memorandum by Ms Kleinberga, rapporteur
1 Since the occupation of Crimea
by the Russian Federation and the beginning of military operations
in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions in eastern Ukraine, hundreds
of Ukrainian servicemen and civilians have been reported captured
2 Some of them have been released, but many of those who are
held captive are allegedly being held in inhumane conditions and
are allegedly being subjected to torture, humiliation, forced labour
and other forms of violence.
3 There are also claims by the separatist de
facto authorities of the detention by the Ukrainian side
of a number of separatist fighters and civilians imprisoned on suspicion
of collaboration with separatists, including allegations of their
4 A number of people are detained in the Russian Federation
in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. The Committee on Migration,
Refugees and Displaced Persons is particularly concerned about this
problem as one of its members, Ms Nadiia Savchenko, was captured
in June 2014 and remains in custody in the Russian Federation despite
a number of interventions by the Parliamentary Assembly.
The humanitarian concerns with regard to people captured during
the conflict in Ukraine include the problem of missing people during
this conflict, as some of the missing have been captured by separatists,
who refuse to inform the Ukrainian authorities of their whereabouts.
When the Ukrainian side is preparing lists for the exchange of prisoners,
those missing people whose whereabouts are unknown are included
in these lists. The Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced
Persons has prepared a specific report on “Missing persons during
the conflict in Ukraine”; Resolution
were adopted in June 2015.
6 In this report, I will deal with both military and civilian
captured people, on all sides of the conflict.
7 In particular, this report aims to assess the implementation
of one of the cornerstones of the Minsk Agreement on the exchange
of prisoners and release of hostages and persons illegally detained
in the context of the conflict in Ukraine. It contains recommendations
addressed to all sides of the conflict to speed up this process
in compliance with their international commitments.
8 Furthermore, it will explore the role of different international
actors in the process of the protection of captured people and their
release, in particular the Organization for Security and Co-operation
in Europe (OSCE) and the International Committee of the Red Cross
(ICRC), as well as working groups on humanitarian issues created
in the framework of the Minsk Agreement.
9 During the preparation of this report, I conducted a fact-finding
mission to Ukraine from 24 to 26 November 2015, where I held discussions
with the Ukrainian authorities, non-governmental and international organisations
working on this issue and a representative of the so-called “Luhansk
People’s Republic” (LPR) at the Minsk humanitarian group negotiations.
I would like to thank the Ukrainian delegation to the Parliamentary
Assembly and its secretariat for the organisation of this visit.
My special thanks are also addressed to Ms Sasha Romancova from
the NGO “Centre for Civil Liberties” and Ms Anna Mokrousova from the
NGO “Blue Bird” for the organisation of meetings with non-governmental
organisations and the victims of captivity. I am personally grateful
for the testimonies I heard from Mr Lev Mamay, Mr Valerij Makeev,
Mr Oleksandr Kononov and Mr Serhij Samarskiy on their cruel experiences
2 Present situation with regard
to people captured during the conflict in Ukraine
The earliest cases in the chain
of crimes related to unlawful detentions began in late February/early March
2014, when separatists started to take over the local administrations
in the east of Ukraine. Different categories of citizens were captured
and deprived of their liberty, including military personnel, law-enforcement officials
and civilians. These first cases of captivity were characterised
by particular cruelty. Since then, people have been continuously
abducted and illegally detained.Note
As reported by the Security Service of Ukraine (SBU),Note
main official Ukrainian body dealing with the problem of captured
people, as at 27 January 2016, 3 015 hostages had been released
(Armed Forces of Ukraine – 1 116, National Guard of Ukraine – 264,
Ministry of the Interior – 112, State Border Service of Ukraine –
26, journalists – 28, voluntary battalions – 66, volunteers – 39,
civilians – 1364).
12 In all, 123 persons are still held captive by separatist groups:
77 of them are servicemen and law- enforcement officers (Armed Forces
of Ukraine – 62, National Guard of Ukraine – 4, State Border Service
– 1; Ministry of the Interior – 5, voluntary battalions – 5); and
46 are civilians (among them volunteers – 3, journalists – 1).
13 693 persons are missing: 274 of them are servicemen and law-enforcement
officers (Armed Forces of Ukraine – 208, National Guard of Ukraine
– 18, State Border Service of Ukraine – 5, Ministry of Interior
– 29, voluntary battalions – 14); 419 are civilians (volunteers
– 13, journalists – 2).
14 However, this number does not include all of those who were
captured by separatists in occupied territories, as many people
have been afraid to declare their relatives’ captivity to the Ukrainian
At the same time, the separatist authorities claim that 458
of their military fighters, 563 “political prisoners” (as they call
them) and 199 civilians have been captured by the Ukrainian side.
