Russia: Imminent disbarment of Emil Kurbedinov

15/01/2019
Urgent Appeal

New information
RUS 001 / 0119 / OBS 003
Risk of disbarment /
Judicial harassment
Russian Federation
January 15, 2019

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), has received new information and requests your intervention in the following situation in the Russian Federation.

New information:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about the imminent disbarment of Mr. Emil Kurbedinov, a human rights lawyer who openly denounces human rights violations in Crimea [1] and Winner of the 2017 Front Line Defenders Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk.

According to the information received, on January 10, 2019, Mr. Emil Kurbedinov received a letter dated December 18, 2018, from the Crimean Directorate of the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation notifying him that he would be excluded from the Crimean Bar Association by March 1, 2019 based on his two previous convictions for administrative offences (see background information). According to Paragraph 1.2 (4) of Article 15 of the Federal Law “On Non-Commercial Organisations”, a person who has been convicted of extremism cannot be a founder or a member of a non-commercial organisation.
If excluded from the Bar Association, Mr. Kurbedinov would no longer be able to join another bar association or create his own law firm. Three months after his exclusion, he would also lose his status as a lawyer. Mr. Kurbedinov said he would not voluntarily leave the bar and will appeal this order from the Ministry of Justice.

The Observatory recalls that on December 6, 2018, Mr. Kurbedinov was arrested and sentenced the following day to five days of administrative detention for “propagandizing for extremist organizations”. He had already been sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention for identical charges on January 26, 2017 (see background information).

The Observatory strongly condemns the order to expel Mr. Emil Kurbedinov from the Crimean Central Bar Association, based on arbitrary grounds, and which seems to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities. The Observatory calls on the Russian authorities to end any act of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Emil Kurbedinov and all human rights defenders in Russia.

The Observatory denounces the systematic pressure on human rights defenders and human rights lawyers representing political prisoners in Crimea. Since October 2018, many of them have received warnings for allegedly violating anti-extremism law.

Background information [2]:

On January 26, 2017, Mr. Kurbedinov was arrested by a group of masked representatives from the Center for Combating Extremism in Crimea and taken to a local directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). The Zheleznodorozhny District Court of Simferopol found him guilty of violating Article 20.3 of the Administrative Code of Russian Federation, public dissemination of a symbol belonging to an ‘extremist’ organisation on his Vkontakte page, and sentenced him to 10-day administrative detention on identical charges. The basis for Mr. Kurbedinov’s arrest was a 2013 Facebook post containing a photo of a Simferopol rally of “Hizb ut-Tahrir”, where flags allegedly linked to the organisation were displayed.

On November 6, 2018, Mr. Kurbedinov received a written notice in relation to the "prevention of extremist activities" in his office in Simferopol, Crimea. This notice was handed to him by a representative of the Crimean Prosecutor’s Office who was accompanied by several men in masks.

On December 6, 2018, Mr. Kurbedinov was arrested by officials of the Center for Combating Extremism in Crimea on his way from home to the office and transported to the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Crimea and Sevastopol. He was charged with violating the same Article 20.3,disseminating the symbol of an ‘extremist’ organization, this time on his Facebook page, punishable by up to 15 days in prison and a fine for this offence.

On December 7, 2018, Kievsky District Court of Simferopol sentenced Mr. Emil Kurbedinov to five days of administrative detention.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Russia asking them to:

i. Abstain from excluding Mr. Emil Kurbedinov from the Crimean Central Bar Association;

ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Mr. Emil Kurbedinov and all human rights defenders in the country and guarantee in all circumstances their right to a fair trial;

iii. Ensure in all circumstances that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iv. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1, 6(a), 9, 11 and 12.2;

v. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by the Russian Federation.

Addresses:

· Mr. Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 606 3602; + 7 495 625 3581
· Mr. Dimitri Medvedev, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, Twitter: @MedvedevRussia
· Mr. Sergueï Lavrov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Fax: + 7 495 644 2203
· Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Fax: +41 22 734 40 44, E-mail:mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Embassy of the Russian Federation in Brussels, Belgium. Fax: +32 2 374 26 13. E-mail: mission.russian@vtxnet.ch
· Permanent Representation of the Russian Federation to the Council of Europe, France. Fax: (+33) (0) 3 88 24 19 74. Email: russia.coe@orange.fr

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

***
Paris-Geneva, January 15, 2019

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:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel and fax FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18 / +33 1 43 55 18 80
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29

[1] Since the annexation of the peninsula by the Russian Federation, Mr. Kurbedinov has been actively involved in the defence of Crimean Tatars. He notably spoke out about the exiled Mejlis (Parliament of the Tatar people) leader Mustafa Dzhemilev, and supports civil society activists, journalists, and Crimean Muslims suspected of membership in Hizb ut-Tahrir, a religious organization banned in Russia (but legal in Ukraine). More recently, Kurbedinov became an attorney for one of the Ukrainian sailors arrested during the conflict in the Kerch Strait. He is also a founder and member of the Crimean Central Bar Association.
[2] See Observatory Press Release, published on December 6, 2018.

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