Human rights defenders call for resolving the situation with Ukrainian advocates, which stayed in the occupied territories of Crimea and separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, renewing their connections with advocates’ self-governance bodies and providing for investigation of cases of pressure and assaults on them. This is the main conclusion of the report “Advocates in Occupation”, prepared by Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union in partnership with the Regional Human Rights Center, advocates from the occupied territories of Ukraine and resettled advocates, which was presented in Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
The report is based on the information from the open sources, interviews with the lawyers, which for some time stayed or now stays in the occupied territories of separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and Crimea, and the responses to the information requests sent to the authorities.
According to the results of the survey, out of 90 advocates, which worked in the territory of separate regions of Luhansk oblast, about 20 are not working now; in Donetsk oblast about 200 advocates remain. Advocates, which after the events of 2014 for different reasons had to stay there, could not secure the livelihoods, so they started receiving proposals from the occupying authorities for reregistration in line with their requirements and renewing their activities as advocates, told Olga Semeniuk, the advocate, internally displaced person from the occupied territories in the east of Ukraine. We know about one case of murder of an advocate in the occupied territory (the reasons are not known), and also the cases of kidnapping the advocates, detaining them, getting hold of their property. “We hope that Ukrainian law enforcement bodies will investigate and find out these facts. Unfortunately, for the time being, judging by the response to the information request sent to the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine these facts are not investigated”, – stated Olga Semeniuk.
From about 1 700 advocates, which worked in Crimea, over 980 stopped their activities. In order to have an opportunity to work further they had to recognize themselves to be the citizens of Russia and reregister.
Liliya Gemedgi, human rights defender from Crimea, stressed that all, not loyal to Russian occupying authorities, lawyers were under pressure. “Human rights defenders in Crimea make “camouflaging” of the public life difficult – they disclose and bring up the real human rights situation for discussion at the international platforms. […] Currently the provisions on extremism and terrorism have become very handy. Any demonstration of disagreement with the occupying authorities leads to the situation when a person is held liable under these provisions”, – she mentioned.
Liliya Gemedgi reminded, that on October 27, the so called prosecutors office of the occupying authority issued a warning, for herself and her colleague and Crimean Solidarity activist Edem Semedlyaev, “on inadmissibility of the extremist activities”. “We sent an inquiry with the request to clarify what exactly was unlawful in our activities, demanding to provide materials on the basis of which this warning was issued. We received formal run around reply. Later we saw, that Emil Kurbedinov, who eventually received the similar warning, was again placed under administrative arrest”, – told Liliya Gemedgi. She added that in parallel the occupying authorities had started information campaign against Emil Kurbedinov.
Roman Martynovskyi, the lawyer-internally displaced from Sevastopol, expert of the Regional Human Rights Center, pointed out that advocates, which had stayed in separate regions of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts and Crimea, lost the connection with the advocates’ self-governance bodies and appeared to be in the uncertainty.
“Nobody explained how to behave, can you receive the status of Russian advocate or not, how will UNBA [Ukrainian National Bar Association] perceive this… Surely there are cases when the lawyers shall be criminally liable for their actions – for example, Olga Kovitidi, who was an active participant of the “Crimean spring” and currently she is in Federation Council of the Russian Federation, in the national defense committee. By the way, she keeps the status of Ukrainian lawyer. The same can be said about so called “deputy ministers of justice” “LNR/DNR” Ms Radomska and Ms Aviltseva. But as for average advocates protecting simple people, we shall state that such people cannot be held liable in any case. More so, we shall call for the advocates to get actively involved in this process and protect people, which stay in occupation”, – stressed Roman Martynovskyi.
The recommendations of the report in particular included: to ensure investigation of the cases of persecution of advocates; to renew the activities of the advocates’ self-governance bodies of ARC and Sevastopol; to provide access to professional development for them. “We shall monitor the situation, encouraging the advocates’ self-governance bodies and government authorities to have this aspect constantly in focus and understand that the advocates are the powerful tool ensuring professional human rights protection in the uncontrolled territories”, – summarized Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Executive Director of Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union.
The Head of the UNBA Committee on Protection of Advocates Professional Rights and Guarantees, Ganna Boryak, who was present at the briefing, mentioned that for the moment UNBA had got in contact with Ukrainian advocates in Crimea and was preparing to address international human rights organizations for protection of their interests. She also mentioned that Crimean Bar Council in Sevastopol carried on its work. According to her, reregistration is not a mandatory requirement for Ukrainian advocates in Crimea, it is sufficient to get certified for legal profession by the Ministry of Justice in the Russian Federation as the foreign advocate.
Roman Martynovskyi, in his reply to the comment, pointed out that such action of an advocate would be actually the recognition of Crimea as the territory of the Russian Federation. Besides, all Ukrainian citizens, registered in Crimea, are automatically considered by Russia to be its citizens in line with its law – 6 FKL (Federal Constitutional Law), thus they cannot receive the status of the foreign advocate in the Russian Federation.
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