They also claim to have released 317 Ukrainian captives.Note
Different non-governmental organisations are also gathering
information on people in captivity. According to the data base of
the NGO “Blue Bird”, which is collecting information on civilians
captured in occupied territory, there are 247 missing persons. Out
of this figure, 63 persons have been confirmed as captured by separatists.
The “Centre for Civil Liberties” NGO which conducted a special study
on the problem of illegal detention in Donbas,Note
that the number of persons captured by separatists varies from 500
to several thousand Ukrainian citizens. The significant difference
in the numbers provided by the NGOs in comparison to the official
numbers is due to the fact that in their estimations the NGOs include
information on missing civilians who are not officially reported
to the authorities.
17 As I mentioned above, the problem of captured people is directly
linked to the problem of missing persons. People are considered
as “captured” once their captivity is confirmed, while as long as
their fate is unknown, they are considered to be “missing”. Unfortunately,
there are cases when people who had been considered as “captured”
become considered as “missing”. This occurs when captured people
are transferred from one place of captivity to another, or worse,
when they are abducted from captivity by other separatist groups.
In such situations, the information on their fate is lost and the
Ukrainian authorities include them in the lists of missing persons.
18 In reality, I understood that nobody can present the exact
number of captured and missing persons at this stage, while the
conflict is still ongoing. During my visit to Severodonetsk, I was
informed that a large number of people were missing in the city
(around 1 500), but as nobody has officially reported their disappearance,
they are not registered as missing. And this was a figure from just
one city liberated by the Ukrainian army.
19 The information concerning the situation in the occupied territories
is unfortunately unavailable, but I have heard several allegations
that people have been disappearing there.
2.1 Captured military personnel
20 During my visit to Kyiv, the
Deputy Minister of Defence of Ukraine, Mr Ihor Dolgov, informed
me about 62 military personnel who had been captured by the separatists.
During the entire conflict, 988 military personnel had been captured
by separatists and so far 926 of them had been liberated.
21 As regards the National Guard, the military troops of the
Ministry of the Interior, 392 people had been captured or had disappeared.
Furthermore, 210 persons had been liberated and 72 had been found
22 Among the captured military personal, there were also eight
members of the special OSCE monitoring mission, who were liberated
2.2 Captured civilians: some
23 The separatist forces of the
so-called “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”) and “Donetsk People’s Republic”
(“DPR”) have captured a number of civilians, among them journalists,
volunteers and local activists. Some of them were subjected to torture,
slavery, humiliation and even rape. The conditions of their captivity were
very poor and international organisations had no access to the captives.
24 In Severodonetsk, I met Mr Oleksandr Kononov. Since the beginning
of the war, he and his wife, Viktoria Kononova, have been providing
voluntary assistance to the Ukrainian military forces. It was a
very courageous decision as the couple was living in occupied territory
and many pro-Ukrainian activists had been killed or captured. They
themselves were captured by separatists on their way to the front
line with humanitarian assistance. On the first day of their captivity,
both of them were subjected to torture: Viktoria was choked with a
plastic bag until she lost consciousness; she was also subjected
to electric shocks in front of her husband. Oleksandr was beaten
and subjected to “Russian roulette”, simulation shooting at his
head, which resulted in injury. At the end, the separatists told
the couple to say goodbye, pretending to take Viktoria away to be
shot. Oleksandr was then taken to the temporary detention facility
of Leninskyi District Police Department of Luhansk, and was detained
there. Three days later, he learnt that his wife was sitting in
the next cell. They were kept in terrible conditions: 15 to 20 people
in a small cell of 8 square metres, men and women together. In total, they
spent three months in captivity. The most shocking thing is that
Oleksandr is a veteran of the Afghan war, where he lost his right
hand and left leg. I can hardly imagine how he could have survived
in these inhumane conditions. Oleksandr and Viktoria were finally
liberated during the exchange of prisoners organised by former Afghan
soldiers on 28 October 2014.
25 In Crimea, after the occupation of the peninsula by the Russian
Federation, the local authorities used Russian legislation against
extremism, separatism and terrorism to detain Crimean Tatar and
Ukrainian activists. In addition, fabricated criminal proceedings
were launched, on alleged crimes which took place before the Russian
occupation and outside the territory of Crimea. Eight people were
deprived of their liberty on political grounds and are still being
held captive in Crimea: Mr Ahtem Chijzov, Mr Ali Asanov and Mr Mustafa Degerzhmendzhi
were captured during the protest of 26 February 2014 and were accused
of rioting; Mr Ruslan Zejtulajev, Mr Rustem Vaitov, Mr Nuri Primov
and Mr Refat Sajfulaev, members of the Crimea-Tatar’s religious organisation
were detained on the accusation of terrorist activities; Mr Yuri
Ilchenko, owner of a private school of foreign languages, who posted
an article condemning the Russian occupation of Crimea and the war
in Donbas on his Internet site, was arrested on grounds of provocation
of hatred. He faces 20 years in prison.
