Letter: President Biden Must Sanction Individuals Responsible for Human Rights Violations in Eastern Ukraine
The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, D.C. 20500
Dear President Biden,
We, the undersigned, write to urge the immediate imposition of targeted sanctions, under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Act or other relevant sanctions regimes, against the names submitted separately of individuals responsible for grave human rights violations in the areas of eastern Ukraine controlled by Russia-backed forces.
The 15 perpetrators against whom we request the imposition of sanctions are listed based on the verified research and efforts of internationally recognized human rights organizations, the Ukrainian Media Initiative for Human Rights (UMIHR) and the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union (UHHRU). These perpetrators work in or with the notorious “Izolatsiya” (“Isolation”) prison in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. Hostages in this illegal place of detention, held by Russian-backed forces due to their perceived support for Ukrainian sovereignty and their exercise of free expression, are routinely tortured and subjected to psychological and physical humiliation. The perpetrators committed these grave human rights violations in their capacities as wardens and officers of Izolatsiya and members of the prosecution, judiciary, and state security ministry of the “Donetsk People’s Republic.”
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty journalist Stanislav Aseyev, himself a former Izolatsiya inmate, has documented the torture he endured as well as the torture and killings he witnessed. Mr. Aseyev briefed Congressional and State Department officials as well as civil society leaders in November of this year as part of a delegation of human rights defenders hosted by PEN America.
On December 2, Secretary Blinken warned of “severe costs” to Russia should it mobilize its increasing military presence along the border with Ukraine. Moving urgently to sanction these perpetrators, operating under Russian influence, would reinforce your administration’s support of Ukraine’s sovereignty and your commitment to human rights, and could also serve to encourage the de-escalation of Russian aggression called for by Secretary Blinken. Moreover, imposing these sanctions would signal your administration’s commitment to the recently updated U.S.-Ukraine Charter on Strategic Partnership and its provision of support for “accountability for those responsible for abuses of human rights in the territories of Ukraine temporarily occupied by Russia” and the release of the people wrongfully detained in those territories.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine has lasted over seven years and has claimed over 13,000 lives, according to a report from the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Since the Revolution of Dignity in 2013-14, Ukraine has been on the frontline of the struggle for freedom and democracy. Innocent civilians in the occupied territories live in fear of surveillance, arbitrary detention, and torture. With no independent media, civil society organizations, or international observers, the areas of Donbas controlled by Russia-backed forces are a virtual black hole in the middle of Europe. Yet while international attention on annexed Crimea has remained high, the human rights situation in eastern Ukraine has all too often been forgotten. Without a spotlight and meaningful action taken against them, the perpetrators listed below and those who would join them are free to act with impunity.
A threat to one nation’s freedom is a threat to all. We ask that you honor the courage and commitment of the Ukrainian people by taking the powerful and symbolic step that sanctions offer.
Chief Executive Officer
Director, Europe and Eurasia Programs
Razom for Ukraine
Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow
Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
Deputy Director, Eurasia Center
Director, Strategic Litigation Project
Deputy Director, Europe and Eurasia Programs
Mykhailo S. Hrushevs’kyi Professor of Ukrainian History
Director, Ukrainian Research Institute
Director, Kennan Institute
Former United States Ambassador to Ukraine
Former United States Ambassador to NATO and Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations
Former United States Ambassador to Ukraine