Ukrainian filmmaker and ecologist unjustly accused of terrorism and face life imprisonment
Ukraine, action created 10.8.2015, petition is active
Film director Oleg Sentsov was sentenced to 20 years for allegedly setting up a terrorist group and organizing terrorist acts. Aleksandr Kolchenko, an ecologist and anti-fascist activist was sentenced to 10 years in prison after an unfair trial by a military court in Russia. Both are Ukrainian citizens, and are accused of "terrorism", which stems from their criticism of the Russian occupation of Crimea.
Ukrainian director Oleg Sentsov was detained in the occupied Crimea by Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) in May 2014. Sentsov complained that during his detention, he suffered from FSB agents' torture. They put a plastic bag over his head and suffocated him until he fainted. His lawyer, Dmitry Dinze, described how FSB agents brutally treated his client. "Three hours of torture, trying to thrash out a confession. Beat him on the back, legs." Among other things, the lawyer also said that Sentsov was threatened with rape immediately after he removed his pants.
Aleksandr Kolchenko was detained on 16 May 2014 in the center of Simferopol, the capital. Kolchenko and Sentsov were later transferred to Moscow from Crimea together with other Ukrainian detainees. Both had taken part in peaceful demonstrations against the Russian intervention in the Crimea, and Sentsov had also taken part in the EuroMaydan demonstrations in Kiev, Ukraine, as a member of the motorists’ protest group “AutoMaydan”. His friends and family members who spoke to Amnesty International believe that the charges are politically motivated. At the trial, which took place in Rostov-on-Don, prosecution accused Sentsov of creating a terrorist organization and organizing multiple terrorist acts, and Kolchenko of committing terrorist acts. The prosecutor also accused them of being members of the Ukrainian right-wing group Pravyi Sektor (Right Sector), which was outlawed in November 2014. Both Kolchenko and Sentsov denied any affiliation with this group, and Pravyi Sektor has also issued a statement declaring they are not, and have never been, its members.
Additionally, Russian authorities accused Kolchenko and Sentsov of deliberately committing arson attacks on the future offices of the United Russia party and of preparing to blow up a statue of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and the Eternal Flame monument. Both were tried in a military court and could face up to life imprisonment. Sentsov has denied all the allegations. Kolchenko has admitted his taking part in the arson attacks, but denied that they were terrorist attacks. The process is deemed to be fabricated and politically motivated.
The release of Sentsov and Kolchenko has been repeatedly called upon by a number of international organizations, including Amnesty International.
In February, armed assailants raided buildings in Simferopol, the capital of Crimea. On March 6th, 2014, the Crimean parliament voted to join the Russian Federation and announced a referendum on March 16th. On March 18th, Russian President Putin signed the contract and completed the annexation of the Crimean peninsula. Consequently, Crimean citizens were forced to comply with Russian laws. In late April, some Ukrainian lawyers operating in Crimea were ordered to attend retraining and start working under Russian law.
Under international law, occupation is considered as a situation in which one country takes over without the consent of the state that has de facto control over the territory. This situation occurred in the Crimea, and Amnesty International considers the Crimean peninsula an occupied territory. On March 27th, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which called on all States and international organizations to not "recognize any change to the Statute of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol city as a result of a referendum and to refrain from any form of acts or behavior that could be interpreted as recognition of such amended Constitution."
The Fourth protocol of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilians in Time of War states the general rule that criminal laws of the occupied territories shall remain in force (Article 64), and that forced transfers or deportations of protected persons from occupied territories are prohibited (Article 49).