Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 11.12.2018
International Human Rights Day is December 10. This years marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in Paris. Far from celebrating, the world is taking note of the deterioration of human rights. Since Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014, Europe is once more in a state of war. 1.7 million Europeans who live in Ukraine are Internally Displaced Persons – refugees in their own country, made homeless by Putin’s War. Over 70 Ukrainians are political prisoners of the Putin regime, and 24 Ukrainian Navy sailors are prisoners of war after the Battle of the Kerch Strait on November 25.
One of the Ukrainian political prisoners being held hostage by the Russians is Oleg Sentsov. He is a filmmaker and was an activist during the 2013-2014 Revolution of Dignity in Ukraine. He helped Ukrainian servicemen and their families who were besieged by Russian invasion forces in Crimea. Sentsov was abducted by an illegal armed formation in Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied) in April 2014, tortured, put on trial in an illegal court, and ‘sentenced’ to 20 years imprisonment on bogus charges.
For 145 days in 2018, Oleg Sentsov was on hunger strike to bring about the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners being held by the Putin regime. Like him, they are in jails, dungeons, and prison camps in the Russian Federation, in Crimea, Ukraine (Russian-occupied), and in Donbas, Ukraine (Russian-occupied). He was unsuccessful, but his heroic self-sacrifice attracted world-wide attention to the plight of Ukrainian hostages held by the Russians.
The European Parliament awarded Oleg Sentsov the 2018 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought. This is a great honour to the courage and moral integrity of Oleg Sentsov. It is also a public shaming of the evil of the Russian regime of state terrorism to the whole world. The Putin regime refused to allow Oleg Sentsov to receive the Sakharov Prize. Parliamentarians of the European Union presented the award to Oleg Sentsov’s cousin, Natalya Kaplan, who accepted the Sakharov Prize in his stead.
Rebecca Harms was instrumental within the European Parliament to award the Sakharov Prize to Oleg Sentsov. She is an MEP in the Group of Greens/European Free Alliance and a strong supporter of Ukraine and international human rights. After the presentation ceremony, Rebecca Harms tweeted: “Nataliya Kaplan thanks the European Parliament in the name of her cousin Oleg Sentsov: He doesn‘t want to be a hero. He wants freedom. He wants to make films. While awarding #SakharovPrize 2018 we promise to increase our efforts to #FreeSentsov #LetMyPeopleGo”
The European Union took practical action on International Human Rights Day to counter Russian aggression and abuse of human rights. The EU Council sanctioned nine organizers of the illegal so-called 'elections' in the Russian-invaded and occupied territories of eastern Ukraine. Despite being warned not to by the international community, the Russian occupation regime in Donbas conduct fake elections on November 11 that were actually an exercise in propaganda theatre. Included in the new sanctions by the EU is Leonid Pasechnik. He is the figurehead of the so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic,” a terrorist group created, financed, and armed by the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.
On International Human Rights Day it it is important to call out the Russian Federation for its grave violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Russian invader-occupiers are torturing Ukrainian citizens, subjecting them to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment – especially Crimean Tatars and loyalist or activist Ukrainians. Ukrainian citizens like Oleg Sentsov have been subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention, and exile. Ukrainian citizens have been convicted of ‘offences’ for acts which were committed before the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine and which never were crimes in the first place. In Crimea, Russian invader-occupiers have deprived Ukrainian citizens of their nationality and forced Russian passports upon them. The Russian aggressor has arbitrarily deprived Ukrainian citizens of their property – stolen from them – in Crimea and Donbas. The Russians have wiped out freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and association, and freedom of religion in the territories that they illegally occupy. The Putin regime has forcefully conscripted Ukrainian citizens into the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation. Representative democratic institutions with legitimate authority have been destroyed in Russian-invaded and occupied territories of Ukraine.
These are just some of the violations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which the Russian aggressor is committing. On the 70th anniversary of the signing of this noble document, the civilized world must dedicate itself to stopping the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine and ending the gross violation of human rights being committed by the Putin regime of state terrorism.