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Russia
29.11.21
Urgent Interventions

Ukraine/Russia: Arbitrary detention and release of lawyer Edem Semedlyaev

URGENT APPEAL - THE OBSERVATORY

RUS 008 / 1121 / OBS 124
Arbitrary detention /
Release
Ukraine / Russian Federation
November 29, 2021

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Crimea, Ukrainian region being occupied by the Russian Federation.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed about the arbitrary detention and release of Mr. Edem Semedlyaev, a Crimean Tatar human rights lawyer who has been engaged in the defence of Crimean Tatar activists and other activists and journalists in Crimea prosecuted in politically motivated cases.

On October 25, 2021, Russian authorities arbitrarily arrested Edem Semedlyaev at the Simferopol police station where he was advising a group of Crimean Tatar clients. They had been arbitrarily arrested earlier that day for allegedly violating quarantine restrictions while they were standing in front of a military court building to observe the hearing of one of the so-called ‘terrorism’ cases brought against a group of Crimean Tatars.

While he was at the Simferopol police station, Mr. Semedlyaev asked to speak with one of the detainees to give him legal advice, which was refused by a police officer. Edem Semedlyaev then started recording the conversation on his phone. The police officer asked him to stop the audio recording and ordered him and another lawyer present in the premises to undress completely, allegedly to verify if they had any “extremist tattoos”. Mr. Semedlyaev refused to undress and was arrested under two charges of disobeying a police officer: one for making a recording and another for the refusal to be “inspected”. Mr. Semedlyaev spent the night in a holding cell. On October 26, 2021, he was presented to the de facto Central Court of Simferopol for review of the charges. The material was examined by the judges who decided to return the police materials due to some errors in the administrative complaints preventing the examination of the case and to release Mr. Semedlyaev.

On November 11, 2021, Mr. Semedlyaev was summoned to the Centre for Combating Extremism, a unit of the Ministry of the Interior of Russia, where the administrative complaint against him was allegedly corrected and a copy given to him. The administrative complaint was immediately re-submitted to the Court and examined by the same judges as at his first hearing. Nothing was actually corrected with respect to the charges in the administrative complaint, but additional administrative documents were attached. On the same day, he was condemned by the de facto Central Court of Simferopol to 12 days of arrest and to a fine of 4,000 rubles (approximately 49 Euros) under Article 19.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation (“failure to obey a lawful order or demand of a police officer”). Mr. Semedlyaev was immediately detained and placed in the Temporary Detention Centre under the Simferopol City Police Department.

An appeal against the Court decision was filed to the de facto Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea in Simferopol. A complaint was also sent to the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. The review of the appeal took place on November 18, 2021, at the de facto Supreme Court of the Republic of Crimea in Simferopol, during which the 12-day sentence was upheld.

On November 23, 2021, Edem Semedlyaev was released after spending 12 days in detention. Dozens of activists gathered in front of the detention centre to greet him and 31 of them were arbitrarily arrested by Russian law enforcement officers and taken to three different police centres; Kyivsky District Police Department of Simferopol, Central and Zheleznodorozhny.

The Observatory recalls that since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, the Crimean Tatars and those who defend their rights have been targeted by the Russian authorities, including through enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions, judicial harassment, arbitrary searches[1] and other discriminatory measures.

The Observatory welcomes the release of Edem Semedlyaev but recalls that he should never have been detained in the first place, his detention being arbitrary as it merely aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities defending the Crimean Tatars. Moreover, the Observatory expresses its utmost concern over the arbitrary detention of the 31 above-mentioned individuals who came to show him support.

The Observatory urges the Russian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release the 31 people detained and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against them, Edem Semedlyaev, and all human rights defenders and organisations in Crimea.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Edem Semedlyaev and all other human rights defenders in Crimea;

ii. Immediately and unconditionally release all arbitrarily detained human rights defenders in Crimea;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the judicial level - against Edem Semedlyaev and all other human rights defenders in Crimea, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities and exercise their rights without any hindrance or fear of reprisals.

Addresses:

  • Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @KremlinRussia_E
  • Mr. Mikhail Mishustin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter:@GovernmentRF
  • Mr. Sergey Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, E-mail: ministry@mid.ru
  • Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, pressa@genproc.gov.ru
  • Mr. Alexander Bortnikov, Director of Federal Security Service (FSS), fsb@fsb.ru
  • Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
  • Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
  • Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of the Russian Federation in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, November 29, 2021

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:


[1] See Report of the United Nations Secretary General on the Situation of human rights in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, Ukraine, published on August 2, 2021.

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