Ukraine 5 AM Coalition condemns ‘sentences’ to three Ukrainian prisoners of war

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On March 10, the official website of the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation published information about the “conviction” of three Ukrainian prisoners of war. According to the statement, a quasi-court in the occupied territory of Luhansk region “sentenced” Maksym Butkevych, a serviceman of the 210th Special Separate Battalion “Berlingo” of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, to 13 years in prison. In Donetsk region, Vladyslav Shel and Viktor Pokhozey, who were servicemen of the Azov Regiment at the time of their capture, were “sentenced” to 18.5 and 8.5 years in prison, respectively.

Vladyslav Shel, Viktor Pokhozey, and Maksym Butkevych

Ukraine 5 AM Coalition believes that these show trials are aimed at the Russian domestic audience and do not have any legal force in terms of standards of justice. Instead, they once again prove that the Russian government and its controlled proxy structures in the occupied territories of Ukraine commit war crimes against prisoners of war. After all, so-called “trials” against Ukrainian military personnel take place behind closed doors, in violation of all possible standards of justice, and are carried out by quasi-organizations not recognized by the international community.

The Coalition organizations carefully studied the quasi-legal systems created by Russia in the occupied territories of Ukraine where the practice of convicting prisoners of war on charges of “subversive activities”, “illegal seizure of power”, “terrorism”, etc. has been widespread since 2014. There are known cases of “sentences” passed by occupation courts – from eight to 30 years in prison. In addition, in the occupied territories of Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which have been under the effective control of the Russian Federation since the capture, the practice of the death penalty began to be implemented.

The Russian Federation and the formations controlled by it, creating a “legislative” framework for their quasi-legal system, took as a basis the legislation of Russia and former Soviet Union. Therefore, the “judicial” system of the quasi-republics, which over the last eight years of occupation, although evolved from “field courts” to district, so-called “military tribunals”, “supreme” courts, and courts of “appeal”, remains completely dependent on the heads of the occupation administrations and functions as part of the executive branch. The heads of the so-called “republics” have unlimited influence over the entire judicial system which completely destroys the principle of separation of branches of power and their independence and autonomy.

In particular, the created so-called “judicial” system does not ensure the proper administration of justice and does not adhere to the principles of justice, legality, legal certainty, etc. And today’s sentences to three Ukrainian prisoners of war prove it once again.

The Coalition emphasizes that violating the right of prisoners of war to a fair trial is a war crime. This practice is also prohibited by the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and generally accepted international norms for the investigation into criminal offenses.

Additional proof of the absurdity of these “trials” is the content of charges brought against Maksym Butkevych, a well-known human rights defender who believes in the principles of human rights and international humanitarian law. It is obvious to everyone who knows Butkevych that his “confession” to the brutal treatment of civilians, which was filmed by Russian investigators, has nothing to do with reality and was given under pressure and probably physical violence.

Instead, the latest news about the conviction of Ukrainian prisoners of war should encourage the international community to increase pressure on Russia with the demand for humane treatment of prisoners of war, intensify the efforts of the International Committee of the Red Cross to get access to prisoners of war and monitor the conditions of their detention, as well as the faster release of all persons detained by Russia, both military personnel and civilian citizens of Ukraine.

Ukraine 5 AM Coalition