26 January 2012
Pshonka Viktor Pavlovych
Riznitska Str.13/15 01601 Kyiv Ukraine
Dear General Prosecutor
I am writing to you concerning the case of Danial Ametov who is currently serving a three year sentence for allegedly intentionally injuring a police officer. Amnesty International is concerned that the conviction follows an unfair trial, which appears to have been politically motivated, and calls on you to release him. Since his transfer to Penal Colony 105 in Kherson Region, he has reportedly been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, and denied adequate medical care. Amnesty International is further concerned that he has been discriminated against in the prison colony because of his religious beliefs.
Danial Ametov, a respected member of the Crimean Tartar community, is an Imam of the ‘Selyam’ Muslim Community in Simferopil, an activist with the registered Crimean Tartar organization ‘Avdet’, and in 2006 he was appointed as a freelance advisor to the Speaker of the Crimean Parliament on land issues.
Amnesty International has reason to believe that his conviction has been politically motivated and is intended to prevent him playing an active role in defending the rights of Crimean Tartars; a Memo to the President of Ukraine allegedly from the State Security Service that was leaked to the press in December 2011 described the increasingly insistent demands for land rights by Crimean Tartars and blamed the organization «Avdet» for the increasing tension. The memo stated: «For the purposes of removing the brightest and most influential leader of the said organization, D. Ametov was sentenced.»
The charges against Danial Ametov are connected to an incident in January 2007 when a group of Crimean Tartars who had been occupying a disputed patch of land in Simferopol were forcibly removed by the employees of a building company, Olvi-Krim. Danial Ametov had initially joined in the occupation, but his group left the site in 2006 when they learnt that the site had been let to Olvi-Krim by the city council for a period of 3 years (the actions of the city council in letting the land to Olvi-Krim were found to be illegal in 2010). Another group of Crimean Tartars continued to occupy the land, and although he supported their cause, Danial Ametov was not actively involved in the occupation and did not organize the action.
At about 3am on 21 January 2007, the employees of the building company started to erect a fence around the site blocking the protesters into the site. They allegedly locked some into their shacks. The police arrived to mediate between the Crimean Tartars and the builders. Danial Ametov arrived at the scene at about 6am and stayed until 8am in his capacity as Advisor on Land Issues and as a community leader. The Crimean Tartars were concerned for the safety of those blocked on the site by the builders and when the police failed to take any action to protect them, they started to attempt to enter the site while the police tried to stop them. Danial Ametov joined those trying to enter the site. At one point to prevent himself from falling, he held on to one of the police shields and leaned upon it. Soon after, to protect himself from a blow from a police baton, he held on to the baton. He subsequently handed the baton back. He was present at the site for about 2 hours and during that time he exhorted the protesters in Crimean Tartar not to attack the police. There is video evidence, and witnesses are able to corroborate this version of events.
On 19 August 2007 Danial Ametov was charged under Article 293 (violation of public order). On 9 October 2008, he was charged under Article 342(2) (resisting law enforcement officials in protecting public order) and Article 345(2) (Intentional infliction of trivial or medium gravity bodily injuries to a law enforcement official). The last charge related to allegations that Danial Ametov hit Police Inspector A. Melnik in the face with a stick and inflicted a minor injury to his nose. The first two charges were subsequently dropped. Danial Ametov was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment on 12 October 2010 by the Central District Court of Simferopol. On 7 December 2010 the sentence was upheld by the Simferopol Appeal Court, and on 13 March 2011 the Higher Specialized Court on Civil and Criminal Matters reduced the sentence to three years.
Amnesty International is concerned that Danial Ametov was denied a fair hearing: he was denied the right to defend himself adequately, and during the appeal process he was denied adequate legal representation.
During the trial the judge refused all requests to bring witnesses for the defence. Witnesses who could testify that Danial Ametov never had a stick in his hands with which he allegedly hit the police officer, A. Melnik, were not permitted to testify by the judge. Character references from neighbours and others were ignored and the only character reference allowed was from the Simferopol police. Furthermore, important evidence for the defence was ignored; a video clearly showing Danial Ametov calling on the protesters not to attack the police was not translated from Crimean Tartar; significant discrepancies in A. Melnik’s testimony concerning the person who injured his nose and the role of Danial Ametov in the incident, which suggested that A. Melnik might have mistaken Danial Ametov for somebody else, were not explored. During the pre-trial investigation the police did not question any Crimean Tartars and only questioned the builders and the police. Finally, in September 2011, A. Melnik himself submitted a letter as part of an appeal denying that Danial Ametov had caused him any injuries.
A fundamental element of the principle of equality of arms and of the right to defence is the right of the accused to call and to question witnesses. Article 6 (3) (d) of the European Convention on Human Rights requires anyone charged with a criminal office to have the right »to examine or have examined witnesses against him and to obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on his behalf under the same conditions as witnesses against him».
Furthermore, in June 2011, Danial Ametov’s lawyer ceased representing him, and Danial Ametov authorized his wife to act on his behalf. She submitted an appeal against the decision of the Higher Specialized Court on Civil and Criminal Matters, but this was rejected on the grounds that she could not represent her husband, despite the fact that Article 44 of the Criminalal Procedural Code of Ukraine expressly permits close relatives to act as representatives before national courts in criminal proceedings. Danial Ametov, therefore submitted the appeal himself against the 13 March 2011 decision of the Higher Specialized Court on Civil and Criminal Matters.
