Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights OSCE
OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
An Open Letter
In violation of the plan for a peaceful settlement of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, armed groups of so-called “Luhansk Republic” seized two journalists of Luhansk – Alexander Belokobylskij and Sergei Sakadynsky.
Alexander Belokobylskij went from Kharkov, where he was living temporarily, to his hometown in order to convey to relatives and friends medicines and things. Communication with Alexander interrupted on September 13. On September 16 he wrote message from another telephone to his wife in which he said that “alive, but will not be able to return.” According to information available to us, Alexander Belokobylskij was taken hostage by representatives of the so-called ” Lugansk Republic”. The reason for the abduction could be his professional field of work, Alexander has journalistic accreditation for coverage of “LR” and in has been criticizing the “Republic” in his publications . He has been working in journalism since early 90’s. He worked in newspapers such as: “Life of Lugansk”, “Komsomolskaya Pravda in Ukraine”, “Molodogvardeets” (was the editor-in-chief), “Real newspaper” and “RIA Novosti”. Alexander was mostly describing social issues in his publications. Alexander Belokobylskij in his professional activity has always adhered to journalistic standards – objectivity, balance, fairness. From the conflict zone Alexander with his wife and ten-month son moved to Kharkiv.
Since 2004 Sergey Sakadynsky has been the Head of Luhansk civic organization “Center Eastern Ukraine” . In addition, he was involved in administration of web resources and web-projects within the socio-political, cultural and educational activities. In recent years, he was known as the chief editor of the Lugansk online edition “Politics 2.0”. On July 15, 2014, armed men with automatic weapons dressed in camouflage clothing, had seized computer equipment, photo and video equipment, and other equipment of the website “Policy-2.0.” It was reported by police in Luhansk region. There has been no contact with Sergii since 28 of July. All his websites were hacked. According to our information, Sergei Sakadynskiy is also captured by representatives of the “Lugansk Repaublic”.
We call to the international media and human rights organizations, as well as inter-state structures to assess the continuing pressure on journalists and obstruction of journalistic activity in territories controlled by the so-called ” Luhansk Republic” and crimes committed by terrorists against journalists. Recall that since April 2014 there are several hundred cases of obstruction of journalistic activity in the territory controlled by the “LR” – threats, assaults, kidnappings and tortures. Abduction of Alexander Belokobylskij is particularly cynical, it was after trilateral talks in Minsk.
We focus on the fact that the practice of hostage-taking, imprisonment without trial, torture and ill-treatment in the so-called “Luhansk Republic” has become daily. It is a violation of international humanitarian law. The fact that on that territory do not operate any legitimate legal institutions at the moment is also a big problem: the police, the prosecutor’s office, the SBU, courts. Instead of the rule of law, terrorists use the so-called “laws of war” which directly threaten citizens’ lives and health.
We ask all interested organizations and intergovernmental institutions who monitor the observance of human rights, in the shortest time to update in the multilateral negotiations information about inadmissible pressure on journalists in the self-declared “Luganks Republic” and demand the immediate and unconditional release of Alexander Belokobylskij and Sergei Sakadynskij.
Actions are needed immediately, the health and lives of journalists are under threat!
Kostiantyn Rieutskyi, The Human Rights Center “Postup”
Oleksandra Dvoretska, Crimean Human Rights Center “Action”
Natalia Trenina, Initiative “East-SOS”