Brev til utenriksminister Søreide om Oleg Sentsov

Kjære Utenriksminister Ine Eriksen Søreide,

Oslo, 20. august 2018 

MEDISINSK STØTTE TIL OLEG SENTSOV OG LØSLATELSE AV ULOVLIG FENGSLEDE UKRAINERE I RUSSLAND

 

Som godt kjent, er det i morgen, 21. august d.å., 100 dager siden den ukrainske filmregissøren og forfatteren Oleg Sentsov innledet sin sultestreik med krav om frigivelse av ukrainske fengslede etter krigshandlinger på Krim og Ukraina. Det er kjent at Sentsovs helsetilstand er kritisk og raskt forverrende.

Dagen vil bli markert med demonstrasjoner utenfor russiske ambassader i flere europeiske land og fulgt opp med bred medieoppmerksomhet. Sentsov er dømt til 20 års fengsel for sin aktivisme og har sonet sin dom i Russlands nordligste fengsel siden mai 2014.

 

Det internasjonale engasjement i saken er intenst og vil tilta for å redde Sentsovs liv.  Vi i PEN, sammen med en bred internasjonal bevegelse, ser det som vår menneskelige og politiske plikt å sikre at vi gjør det som står i vår makt for å påvirke russiske myndigheter til å gripe inn og redde hans liv ved medisinsk hjelp.

 

Den finske utenriksministeren har allerede anmodet russiske myndigheter om å aksjonere for å gi Sentsov den nødvendige medisinske behandling som han har krav på. Den finske utenriksministeren har også uttrykt at det forventes at russiske myndigheter løslater alle ulovlig fengslede ukrainske statsborgere.

 

Utover det som allerede er uttalt i saken fra norsk hold anmoder vi vår utenriksminister om å gjøre som sin finske kollega – om kraftfullt å appellere til russiske myndigheter for sikre den medisinske bistand for å trygge hans liv, samt å be om at ulovlig fengslede ukrainere løslates.

 

Med vennlig hilsen,

 

William Nygaard

Leder Norsk PEN

Kopi til Stortingets utenriks- og forsvarskomité

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

2017 Russia: Oleg Sentsov

10 May marked three years since prominent Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov was arrested and sentenced to 20 years in prison on terrorism charges after an unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture.

May 18st 2017

Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, Mr. Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika

Human Right’s Ombudsman of the Russian Federation, Mrs. Tatiana Nikolaevna Moskalkova

To whom it may concern,

PEN International and The Norwegian Writers in Prison Committee hereby urge you to immediately free writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov from prison.

Sentsov was arrested on the grounds of “suspicion of plotting terrorist attacks” and sentenced to 20 years in prison during an unfair trial by Russian military court with serious flaws in the judicial proceedings. The key witness retracted his statement, saying it had been extracted under torture. Sentsov was still convicted and is currently being held in Russia, despite him being a Ukrainian citizen.

These unfair proceedings give reason to believe Sentsov was arrested and tried because of his opposition to Russia’s annexation of Crimea. We therefore urge you to immediately release him from prison. If there are grounds to prosecute him on these charges, this should be done by a civil court under Ukrainian law.

Oleg Sentsov has claimed he was tortured and mistreated in the time following his arrest on May 10th 2014. We therefore also urge for the Russian authorities to order an independent and impartial investigation into Sentsov’s allegations of torture and other ill-treatment.

Yours sincerely,
Mari Moen Holsve
Member of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, The Russian Embassy in Norway

2017: Russia: Natalya Sharina

Natalya Sharina, the director of the Library of Ukranian Literature in Moscow, has been charged with “inciting ethnic hatred and humiliating human dignity,” and has been under house arrest since 2015. The Norwegian Library Association and Norwegian PEN have sent an appeal to Russian authorities calling for he release.

 

Embassy of the Russian Federation
Drammensveien 74
0244 OSLO

Oslo, 31st  January 2017

 

Your Excellencies,


We write to you as the chair of the committee of freedom of expression in the Norwegian Library Association (NLA) and the chair of the Writers in Prison Committee of Norwegian PEN.


