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.”
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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