Statement by non-governmental organizations on the need for immediate adoption of legislation on legal and social support for “Kremlin prisoners”

In the context of the approaching date of the “Crimean Platform’s” inaugural summit, we consider it necessary to remind the Government and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the Ministry of Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, in particular, as well as Members of Parliament about the need to adopt legislation on legal status and social guarantees for the “Kremlin prisoners”.

We know of at least 105 Ukrainian citizens detained by the Russian Federation for political reasons as a result of aggression against Ukraine, in the occupied Crimea, and on the territory of Russian Federation. The vast majority of them are Crimean Tatars, including activists of the “Crimean Solidarity” initiative. Also, at least 170 people, while according to the Security Service of Ukraine (SSU) this figure approaches to here are more than amounts to not less than 250, including at least 15 women, are being held hostage in the temporarily occupied territories (TOT) of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.

They say that the “Crimean Platform” should have been established already seven years ago. The same can be said about the law on social and legal support for “Kremlin prisoners”. Russia carried out politically motivated detentions in Crimea since March 2014, Hostage- taking started after the Russian invasion of eastern Ukraine began. More than seven years have passed since then, but the status of these individuals is not regulated by the law.

The need for respective legislation is not a novelty. Over the years, a number of concepts and draft laws have been written, some of which have been submitted to the Parliament. There were constant discussions and sometimes intrigues concerning the documents. However, in the outcome, we are facing the fact that the law was never passed by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. Why? Probably, this issue has never been a real priority for parliamentarians of the current and previous convocations.

Meanwhile, the system of families support by the state, legal protection, and rehabilitation works occasionally and is selective. For example, only released “exchange” victims receive medical care in specialized medical institutions. Although certain social guarantees are implemented in accordance with bylaws, the Interdepartmental Commission is working to consider issues related to the recognition of persons deprived of liberty as a result of armed aggression against Ukraine, and the implementation of measures aimed at their social protection; this Commission is based in the Ministry of Reintegration of TOT. But this work format, combined with the activity of the non-governmental sector, allows to fund only some of the urgent and compelling needs of prisoners and their families. However, even this support is not systematic: sometimes families are denied state aid without explanation.

The adoption of the law remains relevant, and here’s why:

1. The unpredictability of the situation in the country does not allow us to rely exclusively on political will, and to allow everything to be managed “manually” and through “telephone law”. State support for “Kremlin prisoners” must be guaranteed by law to avoid the recognition and support of these people depending on political trends and election results.

2. There is a need for systemic rehabilitation of those released from captivity and illegal detention. There are currently no systemic rehabilitation programs, and those express programs that are de facto offered to the released are not sufficient.

3. It is necessary to agree on a common approach and criteria how to determine those to whom the state of Ukraine is ready to provide assistance in connection with illegal imprisonment, captivity or other form of unlawful detention.

4. The state’s recognition of the problem of “Kremlin prisoners” is also an element of moral satisfaction for victims of illegal detention. In addition, the semantic unification of political prisoners in the occupied Crimea, as well as hostages of the occupied Donbass in one piece of legislation, will mean that Ukraine considers both of these categories as victims of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

5. The adoption of the law will also be an important political message in the run- up to the launch of the “Crimean Platform”. It will signify the importance of this issue for Ukraine and will encourage international partners to push even harder for Russia to release those, who were captured and imprisoned during the war.

It is obvious to us that the window of opportunity for the adoption of this law remains open right now, on the eve of the “Crimean Platform’s” launch. There is a political will, as well as a favourable informational background. As soon as the inaugural summit is held, the level of interest in Crimea, and at the same time in the “Kremlin prisoners” of all categories will fall significantly. That is why it is important to address this issue right now.

Among the list of draft laws and documents known today, the most relevant and consistent with our understanding of what guarantees should be laid down in the legislation is a document developed by the joint efforts of the non-government sector and the Representative of the President of Ukraine in Crimea and the Ministry of reintegration of the TOT, in the version that was submitted to the Office of the President of Ukraine.

In view of the above, we encourage:

1. Subjects of the legislative initiative, and first of all the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky, to submit to the Parliament a draft law that takes into account the needs, rights and interests of people illegally detained for political reasons in the occupied Crimea, on the territory of Russian Federation as a result of aggression against Ukraine, and in the temporarily occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Take as a basis a document developed by the joint efforts of the non-government sector and the Representative of the President of Ukraine in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the Ministry of Reintegration of TOT and Internally Displaced Persons, in the wording submitted to the Office of the President of Ukraine.

2. The authority of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine to put the draft aw to a vote before the first summit of the “Crimean Platform” on August 23, 2021.

3. People’s Deputies of various factions and groups, including members of the relevant committees, to support the draft law in both readings, and if necessary to take into account critical amendments from victims and their representatives before the second reading.

4. Non-government organizations, opinion leaders, as well as representatives of the international organizations working to overcome the consequences of Russian aggression

against Ukraine, to support the position on the need for immediate adoption of legislation on legal and social support for “Kremlin prisoners”.

NGO “Association of Relatives of Kremlin Political Prisoners” Platform for the Release of Political Prisoners

NGO “Media Initiative for Human Rights”
NGO “Regional Centre for Human Rights”
NGO “Centre for Assistance to Crimean Prisoners “A Way Home”
NGO “Crimean Centre for Business and Cultural Cooperation “Ukrainian House” NGO “KRYMSOS”
NGO Crimean Human Rights Group
NGO “Blue Bird”
ZMINA Human Rights Centre

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