Press Releases

PRESS RELEASE : World community must take active non-standard actions to protect human rights, stop crimes Russia committing – Andriy Yermak at meeting with international human rights organizations [October 2022]

The press release issued by the President of Ukraine on 22 October 2022.

Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Andriy Yermak held a video conference with representatives of international human rights organizations regarding access to places of forced detention of Ukrainian prisoners of war by Russia and securing their rights.

The conference was also attended by the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights Dmytro Lubinets, representatives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and deputy heads of the President’s Office.

Yermak said that today thousands of Ukrainian prisoners of war and civilians are being held by Russia in the temporarily occupied territories of Ukraine and the territory of the Russian Federation. The occupiers keep Ukrainian prisoners in terrible conditions and resort to brutal physical and psychological torture.

The head of the President’s Office said that today, the most egregious violations of human rights are taking place in Europe since the Second World War.

“Ukrainian prisoners are held without mandatory access to them by representatives of the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. Russia continues blocking the UN mission to establish the facts of the terrorist attack against Ukrainian prisoners of war, defenders of Azovstal, in Olenivka. About 50 of our soldiers were mercilessly killed. And it is very likely that other crimes are hidden in this place,” Yermak said.

According to the head of the President’s Office, each of the places of forced detention of Ukrainians is evidence of Russia’s cynical and impunity abuse of the Geneva Conventions and all international law.

The head of the President’s Office said that after Russia started a war against Ukraine, the traditional methods of diplomacy have become a thing of the past, and the world must realize this reality.

Yermak called on the representatives of the international human rights community, the structures of the UN, the European Union, the Council of Europe, and the OSCE to take immediate action to stop crimes against Ukrainian prisoners. “I appeal to everyone whose direct human rights mandate should not allow us to stand aside and passively watch as Russia continues committing the most brutal international crimes of our time,” he said.

Yermak said that international organizations should move to active non-standard actions, changing the established rules of their activities in accordance with modern conditions. According to the head of the President’s Office, the system of international security that has existed in the world until now will be changed after this war.

“Today, the entire community must act as a united front to defend the very principle of human rights protection in the 21st century. Otherwise, we will have nothing to say. Otherwise, this very principle and many institutions will not be able to say something for some time. Every war ends, but what do we say after it to all these thousands of people?” he said.

The head of the President’s Office suggested that representatives of international organizations consider the plan, which provides for specific steps to protect the rights of Ukrainians who are in Russian captivity.

“I propose to immediately bring the issue of the Olenivka detention camp, access to Ukrainian prisoners of war and the protection of their rights to the global level and adopt a joint declaration in which we strongly condemn war crimes, crimes against humanity and Russia’s genocide against Ukrainians,” Yermak said.

Also, the head of the President’s Office proposed that a joint mission, which representatives of international organizations can join, is sent to the contact line. This mission should remain on the contact line until Russia provides access to the places of detention of Ukrainian prisoners.

“I can guarantee you on behalf of Ukraine that we will provide all guarantees for your safety and the safety of your representatives. This will take place on the territory controlled by the government of Ukraine,” the head of the President’s Office said.

In addition, he made a proposal to prepare and publish relevant thematic reports of international organizations, which will be based on personally seen information or eyewitness testimony.

Yermak said that trust in international organizations will depend on the direct result of their activities.

“If we unite, if we imagine that there might be someone from our family there, in Olenivka, then, I am sure, we will be able to find completely alternative, non-standard approaches. I urge you to do so,” he said.

Yermak thanked the people of those countries that supported Ukraine during the Russian aggression.

“Today, Ukraine is fighting not only for itself. It is fighting for the whole world. For freedom, for the values of the democratic world. We will definitely win, and it will be our joint victory,” he said.

Also, the head of the President’s Office proposed holding weekly briefings by the human rights ombudsman. Representatives of partner countries can join these briefings so that the international community can get unbiased information about the situation with Ukrainian prisoners.

Lubinets, the Verkhovna Rada Commissioner for Human Rights, said: Ukraine proposes that a new mechanism for the implementation of a humanitarian mission to monitor the state and the conditions of detention of Ukrainian prisoners of war and compliance with the norms of the Geneva Convention is created.

“We draw your attention because it concerns our citizens. We come up with new initiatives. It depends on you whether the international community can really influence the aggressor state,” Lubinets said.

First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Emine Dzhaparova said that Ukraine raises issues that require the international community to find non-classical solutions.

For her part, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Alice Edwards, expressed her readiness to participate in the collection of information about crimes committed against Ukrainian prisoners of war, for the purpose of further investigation. She also said that she can visit Ukraine and talk with soldiers released from captivity.

Summing up, Yermak emphasized: today, the entire global human rights community must act as a united front against the most flagrant and large-scale violations of human rights in Europe in the 21st century, being committed by Russia.