Natalya Sharina, Director of the Library of Ukrainian Literature in Moscow, has now been under house arrest for more than a year. 
The Norwegian Library Association and the Norwegian PEN organization remains extremely concerned over the treatment of Sharina. She was arrested and placed under house arrest in October 2015 after being accused of inciting hatred or animosity towards a social group by allegedly holding banned books in the Library.  Sharina was subsequently arrested, and placed under house arrest. The Court has now extended her house arrest until 28 April 2017, but allowed Natalya Sharina to have daily walks in fresh air for two hours.


We express our deepest concerns at the continued imprisonment of Sharina, and call for her immediate and unconditional release if she is held – as we believe is very likely to be the case – solely for the peaceful exercise of her right to freedom of expression. 
We believe that the treatment of the Library of Ukrainian Literature, and its staff – and in particular Natalya Sharina – is completely disproportionate and unnecessary. As such it is an attack on democracy, learning and culture.


Libraries and librarians have a key role in supporting human rights, including freedom of access to information and freedom of expression, and an attack on libraries or librarians is an attack on democracy and culture.


We are strongly committed to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:


Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.


The Norwegian Library Association and the Norwegian PEN 
calls upon the Russian officials to release Natalya Sharina, in line with Russia’s obligation to respect the right to freedom of expression.

 

Brit Bildøen,                                                 Ingeborg Rygh Hjorthen,

 

Chair of the Writers in Prison Committee,          Chair of the committee of freedom of expression,

Norwegian PEN                                               Norwegian Library Association

2016: International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists

anna-politkovskaya

In solidarity with PEN International and PEN Centers around the world, Norwegian PEN observes November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists.  On this day we commemorate journalists who have been killed in their search for truth and transparency, and for reporting news to the public in an attempt to hold both governmental and non-governmental actors honest and accountable.  As PEN International reports, 80 cases of impunity for crimes against journalists were recorded in 2015, and it is high time to “end to the climate of impunity that allows attacks against journalists to go unpunished”.

In light of this international day of recognition, PEN wishes to highlight the case of Anna Politkovskaya, a prominent Russian investigative journalist and writer, whose work on the Chechen conflict and vociferous criticism of President Putin’s policies in Chechnya ultimately led to her untimely death on 7 October, 2006.

Due to her rigorous reporting for Novaya Gazeta, and her open critiques of Putin’s regime, Politkovskaya was subject to severe harassment from Russian authorities, and in 2004 she was poisoned a flight to North Ossetia, on her way to negotiate the release of hostages in a Beslan school.

On 7 October, 2006, Politkovskaya was the victim of a contract killing; she was found shot in the head in the elevator of her Moscow apartment, and though 5 men were finally convicted of her murder in June 2014, it is widely believed that the true masterminds behind her killing, and those that ordered the attack have not been brought to justice.

Tragically, Politkovskaya’s death is only one of many such stories among journalists.   Similarly, Akhmednabi Akhmednabiev was shot to death in 2015 outside his home in Makhachkala, and now, three years later, no one has been arrested in connection with his murder. In 2009, journalist and human rights defender Natalia Estemirova, a colleague of  Politkovskaya’s, was kidnapped and murdered in Grozny, Chechnya.  Her family is still awaiting justice seven years later.

According to PEN International, “impunity remains a serious concern in Russia, with the Committee to Protect Journalists recording at least 36 cases of murders of journalists in the country since 1992, the majority unresolved”.

Norwegian PEN and the Writers in Prison Committee call on President Putin and the Russian authorities to honour their commitment to free speech and freedom within their media, and to demonstrate this commitment with a renewed investigation into Politkovskaya’s death, with an aim to identify and convict those who are truly responsible for her assassination.

An open letter to President Putin:

2 November, 2016

To His Excellency
President Vladimir Putin,

On behalf of Norwegian PEN and the Writers in Prison Committee, we call on you and the Russian authorities to honour your domestic and international commitments to freedom of expression, and to ensure the effective protection of this right for journalists, as well as their protection against all forms of violence that result from their work.

We observe November 2nd as the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists, and take this opportunity to remember Anna Politkovskaya, the journalist and writer who was assassinated on 7 October 2006, after taking a critical stance of the Russian government’s policies in Chechnya.