2.3 Separatists detained by
the Ukrainian authorities
26 Since the beginning of the
anti-terrorist operation, the Security Service of Ukraine has arrested 640 people
involved in the terrorist activities of illegal armed groups of
the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. Since March 2014, the SBU has launched
3 000 criminal proceedings concerning crimes against national security and
public order, activities of illegal armed groups and terrorist organisations
and other crimes related to the dissemination of separatism and
terrorism in South-East Ukraine. A total of 911 criminal investigations
were completed, of which 529 cases were referred for trial.
27 In 2015, the Security Service launched 2 592 criminal proceedings
concerning crimes belonging to one or several of the above-mentioned
categories, in the framework of which 493 persons were indicted
and their cases sent for trial. Through court decisions, 141 persons
were arrested on suspicion of having committed such crimes and 856
persons were placed on a list of wanted persons.
28 The separatist authorities claim that around 1 000 people
have been detained by the Ukrainian side.
In the recent report on the human rights situation in Ukraine,
prepared by the United Nations Human Rights Monitoring Mission in
it is stated that they had
continued to document the allegations of ill-treatment during the
arrest and initial hour-long interrogations that are led by the
SBU, as well as of the detention of people in suspected informal
There have been cases of detention of different military battalions,
including voluntary battalions of the separatist fighters on the
front line of the war. In some cases, the detainees were ill-treated
by Ukrainian forces and detention procedures were violated. Such
cases are described in the reports of the Office of the United Nations
High Commissioner for Human Rights.Note
to the Ukrainian authorities, they investigate each of these cases
and the perpetrators of these crimes are prosecuted in accordance
with the law. A number of cases were opened by police and military
authorities concerning these criminal actions, including abductions and
ill treatment of prisoners by members of the volunteer battalion
“Aidar”, including a criminal case against the former commander
of this battalion, Mr Serhij Melnichuk.
31 There have also been cases of pro-separatist civilians captured
by the Ukrainian authorities. Some of these people were arrested
by the Security Service of Ukraine on the suspicion of their direct
support to the separatists. In the majority of cases, they receive
the charges of their crimes on the second or third day following
their arrest. However, volunteer organisations have registered 10
cases of the detention of people without any charges.
The Ukrainian NGO “Center for Civil Liberties” has registered
several reports of cases of civilian executions by pro-Ukrainian
forces. Most of these cases implicated the involvement of the combatants
of volunteer battalions, such as Aidar and Kyiv-2. One of these
cases concerned the murder of Mr Volodymyr Nazdrychkin, who was
allegedly robbed, tortured and killed at a check point by three
fighters from the Kyiv-2 battalion. His car was destroyed to hide
traces of the crime.Note
33 It is of the utmost importance that all of these cases of
violation of human rights during the war in Ukraine be investigated
by the Ukrainian authorities in detail and that the abusers be held
accountable. These investigations should be transparent and the
victims or their families should receive compensation.
2.4 Ukrainians illegally detained
on the territory of the Russian Federation
34 In the Russian Federation,
there have been 13 Ukrainian activists illegally detained by the
Russian authorities. Many of them were arrested by the officers
of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation and illegally
transferred to Russian territory.
Mr Oleg Sentsov, a famous Ukrainian film maker, Mr Olexandr
Kolchenko, Mr Olexii Cheerniy, and Mr Gennady Afanasyev were accused
of terrorist activities on the territory of Crimea and given prison sentences
varying from 7 to 20 years. According to the Ukrainian Ombudsperson,
they were subjected to torture during the investigation procedure.Note
36 Mr Hayser Dzhemilev, son of Mr Mustafa Dzhemilev, who is a
member of the Parliamentary Assembly and leader of the Crimean-Tatar
community in Ukraine, was illegally transferred from Crimea to Russia
and sentenced to three and a half years in prison.
37 Mr Viktor Shur, Mr Vlentyn Vyhivskyy and Mr Yuriy Solonenko
have been accused of espionage and are facing 20 years of imprisonment.
