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With No Right to Health

11 / 08 / 2021

The right to health is one of the fundamental human rights. However, during military conflicts and in countries with dictatorial regimes, this right often appears at risk of violation. 

This article demonstrates that Russian Federation violates the right to health of victims of politically motivated persecutions in occupied Crimea. Russian authorities violate the right to health systematically and purposefully. The text below mentions the facts of Russian violations of its international responsibilities and facts of humiliation of human dignity by the state and medical workers. Finally, this text describes the incarceration conditions of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The right to health is confirmed in the preamble to the Constitution of the World Health Organization: “the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental rights of every human being without distinction of race, religious, political belief, economic or social condition.” The Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948 mentions the right to health in a context of a right for an adequate standard of living (art. 25). The right of every human to the highest attainable level of physical and psychological health is confirmed in the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights of 1966. From that time, the international treaties on human rights recognized or cited the right to health or components of that right. 

The right to health is legally binding for all states: every state ratified at least one international treaty on human rights, recognizing a right to health. Russian Federation is not an exception. 

The fact that a person is under arrest, waiting for trial or imprisoned, does not cancel the responsibility of the state to undertake all possible efforts to assure the highest attainable standard of health, which is possible in those conditions. 

This has to at least include a right to the medical care system, which provides equal opportunities for the attainment of the highest possible level of health; a right to preventive checkups, medical care, and prevention of illnesses; access to essential medicine, equal and timely access to primary care; access to education and information in the sphere of healthcare.

Political prisoner Ivan Yatskin, who remains in Simferopol detention center for an alleged “high treason,” suffered from aggravation of health problems. However, he does not receive medical help. According to his legal defender, Nikolai Polozov: “…Yatskin suffered from inhumane treatment at the detention center “Lefortovo.” He was taken out to cold wearing just flippers and received frostbite of his feet. Because of that, Yatskin suffers from pain and does not receive medical treatment or medicine. He does not receive painkillers. Just two days ago, he received some kind of ointment from a doctor for his blisters. But there is no packaging or instructions on how to use it.” 

Vladyslav Yesypenko (political prisoner, independent journalist), who had met Ivan Yatskin, characterized his health condition in the following way: “frozen toes and psychotropic medication.” Yatskin does not remember most of his time at Lefortovo (1.5 years), suggesting that the detention administration gave him psychotropic medication. 

Rustem Seitmemetov’s eyesight worsened while in the detention center. He did not receive adequate treatment. Oleh Prykhodko complains of swelling of his legs. He is also worried about the condition of some of his bodily organs. Edem Smailov, Seiran Saliev, Timur Ibrahimov, Memet Belialov complain of problems with teeth. Osman Seitumerov said that he suffered from pain in his lower back, his eyesight is deteriorating. Rustem Seitmemetov suffers from swelling of the feet.

An imprisoned person that is held under home arrest or serves a term in prison often appears in a humiliating and vulnerable position and, therefore, depends on the mercy of police and prison administration.

Zekir’ia Muratov still did not go through a medical examination that would confirm his disability. Zekir’ia suffers from increased blood pressure. He asked for medical expertise that would confirm his disability multiple times. However, his appeals remain unanswered. Later Zekir’ia appeared in prison hospital because he is assumed to have lung inflammation.

Servet Haziev and Dzhemil Hafarov, as well as some other political prisoners, have disabilities. This means that the state (in this case – occupying state) must create adequate conditions for this kind of prisoner. Keeping those people under arrest without special medical help might be considered torture: “The lack of reasonable accommodation in detention facilities may increase the risk of exposure to neglect, violence, abuse, torture, and ill-treatment.”. 

A separate topic is the responsibility of medical personnel working at detention centers and prisons, and ambulance personnel. Medical workers, especially doctors, often flagrantly violate medical ethics. According to international law, their active or passive participation or cooperation in tortures or other kinds of inhumane treatment or punishment constitutes a crime. 

People involved in medical professions must protect the physical and psychological health of the detained and arrested. They also have to provide medical treatment with “the  same quality and standard as is afforded to those who are not imprisoned or detained.”

