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.

Do not let Russia torture gravely ill Crimean Tatar activists to death!

Halya Coynash
Russia is even violating its own laws with its treatment of gravely ill men and there are ways in which politicians and human rights NGOs could help to ensure that it is reminded of this.

Servet Gaziev during the attack in court on 10 June 2021 Photo Crimean Solidarity

Prison staff pumped 61-year Servet Gaziev up with painkillers on 10 June, before sending the gravely ill Crimean Tatar political prisoner to the latest hearing in Russia’s trial of 25 Crimean Tatar civic activists and journalists.  The prosecutor and court needed to be able to tick him as having been present at his trial on ‘terrorism’ charge.  As far as the court is concerned, no more is required, since the verdicts in these trials of Crimean Tatars are essentially predetermined, but this is on condition that the ‘defendants’ do not die before their ‘conviction’ is clinched. 

The hearing at the Southern District Military Court lasted only minutes, with Gaziev having a second attack and collapsing on the prisoners’ bench.  It was the fifth time since this cloned ‘trial’ began that an ambulance had to be called.  The paramedic initially simply injected him with still more painkiller, but that did not help. 

Svetlana Ablyamitova, Gaziev’s sister and a doctor by profession, has been trying for some time to get proper hospital treatment for her brother.  She warns that this overuse of painkillers is further exacerbating Gaziev’s condition and asks, despairingly, when they will stop torturing her brother.  How can they call him a ‘terrorist’!

Gaziev has long suffered excruciating pain in the stomach area.  The ambulance doctors who examined him during a previous ‘hearing’ concluded that the 61-year-old was suffering  from chronic cholecystitis - an inflammation of the gallbladder, causing abdominal pain, vomiting and possibly fever. 

He very clearly needs a proper medical examination and hospital care, but the court is claiming it is not their business, and the SIZO [remand prison] administration will not risk taking any decisions without instructions from above.

For the moment, therefore, the torment continues, and the ‘trial’ is still further delayed.  Nor is Gaziev the only ‘defendant’ whose life is in jeopardy.

Dzhemil Gafarov in court Photo Crimean Solidarity

59-year-old Dzhemil Gafarov’s kidney disease is so severe that even Russian legislation should have precluded his detention.  That too, however, requires a decision from above, and instead they are gambling with his life.

Gafarov suffered a serious heart attack in 2017 and was diagnosed that same year with fourth stage chronic kidney disease, which is only a step away from the fifth stage, namely kidney failure.  According to Raziye Gafarova, this means that her husband is experiencing a permanent state of blood poisoning.  By now, the level of filtration of the kidneys is between a quarter and a third of what it would be for a person in good health.  According to Olga Mazurova, a Russian doctor and initiator of a petition calling for Gafarov to be released from custody (which can be signed here), this is typical of a person in pre-dialysis stage.   

The conditions in Russian or Russian-controlled Crimean SIZO are hellish even for men who are much younger and in relatively good health.  Over the last two years, his illness has been progressing without any medical supervision and without the kind of diet that a person with his illness requires. This results in acute attacks of gout, or inflammatory arthritis, which arises because his kidneys are unable to get rid of uric acid which instead builds up in his body.  He has spoken of the pain being hellish.

International pressure is needed, since the SIZO authorities, at very most, organize ‘medical examinations’ which invariably end with the doctors claiming that the men’s condition does not preclude detention.  During at least one of the examinations in Gafarov’s case, he was chained to a bed and surrounded by armed men.

This is despite the fact that neither of the two men, nor the other 23 Crimean Tatar civic journalists and activists, are accused of any recognizable crime, let alone one that would warrant such treatment.  All the Crimean Tatars arrested either on 27 March 2019 or, in the cases of Rayim Aivazov and Eskender Suleymanov, soon afterwards, are charged solely with ‘involvement’ or ‘organization’ of a Hizb ut-Tahrir group.  This  is a peaceful, pan-Islamist party which is legal in Ukraine.  In 2003, Russia became the only country in the world (since 2016 joined by the even more repressive Uzbekistan) to call Hizb ut-Tahrir ‘terrorist’.  No adequate reason was ever provided for so labelling an organization which is not known to have carried out acts of terrorism anywhere in the world, yet since 2014 Russia has been using the 2003 Supreme Court ruling as pretext for imprisoning men for up to 24 years without any crime.

Since 2016, the FSB have been using ‘Hizb ut-Tahrir’ charges in occupied Crimea as a weapon of repression, especially against civic journalists and activists from the Crimean Solidarity civic initiative.  There is no evidence that the men were actually involved in Hizb ut-Tahrir, but this is no problem for Russia’s ‘justice system’ which uses FSB-loyal ‘experts’ to find ‘proof’ of involvement in an innocuous word  or in conversations about repression in Russia, as well as ‘secret witnesses whose ‘testimony’ cannot in any way be verified.

The arrests were condemned by Human Rights Watch who stated that “the sweeping arrests in Crimea aim to portray politically active Crimean Tatars as terrorists as a way to silence them”.  All of the men were recognized almost immediately as political prisoners by the Memorial Human Rights Centre, and their release has been demanded by, among others, the European Parliament and US State Department.

Russia has now divided the men’s ‘case’ into five identical clones, with Servet Gaziev and Dzhemil Gafarov on ‘trial’ together with civic journalist Osman Arifmemetov and civic activists Alim Karimov and Seiran Murtaza.


Russia is even violating its own laws with its treatment of gravely ill men and there are ways in which politicians and human rights NGOs could help to ensure that it is reminded of this.  Please help by bringing these cases to their attention, as well as by writing to the men.  The more letters they receive, the more Moscow will understand that its torment of men like Servet Gaziev and Dzhemil Gafarov is under scrutiny.

Letters need to be in Russian, and on ‘safe’ subjects.  If that is a problem, use the sample letter below (copying it by hand), perhaps adding a picture or photo. Do add a return address so that the men can answer.  The addresses can be written in either Russian or in English transcription.  The particular addressee’s name and year of birth need to be given.

Sample letter


Желаю Вам здоровья, мужества и терпения, надеюсь на скорое освобождение. Простите, что мало пишу – мне трудно писать по-русски, но мы все о Вас помним.

[Hi.  I wish you good health, courage and patience and hope that you will soon be released.  I’m sorry that this letter is short – it’s hard for me to write in Russian., but you are not forgotten. ]  

Osman Arifmemetov (born 28.08.1985) is a Maths and IT teacher and programmer by profession, but responded to the mounting repression after 2014 by becoming a civic journalists reporting for Crimean Solidarity on searches, arrests and court hearings.

Servet Gaziev

344064, Russia, Rostov on the Don, 4 Tonnelnaya St., SIZO-5

Gaziev, Servet Abdurayimovych, b. 1960

Dzhemil Gafarov

344064, Russia, Rostov on the Don, 4 Tonnelnaya St., SIZO-5

Gafarov, Dzhemal Abdullayevych, b. 1962

Alim Karimov

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Karimov, Alim Egamberdievych, b. 1994

Seiran Murtaza

344022 Russian Federation, Rostov on the Don, 219 Maxim Gorky St, SIZO-1

Murtaza, Seiran Kemadinovych, b. 1983

Erfan Osmanov

344064, Russia, Rostov on the Don, 4 Tonnelnaya St., SIZO-5

Osmanov, Erfan Serverovych, b. 1982

A full list of all 25 men can be found here



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