“The release of prisoners cannot be subject to bargaining,” – human rights activist Matviychuk

Radio Svoboda [Liberty]
Translated and edited by Voices of Ukraine

“If France and Germany take a hard line that prisoners may not live until tomorrow, we will have a chance to free them.”

Oleksandra Matviychuk, chairman of the Center for Civil Liberties

Oleksandra Matviychuk, chairman of the Center for Civil Liberties

Kyiv – Ukraine should take a tough stance together with its foreign partners, during the next “Normandy Format” meeting, and insist on the unconditional and immediate release of prisoners who are now in the occupied territories. The humanitarian mission is the prime and most important task of the Minsk agreements, the Head of the Center for Civil Liberties, Oleksandra Matviychuk stated on Radio Svoboda.

– International humanitarian law applies to these relationships, which sets the standards of behavior for civilians and combatants, and the rules for the use of means and methods of warfare. In the Geneva Convention on the Treatment of Prisoners of War, a categorical imperative is contained, which states that under no circumstances are prisoners of war to be tried by any court which does not provide the required, generally-accepted guarantees of independence and impartiality. It is worth saying here that we conducted research and interviewed 160 people released from places of captivity in the occupied Donbas, we are fully aware that one simply can’t say that any of the courts there have any guarantees of independence and impartiality in their “judicial proceedings.” There was only one figure – 100% of the people we interviewed, had no access to legal protection, they had neither a lawyer nor even a man who would come and call himself a lawyer.

– Iryna Herashchenko: the responsibility for the fate of Ukrainian prisoners lies with Russia. Besides negotiations, and the declarations of authorities at the highest international level, what more can the Ukrainian side do for the release of Ukrainian prisoners?

– I agree that these puppet regimes of military dictatorship are controlled by the Russian Federation. You can see those who feed these regimes, how much Russia spends each month for their maintenance, respectively, who gives the orders and what is done with the leaders of the illegal armed groups that step out of the central [power] vertical, I have in mind the liquidation of “Batman” and other such odious individuals. I think that Ukraine should make efforts to consolidate and strengthen the position of its international partners to put pressure on the Russian Federation.

The main thing that we, as human rights organizations, are now demanding from Ukraine, as well as from France, from Germany, and, of course, from the Russian Federation as members of the “Normandy Format” – is the implementation of the Minsk Agreement paragraph on the release of prisoners of war and illegally detained persons without any reference to other points in the agreement. We say that this should be done immediately. And in no way should it be dependent on an amnesty or elections, as the representatives of the illegal armed groups and the Russian Federation are doing in the negotiations. If France and Germany take a hard line that prisoners may not live until tomorrow and that’s why this condition should be implemented immediately – we will have some chance for their release.

– Nadiya Savchenko’s lawyer Mark Feygin wrote that he does not believe in the court’s acquittal of his defendant, however, he said, the Kremlin can get out of the situation by returning her to Ukraine [to presumably serve her sentence] after the verdict. How do you assess the probability of exchange even in the results of such formal “courts”?

– It’s worth implementing two things here when we speak of courts in the Russian Federation and when we speak of the illusory “courts” in the [occupied] territories of the individual regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. According to our research, this is totally a “gray area.” If in the Russian Federation some simulacra exist: there is an institution with a sign on which is written “court,” there is a person who calls himself a judge, there is some legislation that is broken, but it exists, and there is a process, although everyone knows that the verdict comes from above and this man in the mantle does not decide anything; but in fact, the court is in process and one can even attend the hearings. So in this “gray area” there are no general institutions that have even a hint of human rights, or rules that could be applied, which exist.

– Therefore, a compliance even to such formalities as the “court” still, in your opinion, will not help the exchange and the release of these people held in captivity?

– This is the easiest way, to release them within the Minsk agreements. We do not consider the agreements as an algorithm for peace-building, but as a temporary tool for a ceasefire and the resolution of specific humanitarian issues. The release of hostages is one of the most urgent humanitarian issues.

