2018 Russia: Oleg Sentsov - Letter to President Putin

Ukrainian filmmaker and writer Oleg Sentsov, who has been on hunger strike since 14 May 2018, is reportedly in a critical condition. According to his lawyer, who visited him in prison on 7 August 2018, Oleg Sentsov has a low haemoglobin level, resulting in anaemia and a slow heartbeat, and has lost 30 kilogrammes. He is refusing to be transferred to a civilian hospital as he is too weak to stand and says that medical staff there have previously been hostile towards him. Best known for his 2011 film Gamer, Oleg Sentsov was arrested four years ago and sentenced to 20 years in prison on 25 August 2015 on spurious terrorism charges after a grossly unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. PEN International fears that he was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea.  In a statement shared by his lawyer, Oleg Sentsov has declared an ‘indefinite hunger strike’ and that ‘the sole condition for its cessation is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners located in the territory of the Russian Federation’.

His Excellency
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin
Ul. Ilyinka, 23
103132 Moscow
Russian Federation

Dear Mr. President,

The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee is expressing serious concern for the health of filmmaker Oleg Sentsov. He was arrested four years ago and sentenced to 20 years in prison on spurious terrorism charges after a trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. International opinion fears that he was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s actions in Crimea.

Oleg Sentsov has been on hunger strike since 14th of May 2018. In a statement shared by his lawyer, Oleg Sentsov declared an ‘indefinite hunger strike’ and that ‘the sole condition for its cessation is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners located in the territory of the Russian Federation’.

The United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (the Mandela Rules) explicitly states that prisoners should be allowed to correspond in writing with family and friends at regular intervals. Under Russian legislation, there is usually no limit to the number of letters prisoners may send or receive but correspondence needs be in Russian. The prison authorities are obliged to deliver letters with the minimum of delay. All correspondence is checked and read.

We are calling for Oleg Sentsov’s immediate and unconditional release if, as is feared, he is being persecuted for his legitimate professional activities and peaceful exercise of his right to free expression.

Oslo, August 10th 2018

On behalf of the Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee,

Øivind Hånes, author
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY:
Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika
Director of the Russian Penitentiary Service of the Russian Federation, Gennady Kornienko
Embassy of the Russian Federation in Oslo, Norway
The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs