Human rights defender and civic journalist Iryna Danylovych is facing continued legal harassment and violation of her fundamental rights as a reprisal for her vital work in the Occupied Crimea. Danylovych must be immediately released, allowed to return to Ukraine, and, while still held in detention in Russia, provided with necessary medical care.
Iryna Danylovych advocates for the rights of health workers in the Russia-occupied Crimea, exposes abuses and problems in the healthcare system in the region through her reporting and engages with the trade union to improve the situation of medical professionals.
Danylovych was first apprehended on 29 April 2022, allegedly by Russian law enforcement officers – while returning home from work. Her house was searched on the same day. The circumstances of her arrest amounted to an enforced disappearance, as her whereabouts were concealed from her relatives for around two weeks.
On 7 May, the rights defender was charged with “illegal acquisition, transfer, sale, storage, transportation, or carrying of explosives or explosive devices” and ordered to be arrested. Following a protracted period of pre-trial detention, the Feodosia City Court sentenced Iryna to seven years of imprisonment under trumped-up accusations on 28 December 2022.
After the appeal hearings held in May 2023, the Supreme Court of Crimea reduced the sentence only by one month. On 14 August, it came to light that the journalist had been transferred to corrective colony number seven in the Russian Stavropol Krai. This amounts to a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits forcible transfer and deportation of civilians outside an occupied territory.
Civil society groups have been raising the alarm that Ms. Danylovych’s health condition continues to deteriorate rapidly while in detention. In March 2023 she declared a dry hunger strike to protest against denying her medical care in prison by the Russian authorities. In August 2023, Front Line Defenders reported that she had already lost all hearing in her left ear.
In light of distressing revelations regarding the ill-treatment of Iryna Danylovych and her unjustified prolonged detention, several Ukrainian and international human rights organisations issued a joint statement to extend solidarity with the rights defender and demand her swift release.
Russia must refrain from targeting civil society actors and cease weaponizing the legal system to persecute those who fight for fundamental rights to be respected. Iryna Danylovych should not be punished or harassed for striving for an enabling work environment for medical professionals. Russia must release Iryna immediately, facilitate her safe return to Ukraine and until then – provide her with proper medical assistance which constitutes her fundamental right.
ARTICLE 19 Europe
European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF)
International Press Institute (IPI)
OBC Transeuropa (OBCT)
This statement was coordinated by the Media Freedom Rapid Response (MFRR), a Europe-wide mechanism which tracks, monitors and responds to violations of press and media freedom in EU Member States and candidate countries.