Statement of Human Rights Organizations Regarding Searches and Arrests in the Occupied Crimea

17 / 08 / 2021

On August 17, 2021, Russian law enforcement services 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 Taiirov) 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 Russia considers it a terrorist organization). 

As in many previous examples of Russian persecutions, most of the detainees took 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 Taiirov, 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 in the criminal prosecution of alleged members of the Alushta group of “Hizb ut-Tahrir.” Earlier, Murasov had been detained twice, Russian law enforcement services searched his house. 

Serious violations of human rights accompanied those searches. During the search of the house of Raif Favziiev Russian, law enforcement services 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 a covert method of pushing Crimean Tatars outside of Crimea. 

Crimean Tatars are the most common victim of illegal searches and arrests in Crimea 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 Crimean population before the occupation. Crimean Tatars also constitute a majority among Crimean political prisoners. 

We emphasize once again that searches and arrests in the occupied Crimea constitute a serious violation of international humanitarian law. The international law forbids implementing criminal legislation of the occupying power in the occupied territory (art. 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention). Meanwhile, prosecution 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 for termination of Russian illegal actions in Crimea. Russian continues disrespecting international law. Therefore, restoration of the rule of law and respect of human rights in Crimea can only happen due to the de-occupation of the peninsula. 

Based on this, we demand that the Russian Federation as an occupant of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol: 

  • Immediately releases Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Taiirov, and other illegally arrested persons; 
  • Stops illegal searches, detentions, and other forms of political intimidation against persons who exercise their right to freedom of expression, freedom of thought and conscience, freedom of religion, and peaceful gatherings; 
  • Immediately stops intimidation of Crimean Tatars, religious leaders, and civic activists in Crimea; 
  • Effectively investigates all cases of illegal searches and detentions in Crimea and bring all those responsible to justice; 
  • Follows its responsibilities according to the international humanitarian law and international legislation on human rights. 

We address governments of foreign states and international organizations with an appeal to: 

  • Condemn regular searches and arrests in the occupied Crimea; 
  • Use all available diplomatic, political, economic, and other instruments of pressure against Russia to free Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Taiirov, and other political prisoners; 
  • Implement personal sanctions against persons who were involved in today’s illegal searches and detentions; 
  • Demand that Russia provides access to the occupied Crimea for the international monitoring missions of the UN, OSCE, and the Council of Europe; 
  • Conduct constant monitoring of politically motivated criminal cases at all stages (pre-trial investigation, trial, imprisonment); 
  • Provide support to the illegally detained and their families; in particular, to pay specific attention to psychological rehabilitation of children who witnessed illegal searches of their homes and arrests of their parents; 
  • Use the instrument of the Crimea Platform to liberate political prisoners and prevent further political persecutions in Crimea. 

We call on the President of Ukraine, Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, Ministry of Reintegration of Temporary Occupied Territories of Ukraine, Office of the Prosecutor of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol to: 

  • Ensure effective investigation of the illegal deprivation of freedom and persecutions against Raif Fevziiev, Dzhebbar Bekirov, Rustem Murasov, Zaur Abdullaiev, Rustem Taiirov, and all other human rights violations in the temporarily occupied Crimea; 
  • Adopt a comprehensive law that would provide support and state protection of persons who were illegally deprived of freedom as a result of the Russian aggression; 
  • Approve a law draft #2689, submitted on December 27, 2019, which regulates the implementation of the international criminal and humanitarian legislation in Ukraine; to initiate legal responsibility for the crimes against humanity and war crimes that occur on the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine. 

NGO “CrimeaSOS” 

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 


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