Although we recognize the efforts that have been made thus far in connection with Politkovskaya’s murder, namely the conviction of 5 of her killers in 2014, we do not feel that justice has been served, or that the actors truly responsible for her death have been exposed.

We urge the Russian authorities to demonstrate their commitment to end impunity for crimes against journalists by renewing their investigation into Politkovskaya’s death, and by identifying and convicting the masterminds behind her killing.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Brit Bildøen
Chair of Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

Ms Iva Gavanski
Advisor, Writers in Prison Committee
Norwegian PEN

COPY: The Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs

4. september: Hvor går Russland

4. september kl. 10.00-12.00, Bjørnsonfestivalen Molde

Luke Harding, journalist fra Guardian, journalist og Moskva-korrespondent for NRK Morten Jentoft, forfatter Sofi Oksanen, seniorforsker ved NUPI Julie Wilhelmsen. 
Samtaleleder: forfatter Aage Borchgrevinck
Progranmet arrangeres i samarbeid med Bjørnsonfestivalen.
Les mer om programmet her: http://www.bjornsonfestivalen.no/program/hvor-gr-russland

Bare dialog og ytringsfrihet kan hindre ny deling av Europa

PRESSEMELDING

Bare dialog og ytringsfrihet kan hindre ny deling av Europa

Med stigende uro har Norsk PEN sett hvordan myndighetene i Russland gjennom lengre tid har hausset opp nasjonalismen i landet. Hensynet til «tradisjonelle russiske verdier» styrer i stigende grad så vel kulturpolitikken generelt som mediepolitikken spesielt. Mediene er i løpet av de siste månedene blitt stadig mer ensrettet, forlag tør ikke utgi bøker av frykt for å «propagandere for ekstremisme», som det uklart heter i lovteksten. Uavhengige bloggere trues av nye lover, nett-tv stenges. Slik svekkes den offentlige samtalen, som er så nødvendig i et moderne samfunn. Alternative stemmer forstummer og folkemeningen styres i én retning.

Når den nasjonalistiske retorikken kombineres med militærøvelser og annektering av et annet lands territorium står vi overfor en situasjon som lett kan komme ut av kontroll. Det som begynner med sensur og knebling av stemmer, ender med våpenbruk.

Men samtidig ser vi hvordan Vesten med USA i spissen bidrar til å hisse opp stemningen. Ukraina ligger nå en gang mellom Russland og Vesten. For at landet skal utvikle seg i demokratisk retning, er det avhengig av gode naboforhold til begge sider. Hverken russiske militærøvelser ved grensen eller NATO-styrker i nabolandene stimulerer til det. Bare ved politisk og økonomisk å bli det som landet faktisk er geografisk: en bro mellom Russland og Vesten, kan Ukrainas fremtid sikres. En motsatt utvikling vil ikke bare skade Russlands interesser, men på lengre sikt også Vestens.

Den spente situasjonen krever kløkt og tilbakeholdenhet fra begge parter. Situasjonen i Ukraina er et felles ansvar. Vi vil oppfordre til dialog og kommunikasjon, ikke våpenbruk eller retoriske svingslag. Det krever ytringsfrihet og respekt for grunnleggende menneskerettigheter. Bare en transparent situasjon kan garantere fred og sikkerhet.

 

Ytterligere informasjon og kommentarer
William Nygaard – 908 92 601
Peter Normann Waage – 920 95 965

Sochi Winter Olympics Campaign: Out in the Cold

The Winter Olympic Games will take place Sochi, Russia on 7th – 23rd February, 2014.

During the Games, PEN will be protesting the draconian restrictions placed on free expression in Russia since President Vladimir Putin returned to office in May 2012.

