Russian authorities accused of “kidnapping” the human rights activist from Crimea

Lviv, Ukraine

Iryna Danylovich’s family and friends have no idea where she is.

The Crimean activist and nurse went missing on her way home from work in Peninsula annexed to Russia over a week ago. She hasn’t been seen since.

Danylovich is believed to have been detained by Russian authorities, but they have refused to say whether, where or by whom she is being held. “Let’s assume you’re still in prison,” Danylovich’s attorney, Aider Azamatov, told CNN.

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

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

Around the same time, Azamatov said, balaclavas of the Russian special police unit came to the house Danylovich shares with his parents in the village of Vladislavovka near Feodosiya. Vladislavovka is located approximately 34 kilometers (21 miles) from Koktebel.

She told CNN that officials who ransacked the family’s home told her father she was sentenced to 10 days of administrative arrest for “transferring unclassified information to a foreign state.”

But the authorities refused to hand over a copy of the decision, according to Azamatov. He has not yet seen any official documents on Danylovich’s arrest. He was not allowed to access his client.

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

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

Azamatov said he personally checked seven pre-trial detention centers and special detention centers across the region, with no luck.

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

When CNN reached Feodosiya Police Station on Tuesday, the person who answered the call said he knew nothing of 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 its website is unreachable.

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

Through his work as a city journalist, Danylovich has highlighted the problems of the Crimean health system, including in his response to the coronavirus pandemic. She has written for numerous 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,” said Zmina, a Ukrainian human rights NGO.

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.

Because the authorities refuse to recognize the detention, the victim has no legal protection and the perpetrators are rarely prosecuted, according to the United Nations.

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

In addition to verbally telling Danylovich’s father during the search that his daughter was arrested, the authorities never officially acknowledged her detention or provided any reason to detain her.

“Starting from 7 May, the ninth day after his disappearance, [nothing is known] about where Iryna Danylovich is and in what state, “Zmina added.

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

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

The United Nations said that these were mainly kidnappings and kidnappings and that some of the victims – 39 men and four women – had been subjected to ill-treatment and torture. Eleven of the men were missing and one man remained in detention at the time of the report.

The United Nations said it was unable to document any criminal proceedings in relation to any of the cases.

Azamatov said Danylovich’s parents told him that people who entered the house were wearing civilian clothes; none of them showed up or showed ID. Instead they read the warrant and began searching 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 books on World War II.

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

On May 2, Azamatov appealed to the authorities and Danylovich’s parents filed a statement with the police.

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

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

He told Krym. I was real that I saw CCTV footage from one of the gas stations outside Koktebel showing a woman, in clothes similar to those Danylovich wore when she disappeared, standing at a bus stop. ‘bus.

She said the clip showed a black car approaching, several people in civilian clothes jump out and, despite the woman’s resistance, push her into the vehicle.

Azamatov told CNN that the gas station refused to deliver the footage and that after seeing the video, Bronislav Danylovich filed a new statement with the police calling for a criminal case.

“We are now waiting for a video from the place of his abduction, they promised to provide it so that I could study it,” Azamatov said.

Meanwhile, a group of 19 human rights institutions are calling on agencies and officials from the United Nations, the Council of Europe and the European Union to help with Danylovich’s case.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists (CPJ) urged the Russian authorities in Crimea to “immediately provide any information regarding Danylovich’s position and let the media operate freely”.

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

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