In previous articles, we analyzed in detail the role of Crimean collaborators in the so-called “Putin’s special operation” in Ukraine. We drew attention to covert “mobilization”, threats to “nationalize” Ukrainian property, widespread censorship and propaganda of war, and the role of Crimean traitors in the occupation of some Ukrainian cities.

However, in these materials, we mostly mentioned the “political leadership” of the temporarily occupied Crimea, which is ready to carry out the Kremlin’s criminal orders without hesitation, without even realizing that in the near future such war crimes will have to answer in international tribunals.

In this article, we would like to focus in more detail on a separate section of Crimean collaborators and Russian colonizers, which plays an equally important role in promoting Kremlin narratives on the occupied peninsula.

This is a fake “judicial power” of the occupied Crimea, which consists in part of traitorous judges who violated the oath and in 2014 began to cooperate with the aggressor state. They have been given a special role in intimidating Crimean residents and suppressing anti-war sentiment on the Ukrainian peninsula.

Some facts and the situation as a whole were analyzed by experts of the Association of Reintegration of Crimea.

At the outset, it should be noted that since the beginning of the occupation, Russia has begun an active transformation of the “judicial system” of Crimea in order to make it completely under control. Experts say that since then, the Crimean “courts” have begun to completely ignore the rules of European and international law, which is in line with the general tendencies of the aggressor. At this time, there is also an increase in the number of politically motivated decisions of the Crimean “courts”. In such cases, “court verdicts” have almost always become convictions, and “punishments” – the maximum, especially when it comes to political cases in which the Crimean Tatars are accused [1].

It is clear that the Kremlin has done everything possible to make the “courts” on the temporarily occupied peninsula dependent on the occupiers and making biased “decisions”. Among the most significant changes that contributed to the leveling of the independence of “judges” are: the termination of administrative courts; liquidation of the institute of investigative judge; creation of a system of “military courts”; granting “courts of appeal” the “right to review their own decisions”; introduction of the practice of revoking the aggressor’s “court decisions” by the Supreme Court “in the order of supervision” [2].

That is, the Kremlin has done everything possible to turn the “courts” not into an institution for resolving disputes, but into a punitive machine that grinds all those who prevent the aggressor from building a “Russian world” on the occupied peninsula. For example, last year a “court” in Simferopol extended for six months the “arrest” of a freelancer of Radio Svoboda, who is accused of “preparing a terrorist act”. In fact, the grenade in this “case” does not even have the fingerprints of political prisoner Vladislav Yesipenko [3].

Thus, in fact, he is illegally detained only for his professional activities, which the Kremlin does not like. From the beginning of the large-scale invasion of Ukraine, the “courts” of the occupied Crimea began to actively decide against peaceful protesters who opposed the military invasion. Thus, the “Central District Court” of Simferopol, after considering two “administrative cases”, imposed fines on activists Ayder Gemedzhi and Eskander Saliyev [4]. It should be noted that these Crimean residents did not demand the “resignation of the government”, but they simply opposed the war with Ukraine, which has already led to numerous casualties among the local population of the occupied peninsula.

According to many activists who have faced the “judicial system” of Crimea, such a demonstrative massacre of citizens should suggest the inadmissibility of freedom of speech for the aggressor. Crimean activists also believe that such demonstrativeness indicates the complete control of the self-proclaimed “government”, including the “courts”, by Russia’s special services [5].

Of course, in such conditions, fake “justice” becomes an instrument of coercion of dissenters, because the search for truth becomes almost impossible. It should be noted that it was in the first weeks of the large-scale war that Crimean “courts” began hearing cases against Crimean activists. Most likely, this is done deliberately to demonstrate the “steadfastness of the regime” in the Kremlin and the “finality of decisions” on military invasion of Ukraine. In other words, according to the criminal plan of the aggressor, the Crimean people must understand that any anti-war actions are inadmissible.

To confirm this, here is another fact.

