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.

Renowned Crimean Tatar lawyer detained and prosecuted for informing of illegal conscription into Russian army

Halya Coynash
This is the latest attack on a human rights lawyer whose tireless defence of political prisoners in occupied Crimea has made him a target for the occupation regime and renowned abroad. 

Emil Kurbedinov Photo Crimean Solidarity

Emil Kurbedinov Photo Crimean Solidarity

Roman Filatov and Ruslan Shambazov from Russia’s so-called ‘Centre for countering extremism’ detained Emil Kurbedinov in the morning of 15 February and took him to an occupation police station in Simferopol.  The world-renowned lawyer, was charged there, under Article 13:15 § 9  of Russia’s code of administrative offences which purportedly punishes for ‘abuse of freedom of mass information’. In fact, he is being prosecuted for telling the truth in a post on a Telegram channel.  In it, he wrote that “Students who have a deferment from conscription are being sent summonses to military commissions at the recruitment office.  There have later been cases where guys don’t even have a chance to receive their degrees before they’re taken into the army.”

Filatov who, like Shambazov, is notorious for his role in persecuting human rights defenders, accuses Kurbedinov of having “circulated false information under the guise of the truth”, with this allegedly creating “a risk of damage to the life and health of citizens, to property, the danger of mass infringement of public order and public safety”.  Kurbedinov is adamant that the charge is “total nonsense” and linked with his professional activities as a lawyer.  He has long posted, and will continue to post, information about violations of people’s rights, and insists that he would not have posted anything that was not true.  He believes that the charge, based on a post published back in July 2023, is yet another act of revenge and form of pressure by Russia’s FSB on independent lawyers in Crimea.

At least charges under Article 13:15 § 9) do not envisage administrative detention, and Kurbedinov was later released. The charges against him will be passed to an occupation ‘magistrate’s court’.  While the charge is manifestly absurd, occupation ‘judges’ virtually always provide the rulings demanded of them.  This was the case in another similar prosecution against human rights defender Abdurashit Dzhepparov whose prosecution on charges of ‘discrediting the Russian armed forces’ and abusing freedom of mass information’ was also initiated by Roman Filatov.

Emil Kurbedinov has tirelessly defended the ever-increasing number of political prisoners under Russian occupation and has helped ensure that the world is informed of what is happening in Crimea.  He has also taken an active role in the vital Crimean Solidarity human rights movement.  In January 2017, after his first absurd prosecution and brief term of imprisonment, he noted that it was such activities that made him viewed in occupied Crimea as ‘Enemy No. 1’.

On 26 January 2017, Kurbedinov was detained while he and fellow rights lawyer Edem Semedlyaev were driving to the home of a Crimean Tatar civic activist and now political prisoner, Seiran Saliyev, where a search was underway.  The actions that followed were of breath-taking lawlessness.  Armed and masked spetsnaz officers turned up at Kurbedinov’s home.  They refused at first to allow a lawyer in and also tried to prevent Kurbedinov’s mother from taking his small son and daughter away.  A search was also carried out of the offices that Kurbedinov and Semedlyaev share, and computers containing confidential documents about their clients were removed.

Kurbedinov was first taken to the so-called Centre for Countering Extremism, and then to a ‘court hearing’ where judge Tatyana Belnichuk sentenced him to 10 days’ imprisonment for a video clip (of a peaceful meeting of an organization which is legal in Ukraine) posted on a social network page on June 6, 2013, almost a year before Russia’s invasion.  

Almost two years later, in December 2018, he was sentenced to a further five days’ imprisonment over the same video, albeit posted on a different social media page.  It is likely that Russia simply needed a pretext to jail the lawyer who had played a very act role in representing the 24 Ukrainian Navy seamen and prisoners of war that the Russians first shot at and then seized and held prisoner for almost a year.

Russia has since also used similar methods of persecution and harassment against several of Kurbedinov’s colleagues, with all of those targeted active in representing Crimean Tatar and other Ukrainian political prisoners.


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