38 Mr Mykola Karpyuk and Mr Stanislav Klyh were accused of murder
during the military actions of the Chechen war. According to the
defendants' lawyers, investigators failed to provide evidence of
the involvement of either of these men in the military actions in
39 Mr Sergiy Litvinov is facing life imprisonment on the accusation
of murder during the military actions in Donbas. He is detained
40 The case of Mr Oleksandr Kostenko created a very dangerous
precedent. He was arrested in Crimea in February 2015 and accused
of “violent actions on the motives of political and ideological
hatred” during the Maidan events in 2014. After that, he was illegally
transferred to the Russian Federation and then accused by the Russian
Federation of actions committed on the territory of Ukraine against
41 The most flagrant violation of human rights of Ukrainian citizens
by the Russian Federation is represented by the case of a member
of the Parliamentary Assembly, Ms Nadiia Savchenko. Ms Savchenko was
fighting as a foot soldier in a volunteer battalion called “Aidar”,
and was captured in battle by separatists on 17 June 2014. After
that, she was forcibly taken to Russia and illegally held in custody.
She is accused of acting as an artillery spotter and deliberately
calling in and guiding the strike that killed two Russian journalists, Mr
Kornelyuk and Mr Voloshin. According to Ms Savchenko’s defence attorneys,
they have her mobile phone records, proving that she had been captured
an hour before the attack on the journalists.
42 The case of Ms Savchenko became an icon of Ukrainian resistance,
especially when Ms Savchenko went on a hunger strike. It became
a subject of political talks at the Minsk negotiations, but unfortunately
the Russian authorities rejected all calls by the international
community for her liberation. At present, Ms Savchenko is still
detained in the Russian Federation and the Russian court, by its
decision of 22 March 2016, has declared her guilty and sentenced
her to 22 years’ imprisonment.
3 Exchanges of captives
43 The issue of the exchange of
captives was one of the main items of the Minsk Agreement, where
in point 6 it is stated: “Provide release and exchange of all hostages
and illegally held persons, based on the principle of ‘all for all’.
This process has to end – at the latest – on the fifth day after
the pull-out [of troops].” However, the implementation of this
part of the agreement has been blocked.
44 It should be noted that all Ukrainian captives in the Russian
Federation are not covered by the Minsk Agreement.
45 The Ukrainian authorities claim that the separatists include
in their lists the names of prisoners who have been charged for
different crimes and are serving their sentences in prison, or those
who have been charged and are awaiting trial. It seriously complicates
the exchange process, as to liberate these criminals the courts are
obliged to reconsider the charges against them, which implies a
violation of Ukrainian legislation.
46 The release of captured civilians is further complicated by
the fact that the Ukrainian authorities cannot exchange captured
fighters for civilians without putting in danger the civilian population
of territories under control of the separatists.
47 Two of the most recent exchanges of prisoners took place on
29 October 2015, when 20 prisoners were exchanged (the separatists
handed over 8 Ukrainian soldiers and one civilian in exchange for
11 separatists captured during the fighting) and on 1 December 2015,
when Ukrainian officer Mr Andrij Grechanov, Head of the Investigations
of the 81st brigade of the Ukrainian forces, was exchanged for the
Russian officer Mr Vladimir Strelkov, captured by the Ukrainian
boarder guards in the Summer of 2015.
48 There have been cases where the relatives of captives have
negotiated their release directly with separatists on a private
basis. In many cases, they paid money for the freedom of their family.
These situations created a worrying risk of extortion and fraud,
where bandits and criminal gangs pretending to have news on missing
or captured people would terrorise their families. The most appalling
aspect is that some volunteer organisations have accused certain
official negotiators of soliciting money from families of captives
for facilitating their release.
49 The involvement of controversial personalities such as oligarch
Viktor Medvedchuk, who has personal links to President Putin, as
a representative of Ukraine in the humanitarian sub-group of the
Trilateral Contact Group has been strongly contested by civil society
and volunteer organisations dealing with the problem of captives.
They accuse him of undermining and slowing down the exchange process.
50 If, at the beginning of the conflict, the exchange process
from the separatist’s side was barely regulated, now there are two
representatives from the Minsk humanitarian group negotiations who
are dealing with this issue: Ms Darya Morozova, from the so-called
“Donetsk People’s Republic” and Ms Olga Kobceva, from the so-called
“Luhansk People’s Republic”. The “DPR” has even established a committee
on prisoner exchange. Nevertheless, there are still exchanges organised
by the leaders of separatist groups, without any co-ordination with
the separatist government, and who pursue their own interests.
51 The main problem in the exchange of prisoners is the co-ordination
of the lists and categories of captured people from both sides.
This process is also complicated by the absence of clear information
on the number of people kept in captivity by the different groups
of separatists. I hope that now, when the Centre of the Security Service
of Ukraine will be the only body responsible for the release of
captured people in Ukraine, the negotiations process in the format
“all for all” will be facilitated. Finding a solution to release
all captives should be a priority for all sides of the conflict.