The so-called “Supreme Court” of Crimea recently “upheld a ruling” against a Simferopol resident who, along with flowers, left a cardboard plaque with the words “No to War” near the Shevchenko monument. Thus, the Crimean woman was fined 30,000 rubles for “discrediting the actions of the Russian armed forces” [6]. It should be noted that on March 4, the aggressor introduced changes to the law, which provide for administrative and criminal liability for “spreading fakes against the Russian army”, in particular for using the word “war” instead of “special operation”.

The “Gagarin District Court” of Sevastopol also stood out when it fined a 55-year-old Crimean man for breaking a propaganda banner in support of the war with Ukraine. Thus, the “courts” in the occupied Crimea have resorted to biased coercion, which is used to suppress the right of Crimean residents to their own political convictions. Note that the fines are quite significant, because in hryvnia they amount to more than 10 thousand hryvnias. This is quite a significant amount for the Crimean residents, whose well-being has fallen significantly during the years of occupation.

There are generally curious cases when Russian punishers pass very strange “case materials” to the “courts” of Crimea. For example, in April this year, the occupiers detained Olga Dyachenko, a translation agency employee, for wearing a manicure in the colors of the Ukrainian flag and the red and black flag. Moreover, the “police” was called by one of the visitors to the institution where Olga worked [8]. In fact, it is a kind of parallel reality, when a person is punished for his views and beliefs, and for the fact that he is not afraid to consider himself Ukrainian. But such is the harsh and ruthless reality of the “Russian world”. At the same time, according to the information received from the Crimean residents, the consideration of such “cases” has been put on stream.

Another group of cases that Crimean “courts” are actively involved in are cases against Crimean residents who refuse criminal “conscription” and “mobilization”. Human rights activists have noted the recent increase in the number of such “cases” and added that criminal punishment is one of the tools to force Crimean youth and “reservists” to “mobilize” [9]. It is obvious that the mobilization of the population of the occupied territories is prohibited by international humanitarian law.

However, the “courts” on the occupied peninsula do not pay attention to this, as well as to the relevant case law of the European Court of Human Rights. For them, a more important argument is the guidelines of the self-proclaimed “government” of Crimea, which must implement the “mobilization plan”. In this regard, the thesis of the experts of the Network Freedoms project is quite accurate, noting that the “special operation continues” not only in Ukraine – it continues in the “judicial system” of the occupied territories. Apparently, everyone there is “under martial law” and is considering “cases” on a conveyor belt. All this is accompanied by numerous violations, even in the framework of the illegal application of Russian laws [10].

The “cases” of “evaders” and political prisoners who speak out against the war are being handled under close police protection. Punishers detain bloggers and journalists who try to cover events in the “courts” [11]. Similarly, under the guise of punishers, Crimean “courts” are making “decisions” against Crimean activists who have publicly condemned the war. For example, the “Krasnogvardeysky District Court” fined Zair Smedlyaev, chairman of the Kurultay’s Election Commission of the Crimean Tatar people, 40,000 rubles on charges of “discrediting the Russian army” during the war against Ukraine.

The accusation was based on a post on the social network with the following content: “How many more civilians, women and newborns must die for the world to begin to distinguish genocide from special operations?” [12]. This indicates total censorship and violation of the rights of Crimean residents to freedom of political belief. Moreover, not only locals but also citizens who come to the Crimea suffer from “judicial” arbitrariness on the occupied peninsula. The following story is a clear indication that Ukrainians should not trust the occupier and use his so-called “green corridors”.

Rustem Huguryk, a resident of the occupied Kherson Region from the village of Novoaleksiyivka, was detained with his family and detained at a checkpoint as he tried to enter the Crimea. He was accused of being in the Crimean Volunteer Battalion named after Noman Chelebidzhikhan, which is “banned in Russia”. After a long detention in the FSB, the activist was brought to the “Kyiv District Court” in Simferopol, which imprisoned Rustem for two months. An “investigation” has been launched, as a result of which the victim of repression may receive a very real prison term [13].

