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Opinion: Free Oleg Sentsov

Oleg Sentsov pictureOleg Sentsov, Ukrainian film director, screenwriter, producer and pro-Ukrainian activist and three other activists were unlawfully kidnapped from the occupied territory of Crimea by the Russian FSB agents.  All four activists were kidnapped in May, in Crimea. For days nobody knew anything about their whereabouts, as they were being kept secretly in detention by the FSB forces, without any accusations being brought against them. 

They were charged with plotting a terrorist attack and being members of terrorist organizations only after having been transferred to Russia, where they are now being held in an FSB detention facility.  Oleg Sentsov claims he is not guilty of the accusations. He has confirmed his statement in a hearing in Moscow, held on Monday 7 July, by saying he is not a slave to be passed along from one country to the other along with the land. He reiterated that he is the citizen on Ukraine and does not recognise the Russian occupation of Crimea.

According to counsels of pro-Ukrainian activists there is reason to believe that the evidence base in the case is based on confessions that were obtained from some of the activists through torture. Existing information, as well as the testimony by Oleg Sentsov during the hearing on Monday 7 July, indicate clearly that all activist were subjected to inhuman treatment and ill-treatment during the time of detention in Crimea.

The contact with the detainees is extremely limited at this point in time, therefore we have almost no information on their current state of health. The counsels were forced to sign non disclosure statements regarding the case files and the Ukrainian authorities have been rejected permission by Moscow to visit the activists in detention. Authorities in Moscow claim that the detainees, as they are residents of Crimea, are Russian citizens. Furthermore, by kidnapping the activists and transferring them to Moscow, the Russian Federation violated articles 49 and 64 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

According to international law an occupation is deemed to have taken place when a state exercises effective control over a territory on which it has no sovereign title without the consent of the state concerned. We may consider that these conditions have been met in Crimea.  The Fourth Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in the time of war specifies that as a general rule, its article 49 prohibits transfer or deportation of protected persons from the occupied territory and that the penal laws of the occupied territory should remain in force (Article 64). It means that Ukrainian Laws should be considered as being applicable in Crimea.

The EU should intervene and request information and explanation from the Russian Federation. Ukrainian authorities must categorically demand access to the detained activists as well as their immediate release. At the same time, we urge the Russian authorities to immediately free the Ukrainian activists held in detention in the FSB prison.

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Category: A Frontpage, Open Dialog Foundation, Opinion, Russia, Ukraine

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