Human rights defenders presented recent statistics on how the occupation authorities violate the rights of residents of the Ukrainian peninsula to peaceful protest.
“Since March 2014, there has been no right to peaceful protest in Crimea. On March 3, 2014, Crimean Tatar ReshatAmetov was kidnapped and then killed after his single protest against the invaders. In addition to this, many other members of pro-Ukrainian peaceful assemblies were kidnapped and tortured,” said Maria Tomak, coordinator of the Media Initiative for Human Rights. According to Ms. Tomak, since March 16, after the so-called “referendum” took place, each peaceful meeting has been qualified by the occupation authority as an offense.
Oleksandr Siedov, an analyst at the Crimean Human Rights Protection Group, presented results of monitoring of violations of the right to peaceful assembly in Crimea. In total, during three years, 256 people were brought to justice, and 268 sentences were delivered. 235 decisions on fines totaling the equivalent of UAH 1,359,113 were delivered. At the same time, the largest fine was 69,283 hryvnia. For reference: at present, the living wage in Crimea is 9,176.22 hryvnia. Also, the decisions on administrative arrests between 2 and 15 days were also delivered. In addition, 12 people were prosecuted for participating in peaceful protests. In particular, Akhtem Chiygoz, Deputy Head of the Mejlis, was imprisoned for eight years due to the case of February 26.
According to Oleksandr Siedov, the occupiers initiate the proceedings not only for peaceful protests but also for photographs with the Ukrainian flag, for participating in the events devoted to the deportation of the Crimean Tatar people, for the presence during the illegal arrests of other people. Once Christian evangelists were detained for the distribution of Easter gifts, which the court classified as an unauthorized mass event. A Krishnait was also arrested and fined. He walked down the street in Yalta, sanging “Hare Krishna”. The judge said that it was an unauthorized rally with provocative slogans. Two pensioners were held accountable for being in the courtyard of the house and indignant because of the lack of electricity within three days.
“We see that the occupation authorities of Crimea forbid any activity not authorized by them. For example, the police of the invaders dispersed the rally of pensioners-communists, who tried to lay flowers at the monument of Lenin on the day of his birth. The court subsequently justified the retirees, but thus demonstrated the discriminatory attitude towards the Crimean Tatar minorities, who are constantly fined for similar actions with flower-laying ceremonies,” said Oleksandr Siedov.
Daria Svyrydova, a lawyer of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union, stressed that any participation in rallies and peaceful gatherings in Crimea is currently outlawed. “We see two main goals of such a strategy: first, to suppress any disagreement with the actions of the occupation authorities, in order to make the impression for the international community that people totally support the actions of the invaders. Secondly, to intimidate every inhabitant of Crimea in order to prevent any protests in the future,” said Daria Svyrydova.
One of the brutal violations of human rights is the criminal case of May 3. On this day in 2014, a group of Crimean Tatars met Mustafa Dzhemilev, who traveled to the peninsula from the territory controlled by Ukraine. Just because of this, more than two hundred people were brought to administrative responsibility, and, following the consequences of this peace process, the “court” of the occupants delivered four criminal judgements. In the case of February 26, all charges were brought exclusively to representatives of the pro-Ukrainian rally, and all victims were participants of the pro-Russian rally. “By the way, the rally on February 26 occurred on the day when Russia itself did not recognize itself as the state controlling this territory, and therefore all sentences were passed in retrospect. Obviously, all these persecutions are politically motivated,” said Daria Svyrydova.
In these cases, lawyers of the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union filed dozens of appeals to the European Court. “We hope that such brutal interference with the freedom of peaceful assembly will be provided a legal assessment internationally. I also hope that the Verkhovna Rada will finalize and vote on a bill on the support of the families of political prisoners,” said Daria Svyrydova.
Lilia Hemedzhi, a lawyer assisting prosecuted members of peaceful gatherings in occupied Crimea, said she and her colleagues did not succeed in winning a single court case. “This testifies to the fact that all these cases are of a contractual and political nature,” says Lilia Hemedzhi.
One of the high-profile cases of the last time was the detention of the Bakhchisarai Six. Its members, Seiran Saliiev and Marlen Asanov, were being persecuted since May 2016 for their active political position. Lilia Hemedzhi says she saw obviously fabricated court decisions against them before the trial began. In addition, there were documents that did not have anything to do with the detainees in cases: for example, instead of the characteristics of Seiran Saliiev, the judge used a document for a man named Mustafa. “The judge said that that characteristics were also appropriate in essence, and that “all the Tatars look similarly. Employees of the “police” produce very illiterate documents. For example, they can write a report on the location of the event directly in their office. A judge in Crimea has no choice to admit guilty or not guilty. The only choice of the judge is to impose a punishment,” explains Lilia Hemedzhi.
But inhabitants of Crimea are still ready to fight for their freedom of peaceful gatherings. The action was confirmed on October 14, when more than a hundred of Crimean Tatars went to single rallies to prove that they were not extremists. One of the participants of the rally, 78-year-old Server Karametov, said: “When a lot of us participated in the rallies, the occupiers will not be able to detain us all.”
Maria Tomak promised that human rights defenders would continue to monitor all violations in Crimea and update the statistics of illegal persecution of residents.
Text by Oleh Shynkarenko, especially for the Livyy Bereh
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