Tag Archives: Crimea



The Crimean Solidarity movement was set up by lawyers, journalists, and relatives of those arrested following the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014.

The organization has persisted through many years of struggle, and still exists despite constant threats and attacks. Many in the movement are citizen journalists regularly targeted this year by Russian authorities in Crimea. Their homes are routinely raided, and they are often jailed.

Now, three lawyers who represent those targeted have themselves been attacked. The three – Lilia Hemedzhy, Rustem Kyamilev, and Nazim Sheikhmambetov – are advocates representing many of those in the estimated 200 cases brought against members of the Crimea Solidarity movement.

“They are under constant surveillance, and now the authorities have taken away their permission to practice as lawyers. It was done on a technicality,” Demir Minadirov of Crimea Solidarity told me when we met in Kyiv last week. In July the three were stripped of their lawyers’ licenses, effectively preventing them from representing their clients in court in criminal cases.

He says since 2017, pressure on the movement has intensified and around 50 members have been jailed, with many detained on the word of secret witnesses.

“We’re trying to make these cases as well-known as possible, to draw attention to what’s happening in Crimea. We’re asking for international solidarity from lawyers and lawyers’ associations. We want them to contact the authorities and say they know about what’s happened to Lilia Hemedzhy, Rustem Kyamilev, and Nazim Sheikhmambetov,” he said.

Human Rights First knows the power of international solidarity with human rights lawyers. HRF’s roots are in the legal human rights community, and we were founded in 1978 as the Lawyers Committee for International Human Rights.

Since then, we’ve worked with human right lawyers all over the world. In the last decade we’ve supported and worked alongside human rights defenders who are lawyers in places including BahrainEgyptHong KongHungaryKenyaNorthern IrelandPolandSaudi ArabiaThe PhilippinesThe United Arab Emirates, and of course Ukraine.

Some of the lawyers whose work we’ve highlighted are in prison, others risk their lives to carry out their legal work in defense of the rights of others, and most are under some sort of harassment or pressure. We know from decades of experience that public solidarity with lawyers at risk in other parts of the world can be a powerful support.




https://unba.org.ua/news/7739-naau-podyakuvala-za-pidtrimku-evropejs-kim-kolegam-z-federacii-advokatur-evropi.html (UKRAINIAN)




USA: Ukrainian scholars and others finding a helping hand at University of Pittsburgh School of Law


Amid the Russian invasion, Pitt professors and programs are aiding Ukraine and Ukrainians in their efforts to continue their academic scholarship, prepare to rebuild their country and treat victims — particularly of trauma and its effects.

The School of Law, pointing to the many ways Russia has tried to use the law to confront Ukraine before and during the war, has brought eight Ukrainian law students here to the Center for International Legal Education (CILE) with full scholarships to earn their LLM (master of laws) degree. It is part of the school’s broader Ukrainian Legal Assistance Project, which is helping prepare these students — many of them already accomplished Ukrainian lawyers — to rebuild their country after the war and to connect them now with law firms and companies here for pro bono work that can help Ukraine today.

CILE Executive Director Charles T. Kotuby Jr. points out that the program already has experience bringing students here from Afghanistan with similar goals for their homeland.

“What we’re really trying to do is create the next generation of leaders” in Ukraine, Kotuby said. “The Ukrainian students — you cannot keep them here … They want to go back and rebuild the country.”

CILE has asked the Pittsburgh legal community and international businesses for help in taking on these students part-time while they are here, involving them in legal work today. “We’ve had a wonderful response,” Kotuby said. “They are a remarkable bunch of students.

One of them is Olha V. Tsyliuryk, who already has 13 years’ experience in the law. When the war hit, she was legal adviser to the mayor of Enerhodar, 420 miles from Kyiv. She is also an elected member of her district council and a university lecturer with her own law practice. Enerhodar is the site of the nuclear power plant currently under siege by the Russians.

When the war started, she drove to Warsaw and flew to Washington, D.C., where she quickly became involved in a project to deliver food to several Ukrainian districts and raise money for relief.

By July, she felt she could do more and decided to expand her legal know-how for the eventual reconstruction of her country. “It’s very important for me to obtain new experience and new skills,” Tsyliuryk said.

Her family, whom she has not seen in half a year, is still in Ukraine. “It’s very difficult and fearful for me,” she said. “I hope everything is over soon.”

In the meantime she says that lawyers with international experience will be crucial for making Ukraine safe for the investment needed to rebuild it, she said.



https://unba.org.ua/news/7601-zaproshuemo-advokativ-vzyati-uchast-u-blagodijnomu-turniri-zi-shvidkih-shahiv-na-pidtrimku-zsu.html (UKRAINIAN)



https://www.amnesty.be/veux-agir/agir-ligne/petitions/crimee-avocates (FRANCAIS – SIGNEZ LA PETITION!)

