G7: urgent appeal on behalf of Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov

Ahead of the meeting of G7 leaders in Canada on 8 and 9 June 2018, PEN calls for greater pressure to be put on the Russian authorities to release Oleg Sentsov. English PEN has today written to Prime Minister Theresa May urging her and fellow G7 leaders to raise his case at the earliest opportunity.

The full text of the letter follows:

7 June 2018

Dear Prime Minister

I am writing on behalf of English PEN, the founding centre of the world association of writers dedicated to promoting literature and defending freedom of expression.

The upcoming G7 Leaders’ Summit is an important opportunity to advance the commitment of G7 countries to promote and protect human rights and fundamental freedoms. In this regard, we are writing to ask you to intervene directly with the Russian authorities in the case of prominent Ukrainian writer and filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, currently on hunger strike.

Oleg Sentsov was arrested in Crimea by the Russian security services in May 2014 and reported being subjected to a brutal three-hour ordeal involving beatings, suffocation and threats of sexual assault. He was taken to Russia where he spent over a year in pre-trial detention. In August 2015, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison on spurious terrorism charges after a grossly unfair trial by a Russian military court, marred by allegations of torture. He was denied a request for extradition to Ukraine on the grounds that he had become a Russian citizen following Russia’s occupation and ‘annexation’ of Crimea. PEN fears that Oleg Sentsov was imprisoned for his opposition to Russia’s occupation and illegal ‘annexation’ of Crimea and calls on the Russian authorities to release him immediately.

On 14 May 2018, Oleg Sentsov declared an ‘indefinite hunger strike’, stating that ‘the sole condition for its cessation is the release of all Ukrainian political prisoners located in the territory of the Russian Federation’. He reportedly told his lawyer that he was prepared to die should his demand be ignored.

Sir Tom Stoppard CBE, Honorary Vice President of English PEN, has said:

The so-called charge of ‘terrorism’ against Oleg Sentsov , and his sentencing of 20 years in prison, followed by his hunger strike, which continues, together are one more tragic instance where the real nature of rule in the Russian Federation breaks the surface. The regime would like brave men – and women – like Sentsov to be quickly forgotten. It is important that we don’t let that happen.

We believe that your actions in support of Oleg Sentsov could play a crucial role in securing his release. In light of his ongoing hunger strike, we are respectfully urging you and all G7 Leaders to raise his case with the Russian authorities at the earliest opportunity.

Should you require any further information, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Yours sincerely

Antonia Byatt
Director, English PEN


Write to the Prime Minister

Write to the Prime Minister to alert her to PEN’s letter regarding Oleg Sentsov or, if you have time, please send a personal letter urging her to join fellow G7 leaders in raising his case with the Russian authorities.

– Twitter: @theresa_may / @Number10press ‏
– Online form https://email.number10.gov.uk/

NB If you live in the Maidenhead constituency, you can email the Prime Minister directly via mayt@parliament.uk

Spread the word

Share details of Oleg Sentsov’s case with friends and colleagues and on social media #FreeSentsov

Write to the Russian authorities

Please send appeals:

  • Urging the Russian authorities to release Oleg Sentsov immediately; should there be grounds to prosecute Oleg Sentsov on charges of terrorism, these should be heard by a civilian court under Ukrainian law, as required by international humanitarian law. Any testimony obtained through torture or other ill-treatment must be excluded from proceedings;
  • Calling on the Russian authorities to respect Oleg Sentsov’s human rights, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment as it pertains to hunger strike, and his right to medical attention;
  • Urging the Russian authorities to order an independent and impartial investigation into Oleg Sentsov’s allegations of torture and other ill-treatment. Anyone against whom there is sufficient admissible evidence of responsibility should be brought to justice;
  • Calling on the Russian authorities to return all Ukrainian nationals arrested in Crimea and now held in Russia to Ukraine, and free all held solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation
Yuri Yakovlevich Chaika
Prosecutor General’s Office
ul. B. Dmitrovka, d.15a
125993 Moscow GSP- 3
Russian Federation

Human Rights Ombudsman of the Russian Federation
Tatiana Nikolaevna Moskalkova
ul. Miasnitskaia, 47
107084, Moscow
Russian Federation

Please let us know of any action you take and of any responses you receive via the comments box below or via email – cat@englishpen.org

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This content is published by the English PEN staff.

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