Source: Radio Svoboda


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1 Response to “The release of prisoners cannot be subject to bargaining,” – human rights activist Matviychuk

  1. Freedom_for_all says:

    I also hope all of the Ukrainian prisoners will be freed and go home safe and sound now.
    Recently, I have read a latest news from the new Ukraine Today news agency titled “Turkey may start supplying military equipment to Ukraine” (dated February 10). http://uatoday.tv/news/turkey-may-start-supplying-military-equipment-to-ukraine-588328.html
    Personally, I thought Ukraine should try to get much needed advanced weapons from China, perhaps together with a Chinese loan to buy them, because China is a part of the Budapest Memorandum guarantors and the US and the UK were never going to come to your rescue unfortunately. But, apparently, the Ukrainian leadership people were not interested in arming the country immediately and they kept on wasting the valuable time unfortunately.
    In the end of January, the presidential envoy to the Minsk meeting, L. Kuchma, was quoted saying “China should be invited to take part in peace talks” by the same state news agency (news was dated January 25). https://twitter.com/uatodaytv/status/691606550960431106 He also noted that China was also a signatory to the Budapest Memorandum. China is not only one of the UNSC’s Permanent Members but is economically more stable than the two western countries at the Minsk meeting, Germany and France, and now even has a certain influence over Russia. So, it would be normal for the Ukrainian leadership to use the Chinese influence as well as advanced Chinese weapons if they are available to Ukraine now. Without enough defence capability, there will be zero success in diplomacy for Ukraine, of course. The Turkish leadership now understands the true threat the Kremlin poses to Ukraine and/or Turkey, though belatedly, therefore the latest development over the possible weapons supply from Turkey is mutually beneficial to both of the two countries.
    These days, the major topics in the Ukrainian news appear to be “fight against corruption”. This week, the head of the IMF, C. Lagarde, has just started warning Ukraine against the slow fight against corruption and the so-called reforms. Today, according to the latest news from Ukraine Today, the Ukrainian President said that “Ukraine would continue reforms despite the crisis in relations between the government and the parliamentary coalition”. http://uatoday.tv/politics/poroshenko-lagarde-agree-on-elaboration-of-roadmap-for-reforms-588955.html
    However, without defeating (at least morally) the foreign aggressor and its proxy forces in the eastern Ukraine, there will be no such thing as “reform” in Ukraine. The aggressors need to be defeated first before a true “reform” can start. Besides, the so-called “crisis in relations” between the President and the Rada was created by a proposed amendment(s) to the Constitution of the country, which was an unacceptable “condition of Minsk agreement” paper. True or not, some people rumoured that the US itself pressured the Ukrainian President to accept the condition at the Minsk meeting, which is an unacceptable scandal in my view. The US had already militarily failed Ukraine by “advising” the newly founded democratic Ukrainian interim government in 2014 in spring “not to resist the Russian military with arms”. So, the pathetic US leadership had to commit another debacle in Ukraine.
    This was while the US was never willing to supply Ukraine the much needed advanced weapons. Therefore, the “China” option above was a valuable diplomatic card for Ukraine. As long as the US and the UK, not to mention France and Germany etc, refuse to supply the necessary advanced weapons to Ukraine to mend the military vulnerability of Ukraine first, Ukraine should not try to do anything to “amend” the Constitution. Instead, Ukrainian leadership should opt to get the equivalent weapons from China and/or Turkey immediately (at reasonable prices). By doing so, the Ukrainian leadership can finally secure its independent position at a new Minsk meeting or a completely new international conference involving perhaps China, avoiding the unnecessary “crisis in relations” between the President and the Rada within Ukraine.
    As for the loans from the IMF, I personally do not like their money because they always demand huge interest in return. “Reform” is what the IMF demands in return as well. However, even today, Ukraine is in a dire military crisis even though the poor President Poroshenko does not want to admit it. He wants to pretend that the “war is over” but the war will never be over because, for the Kremin and its master V. Putin, this war is about their own survival. As long as there is this war going on in Ukraine, Putin and the Kremlin will survive and can disrupt everything the Ukrainian President wants to do at home such as “reforms”. If the Ukrainian President wants to go ahead with his “reform” and other domestic policies, he has to solve the military crisis first.
    Personally, I believe it is best for the Ukrainian leadership to get advanced weapons from China or Turkey immediately to arm the country well enough to deter further military “adventure” by the Kremlin today, rather than tomorrow. Once Ukraine is armed well enough with advanced weapons, the foreign forces and its proxies in the eastern Ukraine will start destroying themselves and/or leave Ukraine morally or physically defeated. The same thing will happen in Crimea, too, and the Kremlin and dictator Putin will finally pay the price for their crimes. The Kremlin’s aggression has been going on since two long years already so the Ukrainian leadership people need to have determination now at last.

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