This is despite the fact that Crimean collaborators are constantly agitating Ukrainians to use humanitarian corridors. The “courts” in the occupied Crimea have completely copied the model of Russian courts, which have recently been busy discrediting the Russian army. In just a few weeks, more than 300 cases have been considered. [14]. Most of the participants in such cases simply called for peace with Ukraine, and did not even “insult” the Russian army. But even that is enough for the Kremlin to make a person guilty and impose hefty fines.

With significant military defeats in Ukraine, Russia has intensified the case of Crimean political prisoners, which were previously considered by the “courts” of the peninsula. In particular, on March 10, 2022, the Southern District Military Court in Rostov hastily ruled on the case of ‘Crimean Solidarity’ activists. Five defendants were sentenced to 15 to 19 years in prison.

It seems that in the near future we will see such agony more and more often, because the Kremlin has nothing left but to expel Ukrainian activists. What else can be expected from the Crimean “courts”, when they took into account his active participation in the terrorist group “Donetsk people’s republic” as a “mitigating circumstance for the defendant” for drunk driving.

The punitive system of the aggressor does not care about “formalities”. For example, back in 2017, the “Bakhchisaray District Court” fined a witness to the searches of Crimean Tatars Emil Belyalov 150,000 rubles for participating in rallies. It turned out that the video showed Emil’s twin brother named Emin, but the “court” did not find out “all the details” and simply “decided to impose a fine”.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian authorities are gradually moving within the legal field and are doing everything to bring Crimean collaborators from among the “judges” to justice. For example, at the end of January this year, the prosecutor’s office of the AR of Crimea and Sevastopol sent an indictment to the “chairman of the Simferopol District Court” of the occupiers Serhiy Ivanov. He is accused of treason, because in 2014 he violated the oath of office in an illegally formed “court” [18].

This is a clear and understandable message to those who believe that responsibility for cooperation with the aggressor state can be avoided. It is obvious that such signals are already reaching the population of the occupied peninsula. It is hardly a coincidence that there are constant reports of mining “courts” on the peninsula. The self-proclaimed “authorities” called such mining as “fake” and blamed Ukraine for them. It is quite possible that such mining are imitated by Crimean collaborators themselves, who want to “justify” aggression against Ukraine. However, most Crimean residents have already realized the role of the occupiers’ “courts” in promoting policies of violence and war. And most likely they don’t like it very much.

As we can see, the occupiers’ “courts” on the occupied peninsula can only carry out the Kremlin’s political orders, which have nothing to do with legality, respect for human rights and integrity. In contrast, Ukrainian courts continue to effectively fight for state independence and territorial integrity. In particular, a week before the start of the total war, the Kherson City Court arrested 5 ships that illegally entered the ports of the temporarily occupied Crimea. In total, since 2014, Ukrainian courts have arrested up to 59 vessels [20].

Thus, the “courts” in the occupied Crimea act on the side of the aggressor state and promote the war with Ukraine in every possible way. Basically, we’ve identified two key areas for such collaboration. The first is related to the suppression of anti-war sentiments on the peninsula, which the Kremlin is so afraid of. The point here is that, in fact, “court decisions” justify war crimes in Ukraine and promote the ideology of Russia’s exclusivity in the world.

The second involves the struggle of “courts” against those who refuse to fight in Ukraine due to the application of sanctions for refusing to mobilize. This is not just about the role of the “court” as a punitive body, but mostly about the mechanism of intimidation, because people are faced with a choice: either to fight or get a long prison term.

Of course, we are not talking about any “impartiality”, let alone “independence” in relation to the “courts” of the occupied Crimea. Immediately after the occupation started, the Kremlin built a “judicial system” on the peninsula that would serve only the interests of the authorities. It should be noted that some of the “judges” in the Crimea are those who previously administered justice and took an oath to the Ukrainian people. So, when they chose the path of traitors, they found themselves hostage to Crimean collaborators and the Kremlin.

However, such “immunity” will only apply until the de-occupation of Crimea, when “judges” will have to answer for all illegally mobilized and imprisoned people who have called for peace.

Until then, both the “courts” and other occupiers’ punitive structures remain a legitimate military target on the peninsula for both the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Ukrainian guerrillas and underground fighters.