war crimes in Ukraine

The Tribunal for Putin (T4P) global initiative was set up in response to the all-out war launched by Russia against Ukraine in February 2022.

Gravely ill Crimean Tatar political prisoner in acute pain and unable to stand

Halya Coynash

58-year-old amputee Edem Bekirov, who is already suffering from illnesses that should preclude detention, is in acute pain from a pinched spinal nerve and cannot move.  His continued imprisonment in Russian-occupied Crimea is equivalent to brutal torture, yet Russia’s Human Rights Ombudsman has said only that “she would like” him to be moved to house arrest, and does not appear to have taken any action at all.

Bekirov’s lawyer, Alexei Ladin visited him on 22 July and reports that he is an appalling condition.  His family are trying to urgently get painkillers to him, since the Russian occupation authorities are not only risking his life by holding him in detention, but are failing to provide any adequate medical treatment.  The conditions in the Simferopol SIZO [remand prison] are torment even for men in good health, and they are clearly not significantly better in the SIZO medical unit where Bekirov is being held.  A medical worker in the SIZO looked at Bekirov and, according to Ladin, “confirmed a pinched spinal nerve”, which Ladin assumes is at least partly due to the bad conditions in the medical unit.

This is not the first time that Russia has continued to hold a Ukrainian prisoner despite medical grounds that even Russian legislation preclude detention. It is therefore immensely frustrating that the European Court of Human Rights on 10 July heeded the claims Russia made about Bekirov’s state of health and withdrew its demand that he be hospitalized.  The reasons it gave were that Bekirov had supposedly been examined on 29 June, with no recommendation that he be hospitalized; that he had earlier had an independent medical check before the decision to take steps of a medical nature; and that “he had not exhausted national (i.e. Russian) defence mechanisms.  Anastasia Martinovska from the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union is extremely unconvinced by such arguments, although the most cynical is Russia’s claim that the defence had not provided medical documents or examinations which would refute the occupation regime’s assertion that Bekirov’s state of health is ‘satisfactory’.  Ample documentation has been provided of the conditions Bekirov is suffering from, and if there are no results of recent examinations, this is because Bekirov has been imprisoned for over 8 months and Russia is blocking any independent examination.

In fact, ECHR did not cancel its decision to order Bekirov’s hospitalization, but ordered the Russian authorities to carry out a full examination regarding each of his illnesses and to provide them with the information by 27 July.

As reported, The Court in Strasbourg applied its Rule No. 39 on 11 June, ordering Russia to place Bekirov in hospital.  The order is binding, yet Russia did not comply.  First the ‘investigator’ Ivan Romanets claimed that they were unable to confirm or refute whether the document from the European Court of Human Rights was authentic.  Then Bekirov was taken for half-hour examinations to an endrocrinologist and cardiologist, both of whom ‘concluded’, as they knew was expected of them, that all was fine. Anything else might have got them into trouble, but upbeat noises cannot conceal the serious illnesses that Bekirov suffers from.  His lawyer, Alexei Ladin, said then that they were gathering supplementary medical documents from independent specialists which will demonstrate the lack of any substance to the Russian medical assessment given in January this year and the empty assurances given in attempted excuse for refusing to comply with the ECHR order.

Ladin also points out that all the medication which Bekirov is taking has been provided by his family which means that Russia is also proving incapable of ensuring that Bekirov receives proper treatment.

The petition, initiated by Russian doctor, Olga Mazurova is as pressing as ever.  The petition points to the requirement in Russian legislation that people who are seriously ill be released from detention.  This has been ignored in Bekirov’s case since 12 December 2018, despite entirely unequivocal medical evidence, some of which Mazurova, as a doctor, outlines.  In brief, Bekirov has grade 1 invalid status and has, since 1999, had persistent problems with arterial circulation.  It was seemingly in connection with this that in 2005 he needed to have the lower right leg amputated.  In 2018 he suffered a major heart attack and now has four cardiac shunts to regulate blood pressure, and also has diabetes, although at home in the Kherson oblast, he was able to get by taking tablets.  In the SIZO, however, the only measure they seem to recognize is insulin injections, which initially caused an allergic reaction. 

He was due to have a further operation regarding the cardiac shunts on 16 December 2018, but had been seized six days earlier by the FSB while trying to enter Crimea to visit his elderly mother.

The FSB accuse him of circulating and transporting more than 10 kilograms of DNT and 190 bullets ((under Article 222 § 2 of Russia’s criminal code).  The charges are based solely on the ‘testimony’ of a supposed witnesses, identified only by his last name, ‘Memetov’, who has claimed that Bekirov passed the explosives and bullets to him in May 2018.  Memetov purportedly placed them in a secret hiding place around Krasnoperekopsk and then in August revealed this place to the Russian FSB and gave testimony against Bekirov.

The petition “leaves it to the investigators and court” to consider how the then 57-year-old who can’t walk without a crutch and who would have difficulty lifting a one and a half litre bottle of water, could have carried such a huge amount of explosives. There are in fact other issues that make Bekirov’s ongoing detention so shocking, including the fact that he has an alibi for the time of the alleged ‘crime’.

The petition concentrates on the fact that Bekirov’s state of health means that “he has very little chance of living not only to the sentence, but even to the end of the investigation.”

It demands:

that Bekirov is examined by independent doctors without delay;

that he is immediately hospitalized for independent examination; correct choice of medication for his diabetes and to decide on the cardiac shunt operation;

that a decision is taken that Bekirov cannot be held in detention because of the state of his health, with this in full accordance with a Russian Government Resolution from 14 January 2017.

It is never clear what can have impact on the Kremlin, however without pressure, it is likely that Bekirov’s life will remain gravely jeopardized.

Please sign and widely share the petition here!



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