Ukraine/Russia: Crimean lawyers associate deprivation of their status in Chechnya with persecution


The Department for Chechnya of the Ministry of Justice has succeeded in pressure on the local bar association to withdraw the status of three of its former members working in Crimea. The disqualified lawyers associated the decision with political persecution and plan to appeal against it, human rights defenders report.

The Chamber of Lawyers of Chechnya has deprived lawyers Lilya Gemedji, Rustem Kyamilev, and Nazim Sheikhmambetov of their professional status. As a result, the lawyers cannot participate in criminal cases and are not eligible to take an exam for re-acquisition of status within a year, the civil rights project “For Human Rights”* reported on its website on August 4.

The lawyers are already preparing complaints that they can send to a court and the Federal Chamber, Nazim Sheikhmambetov reports.

“It is unprecedented when three lawyers are simultaneously deprived of their status. Nothing of that kind has happened during eight years of advocacy activities, including of our colleagues in Crimea,” Nazim Sheikhmambetov noted. The lawyer associates the decision “with political persecution by the law enforcement bodies,” human rights defenders report.

*In February 2019, the Russian Ministry of Justice (MoJ) included the All-Russian public movement “For Human Rights” into the register of NCOs acting as a foreign agent. On November 1 of the same year, the movement “For Human Rights” was liquidated by the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) of Russia.






https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/fr/statement-report/crimea-ukraine-crackdown-crimean-lawyers (FRANCAIS)

Russia/Ukraine: How independent lawyers are ‘silenced’ in Crimea


At the end of May, yet another wave of detentions and arrests swept through the occupied Crimea. The distinction is that all those detained and arrested this time turned out to be independent Crimean lawyers who regularly work with defendants in politically motivated cases.

This article is about the charges brought against lawyers, the course of their trials, and the consequences these prosecutions will lead to.

Guilty of being a lawyer

Of all four lawyers, only the first detainee, Edem Semedliayev, who has been dealing with dozen criminal cases against Crimean Muslims, was charged with an offense not directly related to his professional activity. On April 16, a user posted a publication criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine on Semedliayev’s Facebook page. The security officers took a screenshot of this publication, waited for another month, and then detained Semedliayev to draw up a report under Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offences of the Russian Federation for discrediting the Russian army. Moreover, Part 2 of the Article, which implies some serious consequences, was referred to.

The other three lawyers found themselves in the dock for a much more dubious reason. Half a year ago, Edem Semedliayev worked in one of the police departments after the mass arrests of Muslims near the Crimean Garrison Court. His activity angered greatly Ruslan Shambazov, the head of the Simferopol department of the Center for Combating Extremism, who demanded that the lawyer take off his clothes and demonstrate that there are no extremist tattoos on his body. When Semedliayev refused, a report was drawn up against him for disobeying the lawful demands of police officers and he was detained. At least three of his colleagues – Nazym Sheikhmambetov, Ayder Azamatov, and Emine Avamileva – responded to those actions. At 01:00, when they left the police station, the people who had gathered near asked them to tell them what would happen to Semedliayev and what he was accused of. Half a year later, Shambazov qualified that interview as an administrative offense committed by all three lawyers, namely participation in spontaneous gatherings of citizens that caused violations of sanitary regulations.




USA: University of Pittsburgh to help Ukrainian lawyers bring the war against Russia into the courtroom


Ukraine’s defense against Russia won’t just be a fight on the battlefield; the conflict will also come to blows in the courtroom. To help, the University of Pittsburgh is bringing about half a dozen Ukrainian lawyers and law students to Oakland to complete the school’s prestigious master’s degree in law.

Pitt’s School of Law launched the Ukrainian Legal Assistance Project in late May to serve as a resource for pro bono legal assistance from the United States and to train Ukrainian lawyers who plan to head back to the country to take the war to the courts.

“Modern warfare has moved to the courtroom, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine has brought international law and international courts and tribunals into a new era of relevance,” a statement on the project’s website reads.

The students will learn how to engage in “lawfare,” the use of law by a country against its enemies, to hold Russia to account for its violations of international law. Charles Kotuby, executive director of Pitt’s Center for International Legal Education, said students will learn how to defend Ukraine and help rebuild it.

“Not only are we training them to be future leaders in their country, but we’re going to be doing real legal work,” he said. “They’re going to be helping their country on a variety of fronts during this war.”

Students will investigate claims of human rights violations and learn how to help Ukraine move forward to become a member of the European Union. That process will require lengthy negotiations and changes to Ukraine’s current legal system. Pitt will match students with global law firms and non-governmental organizations that focus on the legal issues arising from the war in Ukraine.


Pitt is currently helping its accepted students secure visas to come to the United States. According to Kotuby, as many as six students can enroll in the program. He said Pitt plans to seek financial support from Pittsburghers to help the Ukrainian students settle in the city for as long as two years while they study.

