Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation demands the immediate release of Crimean Tatar leader, Ilmi Umerov. We stand with the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group, Human Rights Watch, European Commission, and US State Department in this demand. We encourage other governments and NGOs to similarly call for Mr. Umerov’s release.
The Return of Punitive Psychiatry
Ilmi Umerov was arrested by Russian authorities on May 12, 2014 after protesting illegal Russian occupation of the Crimean Peninsula and the repression of native Crimean Tatars. For publicly speaking out against Russia’s illegal occupation, Russian authorities have charged Mr. Umerov with “public calls to action aimed at violating Russian territorial integrity,” which can carry a prison sentence of five years. More alarmingly, on August 18, 2016, Russian authorities took Mr. Umerov to Psychiatric Hospital No. 1 in Simferopol, where he is being held against his will. Punitive psychiatry, an odious Soviet practice, has returned in Russian-occupied Crimea.
Mr. Umerov’s lawyer has not been allowed to visit him in the psychiatric clinic. Mr. Umerov is diabetic, and his family has pleaded with Russian authorities to provide him with three meals a day. There is significant concern that Russian authorities are subjecting Mr. Umerov to the same fate as Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian whistleblower who died after prolonged neglect and abuse in a Russian detainment facility.
It is urgent that the international community pressure Russia to release Ilmi Umerov, held against his will in a psychiatric facility for protesting Russia’s illegal occupation of his homeland. In the past, when pressured by the international community, Putin had released longtime political prisoner Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Ukrainian pilot Nadia Savchenko.
Crimean Tatars constitute a captive nation. On May 18, 1944, Stalin’s Army put approximately 200,000 Crimean Tatars on trains and deported them to Siberia; thousands died along the way. The Tatars were finally allowed to return to their native Crimea when the Soviet Union collapsed, but tragically find themselves under the Russian boot heel once again. Putin’s Army has reoccupied the Crimean Peninsula, arrested scores of Crimean Tatars, banned the Tatar legislature—the Mejlis—and arrested Tatar leader, Ilmi Umerov.