Information that DPR and LPR are holding more than 250 Ukrainian citizens is not true, – Daria Morozova

Comments and statements of the Ombudsman Detention News

The statement of the Ukrainian Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights Lyudmila Denisova that today the DPR and LPR are holding 251 Ukrainian citizens on their territories is not true. The announced figure testifies only to one thing that the Ukrainian Ombudsman and the representatives of Kiev in the humanitarian subgroup of the Contact Group on the peaceful settlement of the crisis in Donbas do not communicate or interact. I draw this conclusion on the basis of official requests and lists that Kiev sends to our address. According to these documents, today Ukraine is looking for 69 people in the DPR and 22 people in the LPR. In total, this is not even half of the number voiced by the Ukrainian human rights activist.

Expressing concern about the fate of his compatriots, allegedly held in the «occupier’s torture chambers”, the Ukrainian ombudsman is not only mistaken in figures, but also misses an important fact. The fact is that among these “illegally imprisoned” defenders and patriots of Ukraine, there are often persons convicted of ordinary crimes. Moreover, some of them were made in the pre-war period. A striking example is that of the nine citizens that the DPR transferred to Ukraine at the request of the official Kiev during the exchange in April 2020, six (!) have convictions for crimes against life and health, against property and sexual inviolability, as well as for murder, robbery and rape. That is, these people have nothing to do with the conflict. And one can only guess why Ukraine needed and positions them as victims of the conflict.

Both as a person and as a human rights activist, I sincerely regret and am extremely concerned that not a single full-fledged stage of the exchange of detainees took place between the DPR and Ukraine in 2020. However, the blame for this entirely lies with Kiev, which in every possible way avoids fulfilling the obligations to implement the Complex of Measures and “procedural cleansing” of 50 persons that were previously transferred to the DPR as part of the exchange.

I believe that in this situation, the Ombudsman of Ukraine should focus not on statistics, but on protecting the legal status of these citizens. Indeed, Ukraine is grossly violating personal, property, civil and social rights of the released persons by continuing criminal prosecution against them.

Also, it is important to focus efforts on protecting the interests of those citizens who are still held on the territory of Ukraine. Over the past five years, OHCHR has regularly documented in its reports the facts of crimes committed by Ukraine against the civilian population based on the events in Donbas. Thus, numerous cases of arbitrary detention of people, detention in unofficial places, held in incommunicado detention, ill-treatment and torture, restrictions on freedom of movement, obstacles to access to justice, etc. have been reported. However, there is no one who would be punished for this. There is not a single check on these facts initiated by the Ombudsman of Ukraine.

At the same time, I would like to remind you that the DPR is looking for 103 people on the territory of Ukraine. There is a video in open sources confirming that some of them were detained in Ukraine in 2014-2015. However, despite our numerous requests, we did not receive any information from Kiev on any of the indicated citizens. To my deep regret, this suggests that some of the people on our list are no longer alive.

I have repeatedly informed the Ukrainian side about the problem of Kiev’s failure to comply with the “procedural cleansing” and about the “list of 103”. However, this did not bring positive results. At the same time, I am convinced that with the desire and close interaction of the Ombudsman of Ukraine and representatives of the law enforcement system of this state, Kiev could fulfil its obligations as soon as possible, which would allow moving on to the next step in discussing of new stages of the exchange.