In the last 18 months, Russian lawmakers have signed a number of laws curtailing free speech and dissent. Three laws specifically place a choke hold on the right to express oneself freely, and pose a particular threat to our fellow writers, journalists and bloggers:

1.               In June 2013, the now-infamous gay ‘propaganda’ law was passed. This law prohibits the “propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships among minors,” meaning that any activity that can be construed as promoting the non-heterosexual lifestyle, including the holding of LGBT rallies, or the “promotion of denial of traditional family values among minors,” is now banned. Russian citizens violating this law face being fined; foreigners face deportation. Since the introduction of this law, LGBT groups have reported an increase in attacks on gay people and Russia’s media watchdog has already targeted one newspaper, Molodoi Dalnevostochnik, for ‘promoting’ homosexuality in its coverage of the firing of a gay school teacher.

2.               The ‘blasphemy’ law was also passed in June 2013. This law criminalizes ‘religious insult’ and provides punishments of up to three years’ imprisonment or a maximum fine of US$ 16,000. The law is widely seen as a heavy-handed attempt to deter stunts similar to the one carried out by the feminist punk group Pussy Riot, who performed their ‘punk prayer’ inside the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in February 2012.

3.               Defamation was re-criminalised in July 2012. Having previously been de-criminalised in 2011 under former President Dmitry Medvedev, it was made a crime once again when Putin returned to the presidency. This law provides cripplingly harsh fines of up to US$153,000 for violations and threatens to push small media outlets into self-censorship for fear of risking financial ruin.

In December 2013, in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Russian constitution, the State Duma granted an amnesty to PEN cases and jailed members of Pussy Riot,  Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Mariya Alekhina. Although welcome, this only reduced their harsh two-year prison sentences by a number of weeks, and it should not distract us from the fact that the threat to the right to express oneself freely has greatly increased since Tolokonnikova and Alekhina were convicted of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ in August 2012.

During the Winter Games at Sochi, PEN will be calling for the repeal of the troika of laws that restrict free expression in Russia: the gay ‘propaganda’ law, the blasphemy law and criminal defamation.

2013 Russland: Nadezhda Tolokonnikova

13. November 2013

President Vladimir Putin
23, Ilyinka Street,
Moscow, 103132,
Russia

Your Excellency

I write to you as the Secretary Geneeral of Norwegian PEN, the local section of PEN International, the writers’ and free expression organisation with 140 Centres in over 100 countries around the world, including Russia and many other countries in your region.

17 August 2013 marks the first anniversary of the convictions of Nadezhda Tolokonnivova, Mariya Alekhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – three members of the Russian female punk band, Pussy Riot. Convicted on charges of ‘hooliganism motivated by religious hatred’ following Pussy Riot’s performance of a ‘punk prayer’ at the Christ the Saviour Cathedral in Moscow in February 2012, each woman was punished with a two-year prison sentence (although Samutsevich’s sentence was later suspended).

The convictions and sentencing of Tolokonnivova, Alekhina and Samutsevich – which have been widely condemned inside Russia and throughout the world – represent a violation of their right to free expression as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by Russia in 1973. One year after their convictions, these young women are now recognised across Russia and the rest of the world as victims of the crackdown on dissenting voices initiated by the government of the Russian Federation.

PEN’s deep concern over the continued detention of Tolokonnivova and Alekhina is matched by our alarm over recent changes in Russian law that unlawfully restrict free expression.

On 22 October 2013, Nadezhda Tolokonnivova was moved from a penal colony where she was serving a two-year prison sentence and it is believed that she is in transit to – or has already arrived at – an (as yet) unknown prison. Neither her husband nor her lawyer has had any contact with her for three weeks. Tolokonnikova’s husband has said that an official in the prison administration informed him of a possible move to a prison colony in Siberia, but this has not been confirmed officially.

Russia’s refusal to disclose Tolokonnikova’s whereabouts is a direction violation of the UN’s Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners which state that prisoners should be allowed regular communication with family and friends and that family members must be notified when a prisoner is transferred from one prison to another.

PEN International calls on the Russian Federation to immediately release the imprisoned members of Pussy Riot and to revoke the sentences of all three members of the band. We urge the Russian Federation to repeal its trio of anti-free expression laws – the re-criminalisation of defamation, the ban on the ‘propaganda of non-traditional sexual relationships,’ and the religious insult law. And finally, we call upon your government to fully comply with its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect freedom of opinion and expression.