4 Major concerns linked to
the situation of captivity
4.1 Legal issues
52 The issue of exchange of prisoners
is not adequately regulated in the national legislation of Ukraine, which
is understandable, as the country was not prepared for this military
conflict. Therefore, apart from the Criminal Procedure Code, which
regulates the terms of detention of people suspected of committing
crimes, two other normative acts have a direct relation to the problem
of captured people. Regrettably, they contain numerous shortcomings
in terms of the protection of human rights:
The Law “On Amendments to the Law of Ukraine On Combating
has a provision on preventive detention
for a period of more than 72 hours in the area of counter-terrorist
operations for persons involved in terrorist activities. Such persons
can be detained without any court decision for a period of up to
30 days. This means that the law-enforcement agencies, without having
to open criminal proceedings, can hold a person in detention for
one month without any court order for it. Under such conditions,
the person has no guarantees against arbitrariness; in particular,
he or she is deprived of the right to a legal defence, the right against
self-incrimination and presumption of innocence.
The draft Law “On prevention of persecution and punishment
of persons – participants in the events on the territory of Donetsk
and Luhansk regions”,Note
the so-called Amnesty Law, contains
many flaws of a procedural and contextual nature. In particular,
it does not exclude from its beneficiaries those who have committed
torture and ill-treatment. This creates the opportunity for persons
who may have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity to
avoid their legal responsibility, which is in violation of the basic
principle of international humanitarian law and of the Constitution
of Ukraine. It should be noted that this law is still awaiting the
signature of the President of Ukraine.
55 The entry into force of the Amnesty Law is one of the main
preconditions for a large-scale exchange of captives formulated
by separatists. The law was adopted by the Parliament of Ukraine
in 2014, but has not yet been signed by the President. The implementation
of this law is foreseen by the Minsk II Agreement (paragraph 5:
“Ensure pardon and amnesty by enacting the law prohibiting the prosecution
and punishment of persons in relation to events that took place
in certain areas of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine”).
56 In any case, the negotiators from the separatists’ side are
not fully satisfied with this law and would like it to be modified.
The Ukrainian side claims to be ready to work on amendments, but
the continuing violation of the ceasefire is making the passing
of a new draft law unfeasible. Any idea of amnesty and exchange
of prisoners “all to all” could be realistic only under the condition
of ending all military operations on both sides.
57 With regard to international humanitarian law, the rights
and obligations of the parties in respect of prisoners of war are
provided in the Third Geneva Convention of 1949. They can be summarised
in one sentence: “Prisoners should always be treated humanely.”
Torture and any other cruel treatment of prisoners of war are considered
as war crimes.
58 The protection of civilians from being taken hostage in occupied
territories and in military zones is regulated by the Fourth Geneva
Convention of 1949 and the two Additional Protocols of 1977 (on
international and non-international armed conflicts).
59 To summarise, taking into account the current situation of
military conflict on its territory, Ukraine should bring its national
legislation, including the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure
Code into line with the provisions of international criminal law.
The Amnesty Law designed to implement the appropriate items of the Minsk
Agreements should contain a clear procedure under which those who
have committed grave crimes and treason would not receive amnesty.
60 Ukraine should also ratify the Rome Statute to allow the International
Criminal Court to conduct effective investigations into concrete
cases of violations of international humanitarian law and grave
crimes committed during the war in Ukraine. It is also one of the
obligations of the Ukrainian authorities to the European Union in accordance
with the Association Agreement.
61 I also think that the implementation of paragraph 6 of the
Minsk Agreement on the release of all prisoners of war and civilian
hostages should be a priority objective and should not be linked
to the adoption of the Law on Amnesty.
4.2 Inhumane treatment of captives
62 The non-governmental organisation
Centre for Civil Liberties prepared a report on the hostages, torture and
extrajudicial executions in the Luhansk Region. They interviewed
130 people released from captivity by separatists. Every second
civilian hostage reported being tortured by separatists. In more
than 40% of cases, the people captured reported being interrogated
by Russian military personnel or volunteers. In some cases, the
captives had been transported to the territory of the Russian Federation
and had been tortured there.
63 During my visit to Ukraine, I personally met four civilian
men who had been captured by the separatists. All of them reported
being beaten, tortured and subjected to ill-treatment. The most
common types of ill-treatment are assaults and beatings. Often,
the captured people are beaten several times a day; sometimes the
beatings can last for 20 minutes. During the interrogations, separatists
often use suffocation. Some captured people are also subjected to
torture by electric shock, and imitations of shooting and executions
and they report being kept in terrible inhumane conditions, without
toilet facilities, little daylight and in very humid buildings,
such as cellars.