“Other students from France and Germany can afford to show up and rent an apartment in Shadyside and study law here. These students can’t,” he said. “This is the type of support that people in this community can really give and can make a massive difference. Not only in these students’ lives but in Ukraine as a whole.”




https://www.cnb.avocat.fr/fr/actualites/guerre-en-ukraine-mise-en-oeuvre-des-sanctions-financieres-ciblees (FRANCAIS)

https://www.advokatsamfundet.dk/nyheder-medier/nyheder/2022/advokatsamfundet-tilbyder-hjaelp-til-ukrainske-advokater/ (DANISH)

Ukraine/Russia: Rights defenders condemn arbitrary detention of Crimean lawyers


While the international community’s main focus is on large-scale war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by the Russian military in the war zone in Ukraine, gross human rights violations in the occupied Crimea remain virtually unnoticed.

On May 26-27, Russian security forces detained four lawyers who have been helping victims of human rights abuses in Crimea since the first days of Russian occupation: Edem SemedliayevNazim SheikhmambetovAyder Azamatov, and Emine Avamileva.

On May 26, Konstantin Urazov and Ruslan Shambazov, officers of the Center for Combating Extremism (Center E) in occupied Crimea, detained Edem Semedliayev. The reason was that an unknown person tagged Semedliayev on a Facebook publication condemning the Russian army’s atrocities in Ukraine. Semedliayev was charged under an article on defamation of the Russian army (Article 20.3.3 of the Code of Administrative Offenses), which was adopted after the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine and began to be used in the occupied Crimea in violation of international humanitarian law. Later, “judge” Viktor Krapko found Edem Semedliayev guilty and fined him 75,000 rubles. Remarkably, Semedliayev was previously detained in the fall of 2021 on politically motivated charges of administrative offenses and stayed under administrative arrest for 12 days. The same Ruslan Shambazov took part in his prosecution.

Immediately after the court hearing, Center E officers detained Nazim Sheikhmambetov who defends Edem Semedliayev’s interests. Sheikhmbametov was charged with allegedly organizing a mass simultaneous stay of citizens in a public place, which led to a violation of public order (Article 20.2.2 of the Code of Administrative Offenses of the Russian Federation). The events in which Sheikhmambetov is accused took place in October 2021, when about 20 people gathered near the occupation police station to support the arbitrarily detained persons. The “court” sentenced Sheikhmambetov to 8 days of administrative arrest.

On May 27, occupation police detained lawyers Ayder Azamatov and Emine Avamileva, who defend Nazim Sheikhmambetov. They are charged with the same administrative offense as Sheikhmambetov. They could face up to 15 days in jail on these charges.

Arbitrary detentions of lawyers indicate that Russia has moved to a new round of reprisals in occupied Crimea. From now on, the occupiers persecute not only for expression, peaceful assemblies, religious activities, civic activism, journalism, anti-war rhetoric, or any disagreement with Russia’s actions in Crimea, they also persecute lawyers who provide professional assistance to victims of political repression.






https://www.lapresse.ca/debats/opinions/2022-05-26/temoignage-guerre-en-ukraine/un-avocat-canadien-au-coeur-du-combat-de-gladiateurs.php (FRANCAIS)

Second Lawyer Working On High Treason Case Flees Russia


Yevgeny Smirnov

A second lawyer for jailed Russian journalist Ivan Safronov, who is charged with high treason, has fled the country.

Yevgeny Smirnov told The Insider investigative group on November 23 that he is now in Georgia, adding that he had decided to leave Russia after an internal disciplinary investigation had been initiated against him by the Federal Security Service (FSB).

Safronov, a former adviser to the head of Russia’s space agency Roskosmos and a one-time journalist, was arrested and charged with high treason in July 2020 on allegations that he had passed secret information to the Czech Republic in 2017 about Russian arms sales in the Middle East.

In early November of this year, Safronov was additionally charged with passing classified information to a university in Switzerland and to Germany’s intelligence service.

Smirnov said the FSB has accused him of ignoring citations from authorities related to the case of Safronov and another case of alleged high treason.

Safronov’s other lawyer, Ivan Pavlov, left Russia for Georgia in September after authorities opened a case against him in April for allegedly disclosing classified information from the case, which the lawyer has rejected as politically motivated.

