Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 22.03.2018
International human rights law clearly protects the rights of prisoners. In particular, it prohibits torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, without exception or derogation. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), in force since 1976, states: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person." Russia is violating international human rights law by withholding medical care from Ukrainian prisoners – effectively torturing them to death.
In its war of aggression to destroy Ukraine, Russia has abducted and holds hostage many innocent Ukrainian civilians. The “Let My People Go” human rights campaign is tracking 64 prisoners of the Putin regime, who are held captive in Russian-occupied Ukrainian Crimea, Russian-occupied Ukrainian Donbas, and in the Russian Federation. Agents acting for the Russian invasion-occupation forces have abducted Ukrainians in Ukraine, in Belarus, and in Russia. The Russians have tortured and abused Ukrainians to forcefully extract ‘confessions’ to invented crimes. Kangaroo courts of the Putin regime have passed ‘sentences’ against Ukrainians for long terms of imprisonment. And then the Ukrainian hostages have been thrown into jails in Crimea, cast into dungeons in Donbas, and sent to the Gulag in Russia.
The Putin regime tortures Ukrainian hostages by denying them essential medical treatment and care. This is a grave abuse of international human rights law. The health of two of the captives, Oleg Sentsov and Pavlo Hryb, has deteriorated badly in recent days, due to Russian abusive neglect and denial of medical care. Ukrainian civil society volunteers and global human rights advocates are sounding the alarm, and renewing urgent appeals for the release of Oleg Sentsov and Pavlo Hryb.
Oleg Sentsov (on photo) is a filmmaker who resides in Crimea. A patriotic Ukrainian, he was active in the “AutoMaidan” movement during the Revolution of Dignity in Kyiv. After Russia invaded Ukraine on 20 February 2014, Oleg Sentsov returned to his home in Crimea, where he helped besieged Ukrainian soldiers and their families avoid the worst of Russian persecution. Oleg Sentsov was abducted by agents of Russia’s Federal Security Service on 10 May 2014. He was held as a hostage for more than a year, and then ‘convicted’ in an illegally-constituted court on bogus charges on 25 August 2015. Sentence to 20 years more as a captive of invader Russia, Oleg Sentsov was illegally transferred out of Ukraine to prisons in the north of the Russian Federation. Russian prison officials have shuffled Sentsov from prison to prison, to keep him away from his family, from his lawyer, and from human rights watchdogs. In this time, Oleg Sentsov’s health has deteriorated, and Russian prison officials have denied him medical attention or an assessment by Ukrainian consular officials.
On March 21, Ukraine’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent another note to the Russian Foreign Ministry over the deterioration in health of Oleg Sentsov, illegally imprisoned by Russia. Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesperson, Mariana Betsa, had this to say: “We are aware of the deterioration of his health status. We have urgently sent a note to the Russian Federation to get access and, if necessary, grant access for Ukrainian doctors.” Ukraine added a demand for consular access – Russia is violating the Vienna Convention by blocking this. Russia is violating international human rights law on the treatment of prisoners by denying essential medical treatment.
19-year old Pavlo Hryb was kidnapped by Russia’s FSB from Homel, Belarus on 24 August 2017. He was the first Ukrainian known to have been abducted from a third country during the Russo-Ukrainian War. Pavlo Hryb was taken by his abductors to the Russian Federation as a hostage. He has been held as a hostage since his kidnapping under what his abductors call “pre-trial detention.” On March 20, a kangaroo court in Russia continued the detention of Pavlo Hryb. Like Oleg Sentsov, Pavlo Hryb has not broken under harsh treatment and given a forced ‘confession’ to the crimes the Russians say that he has committed. Pavlo Hryb has a chronic medical condition for which he needs regular medication. The Putin regime is denying Pavlo Hryb his medicine, torturing him by abusive neglect into a worsened state of health. This torture by the Russians is part of the never-ending psychological torment they’re putting him through. Pavlo Hryb’s father, Igor Hryb, is distraught: “What is the real state of health and how long will he be able to survive in such conditions, no one knows,” he said.
The Russian kidnappers of Pavlo Hryb threw his mother and the Ukrainian consul out of the courtroom when they came to the ‘pre-trial detention hearing.’ The Putin regime is torturing Pavlo Hryb by denying him essential medication, completely isolating him from his family, from Ukrainian consular officials, and from proper legal representation.
We know about Oleg Sentsov’s deteriorating health from scant information obtained from a letter he managed to get out to his sister. We know about Pavlo Hryb from a letter he was able to get out to his father. Sentsov and Hryb and all the Ukrainian hostages of the Putin regime are suffering horrendous torment. Foremost among the tortures Russia dishes out to its captives is the withholding of vital medical assistance. The cruelty and viciousness of the Putin regime is beyond the pale, and must be stopped.