: Ukraine.