On August 17, 2021, Russian law enforcement bodies searched the homes of Crimean Tatars at 4 AM in the morning. As a result of those searches, they arrested five persons (Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Tairov) who are now being accused of alleged involvement in the organization “Hizb ut-Tahrir” (it is legal in Ukraine and most countries in the world, but Russian legislation recognized it a terrorist organization).
As in many previous examples of Russian persecutions, most of the detainees were taking active part in the civic life of Crimea. They supported political prisoners and their families. According to the organization “Crimean Solidarity,” four out of five detainees (Rustem Murasov, Rustem Tairov, Dzhebbar Bekirov, and Zaur Abdullaiev) are civic activists. They regularly attended politically motivated trials, supported families of political prisoners, organized iftars and mass gatherings in their villages.
For instance, few hours before the search, Rustem Murasov returned from Rostov-on-Don, where the court announced a sentence to the Alushta group of the “Hizb ut-Tahrir case”. Earlier, Murasov had been detained twice, Russian law enforcement bodies had searched his house once.
Serious violations of human rights accompanied those searches. During the search of the house of Raif Favziiev Russian, law enforcement bodies s did not allow him to make a morning prayer. Russian officers also confiscated forbidden religious literature that they had previously planted into the kitchen pots.
Today’s searches and arrests have nothing to do with the Russian fight against terrorism. Quite contrary, these are attempts to politically persecute Crimean Tatars who demonstrate their active civic stance and resist illegal actions of the Russian occupying authorities in Crimea. Searches and arrests in houses of Crimean Muslims lead to stimulation of Islamophobic sentiments in Crimea. This is also a covert method of pushing Crimean Tatars outside of Crimea.
Crimean Tatars are the most common victim of arbitrary searches and detentions, pressure and intimidation by the Russian occupying authorities. Over the seven years of occupation, the vast majority of searches in Crimea happened in the houses of Crimean Tatars. Crimean Tatars themselves constituted only 13% of the population of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea before 2014. Crimean Tatars also constitute an absolute majority among Crimean political prisoners.
We emphasize once again that searches and arrests in occupied Crimea constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law which forbids the occupying power to apply its criminal legislation in the occupied territory (Art. 64 of the IV Geneva Convention). Meanwhile, persecution of a particular identified group or community for political reasons constitutes a crime against humanity according to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (Art. 7 (1)(h)).
New searches and arrests, constant increase of the list of political prisoners in Crimea show that efforts of Ukraine and the international community were insufficient to stop outrage in the occupied peninsula. Russia continues disregarding international law. Therefore, restoration of the rule of law and respect for human rights in Crimea can only happen due to the de-occupation of the peninsula.
Bearing this in mind, we demand that the Russian Federation as the occupying power of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol:
- Immediately releases Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Tairov, and other illegally detained persons;
- Stops arbitrary searches, detentions, and other forms of political pressure on persons who exercise their right to freedom of expression, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of religion, and peaceful gatherings;
- Immediately stops a practice of intimidation of Crimean Tatars, religious leaders, and civic activists in Crimea;
- Effectively investigates all cases of arbitrary searches and detentions in Crimea and brings all those responsible to justice;
- Strictly abides by its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
We address governments of foreign states and international organizations with an appeal to:
- Strongly condemn regular searches and arrests in occupied Crimea;
- Use all available diplomatic, political, economic, and other leverages over Russia to free Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Tairov, and other political prisoners;
- Impose personal sanctions against persons who were directly involved in today’s arbitrary searches and detentions;
- Demand that Russia provides access to occupied Crimea for the international monitoring missions of the UN, the OSCE, and the Council of Europe;
- Conduct permanent monitoring of politically motivated criminal cases at all stages (pre-trial investigation, trial, serving punishment);
- Provide comprehensive support to the illegally detainees and their families; in particular, to pay specific attention to psychological rehabilitation of children who witnessed arbitrary searches of their homes and arrests of their fathers;
- Use to the fullest extent the instrument of the Crimea Platform to liberate political prisoners as soon as possible and prevent further political persecutions in Crimea.
We call on the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories, Office of the Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the City of Sevastopol to:
- Ensure effective investigation of the arbitrary deprivation of freedom and persecutions against Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Tairov, and all other facts of gross violations of fundamental human rights in the temporarily occupied Crimea;
- Adopt a comprehensive law that would provide protection and state support for persons who were illegally deprived of freedom as a result of the Russian aggression;
- Approve a draft law #2689, submitted on December 27, 2019, which provides legislative amendments towards the implementation of international criminal law and international humanitarian law, and liability for crimes against humanity and war crimes that occur on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine.
Crimean Human Rights Group
Center of Civil Liberties
Association of the Kremlin Political Prisoners’ Relatives
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Media Initiative Group for Human Rights
ZMINA Human Rights Center
Center for Civic Education “Almenda”