Permanent Mission of Ukraine to the Council of Europe

, Kyiv 10:22

Ukraine in the Council of Europe: Russia persecutes lawyers and suppressed freedom of the media in Crimea

02 February 2017, 10:26

Statement by Sergiy Kyslytsya, Deputy Foreign Minister of Ukraine, at the 1276th meeting of the Committee of Ministers on 1 February 2017 on situation in Crimea

Mr Chairperson,
Dear colleagues,
Crimea is another front line of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. In Crimea, Moscow pursues its quiet terror and tightens the screws on those who dissent with the illegal occupation and dare to defend their rights.
Last week, we witnessed new element of the systemic repressions of the Russian occupying administration in the peninsula – pressure and persecution of lawyers, who defend Crimean Tatar activists and human rights defenders.
On 25 January, Nikolai Polozov, Russian lawyer who defends Akhtem Chyjgoz and Ilmi Umerov, was forcibly summoned for interrogation by the FSB. In violation of his status of a legal defender, he was interrogated and later released.
On 26 January, Emil Kurbedinov, another lawyer who defends Crimean Tatars, was detained  and arrested for a post he published on Facebook in 2013, even before the illegal occupation of Crimea by Russia.
On a parallel track, Russia suppressed freedom of the media in the peninsula after the illegal occupation.
The Ukrainian Institute of Mass Information, a famous NGO, has registered more than 300 cases of violation of the freedom of expression, including pressure on media and journalists, in Crimea.
These violations include shutdown of Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar TV channels, and printed media, blocking access to Ukrainian Internet-outlets,  including Istorychna Pravda, a website dedicated to history issues, detentions and interrogations of journalists, searches in their homes, and putting journalists in the so-called list of terrorists and extremists.
The persecution of Mykola Semena, a journalist, raises most concern. “The case of Semena reminds us all of the arbitrary practice of silencing critical voices in Crimea,” Dunja Mijatović, OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media said recently in a statement, condemning continued deterioration of media freedom and safety of journalists in areas not controlled by Ukrainian government.
In its turn, PACE in its Resolution 2141 (2017) expressed concern about the general situation of media freedom in the Crimean Peninsula occupied by Russia.
Ukraine calls on the Council of Europe to use every available instrument to make Russia put an end to the persecution of lawyers and those who disagree with the illegal occupation of Crimea.
The Council of Europe as human rights and freedoms watchdog should step up pressure on Russia to make it drop unfounded charges against Nikolai Polozov, Emil Kurbedinov, Mykola Semena and all others being persecuted for their belief in justice, freedom of speech and professional journalism.
While Russia does not grant access to Crimea for conventional and institutional monitoring bodies of international organizations, we also call on the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights to closely cooperate with NGOs on registering gross and systemic violations of human rights and freedoms in Crimea.
It is essential to act now.
I thank you, Mr Chairperson.

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