64 Many captives witnessed executions of other people during
their captivity. They also reported that the separatists had detained
many local people and even their own fighters for various types
of violations of public order. Those people were also subjected
to beatings, torture and executions.
65 One of the cruellest forms of the treatment of captured Ukrainian
soldiers is the so-called “parades of war prisoners”. This form
of treatment targets the media and public to further humiliate and
dishonour the prisoners. The images of these “parades” are broadcast
in the local media and on the Internet.
Both military and civilian captured people testify that there
is a practice of forced labour during their detention by the separatists.
Captives must dig trenches, rebuild houses, clean premisesNote
and streets, and unload the so-called “Russian
convoys” of weapons. Some prisoners were also forced to conduct
exhumations and bury dead bodies.
67 During my official meetings in Severodonetsk, I was told that
during the occupation of this territory, many local citizens were
taken by force by separatists for forced labour in mines and on
the Russian territory. The whereabouts of 1 500 persons are still
68 I was informed that the Ukrainian authorities had sent 24
requests for information to other sides of the conflict as regards
the conditions of detention of Ukrainian captured persons and their
places of detention. No official replies have been received. I think
that the Council of Europe’s European Committee for the Prevention of
Torture or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) should establish
a special monitoring mission to check the conditions of detention
of Ukrainian prisoners detained in the Russian Federation, as well
as in Crimea, and those illegally held on the territories under
the control of the so-called “DPR” and “LPR”. It should also monitor
the situation of those who were detained by the Ukrainian authorities
on the basis of allegations of their involvement in separatist and
terrorist activities during the war in Ukraine.
4.3 Assistance to the released
persons and their families from the Ukrainian government
69 From the beginning of the conflict,
negotiations on the release of captives from the Ukrainian side
have been held by different actors and official institutions, but
also by volunteers and non-governmental organisations, private actors
and the relatives of captives. However, until recently this work
was not co-ordinated, which is one of the reasons for the great
differences in estimates of the number of captives.
70 At governmental level, an Interagency Centre for Assistance
in the release of Captives and Hostages and the Search for Missing
Persons was established in September 2014 as the main agency responsible
for the negotiations for the exchange of captives. However, in practice,
this centre was only acting as a hotline centre for the registration
of information on captured and missing persons. It was not acting
as a co-ordinative mechanism with other law-enforcement agencies
and therefore its work was not effective.
Only in October 2015, after the criticism expressed by various
NGOs and the recommendations included in Assembly Resolution 2067 (2015)
on missing persons during the conflict in Ukraine, did
the Ukrainian Government reorganise this centre and place it under
the auspices of the Security Service of Ukraine, as a new United
Centre on co-ordination of the search and release of persons illegally
deprived of their freedom, hostages and tracing of missing persons
in the area of anti-terrorist operations. The new centre should
bring together the representatives of all law-enforcement agencies,
but also representatives of NGOs, volunteer organisations and some
private individuals. It should create a list of people captured
since 7 April 2014, and it will co-ordinate the negotiation process
on the release of captives and consider citizens’ appeals related
to this problem.
72 As it was reported during my meetings in the Ministry of Defence
and the National Guard of Ukraine, these agencies are represented
in the new Centre and have an active role in its work.
73 In the cases of captured military personnel, following the
report sent by the commander to headquarters on the capture or disappearance
of a member of staff, an immediate investigation procedure is launched.
In accordance with Article 6 of the Law on the social protection
of military staff, the family of captured military personnel will
receive their monthly salary. The released military personnel also
have the right to free psychological rehabilitation, which is guaranteed
by the new law, adopted on 3 November 2015 on the changes to the
social protection of military personnel and their families.
74 Some concrete steps have been initiated by the Ukrainian authorities
in co-operation with NGOs in providing direct assistance to captured
people. The Ministry of Defence organised several provisions of
food and warm clothing to captured people detained by the separatists
on occupied territories. The Minister of the Interior of Ukraine
also took the decision to earmark 10 000 UAH to every person released
75 The situation is much more complicated in the case of the
capture of a civilian person. As this situation is new from a legal
point of view, it is not regulated in the current Ukrainian legislation.
In practice, the families of captives should inform the police or
the Security Service of Ukraine about cases of captivity and those authorities
should launch a criminal case and investigation procedure on each
particular appeal. There is no special status of “captured persons”
in Ukrainian legislation, therefore the families of captured persons
have no right to financial or social assistance. In theory, if a
criminal case has been opened by the General Prosecutor’s Office,
persons released from captivity could receive the status of victim.
The Ministry of Social Policy should provide medical and social
assistance to such persons. In practice, the hospitals are overcrowded
and the bureaucratic procedure for receiving assistance is so complicated
that people are discouraged from submitting applications.
