Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 15.12.2017
Russia is torturing Ukrainian political prisoners by denying them medical treatment. Denying medical treatment to prisoners is a crime under international human rights law. When state authorities take a person into custody, international human rights law requires those state authorities to provide the most appropriate treatment in accordance with professional medical standards. Russia has been invading Europe in Ukraine since 20 February 2014, and has been violating every article of international human rights law while doing so. Particularly outrageous is Russia inflicting suffering on Ukrainian captives by taking away the medical treatment and care they need and which they must receive under international human rights law. Sometimes Russia’s deliberate neglect of its hostages leads to their deaths. This horror of Russia at war against the West means suffering and death for Putin’s hostages who require medical care.
Pavlo Hryb was kidnapped by Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) on August 24, snatched off the streets of Homel, Belarus. He was then spirited away to Russia. He is only 19 years old, and is the youngest of the Ukrainian political prisoners held captive by the Putin regime. Pavlo Hryb has had a disability since childhood, and his life depends on the constant use of medicines. Shockingly, his Russian captors do not allow him to take the medications that are vital to his health. Pavlo Hryb’s sister, Olha Hryb, wrote a letter to the Council of Europe appealing for help for her brother and asking the Council to make Russia adhere to its obligations under international human rights law. Russia denying medical treatment to Pavlo Hryb could have deadly consequences. Olha Hryb wrote: “We understand that every moment his chronic disease – portal hypertension – can be complicated by internal bleeding, and no one in the Russian detention facility will be able to provide him with medical assistance.”
Bekir Degermendzhy was abducted by the FSB on November 23, in a botched operation by the Russians during which a renowned veteran of the Crimean Tatar national movement, 83-year-old Vedzhie Kashka, died. Bekir Degermendzhy is 57 years old and suffers from severe asthma, for which he has disability status. A Russian court (which pretends to have jurisdiction in Ukrainian Crimea) remanded him in custody despite his disability, and denied him proper medical care. Bekir Degermendzhy’s condition worsened rapidly in jail, and on December 14 he was transferred to an emergency care ward. The precipitous decline in his health has been directly caused by Russia denying medical care. Corrupt Russian officials deliberately chose to commit a crime under international human rights law in order to cause suffering to Bekir Degermendzhy.
Russia should release Pavlo Hryb and Bekir Degermendzhy because there is no just cause for their captivity. Russia must provide medical care for them because international humanitarian law demands it. But in fact Russia is violating every directive of the Council of Europe and abusing the liberty, health, and lives of every Ukrainian and Crimean Tatar activist and patriot it can get its hands on. The moral depravity of Russia’s invasion of Europe in Ukraine is boundless. Russia is demanding its voting rights be restored in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), even while it continues to increase its torture of Ukrainian political prisoners by denying them medical treatment. If PACE gives in to Russia’s demands, then the Council of Europe is finished as a human rights body. Olha Hryb said it best in her letter to the Council of Europe by standing up for her Ukrainian compatriots: “I consider it unacceptable to trade the human fates of those who defend the eastern boundaries of European civilization by their lives.”