Photo from UNIAN

As of April 19, the notorious Simferopol SIZO (remand facility) in the Russian-occupied Crimea saw four detainees, including two Crimean Tatars, die in suspicious and/or violent circumstances, various sources told the Crimean Human Rights Group.

Traditionally, occupation authorities provided no confirmation of the incidents, according to the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.

They believe that on April 6 two men were found hanged: 69-year-old Sever Bilyalov and Oleg Goncharov, who was 46.

Six days later, a 23-year-old Dmitry Shipovnik was found hanged in a punishment cell.

Read alsoKremlin's hostage Ukrainian filmmaker Sentsov writes five scripts – SeitablaievOn April 13, a 39-year-old  Islam Iskerov, who had been brought to the SIZO from Dzhankoy, was found in the so-called quarantine cell for new arrivals with his throat cut.

The human rights group points out that in at least two of the cases, there are reasons for doubting a suicide verdict. Server Bilyalov had reason to hope for the termination of his prosecution and release due to newly emerged circumstances.  Dmitry Shipovnik was in a punishment cell where people are held only after a thorough search and are also held under constant surveillance.   

They point out also that Islam Iskerov was only accused of theft, with the maximum sentence being a 2-year prison term and the minimum – a fairly small fine. 

Under the IV Geneva Convention and other international law, occupation authorities bear responsibility for the lives of any civilians in their custody.  The Crimean Human Rights Group stresses also that the European Court of Human Rights considers any state – or occupation power – responsible for deaths while in detention since the person was totally under their control.  The onus of responsibility for demonstrating that all was done to prevent these deaths therefore lies on head of SIZO-1, Russian Interior Services Lieutenant Sergei Vladimirovich Berezhnoy and his immediate superior – head of the Russian Penal Service in Crimea Russian Interior Service Major General Vadim Viktorovich Bulgakov.

Read alsoUkraine's Panov denies sabotage charges in Russia-controlled Crimea – mediaIt should be noted that the Court in Strasbourg views violations of Article 2 of the European Convention from two angles – whether a state bears direct responsibility for the death, and whether a proper investigation was carried out.

There have been a large number of disappearances, abductions and killings since Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea with none really investigated at all.

Concerns have long been expressed about the conditions in the Simferopol SIZO, where Russia is currently holding in effectively indefinite custody at least 30 Crimean Tatars and other Ukrainians. 

A number of the men, in particular,  57-year-old Bekir Degermendzhy and 65-year-old Asan Chapukh, have medical conditions which make their continued detention on politically-motivated charges a threat to life. 

47-year-old Volodymyr Balukh has now been on hunger strike for over a month in protest at his internationally condemned prison sentence which is essentially over the Ukrainian flag which he refused to remove from his home and his unwavering pro-Ukrainian position.  Independent doctors are not being allowed to see him and there are strong grounds for concern about his condition.

Read alsoRussia falsifies medical records endangering the life of abducted Ukrainian teenager Pavlo Hryb - NGOAnother reason for concern is inhumane and degrading treatment of inmates, which is prohibited under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights and other such documents which Russia has committed itself to observe.