Person of the Week: Emil Kurbedinov

posted 29 May 2017, 01:17 by Rights in Russia   [ updated 29 May 2017, 01:23 ]
On 26 May 2017 human rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov, who works in Crimea, won Front Line Defenders' 2017 award for human rights defenders at risk. In the announcement, Front Line Defenders, an Irish NGO which works for the security and protection of human rights defenders around the world, stated: "Since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Emil has defended the persecuted Crimean Tatar minority, civil society activists and journalists. He also provides emergency response and documentation of rights violations during raids and searches of activists’ homes. In January 2017, Emil was on his way to the house of an activist that had been raided, when masked representatives from Crimea's Centre for Counteracting Extremism detained him and took him to a local directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) for interrogation. A district court found him guilty of 'propagandising for extremist organisations' and sentenced him to ten days in detention." 

As Front Line Defenders reports, in his acceptance speech, Emil Kurbedinov said: "When we defend political prisoners and persecuted activists, we are going against a system in which there’s no hope of a fair trial. Winning an acquittal for my clients is almost impossible – but what I can do is show them that despite the risks, I will not abandon them."

Halya Coynash, writing on the website Human Rights in Ukraine, commenting on the award, wrote: "The honour is truly well-deserved, although Emil himself considers it recognition of the work done by all lawyers and human rights defenders in Crimea. [...] It would be hard to over-state the vital role Emil Kurbedinov has played since Russia’s invasion of Crimea. He is acting for defendants in virtually all of the ever-increasing number of politically motivated prosecutions in Crimea [...]. On January 26 this year, Kurbedinov was detained while he and fellow rights lawyer Edem Semedlyaev were driving to the home of a Crimean Tatar activist, Seiran Saliev, 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. The wife of one political prisoner wrote that it was Emil they all turn to in the first instance, and by imprisoning him, the occupation regime were depriving many of defence. [...] Writing from Dublin on Friday, Emil once against stressed“This is an award for those who have come out in defence of persecuted Crimean Tatars, Crimean Muslims, civic activists and the political prisoners themselves. How much work there is ahead of us, yet how happy I am that I am not alone…Thank you.”

Photo: Front Line Defenders

Halya Coynash, 'Crimean Tatar rights lawyer Emil Kurbedinov wins major human rights award,'
 Human Rights in Ukraine, 26 May 2017
'Crimean Tatar Activist Wins 2017 Award for Human Rights Defenders at Risk,' Front Line Defenders, 26 May 2017
'Emil Kurbedinov, HRD and Lawyer,' Front Line Defenders, 26 January 2017
'Person of the Week: Emil Kurbedinov,' Rights in Russia, 30 January 2017