Safronov has also rejected the accusations against him and many of his supporters have held pickets demanding his release, saying that all materials related to the case have been deemed classified as part of a cover-up.





https://meduza.io/news/2021/11/23/advokat-ivana-safronova-evgeniy-smirnov-uehal-v-gruziyu-nakanune-stalo-izvestno-o-vozbuzhdennom-protiv-nego-distsiplinarnom-proizvodstve-po-zhalobe-fsb (RUSSIAN)

https://es.euronews.com/2021/11/24/russia-navalny (ESPANOL)

Crimea/Russia: Prominent rights lawyer Edem Semedliaev sentenced to 12 days administrative detention and fined


On 11 November 2021, the Central District Court of Simferopol found human rights defender Edem Semedliaev guilty of two counts of “disobeying the lawful orders of a police officer” (Article 19.3 of the Administrative Code). The Court sentenced human rights defender to 12 days of administrative detention and issued him a fine of 4,000 Russian rubles for refusing to undress and undergo an unlawful personal search.

Edem Semedliaev is a human rights defender and lawyer. Since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, he has been actively involved in legally representing and defending the rights of the Crimean Tatars, who have become one of the major targets for the authorities, alongside civil society activists and journalists.

On 11 November 2021, Edem Semedliaev was asked to come to the Center for Counteracting Extremism to review the paperwork for the previous charges. Later that day, the Central District Court of Simferopol convicted the human rights defender with two counts of “disobeying the lawful orders of a police officer” (Article 19.3 of the Administrative Code). Edem Semedliaev was sentenced to 12 days of administrative detention and a fine for refusing to undress to undergo a personal search. During the hearing, Edem Semedliaev’s wife recevied a fine for a parking violation and her car was towed away by police. The Crimean Solidarity group reports this event as an extension of state-sponsored pressure on Edem Semedliaev for his non-violent human rights work defending the rights of Crimean Tatars.





https://ua.krymr.com/a/novyny-krymu-semedliaev-zvilnennia-z-itt-sudaka/31531466.html (UKRAINIAN)

Russian Authorities Arrest Crimean Tatar Lawyer While Representing His Clients


Edem Semdlyaev, Simferopol, Crimea 2021

Yesterday, Russian authorities arbitrarily arrested lawyer Edem Semedlyaev, while he was advising clients at a police station, who themselves had been arbitrarily arrested. Today court released Semedlyaev pending review of the charges.

Semedlyaev is one of the few lawyers who continue to risk working on politically sensitive cases in Crimea. 

Semedlyaev arrived at the police station in Simferopol on Monday afternoon, to provide legal representation for Crimean Tatars detained earlier that day. The Crimean Tatars were detained outside a military court building, where they arrived to observe an appeal hearing in one of the many bogus “terrorism” cases brought against Crimean Tatars since Russia occupied the peninsula in 2014.

Due to quarantine restrictions, the judge allowed only five into the courtroom, while the rest remained outside. Although those outside complied with police orders to maintain the required distance apart and wear masks, after 20 minutes the National Guard arrived and detained 21 men, including several journalists. They took them to the police station and charged them with violating quarantine restrictions.

Another lawyer present at the police station told Human Rights Watch that Semedlyaev had asked an officer from the Interior Ministry’s anti-extremism department not to take away one of the detainees, to whom he wanted to provide legal counsel when he was finished with his current client. The officer refused, and Semedlyaev started an audio recording on his phone. The officer ordered Semedlyaev to stop recording and then suddenly ordered him and another lawyer to fully undress, allegedly to see if they had any “extremist tattoos.” Semedlyaev refused and was arrested on two counts of disobeying a police officer, an administrative offence punishable by a fine and up to 15 days in jail. He spent the night in a holding cell. He appeared before a court this evening and was released pending review of the charges.




https://ua.krymr.com/a/novyny-krymu-semedliaev-zvilnennia-z-itt-sudaka/31531466.html (UKRAINIAN)

At UN ICJ calls on Ukraine to ensure security of lawyers and judicial independence


Today, before the UN Human Rights Council, the ICJ called on Ukrainian authorities to ensure the security of lawyers and the independence of the judiciary, essential elements to make effective any human rights technical assistance and capacity building.

The statement reads as follows:

“Madame President,

In Ukraine, a number of lawyers, including those who defend human rights, in and outside of courts, including to face threats, harassment, and other attacks on their security.

Lawyers continue to be associated with their clients and may face detrimental consequences for representing them.

For example, in November 2020, lawyer Nikolay Osipchuk was physically attacked by the local Prosecutor and several other people in the court room of a district court. A pattern of such attacks was identified by the ICJ in a report issued last year.

The ICJ is further concerned at recent the attempts of interference by the Government with the independence of the judiciary in Ukraine.

The ICJ welcomes the withdrawal of the presidential draft law by which all judges of the Constitutional Court would have been dismissed. However, it is concerning that, following a criminal case initiated against him, the President of the Constitutional Court was suspended by a decision of the President of Ukraine. This decision, on dubious legal grounds, undermines the independence of the judiciary.

The ICJ urges that Ukraine:

  • Ensure prompt, thorough, impartial and independent investigations of all attacks on lawyers, leading where appropriate, to bringing those responsible to justice;