Everyone in detention or facing a possible criminal charge has the right to the assistance of a lawyer of their choice to protect their rights and to assist in their defence. This right is guaranteed under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.
TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT
On 4 February 2011 Danial Ametov was taken to the prison guards office where nine officers allegedly forced him to strip naked, handcuffed him and forcibly shaved him. He alleges that he at no point offered any resistance to the guards. The officers twisted his arms and fingers, pressed their elbows and knees against his spine, kidneys and liver, and squeezed his genitalia. He was forced to kneel in front of Senior Lieutenant Trofimov, who shaved his beard off. The events were filmed by the officers on their mobile telephones. Danial Ametov asked for a medical examination and was granted one, but the doctor did not record the bruising which resulted from the ill-treatment.
On 8 February, he was informed that he would spent one month in solitary confinement for having the resisted the guards when they shaved him. He was unable to contact his relatives or his lawyer between 4 and 12 or 16 February. His wife found out that he had been placed in solitary confinement, but was unable to see him, and only found out what had happened when Danial Ametov saw his lawyer on 12 or 16 February. His wife complained to the Prosecutor General’s office about the torture and other ill-treatment, and the complaint was forwarded to the State Penitentiary Service, which replied in March 2011, that her husband had been forcibly shaved, but that he had resisted the prison officers and for this reason they decided to handcuff him. Furthermore, the State Penitentiary Service reported that Danial Ametov had been made familiar with the prison rules, and that these rules forbade prisoners to have beards.
Danial Ametov claimed that the prison rules were shown to him in Ukrainian which he does not understand and that he refused to sign to say that he had read them as he could not understand what he was shown.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION
According to Article 9 of the European Convention and Article 18 of the Covenant on Civil and Political Rights everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Basic Principle 6 of the Standard Minimum Rules for the treatment of prisoners also requires that the religious beliefs and moral precepts of the group to which a prisoner belongs should be respected. The UN Human Rights Committee has ruled in Boodoo v. Trinidad and Tobago that forbidding a Muslim prisoner to wear a beard was a violation of his freedom of religion.
Amnesty International is concerned that the right of Danial Ametov to practice his religion was violated while in Prison Colony 105, and that the forced removal of his beard amounted to torture or other ill- treatment. On 21 January 2011, Danial Ametov was summoned to the Director of the prison colony, and asked why he had a beard. When he explained that he was an Imam and requested the possibility to hold prayer meetings for other prisoners, the Director agreed and appeared to consent to the beard. However, the following day lower ranking officers started to demand that he shave his beard. On 3 February he was sentenced to five days in the punishment cell for having a beard and for being out of bed at 10pm because he was praying. He was subsequently remained in the punishment cell for a full month. To date prayer meeting have not been facilitated by the administration of the prison colony.
CONDITIONS IN DETENTION
Amnesty International is also concerned that the conditions in which Danial Ametov is detained could seriously affect his health and may violate the international prohibition on torture and other ill- treatment. He is currently in a cell which holds eight people, and currently there are seven prisoners including one known to have tuberculosis, and one with herpes. The cell which consists of two rooms is very badly ventilated and the windows are covered with metal screens which limit the amount of light and air that can enter. During the summer months in 2011, the authorities added another metal screen to the window in the dining area in the cell further decreasing the air-flow. The Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has repeatedly requested the removal of metal shutters from the windows of detention facilities in Ukraine. Most recently in its report on its visit to Ukraine in September 2009, the CPT requested the removal of metal shutters from the so called «arrest house» in Kyiv SIZO No. 13.
Furthermore, the World Health Organization calls on governments to implement the Global Stop TB Strategy which includes a component to address tuberculosis in prisons and calls for improvements in prison conditions and notes the importance of controlling infection in prisons through early diagnosis and the use of isolation measures.
Danial Ametov has hypertension, and currently suffers from frequent headaches, a dry mouth, nausea and vomiting. Both his legs below his knees are swollen, particularly the right leg. He has not been offered any medical treatment, nor has he been given the medicines brought to him by his wife.
Despite the symptoms of high blood pressure, the prison doctor claims that he is healthy.
In the light of the above Amnesty International is concerned that the charges against Danial Ametov are politically motivated and that he has been targeted for the active role that he has played as a member of Avdet in defending the rights of Crimean Tatars, who have returned to Ukraine following mass expulsions in 1944.
Amnesty International asks you to:
• Drop charges against Danial Ametov, and release him immediately and unconditionally;
• Ensure that a prompt, thorough and impartial investigation is carried out into the allegations that Danial Ametov was subjected to torture or other ill-treatment on 4 February at Prison Colony No. 105, and that the prison guards concerned are suspended from duty during the course of the investigation;
• Investigate the reasons why Danial Ametov’s wife was barred from representing him,-
• Ensure that the rights of Muslim prisoners, including Danial Ametov, to freedom of religion are respected, that no Muslim prisoners are forcibly shaved and that communal or private prayer facilities are provided;
• Ensure that prisoners infected with tuberculosis are isolated from other prisoners — in a manner consistent with their human rights — as far as possible to guard against infection;
• Ensure that the metal screens are removed from all windows in Prison Colony 105 and in any other detention facilities in the Ukraine in accordance with the recommendations by the CPT;
• Ensure that Danial Ametov is seen by an independent doctor who can verify his state of health and that he is given the medications that are provided by his wife.
A copy of this letter is being sent to the State Penitentiary Service. We look forward to your response at your earliest convenience.
Director Europe and Central Asia