It has been almost two months since the latest searches carried out in homes of Crimean Tatars which led to dozens of arrests on grounds of “terrorism” and “extremism”. We spoke to a civic activist based in Russian-annexed Crimea about their likely fate.
The 23 Crimean Tatars are currently arrested until May 15 and face a minimum of 10 years' imprisonment. On March 29, all detainees were transferred to Rostov-on-Don in Russia where they were placed in separate remand centers. This violates article 76 of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, which states that “protected persons accused of offences shall be detained in the occupied country, and if convicted they shall serve their sentences therein.”
READ MORE: What We Know About 23 Crimean Tatars Detained in March
Crimean Tatar Eldar Vaapov confirmed all detainees are currently in Rostov-on-Don and a court hearing is expected to take place on May 15. He believes it will result in prolongation of their detention for a further two months.
Vaapov views the latest wave of arrests as a strike on the Crimean Solidarity organization due to many of the victims leading an active way of life and being part. Crimean Solidarity emerged in 2016 and started helping families of detainees both legally and financially. Among the arrested, three were citizen journalists and one was a public defender. All the detainees are accused in relation to the Hizb ut-Tahrir case, with terrorism charges brought against them. Vaapov sees the situation as a “blow to the [Crimean Tatar] public and [to any] resistance to injustice.”
READ MORE: The Cost of Crimean Annexation is Life: Special Project
The civic activist believes it is a standard Russian practice to use cliches in its own interests. Firstly, an organization is blamed for terrorist actions. Later, the case is applied to everyone who disagrees with policies in Crimea.
According to Vaapov, the key task for Crimean Solidarity at the moment is to raise awareness of the problem on a global scale. At the same time, they strive to fight within the constraints of the law. Even with limited means to counteract the injustice, Vaapov is hopeful all prisoners will return home soon.