Urgent Appeal

Russia: Human rights lawyers in occupied Crimea stripped of professional licences


The Observatory has been informed about the disbarment of human rights lawyers Messrs. Nazim Sheikhmambetov and Rustem Kyamilev, and Ms. Lilya Gemeji. The lawyers are known for representing Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian political prisoners in courts and providing legal assistance to Crimean Tatars.

On July 14, 2022, Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Rustem Kyamilev and Lilya Gemeji were stripped of their lawyers’ license, effectively preventing them from defending their clients and representing them in court in criminal cases. The Chechen Bar Association revoked their professional status at the request of the Chechen Ministry of Justice. The revocation took place in the absence of lawyers and in secret. They had no opportunity to raise objections, and they were not notified of the disciplinary proceedings. Ms. Gemeji was given one day's notice of the date and time of the meeting of the qualification commission, while Mr. Kyamilev and Mr. Sheikhmambetov were not informed at all. They were only notified by the Bar Association on their disbarment on July 19, 2022. Ms. Gemeji was notified by e-mail, while Messrs. Sheikhmambetov and Kyamilev were informed by phone.

Since March 2020 the three lawyers had been requesting to change their Bar association from Chechnya to Crimea, where they live and work, but their requests were repeatedly denied first alleging COVID-19 restrictions and later on due to their “unreliable status” in Chechnya. After their last attempt on January 2022, the Crimean Bar Association did not accept their applications within one month after the request, as mandated by Russian law. This unjustified and illegal administrative delay led to the three lawyers being disbarred on the grounds that they had failed to register in time. The fact that three lawyers were simultaneously deprived of their professional status indicates political character of their persecution. The lawyers plan to challenge their disqualification and are preparing relevant complaints to the Russian court and the Federal Chamber of Advocates. In the meantime, the lawyers are resolved to continue defending victims of human rights violations in Crimea, the only limitation being that they can no longer represent victims in criminal cases.

The Observatory recalls that since the occupation of Crimea by the Russian Federation in 2014, Crimean Tatars and those who defend their rights have been targeted by the Russian authorities, including through enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment, arbitrary detentions, judicial harassment, arbitrary searches and other discriminatory measures. The disbarment of the above-mentioned human rights lawyers is yet another step in the repression of human rights defenders in general and of Crimean-Tatars in particular in Russian-occupied Ukraine.

The Observatory further recalls that Mr. Sheikhmambetov and other human rights lawyers, including Emine Avamileva, Edem Semedliayev and Ayder Azamatov, had recently been arbitrarily arrested and administratively harassed for their legitimate activities representing and providing legal assistance to Crimean Tatar activists and Ukrainian political prisoners.

The Observatory expresses its grave concern over the disbarment of Nazim Sheikhmambetov, Rustem Kyamilev and Lilya Gemeji and urges the Russian authorities to immediately reinstate their lawyers’ licences and to put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the administrative and judicial levels, against them and all human rights defenders and lawyers in Crimea.

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