Human Rights Situation in Occupied Crimea
We go now to a review of the human rights situation in illegally occupied Crimea over the past year. Oppression has been steadily growing there as the number of political prisoners seems to be increasing on a daily basis
Russia continues its war against dissenting views on the Crimean peninsula. The number of politically motivated court cases has risen well above a hundred.
According to activists, Crimean courts work like a conveyor belt.
“125 detainments. 72 of the detainees were Crimean Tatars. 186 arrests, out of which 125 are arrests of Crimean Tatars,” says Eskender Bariev, Head Of Crimean Tatar Resource Center.
People are arrested regardless of their age or state of health. And sometimes die. For example, in November 2017, a Russian FSB operation left an 83-year-old Crimean Tatar Vedzhie Kashka, and four respected members of the Crimean Tatar community. Asan Chapukh, Bekir Degermendzhy, Kazim Ametov, and Ruslan Trubach range in age between 52 and 65. Degirmendzhi slipped into a coma in the resuscitation department of the prison hospital.
“They, including Ruslan Trubach, are very outraged with the conditions of their imprisonment and of where they are held right now. Kazim said that his kidneys are failing, because the conditions there are unbearable,” says Emil Kurbedinov.
Emil Kurbedinov is a prominent lawyer, who is defends political prisoners in court.
In early December 2018, he himself needed legal protection. He was arrested and charged with propaganda of terrorism.
The Russian controlled court sentenced him to 5 days of arrest. While Kurbedinov was imprisoned, his office was vandalized, the windows shattered. However, right after the lawyer was set free he immediately returned to work. He is one of the lawyers defending Ukrainian sailors illegally captured by Russia.
“I was a witness to an incredible event in the life of occupied and oppressed Crimea. People, volunteers and activists living under occupation, still find strength to help these sailors. They organized fundraising and the collection of clothes. They delivered it all to Moscow, after those sailors were transferred to the Lefortovo pretrial detention center. This means, that despite serious pressure from Russian authorities, there are still people in Crimea who are not afraid,” notes lawyer Mykola Polozov.
Russia is increasing its militarization of the peninsula. This fall S-400 Growler surface-to-air systems were deployed in Crimea. And Russian authorities continue to illegally force Ukrainians in Crimea to serve in the Russian military.
Ukraine has filed a petition in the International Criminal court to stop this.
“By the time the petition to the international criminal court was filed, 30 sentences were passed regarding the cases of Crimean residents for evading the draft into the armed forces of Russia. 5 more were being considered in the court,” explains analyst of Crimean Human Rights Group Oleksandr Sedov.
Yet, despite this militarization, Russian law enforcement officers could not prevent a tragedy in Kerch, which only fueled the police state. On Oct. 17 a student at Kerch college, Vladislav Roslyakov, commited a mass school shooting and then detonated a self made bomb.
21 people were killed and 67 were injured. Initially, Russian authorities blamed Crimean Tatars before discovering a ethnic Russian was responsible for the incident. The Ukrainian prosecutors office started its own investigation.
Petro Poroshenko, President of Ukraine:
“Why is it so important for us? Because they are citizens of Ukraine. And, of course, when Ukrainian citizens are killed, wherever it happens, it is a tragedy.”
Earlier, in the summer, the US state department adopted the Crimean declaration. In it, United States government emphasized that Crimea is Ukrainian territory. Many other countries supported this declaration.
UN General Assembly also passed a resolution condemning Russia’s increasing military presence on the occupied Crimean peninsula and surrounding area.
Refat Chubarov, Crimean Tatar Mejlis Head:
“This is a resolution on the militarization of the Azov Sea by Russian Federation. And also there is an annual resolution that is devoted to the state of human rights in Crimea.”
Despite all of this, Crimeans are still forced to defend their rights on their own, to speak up in an increasingly oppressively atmosphere, to face the threat of imprisonment, forced disappearance, and even death.
Yet through it all, they continue to create citizen groups, pay court fines for each other, and support their compatriots during court sessions, and, in general, resist.