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24.05.2020 | Halya Coynash
The right to life

Ervin Ibragimov and the abductions Russia brought to occupied Crimea

   

Four years ago, in the evening of 24 May, Ervin Ibragimov, a member of the Executive Committee of the World Congress of Crimean Tatars was abducted from near his home in Bakhchysarai.  Although video footage showed Ibragimov being stopped by men who seemed to be in road patrol uniforms and taken away by force, the occupation authorities never made any real attempt to find his abductors.  It seems likely that this was because they knew very well who was behind this latest of many abductions and disappearances since Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Ervin Ibragimov was 30, and well-known in Bakhchysarai.  He had been a member of the Bakhchysarai City Council until Russia’s invasion in 2014, and, as well as his work for the World Congress of Crimean Tatars, was also active in defending the mounting number of victims of repression under Russian occupation.  He had been due to attend a court hearing on the morning of 25 May over charges against Crimean Tatars for taking part in a remembrance event for the victims of the 1944 Deportation.

He had phoned his father in the late evening on 24  May but failed to return to his home in Bakhchysarai.  His car was found the next morning fairly near his home with the key in the ignition and door open.  CCTV footage from a shop show him being stopped by uniformed men.  You can even see how the young man tried to flee, but was seized and forced into the men’s van. 

Ibragimov had reported being followed during the week before his abduction and there were clear grounds for concern.  Yet the FSB refused to event register Umer Ibragimov report of his son’s abduction. An ‘investigation’ was initiated only after a large group of people gathered outside the FSB offices.  The FSB then tried to refuse to receive the CCTV footage and Ibragimov’s parents had to send it formally to them, with the delivery recorded. 

There are grounds for suspecting the occupation regime’s direct involvement in this abduction, via enforcement officers or the paramilitaries initially used to help Russian soldiers seize control in Crimea.  Such reasons include the men’s uniforms, the reluctance to investigate and shameful attempts by the then de facto ‘prosecutor’ Natalya Poklonskaya to even pretend that Ibragimov had been seen alive, that the uniformed men had nothing to do with the enforcement bodies and / or that the abduction was an act of provocation, aimed at destabilizing the situation in Crimea.  Lawyer Emil Kurbedinov used all legal avenues to try to force a proper investigation, however ‘courts’ in occupied Crimea provide the rulings required of them, and blocked all such efforts.  In early 2018, lawyer Emil Kurbedinov lodged a formal complaint against the so-called investigator who had not even bothered to answer his formal requests for information.  During the court hearing on March 26, it became clear that any investigation had been terminated in September 2017. 

The final step will be the European Court of Human Rights which will surely find that Russia is in breach of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right to life.  This obliges member states, including both Russia and Ukraine, to not only protect life, but also to fully investigate any cases of violent death, abduction or enforced disappearances. 

Speaking after the hearing, Kurbedinov stressed that he had encountered the same refusal to even provide answers regarding a number of other abductions or enforced disappearances. 

Another reason for suspecting the occupation enforcement authorities of involvement in Ibragimov’s abduction is the link with an earlier attempt to seize another rights activist Emir-Usein Kuku.  That earlier ‘operation’, on 20 April 2015 went wrong for the abductors because a crowd gathered and demanded to know what was going on.  Since nothing could be done in secret, that attempt suddenly turned into an FSB ‘search’.  After Kuku continued demanding an investigation into the events of that day, including the beating he received from the FSB, he was arrested and is now awaiting the appeal against totally fabricated ‘terrorism’ charges and a 12-year sentence (details here).

Please widely circulate the #LookForErvin video in Russian and in English.  As the video makes clear, there have been many abductions or disappearances since Russia’s invasion of Crimea.  Not one was ever investigated properly, even when there was video footage clearly showing the abductors  or eye witnesses.  The victims included a teenager – 19-year-old Islyam Dzepparov, who, together with his 23-year-old cousin Dzhevdet Islamov, was forced into a dark blue Volkswagen Transporter and taken away from Sary-Su near Belogorsk on 27 September 2014.  Witnesses were even able to give the van’s registration number, so, if the occupation authorities did not find the abductors, it was clearly because they were not looking.


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