76 After their release, many former captives face a number of
serious problems. Released civilians encounter problems in leaving
the military zones, as very often they have no money and their documents
have been destroyed by the separatists. The main problem for them
is finding a new place to live.
77 All people released from captivity need special psychological
assistance and rehabilitation. Unfortunately, Ukraine does not have
a sufficient number of qualified medical specialists prepared to
work with victims of captivity. There is also a low level of psychological
culture in the society: people are not used to psychological consultations
and prefer to keep such problems to themselves, being afraid of
stigmatisation. However, non-governmental organisations such as
Psychological Crisis Service, Women’s power of Ukraine and Leagues
of Officers are services which provide psychological assistance
to the victims of military actions. The National Guard of Ukraine
and the Ministry of Defence have created specialised departments
dealing with psychological assistance and organise training for
their staff with professionals coming from countries which have
had experience of war conflicts. Four centres of psychological rehabilitation
have been opened by the Ministry of Defence.
78 The experience of the Vietnam War and other military conflicts
has shown that psychological traumas should be treated as soon as
possible. If people who have been subjected to an “invisible wound”
are not immediately treated by professionals, the negative consequences
of the trauma (such as violence, drug addiction, alcoholism) could
occur over the following twenty years.
5 Contribution of civil society
and the international community in the release of and assistance
to captured persons
5.1 Role of voluntary and non-governmental
organisations in the release of and assistance to captured persons
79 From the first days of the
conflict, voluntary organisations and NGOS, especially those who
were based in the newly occupied areas, were actively involved in
the search for, exchange of and assistance to victims of captivity.
80 Particularly at the beginning of the conflict, a large number
of captured people were returned only on the initiative and due
to the efforts of volunteers. Some of these volunteers were captured
themselves and after their liberation they did their utmost to liberate
other people in captivity. I would like to commend these courageous
people who are risking their lives to save the lives of others:
Ms Anna Mokrousova, Mr Valerij Makeev, Ms Gajde Rizaeva, Ms Alla
Gontar, Ms Oksana Bilozir, and the organisations Blue Bird, Patriot, South,
Centre for liberation of prisoners and Donbas SOS. Sometimes the
separatist military commanders are more reluctant to be in contact
and negotiate with volunteers than with official authorities. Volunteers
were the first people to collect information on captured civilians
and make public the database of these captured and missing persons.
81 NGOs such as the Centre for Civil Liberties, Euromajdan SOS,
Coalition of civil initiatives and Justice for peace in Donbas are
doing very important work in the gathering and registration of information
on human rights violations in Crimea and in the occupied territories.
Their reports are being submitted to the International Court of
Justice in The Hague, which I hope will establish a special tribunal
to hold accountable all those who have committed serious crimes
during this conflict.
82 The initial assistance to victims of captivity and their families
is also provided by non-governmental organisations, such as Forpost,
which provides rehabilitation for military personnel, and Sich,
which ensures social and psychological support to victims of the
conflict. Now, after almost two years of conflict, these organisations
are working in close co-operation with governmental bodies, while
at the beginning of the conflict they were the only contacts for
the families of captured people.
83 To my mind, it is very important that the State recognises
the important role played by the non-governmental organisations
in the solution of the problem of captured people, and involves
them in the drawing up of relevant legislative provisions and administrative
procedures, and in the training of the professionals dealing with
5.2 Assistance from the international
84 The OSCE mission In Ukraine
does not play any role in the Minsk process as regards humanitarian issues.
The authorities of the so-called “LPR” and “DPR” do not agree with
the involvement of the OSCE in anything other than security issues.
The same is valid for the territory of Crimea; the OSCE has no access there.
85 The ICRC began to be involved in the assistance to people
affected by the conflict in Ukraine in spring 2014. It has visited
respectively in 2014 and 2015, 155 and 618 people detained by the
Ukrainian authorities in relation to the conflict. However, only
four people captured and held by separatists had been visited by
them at the beginning of 2016.
On 29 October 2015, for the first time, the ICRC participated
in the release and transfer back to their places of origin of 20
detainees held in connection with the conflict in Ukraine. Acting
as a neutral intermediary and in accordance with its mandate, the
ICRC facilitated this release and transfer in consultation with
a similar operation that allowed for the release and transfer back
to their places of origin of four detainees on 15 November 2015.
87 The European Court of Human Rights is also dealing with the
problem of people captured during the conflict in Ukraine. There
are currently three inter-State applications lodged by Ukraine against
Russia (Ukraine v. Russia,
Applications Nos. 42410/15, 20958/14 and 43800/14). The most recent
case (Ukraine v. Russia, Application
No. 42410/15) mainly concerns the responsibility of Russia for numerous
violations of the European Convention on Human Rights in Crimea
and the territories of Donetsk and Luhansk, including cases of the abduction
and detention of opposition activists and members of the Crimean
Tatar community and the torture and ill-treatment of Ukrainian civilians
and military personnel. The Court has invited the Russian Government to
submit its observations on this case.
