President of Ukraine

Andriy Yermak presented an action plan for the protection of Ukrainian prisoners held by Russia at the Conference of Ombudspersons and NHRIs

27 October 2022 - 14:03

Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak took part in a video format in the Conference of Ombudspersons and NHRIs "Battle for Human Rights. Crimea. Ukraine. World", which took place in Zagreb (Croatia) in continuation of the Parliamentary Summit of Crimea Platform.

Addressing the participants of the conference, Andriy Yermak noted that since Russia invaded Ukraine and occupied the Ukrainian peninsula of Crimea eight years ago, at the end of February 2014, there are no legal norms left there that the Russian Federation had not violated.

“And today, in the ninth month of the full-scale war that Russia unleashed against Ukraine, I have to state: in Europe, in the 21st century, there are death camps again. They operate in Russia and in the Ukrainian territories it occupies. It's hard to believe, it doesn't fit in your head - but it's a fact,” the Head of the President’s Office noted.

Andriy Yermak emphasized that Russia, as the legal successor of the USSR, is a party to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, including the Convention on the Treatments of Prisoners of War. However, it cynically violates the norms of this document.

“The United Nations and the International Red Cross Committee representatives are not allowed to visit the Ukrainian POWs. Russia is blocking the work of the UN Mission investigating the terror attack against Mariupol defenders kept in Olenivka detention facility. In that site alone, the Russian uniformed terrorists mercilessly killed about five dozen of our soldiers. Probably, they aimed to cover up other crimes,” Andriy Yermak said.

He emphasized: each of the places where Ukrainians are kept against their will is evidence of Russia's impunity against international humanitarian law.

The Head of the President’s Office also recalled other Russia’s crimes: Russian uniformed terrorists destroyed dozens of settlements in Ukraine. They are methodically destroying our critical civilian infrastructure. They are hitting food and fuel storages, supermarkets, hospitals, universities and power plants. On the eve of winter, the Russians are trying to destroy our energy system. 

“The world learned about town of Bucha because of the mass graves of civilians the Russian occupiers had tortured and murdered. But we see the same picture in nearly every liberated Ukrainian town,” Andriy Yermak stressed.

The Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine called on the international community not to delay, but to act as actively as possible.

“We must rescue the Kremlin's prisoners. Every day, every hour cost lives of our people. Human rights protection under occupation is one of the central challenges we are facing. And it is impossible to do without world solidarity and a thirst for justice,” he emphasized.

The Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine presented the conference participants with a plan that includes a series of steps.

The First Point. Bring the issue of Olenivka, access to Ukrainian prisoners of war and protection of their rights to the global level. Adopt a joint declaration of ombudsmen. 

“The document should resolutely condemn the war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide Russia commits against Ukrainians,” Andriy Yermak emphasized.

The Second. A large joint mission, including ombudspersons from different countries, must be sent to the contact line. It should be there until Russia provides access to places of forced detention of Ukrainian prisoners.

“We should also create international missions of obmudspersons seeking access to prisoners and civilian hostages of the Kremlin,” the Head of the President’s Office added.

The Third. It is worth introducing regular publication of thematic reports, which will consist of the testimonies of eyewitnesses in particular.

“And these are just a few tools that are already in your hands. If we don't take immediate steps together, crematoria may appear in Russian death camps,” Andriy Yermak noted.

Following the Conference, representatives of national human rights institutions and ombudsmen approved a declaration in which they confirmed  the need to observe and prevent further human rights violations in the context of the ongoing Russian armed aggression against Ukraine and the violation of its territorial integrity, through the creation of an international consultation platform for cooperation. 

The parties recognized that the Russian Federation’s war against Ukraine is causing gross violations and abuses of human rights which has resulted in an ongoing humanitarian human rights crisis in Ukraine and in the world.

In the declaration, the participants called on the legislative bodies of their countries to initiate the development and adoption of documents aimed at protecting and ensuring human rights and preventing their violation. They also called on the governments to contribute to the provision, protection and prevention of violations of human rights, in particular the rights of Ukrainian citizens abroad.

In addition, the parties declared their readiness to contribute to the continuation of the policy of their states regarding the non-recognition of the illegal annexation of Crimea and other Ukrainian territories temporarily occupied by the Russian Federation, as well as to spread the ideas of the territorial integrity of Ukraine and information about the inadmissibility of waging war in the modern world.