10 April 2019, 12:13

Russian human rights center Memorial recognized captured Ukrainian sailors as political prisoners

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24 Ukrainian seamen, prisoners of war captured by Russian border guards in November 2018 in the Kerch Strait area, are recognized as political prisoners..

Russian human rights center Memorial published a corresponding statement on its website.

According to Russian human rights defenders, international law does not recognize the legitimacy of the occupation and annexation of Crimea by Russia and the related claims of the Russian Federation to establish a sea border 12 miles from the coastline of the Crimea, which Ukrainian military vessels entered on November 25, 2018. Thus, the accusation of the Ukrainian military in crossing this “border” cannot be considered as legitimate.

Memorial also agrees with experts on international humanitarian law that the Kerch incident is an international military conflict, and the detained Ukrainian sailors are prisoners of war.

Human rights defenders believe that sailors and officers cannot be prosecuted under the criminal laws of the party that arrested them for the fact of participation in a military conflict.

They are protected by the Third Geneva Convention Concerning the Treatment of Prisoners of War and Additional Protocols to it, which have been ratified by Russia and Ukraine. This opinion is shared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the statement says.

Memorial demanded an end to the criminal prosecution of seamen and their release, as well as keeping them in conditions in accordance with the provisions of the Third Geneva Convention before release.

On November 25, 2018, near the Kerch Strait, Russian border guards rammed a Ukrainian tugboat Yany Kapu, which was heading from Odesa to Mariupol along with Nikopol and Berdyansk boats. After that the Russian guards opened fire to kill. As a result of the shelling, three Ukrainian seamen were injured. 24 Ukrainians were captured and arrested until April 24, 2019. All the sailors consider themselves prisoners of war.

In the report of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the 24 Ukrainian sailors are recognized as prisoners of war. Accordingly, they are subject to the provisions of the Third Geneva Convention: Prisoners of war should be treated humanely, protected from acts of violence or intimidation and, if necessary, provided with medical assistance. In January, the PACE adopted a resolution with 103 votes in favor which condemned Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov and off the coast of the Kerch Strait.