Occupied Crimea: Human rights lawyers stripped of professional licences

19/08/2022
Urgent Appeal
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Ольга Примачек via Pixabay

RUS 010 / 0822 / OBS 065
Administrative harassment
Russian Federation / Ukraine
August 19, 2022

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your 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 disbarment of human rights lawyers Messrs. Nazim Sheikhmambetov and Rustem Kyamilev, and Ms. Lilya Gemeji. The lawyers are known for representing Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian political prisoners in courts and providing legal assistance to Crimean Tatars.

On July 14, 2022, Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Rustem Kyamilev and Lilya Gemeji were stripped of their lawyers’ license, effectively preventing them from defending their clients and representing them in court in criminal cases. The Chechen Bar Association revoked their professional status at the request of the Chechen Ministry of Justice. The revocation took place in the absence of lawyers and in secret. They had no opportunity to raise objections, and they were not notified of the disciplinary proceedings. Ms. Gemeji was given one day’s notice of the date and time of the meeting of the qualification commission, while Mr. Kyamilev and Mr. Sheikhmambetov were not informed at all. They were only notified by the Bar Association on their disbarment on July 19, 2022. Ms. Gemeji was notified by e-mail, while Messrs. Sheikhmambetov and Kyamilev were informed by phone.

Since March 2020 the three lawyers had been requesting to change their Bar association from Chechnya to Crimea, where they live and work, but their requests were repeatedly denied first alleging COVID-19 restrictions and later on due to their “unreliable status” in Chechnya. After their last attempt on January 2022, the Crimean Bar Association did not accept their applications within one month after the request, as mandated by Russian law. This unjustified and illegal administrative delay led to the three lawyers being disbarred on the grounds that they had failed to register in time. The fact that three lawyers were simultaneously deprived of their professional status indicates political character of their persecution. The lawyers plan to challenge their disqualification and are preparing relevant complaints to the Russian court and the Federal Chamber of Advocates. In the meantime, the lawyers are resolved to continue defending victims of human rights violations in Crimea, the only limitation being that they can no longer represent victims in criminal cases.

The Observatory recalls that since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, 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 and other discriminatory measures. The disbarment of the above-mentioned human rights lawyers is yet another step in the repression of human rights defenders in general and of Crimean-Tatars in particular in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

The Observatory further recalls that Mr. Sheikhmambetov and other human rights lawyers, including Emine Avamileva, Edem Semedliayev and Ayder Azamatov, had recently been arbitrarily arrested and administratively harassed for their legitimate activities representing and providing legal assistance to Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian political prisoners.

The Observatory expresses its grave concern over the disbarment of Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Rustem Kyamilev and Lilya Gemeji and urges the Russian authorities to immediately reinstate their lawyers’ licences and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the administrative and judicial levels, against them and all human rights defenders and lawyers in Crimea.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of the Russian Federation asking them to:
- immediately revert the Chechen Bar Association’s decision and reinstate Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Rustem Kyamilev and Lilya Gemeji their lawyer’s license, accept their transfer requests to the Crimean Bar Association and guarantee the respect and implementation of the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers in Crimea;
- put an end to all acts of harassment - including at the administrative and judicial levels - against Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Rustem Kyamilev and Lilya Gemeji and all other human rights defenders and lawyers in Crimea;
- ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders in general and lawyers in partic-ular are able to carry out their legitimate human rights 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. Sergei Shoigu, Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @mod_russia
- Mr. Igor Krasnov, General Prosecutor of the Russian Federation, pressa@genproc.gov.ru
- Ms. Tatiana Nikolaevna Moskalkova, Commissioner for Human Rights in the Russian Federation,
- 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
- Federal Chamber of Advocates of the Russian Federation E-mail: mail@fparf.ru
- Bar of the Republic of Crimea. E-mail: аdvpalatacrimea.2014@mail.ru
- Bar of the Chechen Republic of the Russian Federation. E-mail: advokatura95@bk.ru
- The Russian Federal Bar Association. E-mail: ail@fparf.ru

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

***

Paris-Geneva, August 19, 2022

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 the International Federation for Human Rights (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:
- E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
- Tel OMCT: + 41 22 809 49 39
- Tel FIDH: + 33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18

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