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Another sentence for V. Balukh: human rights defenders ask the international community and Ukrainian Government to do everything in their power to save the activist

Governments of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway,

Montenegro, Iceland, Albania, Liechtenstein,

USA, Canada, Australia and Japan

President and Government of Ukraine

OPEN ADDRESS

On July 5, 2018, in violation of fundamental human rights and international humanitarian law, a court of Crimean occupying authorities passed another sentence against Ukrainian citizen Volodymyr Balukh. Judge of the “Rozdolnenskyi District Court” Tetyana Pyrkalo sentenced him to 3 years imprisonment, and taking into account the previous unlawful sentences, imposed a final sentence of 5 years in a general regime colony, as well as a fine of 10 thousand rubles.

This is the third conviction for the Ukrainian activist, in the third fabricated criminal case against him. This case was initiated when he had been already deprived of his liberty and was in custody.

Volodymyr Balukh has been behind the bars in Crimea for 1 year and 7 months, and on a hunger strike in protest of this for 109 days.

Persecution of Volodymyr Balukh is politically motivated, and he is a prisoner of conscience, because he is behind bars solely for peacefully expressing his convictions in support of the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

We address the Governments of the European Union, Switzerland, Norway, Montenegro, Iceland, Albania, Liechtenstein, United States, Canada, Australia and Japan with a request to:

– use all available political and diplomatic mechanisms to liberate Volodymyr Balukh;

–   impose personal sanctions on persons involved in the persecution of Crimean prisoner of conscience Volodymyr Balukh;

– strengthen sectoral sanctions against the Russian Federation for the brutal and systematic violation of human rights in Crimea.

We demand from the Ukrainian Government to:

– do everything possible to liberate the Ukrainian citizen from Russian captivity;

– conduct a thorough investigation into the persecution of Ukrainian citizen Volodymyr Balukh, with subsequent prosecution of those responsible for neglecting human rights and international humanitarian law;

– include Russian citizens involved in the persecution of Volodymyr Balukh in the lists of human rights violators in Crimea subject to sanctions;

– provide support to the family of prisoner of conscience Volodymyr Balukh, as well as to all those unlawfully detained by Russia since 2014;

– to work out open legal and political mechanisms based on human rights standards and international humanitarian law and aimed at the release and transportation of Ukrainian political prisoners to Ukraine-controlled territory.

 

Olga Skrypnyk, Crimean Human Rights Group;

Oleksandr Pavlichenko, Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union;

Tetyana Pechonchyk, Human Rights Information Center

 

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

After the annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, Volodymyr Balukh, farmer from the village of Serebryanka, Rozdolnenskyi Rayon, repeatedly and publicly voiced his disagreement with the inclusion of Crimea into Russia. In March 2014, he installed the flag of Ukraine on the roof of his house in protest of this.

The de facto Crimean authorities have repeatedly threatened the activist, including with criminal prosecution. Since April, 2015 several unlawful searches were carried out in V. Balukh’s house, with subsequent removal and confiscation of the Ukrainian flag. During one such search, the activist was beaten by the police and eventually brought to administrative responsibility, by being arrested for 10 days for “disobeying instructions of a police officer” (Article 19.3 of the Code of the Russian Federation on Administrative Offenses). Criminal charges were brought against V. Balukh for a similar offence later, resulting in a sentence of 320 hours of forced labor in November 2016.

Volodymyr Balukh

In spite of all this, Volodymyr Balukh once again raised the Ukrainian flag on the roof of his house, and on November 29, 2016 put a sign “Heroes of the Heavenly Hundred Street” on his wall (in memory of the protesters killed during Euromaidan in Kyiv in February 2014). ) After this, in December 2016 officers of Russia’s Federal Security Service carried out another illegal search in the houses of the activist and his mother, removed the Ukrainian flag and allegedly “discovered” ammunition and dynamite there. On January 16, 2018 “judge” O. Tedeyeva, ignoring the evidence of the activist’s innocence and the fact that the evidence against him had been falsified, sentenced him to 3 years and 7 months in a penal settlement, with a fine of 10 thousand rubles (taking into account the sentence in the first criminal case), under part 1, Article 222 (Illegal acquisition and possession of arms and ammunition), and part 1, Article 222.1 of the Criminal Code of Russia (Illegal acquisition and possession of explosives or explosive devices). After the “appeal”, the sentence was changed to 3 years and 5 months imprisonment and a fine.

On August 22, 2017 a third criminal case was opened under part 2, Article 321 of Russia’s Criminal Code “Disruption of the Activities of Institutions Providing Isolation from Society” against the Ukrainian who had been in custody at the time. The official reason for this was the soiling of the clothing of the head of the penitentiary facility V. Tkachenko with dishwashing liquid. The prosecutor requested 4 years imprisonment in a general regime colony, and, taking into account previous convictions, 6 years imprisonment in a general regime colony, with a fine of 10 thousand rubles. On July 5, 2018 judge of the “Rozdolnenskyi District Court” Tetyana Pyrkalo sentenced him to 3 years imprisonment, with a final sentence of 5 years imprisonment in a general regime colony, taking into account the prior unlawful convictions, as well as a fine of 10 thousand rubles.

All evidence points to the fact that the trumped-up criminal charges against Volodymyr Balukh are a result of a political agenda. He has been deprived liberty solely for his convictions and public disagreement with Russia’s actions in Crimea. For this reason, the de facto Crimean authorities, in their treatment of V. Balukh, repeatedly neglected the rights and freedoms enshrined in the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – the right to liberty and security of person, the right to a fair trial, the right to freedom of expression, and the right to respect for private and family life.

 

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