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.

Life-saving medication taken away from gravely ill Crimean Solidarity civic journalist in Russian occupation prison

Halya Coynash
The penitentiary service may well kill Amet Suleimanov even before Russia tries to execute the next stage of this effective death sentence and send him to a Russian prison colony.

Amet Suleimanov Photo Graty

Amet Suleimanov Photo Graty

Despite a life-threatening heart condition, the Russian prison authorities are holding Crimean Tatar civic journalist Amet Suleimanov in appalling conditions in the Simferopol SIZO in occupied Crimea.  The SIZO staff have taken away medication, without which his life is in danger, and have placed him in a cell with eleven other men, all of whom smoke.  Suleimanov is in urgent need of a heart valve transplant, and his heart is under immense strain even in normal conditions.  In this small, airless and smoke-filled basement cell, he is constantly breathless and coughing and is suffering from permanently high blood pressure and chest pain.  He may well die before Russia even tries to execute the next stage of this effective death sentence and send him to a Russian prison colony.

Russia is flagrantly violating an order from the United Nations Committee against Torture [CAT], issued on 22 February 2023.  In this, Russia was called upon to abstain from implementing the 12-year prison sentence passed against the civic journalist and recognized political prisoner.  It also asked Russia to ensure that Suleimanov received a comprehensive medical examination in a specialized medical facility, as well as heart surgery and/or treatment in accordance with the results of the examination.  The Russian authorities are aware of this order.  Suleimanov’s wife, Lilia Lumanova has learned that Amet was visited in the SIZO by the Russian occupation prosecutor, in response to the CAT order.  The prosecutor asked whether Suleimanov had any “complaints”.  If he hoped that the civic journalist would be intimidated into saying no, he was mistaken.  “Amet answered that his very presence in the SIZO was, a priori, unwarranted and illegal.”

Liumanova was allowed a brief, two-hour, visit on 24 April, during which she could only speak with her husband through a glass wall, by telephone.  She has informed Crimean Solidarity that the SIZO administration removed medication (an injection of Bicillin-5 once every three weeks) which Suleimanov needs for rheumatic heart disease. 

It is already three weeks since Amet Suleimanov was taken into custody despite medical conditions which even Russian legislation says should preclude imprisonment, and his state of health has already worsened significantly. 

Suleimanov (b. 1984) suffers from chronic rheumatic heart disease, aortic insufficiency, coronary artery disease and third level mitral valve prolapse (making a heart valve transplant both vital and urgent).

Russia is a party to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  Moscow’s customary refrain when UN bodies, like the Committee against Torture, or international courts demand that it complies with international law is to deny that they have jurisdiction. It cannot do so in this case, since Russia has declared under Article 22 of the Convention “that it recognizes the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from or on behalf of individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation” by Russia. 

The Russian penitentiary service was undoubtedly aware, both of these obligations under the Convention against Torture, and of CAT’s intervention on 22 February, when it sent officials to take Amet Suleimanov into custody on 5 April 2023. 

Russia has already killed one Crimean Tatar political prisoner.  60-year-old Dzhemil Gafarov died in a Russian SIZO on 10 February 2023, almost four years after he was arrested on flawed charges effectively identical to those used against Suleimanov.  He too should never have been placed in custody, with this also in breach even of Russian law.  It was learned on 25 April that Russia’s Federal Service of Court Bailiffs had initiated executive proceedings against a SIZO medical unit in occupied Crimea, under Russia’s Federal penitentiary service.  Gafarov’s lawyer had successfully received an occupation ‘court’ order demanding that the unit provide information about medical examinations of Gafarov, any medication provided and also the names of doctors ‘treating’ him.  This was all constantly ignored, probably because there were no such medical examinations, nor treating doctors and the only medication he received was that provided by his family.

It is unclear whether the Federal Service of Court Bailiffs are simply getting through paperwork, or whether they’re looking for somebody to blame for Dzhemil Gafarov’s death.  All parties are culpable, from the Russian FSB to the Southern District Military Court which refused to at least place him under house arrest and then sentenced him to a monstrous 13-year term of imprisonment which he could not possibly survive.

Russia is now torturing Amet Suleimanov to death after he too was almost certainly targeted because of his earlier work as a civic journalist for the vital Crimean Solidarity human rights movement in occupied Crimea. 

Suleimanov was arrested on 11 March 2020, together with the two sons of a renowned Crimean Tatar historian – Seitumer Seitumerov (1988) and Osman Seitumerov (b. 1992) and their maternal uncle Rustem Seitmemetov (b. 1973).  The men were charged with a modern Russian version of the accusation during Stalin’s Terror used as an excuse for executing the two Seitumerov brothers’ great-grandfather.  Without any crime, they were sentenced to terms of imprisonment from 12 to 17 years.

See:  Death sentence for reporting on Russian repression in occupied Crimea and chilling repeat of Stalin-era persecution

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