Human rights activists call on Verkhovna Rada to pass bills on protection of Kremlin’s prisoners as soon as possible
On September 27, 2021, President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky submitted to the Verkhovna Rada three urgent bills on the protection of Kremlin’s prisoners and their families. The draft law No. 6104 “On social and legal protection of persons, deprived of personal liberty as a result of armed aggression against Ukraine, and members of their families”, as well as related bills No. 6105 and No. 6106 can be called long-hoped-for without exaggeration as Ukrainian political prisoners in the territory of Crimea and the Russian Federation, military and civilian hostages held in occupied areas of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, their relatives, and human rights activists have been waiting for the adoption of these laws for more than five years.
These legislative acts testify to the political will of the leadership of the state in the eighth year of Russian aggression and occupation of part of the territory of Ukraine to finally determine at the legislative level the persons who can be considered as those deprived of liberty as a result of the armed conflict, as well as to enshrine additional benefits and guarantees the Kremlin’s prisoners and their families can be entitled to.
The draft law clearly defines who can be considered as the person deprived of liberty as a result of the armed aggression against Ukraine, in particular:
- Military taken captive (citizens of Ukraine who were deprived of liberty by the aggressor state, its agencies for the protection of the state sovereignty of Ukraine, its independence, territorial integrity)
- Civilian hostages (citizens of Ukraine who were deprived of liberty in connection with illegal actions of the aggressor state, its agencies, units, formations, other entities with the explicit or implicit purpose of motivating Ukraine, another state, government agencies, organization, including international, legal entities or natural persons to act or refrain from committing actions as a condition for the release of a citizen of Ukraine)
- Political prisoners (citizens of Ukraine who were deprived of liberty by the aggressor state, its agencies in connection with such citizens’ activities aimed at expressing views, values, stance on defending the state sovereignty of Ukraine, as well as for professional, civic, political, or human rights activities).
Although the state provided some assistance to such individuals and their families through government mechanisms, first, it was not guaranteed by law and, second, a systematic approach to such support has never been established.
The bill defines the types of state aid that can be provided to Kremlin’s prisoners and their families, including:
- Annual financial assistance during the period of deprivation of liberty
- One-time financial assistance in case of murder (death) of such a person or death within a year after the release
- One-time financial assistance to such persons after the release
The draft law also establishes guarantees for legal protection and reimbursement of expenses for professional legal aid and guarantees for the right to free secondary legal aid for the period of deprivation of liberty and after release; healthcare and rehabilitation services, in particular psychological assistance, health resort treatment after the release; rehabilitation measures, adaptation and support for persons, who were deprived of personal liberty as a result of the armed aggression against Ukraine, after their release; provision of housing for temporary residence; guaranteed enforcement of labor rights in employment; the right to education and to obtain professional (vocational-technical), pre-higher and higher education in state and municipal educational institutions; benefits for getting a passport of a citizen of Ukraine and a passport of a citizen of Ukraine for travel abroad; deferral of payment commitments, exemption from tax reporting, and prohibition of measures aimed at repayment (collection) of payment obligations and/or tax debt, etc.
As of October 1, 2021, 321 persons released from Russian captivity from 2014 to 2019 were recognized as those having been deprived of personal liberty as a result of the armed aggression against Ukraine. In addition, according to human rights organizations, at least 120 Ukrainian political prisoners are still being held in places of detention / restriction of liberty in the Russian Federation and Crimea occupied by Russia, as well as at least 270 service members and civilians are held captive in the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. All these people need the support and protection of the state.
We, the representatives of human rights organizations, families of Kremlin’s prisoners, as well as the released political prisoners and hostages, call on the members of the Parliament of Ukraine to adopt bills No. 6104, 6105, and 6106 on the social and legal protection of political prisoners and their families as soon as possible. Since the President of Ukraine submitted these bills as urgent, we hope for their speedy consideration in the Parliament. After all, the care of those, who were deprived of their liberty as a result of Russia’s armed aggression against our state, must be delayed no longer.
ZMINA Human Rights Centre
Platform for the Release of Political Prisoners
Media Initiative for Human Rights
Center for Civil Liberties
Association of Relatives of the Kremlin’s Political Prisoners
Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights UnionПІДПИСАТИ