Yours sincerely,

Carl Morten Iversen
Secretary General

Irina Khalip:

Jeg ble truet, slått og arrestert pga. det jeg skrev.

2. april 1997, mens hun dekket en protest mot den foreslåtte gjenforening av Hviterussland med Russland, opplevde hun at faren, en dokumentarfilmskaper, ble slått bevisstløs. Hun ble selv skamslått av politiet .  Den hendelsen bare styrket henne i arbeidet med å avsløre korrupsjon i Hviterussland, spesielt fordi hun var journalist i Minsk for den undersøkende avisen Novaja Gazeta, der reporter Anna Politkovskaya arbeidet før hun ble drept.

Så truslene og voldsepisodene fortsatte.  Tidlig i 2011 tilbrakte Khalip en og en halv måned i fengsel og fikk en to års betinget dom for sin rolle under protestene mot president Alexsandr Lukasjenko´s kontroversielle gjenvalg i desember 2010.

I dag er hun i husarrest: Hun må fortelle politiet om sine reiseplaner og er utestengt fra å flytte eller forlate Minsk i lenger tid enn en måned. Politiet besøker hennes hjem sporadisk, ofte midt på natten. Hun er blitt «alenemor»: ektemannen Andrei Sannikov, som vant flest stemmer blant de ni opposisjonskandidater med 2,43 prosent i 2010 valget, fikk fem år i fengsel. Under rettssaken fortalte han at sjefen for de hviterussiske sikkerhetstjenester personlig truet med tøffe represalier mot hans kone og deres barn. Myndighetene truet med å plassere sønnen deres i et barnehjem. Khalip sier hun ikke vil slutte å rapportere om overgrep.  Det er bare en vei å gå: fremover.

Iryna Khalip er den første av 23 saker der overgriperne ikke er blitt straffet som nå presenteres ifm. IFEX-kampanjen mot straffefrihet og er foreslått av Norsk PEN og Helsingforskomiteen.

Send appellbrev til hviterussiske myndigheter:

President Alexander Lukashenko
38, Karl Marx Street
Minsk, 220016
Republic of Belarus

contact@president.gov.by
cc.
Alexander Barsukov, Department of Internal Affairs of the Minsk City Executive Committee

oios@guvd.gov.by
Miklós
Haraszti, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Belarus
sr-belarus@ohchr.org

XX. November 2012

Your Excellency,

As we begin marking the International Day to End Impunity on 23 November, we would like to respectfully draw your attention to the case of independent journalist Irina Khalip, living under house arrest for her reporting in Belarus, whom we believe to be subject to undue psychological pressure.

 Khalip, the Minsk-based correspondent for the Russian paper «Novaya Gazeta», spent a month and a half in jail in early 2011. She was given a two-year suspended sentence for her role in protests surrounding the elections in December 2010.

 Her husband Andrei Sannikov, an opposition candidate in the 2010 election, was given five years in jail for his role in the protests. During his trial, he said the chief of Belarus’s security services personally threatened harsh reprisals against his wife and their child. Authorities also threatened to put their son in an orphanage.

Today, those threats have come true. While Khalip lives under house arrest, she must tell police her travel plans, and is banned from moving or leaving Minsk for longer than a month. We are extremely alarmed by reports that police visit her home sporadically, often in the middle of the night – traumatising her and her five-year-old son. This is not acceptable under legal standards, and unfairly persecutes her young child, who has the right to special protection under the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child.

 Article 2 of the Declaration states:  «The child shall enjoy special protection, and shall be given opportunities and facilities, by law and by other means, to enable him to develop physically, mentally, morally, spiritually and socially in a healthy and normal manner and in conditions of freedom and dignity. In the enactment of laws for this purpose, the best interests of the child shall be the paramount consideration.»

 We ask that steps are taken to stop the police visits to Khalip’s home, particularly in the middle of the night, and that the conditions of her house arrest comply with international standards, so that her child may live free from intimidation and psychological abuse.

 We also ask that the fundamental human right to freedom of expression and assembly be upheld in Belarus, that the charges against Iryna Khalip be dropped, and those responsible for threatening Khalip and her child be brought to justice.

 Yours sincerely,