On July 9, it became known that 61-year-old Servet Haziev suffered from a micro stroke while at the detention center of Rostov-on-Don. According to his legal defender Oleksandr Stasiuk: “he (Servet Hasiev) suffers from pain in the back of his neck and heart; all of the chronic diseases he had now aggravated. Meanwhile, the political prisoner does not receive any medical help. On June 10, ahead of the medical unit of Detention center # 5 came to Hasiev. He prescribed four drugs to treat blood pressure, one antibiotic and one vitamin. All those drugs come in the form of pills.” Earlier, Servet Haziev needed the help of an ambulance during the court proceedings. However, the Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia refused to provide any information on Hasiev’s health due to medical privacy reasons. A response by the penitentiary service says: “general health condition of Haziev is acceptable. He does not require urgent care or hospitalization.”

The prison hospital of Rostov-on-Don does not accept a document proving the disability of Dzhemil Hafarov. Due to the aggravation of illness and disability of Dzhemil Hafarov, his legal defender, Rifat Yakhin, tries to get the court to change the precautionary measure to home arrest. Earlier, Rifat Yakhin informed that the health condition of his client worsened again. Meanwhile, prison medics do not inform about the real health condition of Dzhemil. 

Shaban Umerov received help from ambulance workers right in the courtroom on June 15. According to the political prisoner, a medical worker gave him a painkiller. 51-year-old Shaban Umerov does not consider this help adequate and compares it with “hitting fingers with a hammer to treat headache.” Even before detention, he had back pains and problems with heart and blood pressure. After the detention, his condition worsened – he often has chest pains.

Medzhyt Abdurakhmanov, who stays in Detention center # 1 of Rostov-on-Don, suffers from muscular dystrophy. He also complains about constant back pains, which do not let him move around on his own. Adburakhmanov complained about back pains before but only received pain killers. Before one of the court hearings, medical workers gave him a shot of anesthetic and brought him to the courtroom on a hand frame.

Let us also briefly cover the COVID situation in penitentiary institutions. At the beginning of the court hearing, Remzi Bekirov asked to call the ambulance due to the fever (38.7 C), sore throat, and weakness. However, according to the doctor, Remzi Bekirov could continue participating in the proceedings. The doctor did not have a COVID express test on him. Vadym Bektemirov has had a high fever for over a week, but he does not receive medical help. Medical personnel offers him acetaminophen as the remedy. Rustem Seitkhalilov and Eskander Suleimanov remain in the Detention Center # 1. They have been placed in cells for eight persons. All of the detained people in the cells are sick. One of them lost a sense of smell.  

The “court” postponed the hearing in the case of the 2nd Simferopol group of “Hizb ut-Tahrir” due to the impossibility to bring Farkhod Bazarov to the courtroom because of his high fever and possible COVID-19 infection. 

In Simferopol, the detention center was closed for quarantine due to coronavirus. The detainees have not been transferred to the hospital. The medical treatment was conducted by the sanitary medical station of the detention center.  

It is important to emphasize that the abovementioned examples only include health problems among political prisoners that we know of. It is important to keep in mind that the absence of news does not mean that the situation for the prisoners improved. For instance, Teimur Abdullaev suffered from a stroke in the Russian detention center in March 2020. His brother, Uzeir Abdullaev, also accused in the same politically motivated case, has problems with his heart and kidneys. 

This article includes an overview of violations of the right to health of Crimean political prisoners that happened over two months of this summer. Unfortunately, the list of this kind of violation is much longer. Therefore, Russian Federation does not follow its general international responsibilities on the right to health. Neither does it follow its responsibilities concerning people with disabilities. Medical personnel, employees of penitentiary institutions, and ambulances are also involved in those violations, despite the moral principles of their professions. Despite some serious health problems (strokes, chronic illnesses) and COVID outbreaks at the detention centers, Russia continues humiliating the dignity of political prisoners and treats their health with criminal negligence. 

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