Mr President, sign the law on war crimes #2689!
11 December 2021 — 28 December 2021
The IZOLYATSIA foundation together with human rights defenders from the Center for Civil Liberties demand that the President of Ukraine sign the War Crimes Law #2689. More than 5 months have passed since the law was voted by the Verkhovna Rada, and the President has not signed it yet.
Human rights defenders from the Center for Civil Liberties and representatives of the IZOLYATSIA foundation addressed the President during the discussion Izolyatsia: must speak. The discussion was organized for the International Human Rights Day by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine, the Ukrainian Institute and the IZOLYATSIA foundation to discuss human rights and the existence of illegal prisons in the Russian-occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, including the secret detention center Izolyatsia.
The discussion was also dedicated to the anniversary of the information campaign Izolyatsia: must speak, which aims to draw the attention of the international community to the de facto concentration camp, illegally established on the site of the International Charitable Foundation after the temporary occupation of Donetsk in 2014. Citizens of Ukraine have been illegally detained and tortured in this secret institution on the basis of so-called sentences of the Russian occupation administration.
Despite numerous testimonies from victims, the investigation into the case of Roman Lyagin, the organizer of the seizure of the Despite numerous testimonies from victims, the investigation into the case of Roman Lyagin, the organizer of the seizure of the IZOLYATSIA Foundation premises in Donetsk in 2014 and the initiator of a secret prison in the area, has been going on for 2.5 years and is constantly delayed. Yevhen Brazhnikov, who is accused of abusing prisoners in the Izolyatsia detention center, managed to leave Ukraine escaping responsibility. Denis Kulikovsky, an ex-leader of the Izolyatsia concentration camp, who was accused by the SBU of torturing and killing people, was recently detained in Kyiv. Will his case be investigated in a timely and proper manner, and will the punishment be commensurate with the gravity of the crime?
Procrastination and negligence in these proceedings can be blamed on the unreformed justice system as a whole. However, the seriousness of state towards such serious cases and desire to restore justice for Ukrainians who were tortured by representatives of the Russian occupation administration now depends on the individual — the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky.
It is the President who has not yet signed the War Crimes Act 2689, passed by the Parliament in May 2021. The law establishes liability for crimes against humanity and various components of war crimes in the Criminal Code. This document will help restore justice for the victims of the war — including those who survived the horrors of the Izolyatsia basements in Donetsk.
According to Oksana Sarzhevska-Kravchenko, the director of the IZOLYATSIA foundation:
Volodymyr Zelensky's delay in this direction not only undermines the effectiveness of the campaign initiated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but also creates space for unpleasant doubts: whether former illegal prison warden Kulikovsky will be convicted of war crimes that do not have a statute of limitations and are not subject to amnesty, or will he be given a much shorter term and soon live a normal life that the victims of torture should not dream of?
This opinion was continued by Oleksandra Matviichuk, head of the Center for Civil Liberties:
The situation when the law has not been signed by the President for several months is direct contradiction to the Constitution of Ukraine. Moreover, this delay increases the sense of impunity among criminals and encourages new war crimes in the occupied territories. Until the law is signed by the President, potential criminals will be sure: even if criminal cases are opened against them, they will be qualified under general criminal articles, with much shorter sentences than in case of war crimes. The statute of limitations for their crimes may expire, and eventually they may be amnestied at Russia's request.
On the International Human Rights Day, human rights defenders, victims of torture in the Izolyatsia prison and representatives of the IZOLYATSIA foundation call on the President of Ukraine as the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces and the guarantor of the Constitution to defend rights of Ukrainians with actions, not just words, and finally to sign the most important law for the country.