Helping Ukrainian Refugees from Donbass: a Necessity?

Obninsk City Court is considering the appeal of human rights activist Tatiana Kotlyar
against the judgment of a lower court: she insists that she registered Ukrainian in her
apartment since she acted in conditions of extreme necessity for them.

Helping Ukrainian Refugees from Donbass: a Necessity?

Obninsk City Court of Kaluga region has opened the hearing of Tatiana Kotlyar’s appeal on the judgment of the World Court which had accused her of fictitious registration of 166 refugees from Donbass region and one family from the Kyrgyzstan Republic in her own apartment. On September 12, the human rights activist was found guilty of 167 crimes under Article 322.2 of the Criminal Code of the Russian Federation. Subject to this judgment, Tatiana Kotlyar, who heads the Kaluga regional office of the Movement for Human Right, was sentenced to pay a fine of 150 thousand rubles and was simultaneously exempted from the punishment, as the statute of the limitations on the case ended.

This is the second criminal case for Kotlyar. In 2014, she was found guilty of committing a similar crime but was granted amnesty. However, the conviction was still appealed before the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), and at the moment, the ECHR is communicating with Russia on this case.

Tatiana Kotlyar firmly disagrees with the judgments of the court and believes that in finding her guilty of fictitious registration, or registration without right of habitation, the state is ignoring the problem which is the reason why the migrants turn to her for the registration. Namely – the fact that they are denied registration in the apartments where they actually live, and there is no other possible place where they could be registered. Civic Assistance Committee has covered Kotlyar’s position and the arguments of the defense are reported earlier.

In the appeal case that was heard before the Obninsk City Court on January 26, the human rights activist noted that she considered her conviction illegal, since the decision of the world court did not state that Tatyana Kotlyar had set refugees free of charge for migration accounting, that is, her actions had no mercenary scheme.

In addition, the judgment reads: no state of extreme necessity can be identified in Kotlyar’s actions (otherwise the actions would not be considered crime). In reality, every case was an emergency. The lawyer of the network “Migration and Law” of the Human Rights Center “Memorial” Illarion Vasiliyev, representing the interest of the human rights activist in the court repeatedly pointed out the emergency in the situation. The same was said during the hearings and witnesses – refugees, whom Kotlyar registered. They noted that the landlords would refuse to register them, and without a registration certificate, it was impossible to neither find a job nor file the documents to participate in the state program for resettlement of compatriots nor get medical help. In other words, it was virtually impossible to live a normal life. That being said, any registration in a place different than the actual place of residence is considered to be fictitious. Hence, those people had no legal way of being registered, except for maybe physically forcing the landlords to have them registered.

The World Court argued in its judgment that the refugees had no extreme necessity to be registered by Kotlyar as there was a host party – Temporary Registration Centers (TRCs) in the Kaluga Region. The court arrived at the conclusion that such centers exist based on the claim of the Obninsk Prosecutor Dmitry Chumak made in a regional newspaper that “special centers for registration of refugees are created in many cities”. The prosecutor did state that such centers exist in some cities, but he never said that they exist in Obninsk. Nevertheless, the court decided that such centers did exist in Obninsk and based its conviction on this conclusion.

“I only registered those refugees who could neither be registered in the place where they lived nor in any other place within Kaluga Region by relatives or acquaintances. To justify the absence of extreme necessity for Ukrainian citizens of my registration, the judge had only to explain how and where they could get a temporary registration (to register the migration account at the place of stay) if I refused to register them, where should I send them to register? If there was an organization or authority that registers Ukrainian refugees, there would be no extreme necessity in my registration. But there is none,” explains Tatiana Kotlyar in the text of the appeal.

Attorney Illarion Vasilyev added that he saw no reason that Kotlyar was previously tried in general for registration of all the refugees and now each case of registration is considered to be a separate criminal offense. Moreover, in 9 cases Tatiana Kotlyar was found not guilty, as the court decided that she had informed the authorities of her acts and the article that governs her conviction reads: A person who committed the crime provided for in this article shall be released from criminal liability if it contributed to the disclosure of this crime and if its actions do not contain other elements of the crime.” According to the lawyer, Kotlyar assisted in solving the crime in each case, as she never concealed the fact of registration, was constantly writing letters to authorities in which she was pointing out the existing problem, was regularly interviewed by journalists, saying that she registered Ukrainian refugees in her own apartment as they had no other way of being registered.

The hearing has been suspended for almost two weeks. Next hearing in the Obninsk City Court of Kaluga Oblast is scheduled for February 8.

Translated by Daria Gorbacheva

Read more
Scroll Up