Since the beginning of the temporary occupation of Crimea, Crimean Tatars have constantly suffered repression from the Russians. Head of the prosecutor's office of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol Ihor Ponochovnyi reported that since 2014 more than 30 thousand Crimean Tatars have left the peninsula. Together with "Crimea SOS" we are telling how those who have stayed behind in Crimea are living under the conditions of full-scale war.
In Crimea, 139 citizens of Ukraine are victims of politically motivated criminal prosecutions, of which 127 are behind bars, including 102 Crimean Tatars.
On February 24, 2022, the Russians sentenced 22 Crimean political prisoners to 13 - 19 years imprisonment for alleged involvement in "terrorist organizations".
Also, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion, at least 10 people have been behind bars within the framework of politically motivated criminal prosecutions, 9 of them are Crimean Tatars.
Criminal prosecutions in Crimea can be divided into two categories:
1. Trends prior to February 24
In Crimea, court hearings and verdicts in politically motivated cases are still going on:
- against three Crimean Tatars (Nariman Dzhelyal, Aziz Akhtem, and Asan Akhtem) charged with alleged involvement in sabotage of the gas pipeline;
- against individuals charged with alleged treason and slander;
- against Jehovah's Witnesses charged with alleged extremist activity. On April 20, 2017, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation issued a decision recognizing the Administrative Center of Jehovah's Witnesses in Russia as an extremist organization. Russia extends its legislation to the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea, which violates the norms of international humanitarian law;
- against the Crimean Tatars as a separate group:
- charges of alleged involvement in the Islamic political party Hizb ut-Tahrir, which Russia has recognized as terrorist and banned since 2003. In most countries of the world, including Ukraine, the organization operates without restrictions at the national legislation level.
- charges of allegedly belonging to the Noman Çelebicihan volunteer battalion, formed by participants of the "Civil Blockade of Crimea" campaign, who advocated the termination of trade with Crimea and blocked checkpoints. On June 1, 2022, the Supreme Court of the Russian Federation recognized the battalion as a terrorist organization and banned its activities.
On 24 February, eight people were arrested on alleged membership charges. At least five of them were kidnapped by Russians in the Kherson region and taken to Crimea.
2. Trends since February 2
During this time, at least 6 people were detained on charges of allegedly preparing terrorist acts.
- During the full-scale invasion, the Russians arrested more Crimean Tatars charged with alleged membership in the Çelebicihan battalion than during all previous years of occupation.
- Pressure on Majlis representatives has increased. The Russians searched the houses of the The chairman of the Sudak Regional Majlis Ilver Ametov and his deputy Nariman Kurukchi. A criminal case was opened against Ametov for "illegal possession of weapons". It was an ancient weapon kept in the Majlis representative's house museum. On June 20, the temporary occupation "court" terminated the criminal case.
1. Old Trends
- Pressure on Muslim Religious Communities
Administrative harassment against Muslim communities and the Orthodox Church of Ukraine, which have not joined religious communities controlled by Russia, has been taking place in Crimea since 2014. For example, Imam Emir Mejitov was fined for allegedly "illegal missionary activity".
- Warning from the Prosecutor's Office
In early March, the warnings were given to Crimean activists Nariman Parmanov and Rolan Osmanov. The first received a warning "about the inadmissibility of antisocial behavior", the second — "about the inadmissibility of committing crimes in wartime". The warnings were also given to Zair Smedlya concerning the alleged preparation of a mass event on the Day of Crimean Resistance to the Russian Occupation.
On the eve of Crimean Tatar Flag Day, on June 26, the temporary occupying "prosecutor's office" issued a warning to at least fifty Crimean Tatar activists which state that "violations of the law" are not admissible on the day in question.
- Administrative arrests of Crimean Tatar activists
In March, Zair Smedlya was arrested for two days, Abdureshit Dzhepparov was arrested for 15 days. Both administrative arrests are allegedly caused by "demonstration of Nazi paraphernalia and symbols".
2. New trends
- The Russian law of March 4 on administrative and criminal responsibility for "fakes" about the actions of the Russian army in Ukraine has been enforced in the temporarily occupied Crimea.
The Crimean Idea initiative has recorded 69 cases of bringing Crimeans to administrative responsibility for allegedly "discrediting the Russian army" in the period from March 4 to May 24.
- At the end of May, there was a round of administrative detentions and further arrests of Crimean lawyers.
Edem Semedlyaev was the first to be detained for allegedly "discrediting the Russian army". In fact, he was tried for the post on Facebook, while he was not even the author. The court fined Semedlyaev 75 thousand rubles. Immediately after the hearing, his lawyer Nazim Sheikhmambetov was detained for allegedly "organizing a massive simultaneous stay of citizens in a public place" and sent under administrative arrest for eight days. The next day, when defending Sheikhmambetov, lawyers Ayder Azamatov and Emine Avamileva were detained and sent under administrative arrest for eight and five days, respectively.
New cases of enforced disappearance
Russian security forces had previously carried out detentions and arrests in Crimea, which had signs of enforced disappearance. Families and lawyers did not have information about the whereabouts of the person taken into custody until the moment of detention for as long as 24 hours. Now the period of 'inability to know' has increased.
On April 29, Russian special services kidnapped Irina Danilovych. It was not until May 11 that she became aware of her whereabouts. Without any charges, Danilovych was kept in the Federal Security Service building for eight days, threatening to "take her to the forest". She was later charged with allegedly possessing explosives, which were planted by FSS officers.
Civil resistance as a basis for new detentions
The full-scale invasion of the Russian Federation intensified the civil resistance in Crimea. Individuals who are detained can now be sentenced to harsher forms of punishment for their pro-Ukrainian position. Bohdan Ziza was detained for pouring yellow and blue paints over the building of the "administration office" of Yevpatoria and throwing a "Molotov cocktail" at it. Ziza was charged with allegedly "attempted terrorist attack".
“Crimea SOS” has created a register of 42 judges sentencing victims of political persecution in the temporarily occupied peninsula.
"Sanctions can be one of the effective tools for combating impunity for human rights violations in the occupied Crimea. I hope that these judges will be included in the sanctions lists of Ukraine and other states. They also need to be brought to justice through national and international mechanisms," says the organization's analyst Yevhen Yaroshenko.