Russia accused of ‘kidnapping’ Crimean human rights activist

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The Crimean human rights activist and nurse disappeared on her way home from work on the peninsula annexed to Russia more than a week ago. She hasn’t been seen since.

Danylovich is believed to have been detained by Russian authorities, but they declined to say if, where or by whom she is being held.

“We assume she is still in prison,” Danylovich’s lawyer, Aider Azamatov, told CNN .

Danylovich’s father Bronislav told news website Krym.Realii, an affiliate of Radio Liberty, that his daughter planned to take public transport home on the morning of April 29, after finishing her shift at a medical center in Koktebel, southeastern Crimea.

Azamatov said the nurse stopped answering the phone at that point.

At about the same time, Azamatov said, balaclava-clad officers from the Russian special police unit arrived at the house Danylovich shares with his parents in the village of Vladislavovka, near Feodosiya. Vladislavovka is about 34 kilometers from Koktebel.

he told the CNN that officials who searched the family home told her father that she had been sentenced to 10 days in administrative detention for “transferring non-confidential information to a foreign state”.

But the authorities refused to hand over a copy of the decision, according to Azamatov. He still hasn’t seen any official documents about Danylovich’s arrest. He didn’t have access to his client.

“Iryna has no procedural status, which is why they hide her from me,” he said.

Azamatov, Danylovich’s family and various human rights organizations have been looking for her in detention centers in several Crimean cities since her disappearance.

Azamatov said he himself had checked seven pretrial detention centers and special detention centers across the region, without success.

Crimean authorities declined to comment. The officer on duty at the prosecutor’s office in Russian-occupied Crimea referred the CNN to authorities in Danylovich’s hometown.

when the CNN arrived at the police station in Feodosiya on Tuesday (10), the person who answered the call said he didn’t know anything about the case and hung up.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russian-occupied Crimea did not respond to a written request for comment. A phone number listed on their website is not available.

On May 6 – Danylovich’s 43rd birthday – human rights activists left gifts outside one of the detention centers, even though they knew she was not being held there.

Through her work as a citizen journalist, Danylovich exposed problems in Crimea’s healthcare system, including in its response to the coronavirus pandemic. She wrote for various Ukrainian media outlets and posted her findings on Facebook.

“The kidnapping of Iryna Danylovich has signs of enforced disappearance under the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance,” Zmina, a Ukrainian human rights NGO, said in a statement.

The term enforced disappearance describes disappearances perpetrated by state actors or others acting on behalf of or with the support of state authorities, followed by a refusal to reveal the person’s fate and whereabouts.

As the authorities refuse to recognize the detention, the victim has no legal protection and the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted, according to the UN.

The UN says the practice is often used as a strategy to spread terror in society.

Other than verbally telling Danylovich’s father during the search that his daughter was arrested, authorities never officially acknowledged her detention or provided any reason for her detention.

“As of May 7, the ninth day after her disappearance, nothing is known about where Iryna Danylovich is and in what status,” added Zmina.

Danylovich’s case is the latest in a series of disappearances of activists, journalists and ordinary citizens reported over the past decade in Crimea.

According to a report published in March 2021, the UN Human Rights Office documented at least 43 cases of enforced disappearances in Crimea between 2014 and 2018.

The UN said they were mostly kidnappings and kidnappings and that some of the victims – 39 men and four women – were subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Eleven of the men remained missing and one man remained in detention at the time of the report.

The UN said it was unable to document any process in relation to any of the cases.

Azamatov said that Danylovich’s parents told him that the people who entered their home were wearing civilian clothes; none of them came forward or showed identification.

Instead, they read the warrant and started looking for different rooms at the same time, the couple said.

They said officials confiscated all electronic equipment, including three phones that no longer work and several books, including a publication by Viktor Suvorov.

Suvorov, whose real name is Vladimir Bogdanovich Rezun, is a former Soviet spy who defected to the UK and reinvented himself as an author of World War II books.

Danylovich’s parents told Azamatov that the officers refused to leave a copy of the list of items seized or a copy of the search report.

On May 2, Azamatov appealed to the authorities and Danylovich’s parents gave statements to the police.

“My appeals to the Crimean Prosecutor’s Office, the Military Prosecutor’s Office, the Military Investigation Committee and the Russian Investigation Committee have not yet been answered. There is an appeal to the police from the father, there is still no response,” said Azamatov.

Bronislav Danylovich said he saw security video that appeared to show the moment his daughter was kidnapped.

He told Krym.Realii that he saw CCTV footage from one of the gas stations outside Koktebel showing a woman, in clothes similar to the ones Danylovich was wearing when she disappeared, standing at a bus stop.

He said the clip showed a black car arriving, several people in civilian clothes jumping and – despite the woman’s resistance – pushing her into the vehicle.

Azamatov told CNN that the gas station refused to hand over the footage and that, after viewing the video, Bronislav Danylovich submitted a new statement to the police demanding that a criminal case be opened.

“Now we are waiting for a video of the location of his kidnapping, they promised to provide it so I could study it,” Azamatov said.

Meanwhile, a group of 19 human rights institutions is appealing to agencies and officials from the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union to help in the Danylovich case.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) urged Russian authorities in Crimea to “immediately present any information about Danylovich’s whereabouts and allow the media to work freely.”

Gulnoza Said, CPJ’s program coordinator for Europe and Central Asia, in a statement. “The alarming disappearance of Iryna Danylovich raises fears of yet another crackdown on independent reporting in Russian-occupied Crimea, which is already an extremely restrictive environment for the press.”

Source: CNN Brasil

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