More than 200 individual applications lodged by soldiers and/or
their relatives following the abduction and subsequent captivity
of the soldiers are currently pending before the Court. In more
than 100 other cases lodged before the Court, the applicants complain
that they have been injured or tortured, or that their relatives have
been killed or have disappeared as a result of the actions of members
of the separatist movement or in the course of military actions.Note
89 There is also one individual application, Savchenko v. Russia (Application
No. 50171/14), lodged by a member of the Parliamentary Assembly,
Ms Nadiia Savchenko, following her detention by the Russian authorities
on suspicion of murder and illegal crossing of the Russian border.
The Court is awaiting the written observations of the Russian Government.
At present, Ms Savchenko is still detained in the Russian Federation and
the Russian court, by its decision of 22 March 2016, has declared
her guilty and sentenced her to 22 years’ imprisonment.
6 Conclusions and recommendations
90 The first thing I was told
by the local authorities of Severodonetsk, a city liberated from
the separatists in July 2014, and which is situated 50 km from the
front line, is that there is no real cease-fire and the conflict is
far from over. In fact, what is happening in the East of Ukraine
can hardly be called a conflict. For people who live there, people
liberated from captivity and soldiers we met at the checkpoints,
these so-called “anti-terrorist operations” have taken on the form
of a hidden war. And without the strong determination of all sides
to stop this war, to withdraw all weapons and to restore peace in
this region, a solution to the problem of people captured during
the conflict in Ukraine is not possible.
91 All sides in this problem, including the Russian Federation
should reiterate their commitment to a humane and dignified treatment
of people in captivity. They should also provide access to international humanitarian
organisations to all detainees without any conditions. It is very
important that on the issue of the exchange of prisoners, all sides
reinforce their commitments to the Minsk Agreement. Amnesty should
only be granted to those separatists who have not committed grave
crimes and treason.
92 The Russian Federation should use its influence over the separatists
to urge them to release all captives. It should also release all
Ukrainian captives who are detained on their territory.
93 I think that to facilitate negotiations with every side, there
should be an official representative of the Ukrainian authorities,
whose mission would be to co-ordinate humanitarian and social help
to the civilian population in the occupied territories in close
co-operation with international humanitarian organisations, and to
facilitate the process of the exchange of captives.
94 From a legal point of view, it is very important to investigate
all cases of inhumane treatment of captives from all sides of the
conflict, and all perpetrators of such crimes should be punished
according to Ukrainian legislation. The Criminal Code of Ukraine
should be amended to include a status of captured person and to make
torture a serious crime.
95 The international community should be more involved in the
process of the release of captives, and as mediators and facilitators
of this process. The experience of the ICRC is invaluable in this
regard; this organisation should use its mandate to monitor the
conditions of detention of captives and to facilitate, in its capacity
of neutral intermediary, their release. The OSCE should also be
more actively involved in the negotiations and the settlement of
the problem of people captured during the military actions in Ukraine.
I think it would be very important to establish a special multilateral
commission with the participation of international organisations
to draw up lists of the captives from all sides, and to register
all cases of inhumane treatment of captives.
96 After the liberation of captured persons, they should be returned
to their homes and provided with first aid and medical, social and
psychological assistance. Resolving the issue of their legal status
is vital for their rehabilitation.
97 The Ukrainian authorities need to, as soon as possible, settle
the issue of medical, legal, financial and social assistance to
the people liberated from captivity, in particular civilians. For
those people who are still in captivity, the State should provide
financial assistance to their families. The law-enforcement bodies
should launch criminal investigations into all cases of abduction
and taking of captives, as well as into cases of extortion, bribery
and corruption linked to the liberation of captured persons.
98 Very often, people who were in captivity have a problem recuperating
their documents, education diplomas and driving licences. The Ministry
of Internal Affairs of Ukraine should introduce a special procedure to
facilitate the reissuing of documents in such cases.
99 The new law on psychological rehabilitation should be drafted
in close consultation with NGOs and international specialists working
in this field. The adoption of this law should first and foremost
reflect the needs of victims of military actions.
100 Finally, even though we don’t know the exact number of people
in captivity, we can estimate that the number of released and captured
people amounts to several thousand. I believe that it is an obligation
of the Ukrainian Government and all its related structures to make
sure that the suffering of these people is reduced, and that they
receive State protection and the assurance that the State will take
care of them in the future.