Publication

The case of February 26: fabrication technology and political persecution

On Friday, February 24, at the Ukrinform press center, the press conference “The case of February 26: fabrication technology and political persecution. The reconstruction of events and the view of international experts” was held.

During the press conference, the experts report on these events, prepared by Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union and other well-known human rights organizations, was presented.

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After Euromaidan, pro-Russian sentiments increased in Crimea. The authorities of the peninsula publicly stated about the possibility of considering the exit of Crimea from Ukraine, but these days the active unauthorized movement of Russian troops on the territory of Crimea was recorded. On February 26, 2014, in front of the parliament in AR Crimea in Simferopol, two rallies were organized. One –  by the party “Russian Unity” and the other – by the Mejlis. The objectives of the rallies reflected the different views on the status of Crimea. During the meeting, two people were killed, and some protesters were injured. In this regard, Ukrainian police had opened some criminal proceedings concerning the facts of injuries and deaths on February 26, 2014, during the rally. After the occupation of the Crimea, the Russian Federation began the prosecution of some members of the pro-Ukrainian meeting on February 26 among Crimean Tartars. In total, nine persons were accused, two of them are already convicted, and one is wanted in the case of February 26.

Sergey Ostaf, Olga Salomatova and Refat Chubarov
Sergey Ostaf, Olga Salomatova and Refat Chubarov

In December 2015, civil society organizations made a decision on the formation of the International Expert Group on the preparation of Part 1 of the Report “Reconstruction and legal analysis of the events of February 26, 2014, in front of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea in Simferopol.” It includes representatives of six organizations from Ukraine, Moldova, Russia and Poland.

Sergey Ostaf
Sergey Ostaf

‘The reconstruction of events and detailed legal analysis suggest that the rallies at the square in front of the Crimean Parliament did not contain signs of riots,’ said Sergey Ostaf, an expert of OSCE and the Resource Center for Human Rights CReDO (Moldova).

Another conclusion of the experts is that the actions of police during the events were rather passive and were largely limited to monitoring the events.

‘The main task of the police to ensure the safety of peaceful assembly and to protect the right to life and health of participants of the meeting and others was not fulfilled,’ said Olga Salomatova, an expert of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights (Poland).

She stressed that both rallies were two rallies with conflicting objectives and requirements, some of which overlapped in time and place.

Experts stressed that the Russian criminal law has no retroactive effect for acts that occurred before the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. This contradicts one of the basic principles of criminal justice, which is recognized by international law, namely “punishment is carried out solely by law.” The report contains findings on the politically motivated persecution of protesters and demands from the Russian Federation to release prisoners Chyyhoz, Dehermendzhy, and Asanov.

Experts recommend Ukraine to conduct an effective investigation into the events, which has not been conducted.

‘During the rallies on February 26, two people were killed, and some participants were injured. Objective clarification of all the circumstances of what happened and establishing the degree of guilt of each party of the events, is only possible in the course of an official investigation by law enforcement agencies of Ukraine’, said Olga Salomatova.

In conclusion, the experts stressed that persecutions of Akhtem Chyyhoz and other accused persons in this case are political. They called on the Russian Federation to release Mr. Chyyhoz, Mustafa Dehermendzhi, and Ali Asanov.

‘Bringing only participants of the pro-Ukrainian rally among representatives of the Crimean Tatar people and the lack of jurisdiction and legal grounds of Russia to investigate the events of February 26 show unjustified politically motivated prosecution of Akhtem Chyyhoz and other defendants’, summed up Sergey Ostaf.

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Refat Chubarov, Chairman of the Mejlis, said that the expert report, presenting the event on February 26 together with different aspects, showed them in a new way, but has not changed the understanding that the civil society of Crimea acted correctly in relation to officials of the Crimean parliament, who made allegations about the pro-Russian referendum.

Julia Kazdobina and Oleh Horsunenko
Julia Kazdobina and Oleh Horsunenko

Deputy Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic Crimea Oleh Horsunenko told about the investigation into the events of February 26, 2014, by the Ukrainian law enforcement.

‘When we began to study this issue in autumn 2016, we have seen that these events were, I am sorry for the word, “scattered” in various criminal proceedings and many people investigated them,’ he said.

The Deputy Prosecutor said that the events of February 26 were one of the priorities of the Prosecutor’s Office of Crimea. On this occasion, a special interagency working group was established. Oleh Horsunenko also thanked human rights organizations; their work was an important material for further investigations.

Heorhii Lohvynskyi
Heorhii Lohvynskyi

People’s deputy of Ukraine Heorhii Lohvynskyi said that there are many mechanisms by which perpetrators of human rights violations in Crimea should be punished. He noted that they are not only the perpetrators of such violations or crimes but also their partners, i.e. ordering customers.

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