We, the Ukrainian human rights and civil society organizations, have been protecting Ukrainian citizens illegally detained in Russia and the occupied Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbas for the past six years. Among them there are the film director Oleg Sentsov, student Pavlo Hrib, human rights activist Emir-Usain Kuku, journalist Stanislav Aseev, Coordinator of the Crimean Solidarity civic initiative Server Mustafayev, farmer Volodymyr Balukh, teacher Oleg Galaziuk and more than two hundred and fifty others.
All of them were illegally deprived of their liberty contrary to the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Their lives and health are seriously threatened by the use of torture and ill-treatment towards the majority of them, the denial of access for independent lawyers, the lack of effective medical care, etc.
The Council of Europe, from the very beginning of the illegal annexation of Crimea and the beginning of armed aggression in the Donbas, demanded Russia to cease the occupation and hybrid war in the Donbas, having adopted a series of resolutions and applying sanctions against Russia due these gross violations of human rights. However, Russia has not even begun to comply with any of its recommendations expressed in the Resolutions 1990 (2014), 2034 and 2063 (2015), 2112, 2132 (2016), 2198 and 2203 (2018), in effect disregarding the statutory requirements for the member states of the Council of Europe, as well as the application of Rule 39 of the Rules of Court as part of the case Ukraine v. Russia (2014), in which the ECHR called upon Russia to refrain from taking any measures, in particular military action, which might bring about violations of the Convention rights of the civilian population.
Moreover, the situation is only worsening and the number of examples of gross violations by Russia of international human rights standards in the occupied territory of Crimea and in the area of armed conflict in the Donbas is growing. Thus, the Russian Federation not only failed to comply with the PACE demand for the release of political prisoners, but, their number has been steadily increasing over the past six months, and the persecution of human rights activists, journalists and civic activists in Crimea has become a systemic phenomenon. At the end of March 2019, the mass arrest took place in the history of the occupied Crimea: 24 Crimean Tatar activists and journalists of the Crimean Solidarity initiative, who helped families of political prisoners, attended court hearings, reported human rights violations, were accused of “terrorism”, and now they face from 10 years tolife imprisonment. In this way, the occupation authorities want to eliminate the Crimean Solidarity initiative, which highlights repressions in the annexed peninsula, and to silence activists.
With increasing activity among women, more and more of them are being persecuted. Thus, on May 30, Russian law enforcement officers, members of the Center for Combating Extremism, detained two Crimean Tatar activists Lutfie Zudieva and Mumine Salieva. Earlier, Lutfie Zudieva was a civil defender in the trial of more than 70 Crimean Tatars – participants of single pickets. Mumine Salieva is a wife of political prisoner, Seiran Saliev, and a founder of the Crimean Childhood, an initiative aimed at providing assistance to children of political prisoners in the annexed Crimea.
In the light of these facts, the unconditional return of the Russian delegation to PACE looks like a moral surrender of the Council of Europe as an intergovernmental organization that takes care of human rights, the rule of law and democracy. In our opinion, the decision on the possible return of the Russian delegation to PACE, in complete neglect by Russia of the requirements of this organization, is not the support of Russian civil society, but a blow to its values and moral principles, in fact, the proliferation and multiplication of unpunished evil, including the European parliamentary forum.
We are convinced that any discussion on this subject should begin with the demand for the Russian Federation to release all illegally detained Ukrainian citizens in Russia and in the occupied Ukrainian territories of Crimea and Donbas.
The meeting of the Committee of Ministers on May 17 launched the development of an additional sanction procedure, which will be implemented by a joint decision of PACE and the Committee of Ministers/Secretary General of the Council of Europe. Much depends on whether PACE will decide on the June session finally to deprive itself of the right to impose such sanctions on its own.
At the Committee Meeting on June 3 and during the PACE June session, when you discuss these and other issues, we ask you to point out that it is not just about the Russian Federation, but also about other member states of the Council of Europe, deprivation of PACE of the right to imposing sanctions would embolden them to escalate political repression.
Center for Civil Liberties
Association of Relatives of the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners
Eastern-Ukrainian Center for Civic Initiatives
Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group
Crimean Human Rights Group
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union
Human Rights Center ZMINA
All-Ukrainian Association “Avtomaydan”
Media Initiative Group for Human Rights
Lugansk regional human rights center “Alternative”
The appeal is open for signing by human rights and non-governmental organizations from other member states of the Council of Europe on the notice to [email protected]