The Ombudsman Tatiana Moskalkova — about how the Commissioner for human rights of Russia and Ukraine managed to “move” the Ukrainian prisoners home
Photo: NEWS/Paul Poor
Stormy was in this year spring in the media: information storms and spill fake rivers overshadowed an event that, without exaggeration, be called unique. Not that it was lost rather sounded somewhere “in the background” as irrelevant to the urgent problems which most face on a daily basis. However, in history it has frequently happened that fateful events began to assess and comprehend only many years later after the fact…
That’s what happened. March 17, twelve Ukrainian prisoners who were in prison in territory of the Russian Federation, was transferred to Ukraine. It would seem, is nothing special: quite often countries passed the “foreign” citizens for punishment, so to speak, “place of residence”. But this case is special. So much so that I had to use a special term — “internally displaced”. Not “handed over”.
It all started in may last year. During a visit to SIZO No. 1 in Simferopol, I was approached by a few prisoners to help them serve the remaining term of punishment in Ukraine, whose citizens they were. The fact that they were convicted of crimes committed on the territory of Ukraine, judgment is given to the Ukrainian court and was serving a sentence in Crimea (then Ukraine). Then came the “Crimean spring”, the Peninsula returned to Russia, and the prisoners were in a kind of legal trap. To release, to transfer to the Ukrainian side is impossible. Because the state does not recognize Crimea as Russian territory. They were cut off from loved ones, because of the visit of the Crimea by the laws of Ukraine jail.
Honestly, when we started to study this problem, I had no idea how difficult it is to solve it. But no wonder they say that a journey starts with the first step. Such a step was a meeting with the Commissioner for human rights of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Valeria Lutkovska.
We met on neutral territory in Minsk. Though not immediately, but managed to establish a good working relationship. Agreed that human rights is above politics. Based on this and started to work.
I will not dwell on technical details. I can only say that if not for the support of Russian President Vladimir Putin, not active assistance of the Russian foreign Ministry, justice Ministry, General Prosecutor’s office of Russia, FSB of Russia, Federal service of execution of punishments, and without the huge assistance of the Deputy Chairman of Russian government Dmitry Kozak, to fulfill his plan would be impossible.
Almost a year went by approval. And then came the day March 17, 2017. We have deliberately not announced this event to the media: everyone was hanging literally by a thread. After all, even the procedure itself is not called “transfer”. Only “moving”. In Belgorod, before you go to the border, I was able to meet with those who, so to speak, “moved”. Asked about the conditions of detention, as the fed claims. The answers were monotonous, but it is sincere: “no Complaints, the food was good”. Quite natural: the detention center is really modern, clean and, if we can apply this definition to the place of imprisonment, well-maintained. Surprised by the words spoken to several prisoners about the head of the detention facility: “man… dad…”. As one of the heroes of Ostrovsky: “it’s worth It…” if the prisoners Wanted to stay in Russia? Possible. Response to my direct question was careful: “See, there we have family… will see. Here is difficult…” well, people have made their voluntary choice, for which my Ukrainian colleague worked for almost a year.
The procedure itself was fast moving and clear. On the platform between our border crossing Nehoteevka and Ukrainian — Hoptivka stopped paddy. From hand to hand documents, from machine to machine prisoners. Quiet the noise of engines and barking service dogs. Done. Thank you all.
However, this is not the end. Move — only result, intermediate result. The main thing is that for the first time by Commissioner for human rights of the two countries managed to establish a kind of “humanitarian corridor”. We could not transfer people according to the law, but moved them justice. Thus showing that human rights is all important. More important than political disagreements, economic and media wars, territorial disputes and interpretation of laws. It turned out that if there is a clear confidence in the justice of your mission, then the impossible is possible.
It is also important that managed to show the state who is, to put it mildly, not in the best relations, on the basis of priority of human rights is able to find a compromise. A precedent was set, clearly showing that the efforts of civil society with the support of the authorities, which are aimed at protecting the rights and freedoms of the person, capable to reach result, even where legal procedures are powerless. I really hope that now many of the difficult problems in relations between our countries will become much easier to solve.
The great philosopher Immanuel Kant said, “When justice disappears, then there is nothing that could give value to people’s lives”. Proud of the fact that the institution of the Commissioner for human rights has yet again proved its usefulness. He can appeal to justice, which in our country is respected more than the law. And I want to believe that this day — March 17 — will be the starting point of the “era of justice”.
And if so, then we have a chance to see how the “era of mercy”.
The author is Commissioner for human rights in Russia